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Rare Shakespeare book on show at the Black Country Living Museum

A 399-year-old copy of the first anthology of Shakespeare's plays has paid a visit to the Black Country Living Museum as part of a special tour.

John Homer takes a look at Shakespeare's First Folio at the Black Country Living Museum
John Homer takes a look at Shakespeare's First Folio at the Black Country Living Museum

The First Folio was assembled by Shakespeare's friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell and was finally published in 1623.

It was released seven years after the playwright's death in 1616 – and marked the first opportunity for people to buy a collection of his plays.

A total of 18 of Shakespeare's plays, including Julius Caesar and Macbeth, had never been published before and might otherwise have been lost in the sands of time if not for the folio, which brought together 36 of Shakespeare's plays for the first time.

William Shakespeare

Around 750 copies were first printed and sold for £1 each, but there are only 235 known to survive today, making this historical specimen even more valuable.

Birmingham's Shakespeare Library owns the only copy of the First Folio which was bought "as a vision of comprehensive culture" to give accessible education to all.

It has toured the Midlands as part of the Everything to Everybody project led by the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, which saw it visit the Black Country Living Museum on Saturday.

The collection was fully and freely accessible all day and was accompanied by a range of interactive workshops and talks from University of Wolverhampton experts.

The project is an ambitious three-year celebration of the Shakespeare Memorial Library housed within the Library of Birmingham.

Everything to Everybody aims to give the city’s unique Shakespeare heritage back to the people and the £1.7 million project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, with funding also contributed by National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands.

To celebrate the 17th century book visiting the museum, the Black Country Studies Centre is challenging local schools, colleges, and the public to create their own sonnet, inspired by both Shakespeare and the individuality of the Black Country.

The competition has been launched with prize categories for a primary school, secondary school, college or sixth form, and public winner. The winner of each category will win a family ticket to the Black Country Living Museum and school-aged entries will also win a Black Country goodie bag for their school.

Primary school entries are welcome to contribute any form of poem, while entries in other categories should take Shakespeare’s illustrious Sonnet form. To support the competition, author, poet and University of Wolverhampton lecturer Dr Robert Francis has worked alongside the museum, helping to support the school-aged entries.

School-age entries should be emailed to learning@bclm.com and all public entries should be emailed to marketing@bclm.com, by 11.59pm on May 31.

Each entry must contain the final draft of the author’s poem along with the author’s name. Their school and year group must also be provided for school-age entries.

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