The Shakespeare Thefts
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The Shakespeare Thefts : In Search of the First Folios

3.49 (325 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Part literary detective story, part Shakespearean lore, The Shakespeare Thefts will charm the Bard's many fans.

The first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, the First Folio, published in 1623, is one of the most valuable books in the world and has historically proven to be an attractive target for thieves. Of the 160 First Folios listed in a census of 1902, 14 were subsequently stolen-and only two of these were ever recovered.

In his efforts to catalog all these precious First Folios, renowned Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen embarked on a riveting journey around the globe, involving run-ins with heavily tattooed criminal street gangs in Tokyo, bizarre visits with eccentric, reclusive billionaires, and intense battles of wills with secretive librarians. He explores the intrigue surrounding the Earl of Pembroke, arguably Shakespeare's boyfriend, to whom the First Folio is dedicated and whose personal copy is still missing. He investigates the uncanny sequence of events in which a wealthy East Coast couple drowned in a boating accident and the next week their First Folio appeared for sale in Kansas. We hear about Folios that were censored, the pages ripped out of them, about a volume that was marked in red paint-or is it blood?-on every page; and of yet another that has a bullet lodged in its pages.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 137.16 x 208.28 x 20.32mm | 204.12g
  • Basingstoke, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0230341675
  • 9780230341678
  • 234,635

Table of contents

Preface A Literary Detective Story One The Most Hated Man in England: The Gondomar Copy Two First Folio Hunters Three A Cuban Fraud: The Durham University Copy Four The Waiting Is the Hardest Part Five Unrecovered: The Manchester University Copy Six The Pope's Sticky Fingers Seven A Close Personal Relationship: The Pembroke Copies Eight Nationalism, Bullets, and a Recovered Treasure Nine The Bibliomaniac: The Sir Thomas Phillipps Copy Ten Looking into Shakespeare's Eyes Eleven Fell in the Weeping Brook: The Fiske Harris Copy Twelve Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden Thirteen The King's Companion: Royalist Copies, Puritan Copies Fourteen Obsessed Fifteen A Literary Thief, a Bootlegger, a Shoe Salesman, and Hitler: The Williams College Copy Sixteen Why Is The Whore of Babylon Well Thumbed? Seventeen Alienated: The Hereford Cathedral Copy Eighteen Creative Control Nineteen 'Purloined & Embezzled': The William Beeston Copy Twenty The World's Worst Stolen Treasure Appendix The Making of the Shakespeare First Folio Acknowledgments Notes
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Review quote

This is a travelogue, a thrilling detective story, an account of the world's most famous book -- and a compellingly good read.--Laurie Maguire, author of Where There s a Will, There s a Way" "A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623 . . . [Rasmussen] also provides a terrific appendix, which readers should not skip, that tells how Elizabethans printed books and how the First Folio came to be." --Kirkus Reviews

"Every book comes with a story, and great books, like comets, often carry in their wake a tail of great stories. Eric Rasmussen, who with a team of fellow scholars is engaged in tracking and examining every known copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, has unearthed wonderful anecdotes of theft, fraud, and the peculiar mania of passionate bibliophiles." --Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

"Shakespeare's First Folio contains thirty-six plays of wit, passion, crime, and folly. In this brisk and amusing account, Eric Rasmussen tells us how the book itself has been the cause of wit, passion, crime, and folly in those who seek to own one of the surviving copies." --Peter Saccio, Leon D. Black Professor of Shakespearean Studies at Dartmouth College and author of Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama

"Eric Rasmussen's fascinating and hugely enjoyable collection of tales about the fate of individual copies and of his own experiences accumulating the data for a census of the surviving copies is a joy from first to last. Stories of thefts old and new, of copies mutilated or destroyed, and of the mania of book-collecting cover the centuries from its first purchasers to its most recent thieves. For anyone who thinks the work of scholarship is as dry as libraries, The Shakespeare Thefts will quickly convince them that it is actually a cross between CSI and big-game hunting." --Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

"An irresistible true crime story revealing the long history of the desire to own one of the world's most valuable books. Amidst his captivating tales of unscrupulous scholars, wealthy industrialists, avaricious con men, and even a Pope who wanted to own the First Folio, Rasmussen makes clear his own love for and deep knowledge about the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, gently sneaking in a rich bibliographic history of the book itself as he unfolds his engaging accounts of those who were willing to steal to own it." --David Scott Kastan, George M. Bodman Professor of English, Yale University, and General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare.

