1623 First Folio and Shakespeare’s signature on rare public display at City of London Heritage Gallery

A property deed signed by William Shakespeare and a near-perfect copy of the First Folio are on display at the City of London Heritage Gallery, as part of celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of one of the world’s most significant literary treasures.

Running until 25 January 2024 and free to view, visitors to ‘Shakespeare’ will also see John Keats’ facsimile of the First Folio, in which he wrote two poems, including ‘On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again’, and which is open to the play’s first page. The parish register containing the entry for the burial of Edmund Shakespeare, William’s nephew, is also included in the display.

The City of London Corporation’s copy of the 1623 First Folio, which was owned by one-time Prime Minister, William Petty Fitzmaurice, and is now conserved at Guildhall Library, is one of the finest and most complete copies in the world.

Experts on Shakespeare’s life and work have asserted that, if two of his friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, had not gathered Shakespeare’s plays together for the First Folio, half of them, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Tempest, and Antony and Cleopatra would have been lost forever.

The property deed relates to the purchase of a house in Blackfriars in 1613, three years before Shakespeare’s death, and bears one of only six authenticated signatures in existence.

Chair of the City Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Munsur Ali, said:

“This is a remarkable display of historical items relating to our greatest playwright, never displayed together before, and I would defy anyone not to be impressed by seeing them up close.

“In April, when the City Corporation’s copy of the 1623 First Folio went on display at Guildhall Library for only five hours, people queued out of the door to see it, so I am delighted that we are offering this unique opportunity at our Heritage Gallery until January next year.”

Last month, the City Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery launched the 'Treasures of Gold and Silver Wire' exhibition, which features an astonishing collection of historical, royal, ecclesiastical, and theatrical robes, uniforms, and costumes – many of which have never been displayed before - as well as embroidery and contemporary jewellery.

The exhibition is an integral part of the City’s arts and cultural offering and forms part of the City Corporation's ‘Destination City’ programme, which sets out a vision for the Square Mile to become a world-leading leisure destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

The City Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year. The organisation manages a range of world-class cultural and heritage institutions, including the Barbican Centre, Tower Bridge, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Art Gallery, London Metropolitan Archives, and Keats House. It also supports the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

For more information about ‘Shakespeare’ at the City of London Heritage Gallery at Guildhall Art Gallery, EC2, please visit


For further information, please contact:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts, Culture, Heritage, Licensing), City of London Corporation / 07795 333060 /

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK.   

About Destination City

The City of London Corporation’s flagship Destination City programme sets out a vision for the Square Mile to become a world-leading leisure destination for UK and global visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

About Guildhall Art Gallery:

Guildhall Art Gallery is owned and managed by the City Corporation. It opened in 1886 and is home to the organisation’s magnificent art collection. Particularly rich in Victorian art and ranging from Pre-Raphaelites to depictions London’s colourful past, the Gallery’s basement houses the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, dating from AD70. The Gallery also owns one of the largest oil paintings in Britain, John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783 – 1791), which is on permanent display.