Looking to do a little summer reading? Sotheby’s has a book of Shakespeare’s works that might be worth your attention — provided you have as much as $2.5 million to spare.
The venerable auction house will be selling a rare, nearly 400-year-old Shakespeare tome, dubbed the Shakespeare First Folio, at an event in New York on July 7. The pre-auction estimate for the item is $1.5 million to $2.5 million.
The First Folio is essentially just that — the first major collection of Shakespeare’s plays, an “important record that preserved Shakespeare’s legendary output forever,” Sotheby says. The auction house notes that less than 20 copies of the book remain in private hands, making such a sale highly unusual.
Of course, a book that dates back to 1623 can’t be in perfect condition. Sotheby’s notes that there are “annotations, doodles, ink spills and markings” on many pages, but the auction house suggests they add a certain character to the item and reveal details about the various people who owned it in the past. The book has indeed traded hands over the years, and has been owned by everyone from a well-known 19th-century racehorse breeder to a 20th-century political activist, according to the auction house.
If Sotheby’s pre-estimate price holds, it may be a relative bargain. A copy of the First Folio was by sold at auction by Christie’s for nearly $10 million in 2020. At the time, Christie’s said it was the most expensive sale ever for a work of literature.
And what might the Bard himself say about all this? Shakespeare did recognize what riches can buy. “If money go before, all ways do lie open,” he wrote in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”