"A page-turner, a series of detective stories and a work of scholarship all at once - Eric Rasmussen brings to life a truly Shakespearean cast of characters as he tracks the First Folio down the centuries and around the world" --Jonathan Bate, author of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare

"With irresistible intrigue like that of fine mystery novels, erudition and rigor characteristic of the most esteemed scholarship, and a delightful readability that only the best popular fiction boasts, this book will bring great joy to a remarkable range of people, from anyone who gives a hoot about Shakespeare to aficionados of literary history to simply lovers of good stories. It is no surprise that a team of researchers assisted Rasmussen, for it more often than otherwise takes a collaboration of brilliant minds to produce extraordinary work. And extraordinary this book is." --Bryan Reynolds, Professor of Drama at UC Irvine and author of Performing Transversally

"This is a travelogue, a thrilling detective story, an account of the world's most famous book -- and a compellingly good read." --Laurie Maguire, author of Where There's a Will, There's a Way A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623 . . . [Rasmussen] also provides a terrific appendix, which readers should not skip, that tells how Elizabethans printed books and how the First Folio came to be. "Kirkus Reviews"

Every book comes with a story, and great books, like comets, often carry in their wake a tail of great stories. Eric Rasmussen, who with a team of fellow scholars is engaged in tracking and examining every known copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, has unearthed wonderful anecdotes of theft, fraud, and the peculiar mania of passionate bibliophiles. "Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"

Shakespeare's First Folio contains thirty-six plays of wit, passion, crime, and folly. In this brisk and amusing account, Eric Rasmussen tells us how the book itself has been the cause of wit, passion, crime, and folly in those who seek to own one of the surviving copies. "Peter Saccio, Leon D. Black Professor of Shakespearean Studies at Dartmouth College and author of Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama"

Eric Rasmussen's fascinating and hugely enjoyable collection of tales about the fate of individual copies and of his own experiences accumulating the data for a census of the surviving copies is a joy from first to last. Stories of thefts old and new, of copies mutilated or destroyed, and of the mania of book-collecting cover the centuries from its first purchasers to its most recent thieves. For anyone who thinks the work of scholarship is as dry as libraries, "The Shakespeare Thefts "will quickly convince them that it is actually a cross between "CSI "and big-game hunting. "Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame."

An irresistible true crime story revealing the long history of the desire to own one of the world's most valuable books. Amidst his captivating tales of unscrupulous scholars, wealthy industrialists, avaricious con men, and even a Pope who wanted to own the First Folio, Rasmussen makes clear his own love for and deep knowledge about the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, gently sneaking in a rich bibliographic history of the book itself as he unfolds his engaging accounts of those who were willing to steal to own it. "David Scott Kastan, George M. Bodman Professor of English, Yale University, and General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare."

A page-turner, a series of detective stories and a work of scholarship all at once - Eric Rasmussen brings to life a truly Shakespearean cast of characters as he tracks the First Folio down the centuries and around the world "Jonathan Bate, author of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare"

With irresistible intrigue like that of fine mystery novels, erudition and rigor characteristic of the most esteemed scholarship, and a delightful readability that only the best popular fiction boasts, this book will bring great joy to a remarkable range of people, from anyone who gives a hoot about Shakespeare to aficionados of literary history to simply lovers of good stories. It is no surprise that a team of researchers assisted Rasmussen, for it more often than otherwise takes a collaboration of brilliant minds to produce extraordinary work. And extraordinary this book is. "Bryan Reynolds, Professor of Drama at UC Irvine and author of Performing Transversally"

This is a travelogue, a thrilling detective story, an account of the world's most famous book -- and a compellingly good read. Laurie Maguire, author of Where There s a Will, There s a Way" "A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623 . . . [Rasmussen] also provides a terrific appendix, which readers should not skip, that tells how Elizabethans printed books and how the First Folio came to be." - KIRKUS Reviews
"Every book comes with a story, and great books, like comets, often carry in their wake a tail of great stories. Eric Rasmussen, who with a team of fellow scholars is engaged in tracking and examining every known copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, has unearthed wonderful anecdotes of theft, fraud, and the peculiar mania of passionate bibliophiles." --Stephen Greenblatt, author of "Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare"
"Shakespeare's First Folio contains thirty-six plays of wit, passion, crime, and folly. In this brisk and amusing account, Eric Rasmussen tells us how the book itself has been the cause of wit, passion, crime, and folly in those who seek to own one of the surviving copies." --Peter Saccio, Leon D. Black Professor of Shakespearean Studies at Dartmouth College and author of "Shakespeare's English Kings" History, Chronicle, and Drama
"Eric Rasmussen's fascinating and hugely enjoyable collection of tales about the fate of individual copies and of his own experiences accumulating the data for a census of the surviving copies is a joy from first to last. Stories of thefts old and new, of copies mutilated or destroyed, and of the mania of book-collecting cover the centuries from its first purchasers to its most recent thieves. For anyone who thinks the work of scholarship is as dry as libraries, "The Shakespeare Thefts "will quickly convince them that it is actually a cross between "CSI "and big-game hunting." - Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
"An irresistible true crime story revealing the long history of the desire to own one of the world's most valuable books. Amidst his captivating tales of unscrupulous scholars, wealthy industrialists, avaricious con men, and even a Pope who wanted to own the First Folio, Rasmussen makes clear his own love for and deep knowledge about the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, gently sneaking in a rich bibliographic history of the book itself as he unfolds his engaging accounts of those who were willing to steal to own it." -- David Scott Kastan, George M. Bodman Professor of English, Yale University, and General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare."
"A page-turner, a series of detective stories and a work of scholarship all at once - Eric Rasmussen brings to life a truly Shakespearean cast of characters as he tracks the First Folio down the centuries and around the world" -- Jonathan Bate, author of "Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare"
"With irresistible intrigue like that of fine mystery novels, erudition and rigor characteristic of the most esteemed scholarship, and a delightful readability that only the best popular fiction boasts, this book will bring great joy to a remarkable range of people, from anyone who gives a hoot about Shakespeare to aficionados of literary history to simply lovers of good stories. It is no surprise that a team of researchers assisted Rasmussen, for it more often than otherwise takes a collaboration of brilliant minds to produce extraordinary work. And extraordinary this book is." --Bryan Reynolds, Professor of Drama at UC Irvine and author of Performing Transversally
"This is a travelogue, a thrilling detective story, an account of the world's most famous book -- and a compellingly good read." - Laurie Maguire, author of "Where There's a Will, There's a Way" "An enjoyable literary detective story . . . Shakespeare himself would have enjoyed each of the tales recorded in this diverting book" --"The Wall Street Journal"

"Rasmussen uses a lively, nonacademic style and engrossing anecdotes to tell us about one of history's most fascinating books . . . an entertaining and informative book." - "Library Journal

""You don't have to be a Shakespeare fan or a rare book expert to enjoy The Shakespeare Thefts. Light and lively...and a highly accessible read."--"The Washington Independent Review of Books""A gripping narrative." "-The Washington Post

"

"A wonderfully engaging, witty, accessible account both of the fates of first folios and of the continuing efforts by Rasmussen's team to find the folios and analyze them for authenticity . . . This is as un-put-downable as the most gripping mystery: along the way, readers will learn much about the social history of the folios, about the murders most foul connected to them, and about the "dead within two years" fate that has often befallen the folio's owners. Marvelous on every level." --"Booklist"

" Eric Rasmussen's worldwide pursuit of extant Folios [is] a compelling account.... fascinating stories" --Peter J. Smith, Times Higher Education supplement

"A collection of witty and entertaining essays about how, since it was first published in 1623, the First Folio ... has attracted the attention of thieves and conmen; how copies of one of the most valuable books in the world have been purloined over the centuries ... And there can be few people better qualified to tell the story [than Eric Rasmussen]. [Shakespeare Thefts] is great fun, and full of self-deprecating humor. But what makes it more than just an erudite addition to the true crime genre is the author's all-consuming passion for his subject. This is a gloriously geeky book."-- Adrian Tinniswood, "The Literary Review""A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shak
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About Eric Rasmussen

ERIC RASMUSSEN is a preeminent Shakespearean scholar and collaborator on more than 60 books about Shakespeare and Renaissance drama. He is co-editor of The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue as well as the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of William Shakespeare. He is also the General Textual Editor of the Internet Shakespeare Editions project. He lives in Reno, Nevada, USA.
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Rating details

325 ratings
3.49 out of 5 stars
5 17% (56)
4 32% (103)
3 36% (117)
2 14% (44)
1 2% (5)
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