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San Diego To Host Major Shakespeare Exhibit

Photo caption: Pictured is the title page of "Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories &...

Photo credit: Shakespeare First Folio, 1623. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Pictured is the title page of "Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies" with a Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare.

A touring exhibition of the first written collection of Shakespeare plays will make its only California stop in San Diego next year.

A touring exhibition of the first written collection of Shakespeare plays will make its only California stop in San Diego next year, the Old Globe announced Thursday.

The exhibition of the 36-play collection, first published in 1623, will be hosted by the Old Globe at the San Diego Public Library.

It's part of a traveling exhibition, "First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare" that will tour all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, in connection with the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.

"This volume is one of the most important ever published, and the plays printed in it — the plays that are the lifeblood of The Old Globe — are cornerstones of our language, our world view and our very humanity," said Barry Edelstein, the theater's artistic director. "That we will be able to give San Diegans — and all Californians — a chance to view firsthand the pages on which those plays first appeared is an excitement and an honor."

The tour is being arranged by The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association.

The folio was compiled seven years after Shakespeare's death by two of his actors, and contains several of his best-known works, including "Macbeth," "Julius Caesar," "Twelfth Night," "Antony and Cleopatra," and "As You Like It."

Of the three dozen plays in the collection, only half had been performed before his death, according to the Old Globe.

"The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare," said Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. "Between its covers we discover his most famous characters — Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet, and hundreds of others — speaking words that continue to move and inspire us."

Edelstein described the work as "absolutely central to the western canon and to our literary culture and our English language were published for the first time in this volume and that’s what makes it so important."

The Folger Library possesses 82 copies of the First Folio, of the 233 known to still exist. It's believed that 750 were originally printed.

Exact dates for the tour, and when the exhibition will come to San Diego, have not been finalized. The Old Globe said the region's three major universities — San Diego State, UC San Diego and the University of San Diego — will play a role in hosting the exhibition, along with KPBS and the San Diego Commission on the Arts and Culture.

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