Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Shakespeare and the Folio Hunters: A Detective Story
This is a book full of stories, of obsessive collectors, of careless owners, of thieves, of fantasists (like the man who lived with his old Mum on a weekly carer's allowance and funded a lavish lifestyle on stolen credit cards used to purchase a stolen First Folio), of rich men looking for the ultimate status symbol, of Japanese universities owning no fewer than twelve of the things from the days when the yen would get you whatever you wanted. In 2002 Sir Paul Getty paid $7 million for his entry to this very special millionaire's club. In 1623 it cost £1 which for the time was a staggering amount so it has never been an object for the ordinary person. Rasmussen calls this a "literary detective story" and it has all the appeal of a page-turning chase after the elusive Folios, many of which must still be out there. But beware: a worryingly large number of people have died shortly after acquiring their copy. For an academic book this is a pacy read, written in a lively popular style and highly recommended. My only suggestion is that Rasmussen and the team should reach down their copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and look up the meaning of "disinterest" (p23).
What would one do if one had the dosh to acquire a First Folio? Probably look at it lovingly then replace it in the fireproof vault and pull down the RSC complete Shakespeare edited by Jonathan Bate. And Eric Rasmussen.