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Recovering Durham’s First Folio

Recovering Durham’s First Folio

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of William Shakespeare’s First Folio. Inspired by this, we have embarked on a project to return Durham University’s First Folio to its rightful place as an important cultural artefact that we can celebrate and make accessible again.


Most people will be familiar with the dramatic story of the theft of Durham’s First Folio, alongside six other books, in 1998 and its return to Durham University in 2010, two years after it first resurfaced in Washington D.C.

When the book was presented to experts at the Folger Shakespeare in Washington DC, it had been badly damaged to remove its identifying features. The binding had been roughly removed and the title page was gone. This left the internal structure of the book exposed and vulnerable to damage.

Our conservation team at Palace Green Library, which is part of Durham University, is in charge of caring for the university’s historic collections alongside curators and archivists. They are now addressing the difficult task of how best to conserve the Folio for its return to use.