First Folio

shakespeare book

Shakespeare's First Folio

The First Folio was the first compilation of Shakespeare’s plays. Published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, it includes several of his plays that had never been published before. 

If all the copies of the First Folio had been lost, 18 of Shakespeare’s most popular plays would be unknown to audiences today, including Macbeth, The Tempest, Taming of the Shrew, and Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Although it had a print run of around 750 copies, only 235 copies (that we know of) survive today. The exact value of the UCI Libraries' copy is unknown. However, another copy of the First Folio sold for nearly $10 million in 2020, making it the most expensive piece of literature ever auctioned.

How did UCI acquire a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio?

UCI Libraries’ First Folio was donated by Patrick Hanratty (PhD ’76) in 1986. Hanratty was a computer scientist and inventor and is known as the father of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing).

You can learn more from Patrick Hanratty himself:

What makes UCI Libraries' First Folio unique?

Each First Folio volume is unique due to its particular printing errors, ownership (or provenance), and the wear and tear it has accumulated over the last 400 years.

Detailed information about UCI Libraries’ First Folio can found in The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue by Eric Rasmussen and Anthony James West.

Condition and Distinctive Features

Only two pages in UCI Libraries’ First Folio are not original: the title page and the “To the Reader” dedication written by Ben Jonson. The book has a wine stain as well as an impression and rust mark made by a pair of scissors left in the book for an extended period. There are also marks and smudges most likely left by food and greasy fingers as readers paged through the book.


Patrick Hanratty purchased the First Folio from Heritage Book Shop, Los Angeles, in 1983 or 1984 and then donated it to UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives in December 1986. Prior to that, Heritage Book Shop is believed to have acquired it from the bookdealer John Fleming (c. 1982) for $225,000.


The UCI Libraries’ First Folio includes gilt paneled sides, gilt inner dentelles, and marbled end papers. Its cover is late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century maroon Moroccan leather made of goat skin. The spine features elaborate gilt with raised bands.