Sunday, August 27, 2006
The Folio Hunter
I've an article in the new issue of Smithsonian about Anthony James West, whose two-decade quest has had him tracking down and examining every Shakespeare First Folio in the world:
His work for the Oxford University Press series The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book may qualify him as the most indefatigable pursuer of a single edition in literary history.... Newly discovered Folios still turn up. In 2004, Anne Humphries, a homemaker near Manchester, was named the sole survivor of a relative she'd never heard of; among the estate was a Folio that executors listed as "presumed to be a facsimile." Not at all. West discovered another Folio in the public library of the Yorkshire mining town of Skipton; the book had been mislabeled and forgotten.
As long as Folios are misfiled in libraries and hiding with long-lost relatives, the count of 230 copies will inch upward. At least a dozen known copies remain untraced. "I have about 130 leads," West says, adding that some are "quite hot."