Today it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. In The Millionaire and the Bard, Andrea Mays tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio and of the American industrialist Henry Folger whose pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession.
With Shakespeare’s death in 1616, half of his plays died with him. No one – not even their author – believed that his writings would be remembered, let alone celebrated by future generations. Seven years later, Shakespeare’s business partners, companions, and fellow actors gathered copies of the plays and manuscripts, edited and published thirty-six of them. This massive book, the First Folio, was intended as a memorial to their deceased friend. They could not have known that it would become one of the most important books ever published in the English language, nor that it would become a fetish object for collectors.
The Millionaire and the Bard is a literary detective story, the tale of two mysterious men – a brilliant author and his obsessive collector – separated by space and time. It is a tale of two cities – Elizabethan and Jacobean London and Gilded Age New York. It is a chronicle of two worlds – of art and commerce – that unfolded an ocean and three centuries apart. And it is the tale of the luminous book that saved the name of William Shakespeare “to the last syllable of recorded time” and established him as a cultural icon.
More About the Speakers
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom