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Original Shakespeare First Folio On Display At UNLV

This month, the Lied library at UNLV is celebrating one of the world’s most influential books.

It dates back to 1623 and is one of only 235 copies known to be in existence.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare – and many of us are  - you may have guessed that we’re talking about Shakespeare’s First Folio. You may own a facsimile of the Folio. But this month, you have a chance to see one of the originals.

Michelle Light is the director of Special Collections at UNLV Libraries. She said without the folio several of the Bard's most famous works, including "Julius Caesar" would have been lost. 

“Eighteen of his plays were published in this folio for the very first time," she said, "So it’s likely they would have been lost to human history”

Light said the folio tour is not just about Shakespeare's plays, but it is really about how the written word can endure for generations.

“I think that is what’s so important about this tour," she said, "We’re not only celebrating the enduring impact of Shakespeare we’re celebrating the power of a book. The power of a book to transmit knowledge to the future and to ensure that human inspiration can continue to inspire generations 400 years later."

Light said an example of the enduring works of the Bard was on display when the actors from "The Bomb-itty of Errors," a hip-hop-infused re-telling of Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors" put on by the Nevada Conservatory Theater, came to look at the folio and started rapping the "To Be or Not To Be" speech from "Hamlet."

“For me, that really made the tour so worth it because this is all about how modern audiences engage with Shakespeare,” she said. 

The reuse of Shakespeare's works in ways that speak to a new time and place is not new. The musical "West Side Story" is a perfect example.  

“He has infused popular culture as well as high culture over the past 400 years,” said Evelyn Gajowski is a professor of English and a Shakespeare scholar at UNLV. 

Gajowski explained that the folio was put together by two actors from Shakespeare's theater company. 

Gajowski said they one thing in mind: "They were out to give us the true Shakespeare."

The other versions of his works were single plays that the collectors didn't feel were accurate to what he really wrote. 


Evelyn Gajowski, Professor of English, University of Nevada/Las Vegas; Michelle Light, Director, Special Collections, University Libraries, University of Nevada/Las Vegas

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Since June 2015, Fred has been a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada.