Shakespeare Hidden in Plain Sight

First folio

Who among us hasn’t dreamt about finding a hidden treasure buried within the shelving of some dusty old used bookstore or thrift shop? Or suddenly eyed our old artwork with curiosity and longing after hearing about a lost map or valuable document found underneath a god-awful painting?

These kinds of finds don’t happen every day, but they do happen often enough that the idea of it happening to us isn’t all that farfetched and may be why many people love to haunt yard sales and antique stores.

My own mother has experienced this kind of luck, if only in a small way, several times. She and a friend used to go to barn sales out in the Midwest just for the fun of looking at old farm equipment but came home twice with very old Maxwell Parish prints housed in a expensive antique frames. She bought them for under $40.00, far less than they appraise for. I now have them hanging with my modern Parish prints.

Not very long ago my mother visited a thrift shop in California; something she rarely does and saw what looked like a Swarovski clock only this clock was priced at 99¢. She picked it up on impulse; it looked so much like the real thing she thought it would go with the other pieces of Swarovski she has in her living room. If my mother had a smart phone she could have looked it up…, but I digress. As it turns out, it was indeed a Swarovski collectable clock. As my mother tells the story:

Just as the clerk rang up my 99¢ item and commented on its beauty the manager happened to glance over. Her eyes widened as she saw me hand the clerk a dollar and some change and barked, “That’s not 99¢, that’s $99 and a bargain at that!” I smiled at her and pointed to the sign near the register that read “Prices as Marked”. The clock was clearly marked at 99¢ and 99¢ is what I walked out paying


Granted, nothing my mother has found has had any worldwide implications or changed what we think we know about an artist or valuable legal document, I use her to illustrate what can happen if we keep our eyes out for possible buried treasure hidden in plain sight. And, this is exactly what happened earlier this year with one of the first Shakespeare folios. It was found hidden in plain sight at Mount Stuart House on the Scottish Isle of Bute. According to the BBC

The trust, which runs the Gothic revival house, had been researching the collection of books, paintings and historic items and called in experts from Oxford University to assess the authenticity of what had been claimed as a First Folio.

At first experts didn’t believe this was a first edition folio but on examination they were astounded to find out that this book is truly is one of roughly 750 books published in 1623. Only 230 others are known to exist, but it is possible there are more. Only last year one was found in a Jesuit library in St Omer in France.

So the next time you happen to attend an estate or library sale be on the look out for a book that looks like a First Folio. Who knows, it may be your Willy Shakespeare Golden Ticket.

BBC News Shakespeare First Folio discovered on Scottish island

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