News | February 26, 2015

Rare Shakespeare First Folio to Tour All 50 States, DC, and Puerto Rico in 2016

Washington, DC—The Folger Shakespeare Library is pleased to announce the tour sites for its 2016 national traveling exhibition of First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, one of the world’s most treasured books. In partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, the Folger will tour the original 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The locations include 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies, and a theater.

“The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare. Between its covers we discover his most famous characters—Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet, and hundreds of others—speaking words that continue to move and inspire us,” said Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day. We are delighted that we can share this precious resource with people everywhere, from San Diego, California, to Gurabo, Puerto Rico, from Eugene, Oregon, to Duluth, Minnesota.”

The First Folio, which is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. John Heminge and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Many of Shakespeare's plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. Without the First Folio, we would not have 18 of the plays, including MacbethJulius CaesarTwelfth NightThe TempestAntony and CleopatraThe Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. All 18 appear for the first time in print in the First Folio and would otherwise have been lost.

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world and more than a third of the 233 known copies in the world today. Researchers believe that about 750 copies were originally printed. One of the most valuable printed books in the world, a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie’s and another one for $5.2 million in 2006 in London. It originally sold for one British pound (20 shillings)—about $200 today.

The Folger, with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center, reviewed hundreds of potential applicant sites to host the First Folio before making the final selection. All were required to meet specific environmental and security requirements.

For the First Folio! tour, the rare book will be opened to one of the most quoted lines in the world, “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. A multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities, will accompany the First Folio. Each of the 52 tour locations is planning numerous programs for the public and families around the exhibition. 

The First Folio! tour begins in January 2016 at three sites, each of which will host the exhibition for four weeks. A total of 18 First Folios will be on display during the tour; six will travel at any one time. The final Shakespeare First Folio will return to the Folger in December 2016. The local touring dates for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare will be announced in April 2015.

The Cincinnati Museum Center exhibits department is providing tour management and design expertise in building and preparing for travel the panels that will accompany the First Folios at each stop, as well as designing and constructing traveling cases for the 18 First Folios. Staff from Cincinnati Museum Center will also accompany the First Folios on each step of their national journey to coordinate and facilitate the transportation, installation, and de-installation of the exhibition at each stop of the tour.

The national tour of the Shakespeare First Folio is part of the Folger’s Wonder of Will initiative in 2016 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The Wonder of Will includes performances, lectures and readings, family programs, teacher workshops, scholarly programs, a new website, Shakespeare Documented, and exhibitions—at the Folger and on tour—including Shakespeare, Life of an IconAmerica’s Shakespeare (Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles); Will & Jane:  Shakespeare,  Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity; and First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare (all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico).

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. Sponsorship opportunities of this major exhibition are available.

About Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500-1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K-12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theater, music, poetry, exhibitions, lectures, and family programs. Learn more at  

About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight, and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training, and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult, and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities, and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic, and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives. Additional information can be found at

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare 

2016 National Tour Host Sites by State including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

AK Juneau Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums

AL Montgomery Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

AR Conway University of Central Arkansas with Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

AZ Tucson University of Arizona

CA San Diego The Old Globe with San Diego Public Library

CO Boulder University of Colorado Boulder

CT  Storrs University of Connecticut

DC Washington Gallaudet University

DE Wilmington University of Delaware

FL Miami The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum

GA Atlanta Emory University

HI Honolulu Kapiolani Community College

IA Iowa City The University of Iowa Libraries

ID Boise Alberstons Library, Boise State University

IL Libertyville Lake County Discovery Museum

IN Notre Dame University of Notre Dame

KS Manhattan Kansas State University

KY Louisville Frazier History Museum

LA New Orleans Tulane University

MA Amherst Amherst College

MD Annapolis St. John's College

ME Portland Portland Public Library

MI Detroit Wayne State University with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library

MN Duluth University of Minnesota Duluth

MO Kansas City Kansas City Public Library

MS Oxford University of Mississippi

MT Missoula University of Montana

NC Raleigh North Carolina Museum of History

ND Bismarck State Historical Society of North Dakota

NE Omaha The Durham Museum

NH Manchester Currier Museum of Art

NJ Madison Drew University and The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

NM Santa Fe New Mexico Museum of Art

NV Reno Nevada Museum of Art, Reno

NY New York New-York Historical Society

OH Cleveland Cleveland Public Library

OK Norman The Sam Noble Museum

OR Eugene University of Oregon

PA Elizabethtown Elizabethtown College

PR Gurabo Universidad del Turado

RI Providence Brown University

SC Columbia University of South Carolina Libraries

SD Vermillion University of South Dakota and the National Music Museum

TN Nashville The Parthenon

TX College Station Texas A&M University

UT Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Public Library

VA Charlottesville University of Virginia

VT Middlebury Middlebury College

WA Seattle The Seattle Public Library

WI Madison University of Wisconsin - Madison

WV Wheeling Oglebay Park

WY Cheyenne Wyoming State Museum