Shakespeare’s First Folio displayed at Guildhall Library to celebrate 400th anniversary of its publication


One of the world’s finest copies of the First Folio will go on rare public display at Guildhall Library for one day next week, as part of its 400th anniversary celebrations.

The City of London Corporation, which owns the library and the First Folio, will display the book on Monday 24 April for a limited period (10.30am to 3.30pm), accompanied by a 10-minute introductory talk about the First Folio given on the hour throughout the day.

Two small and original copies (‘Quartos’) of Henry IV Part One and Othello will also be on display, next to a replica copy of the First Folio that visitors will be invited to look through.

Published in an edition of around 750 copies on 8 November 1623 – seven years after Shakespeare’s death - and widely regarded as one of the most valuable books in the literary world, the First Folio brought together 36 plays in one volume.

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 the 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.

It is believed that the City Corporation’s copy was purchased in around 1760 by one-time Prime Minister, William Petty Fitzmaurice, after which it was bought by the London Institution at the sale of his library in 1806. The book was transferred to Guildhall Library in 1913, following the closure of the London Institution in 1912.

Guildhall Library is situated around half-a-mile from the location of Jaggard’s Print House, where the First Folio was printed, and opposite St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, where Heminge and Condell are buried and commemorated with a memorial to the book, featuring a bust of Shakespeare.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said:

“The First Folio is a truly remarkable book and for five precious hours, everyone will be given the rare opportunity to see it up close at Guildhall Library, as part of our ‘First Folio 400’ celebrations.

“I share my library colleagues’ pride in our ownership of the book, which has been conserved by the City Corporation as a valuable heritage asset for the benefit of future generations.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Library, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £130m every year.

The City Corporation has launched Destination City, which will transform the Square Mile’s leisure offer, creating a leading destination for UK and international visitors, workers, and residents to enjoy.

With its £2.5 million annual investment, Destination City will drive the Square Mile’s recovery from the pandemic and deliver an exciting events programme, including outdoor festivals featuring music, art, education, sport, and wellness.


Notes to editors:

For further information about the First Folio viewing, images, and interviews with Dr Peter Ross from Guildhall Library, please contact Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts, Culture, and Heritage), 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 –