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

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  66 reviews
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 Firs ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Palgrave Macmillan Trade
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The premise to this book sounded like tons of fun. I went into it expecting a "riveting" and intense recounting of the various attempts (successful and failed) to steal the First Folio over the years. What I ended up reading was indeed interesting but not nearly as compelling or intriguing as the numerous marketing blurbs and synopses made me expect.

First, I must applaud the author and his team. They have done astounding detective work to track down, identify and extensively catalog the known Fi
Katie Mercer

So fun facts about me: I great up in Stratford (Ontario, not England) and the Festival was a huge part of basically everyone's lives - your parents worked there (yes, my mom did), you knew someone who did, your family business supported the tourists, or you worked there (yep, I did!) and it was basically non optional that you'd go there as a school and then camp field trip (True story, I saw Alice through the Looking Glass 6 times because of school and various camps) (I also hated it) (Sorry Sar
When I mentioned that I was reading this book to a friend who concentrated in Shakespeare studies in college, she said that she could not "get into" the book. I understand. I forged on because the story was so compelling; where are all of the copies of Shakespeare's first folio? The author and his team have spent a great deal of their lives tracking down extant copies of the folio, and recently published "SFF: A Descriptive Catalogue" that is referenced so many times in this book that I wonder i ...more
The subject matter of this book--along with some of the information and anecdotes contained within it--is definitely an interesting and compelling one. The author, a noted Shakespeare scholar, has traveled the globe for decades, hunting down and cataloguing First Folios. Yet for someone who has done such fascinating work and understands the folios in a deep and meaningful way, Rasmussen has written a book that largely comes across as the ramblings of a drunk uncle. It's poorly written, and its s ...more
I'm not sure why this book disappointed me so much. It's such a neat premise, and the author and his team are doing a really interesting and important thing-- tracking down, studying, and cataloging all of Shakespeare's First Folios, to authenticate them and trace their owners through history. But the book itself, instead of getting into the meaty investigative and academic work necessary to do this, glossed over it all, and the book came away feeling "fluffy." The information that was present ...more
BOOK NERDS. Well, folio nerds in any case. Rasmussen and a small group of historians and archivists set out to track down as many of the known copies remaining of the first edition of the First Folio (Shakespeare`s collected works).

As one would expect, there are some crazy characters and eccentric rich people. Some pretty amazing stuff - there`s a vault in Japan, for example, that has quite a few folios, and there are lots of bits and pieces missing or brought back together in the different vers
Rick F.
"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 the hands of an average writer,this non-fiction account of one of the most infamous crimes could be quite dry- happily Eric Rasmussen is far from an average writer! The S
Emily Finan
What a cool job- running around tracking down first edition folios and their individual histories! This was a short read, but to thoroughly enjoy this book you have to have a pretty good sense of history- especially British history (the author doesn't hold your hand through dates and time periods). A sub story here is the implication the author's work has for buying and selling rare antiques. If it's difficult to sell a stolen artifact because it's so well catalogued, is that item less likely to ...more
Meri Greenleaf
When I saw the summary on the Early Reviewers request page I quickly jumped over to the "request" button. I studied English in college and absolutely loved renaissance literature, particularly Shakespeare, so I was excited to jump right in as soon as I received the book. Despite being quite familiar with Shakespeare's works, I never really knew much about the plays in physical form, if that makes sense; when I studied them, the folios and what the plays were written on rarely came up as it was t ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Kathleen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: English teachers
Author Eric Rasmussen and his team are on a mission: to track down and document every surviving copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. Only half of Shakespeare's plays (in quarto form) were published during his lifetime, and the First Folio gathered 36 of his plays. It was published by John Heminges and Henry Condell, two actors from Shakespeare's acting company, The King's Men, as a tribute to the playwright. They were also names in Shakespeare's will. Shakespeare died in 1616, and the ...more
Steven Belanger
Extremely easy to read and interesting book, but probably only for those interested in Shakespeare, his folios, or really old books. I talked about this recently with a friend and she just rolled her eyes.

But I thought it was interesting, and the author's fascination and joy of his subject also leaps off the page. He clearly loves what he does, and he is clearly very knowledgeable of what he does.

What is that, exactly? Well, he's a Shakespearean scholar, and an overall authority on the 1623 Foli
It is hardly debatable that the two most important publications in terms of modern English language are the King James Bible and the First Folio of Shakespeare. In 1623, two actors who had worked with Shakespeare sought to publish a collection of his work in order that the acting company could profit rather than the many knock offs that were circulating at the time. Only about 1,000 copies were printed, of those 232 remain accounted for. How do we know this? Because of the work of Eric Rasmussen ...more

I was totally intrigued by the idea of this book, and the first few chapters were so readable that I was quickly engaged. However, it quickly became clear that this book is simply a small collection of largely unrelated vingnettes, totally lacking in depth and substance. It's as if the author wrote this book simply to get you to buy his other book (which he references constantly throughout).

The author and a team of enthusiasts (none of whom we ever get to know) travel the world to
Rebecca Reid
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen (Palgrave Macmillian 2011) is a personal account of Mr Rasmussen’s work with a committee to track down and record the condition of the less-than-300 remaining first portfolios of Shakespeare (originally printed 1623) in the world. The book is part general history of the creation and issue of Shakespeare’s folio (including a history of the thefts of this most expensive book), part detective work in trying to determine which c ...more
Rebekah Scott
In 2008, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. was approached by a man who wanted to have his copy of the First Folio authenticated. Raymond Rickett Scott, a British citizen, who claimed to have procured this copy in Cuba from one of Fidel Castro’s bodyguards, caused a bit of a sensation with this request. Even at the Folger, it’s not every day that someone just shows up out of the blue with a previously unknown copy of the First Folio.

The printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 162
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book belongs on the shelf of everyone, who loves books and collects them. It tells the true story of what happened to various first editions, of one of the most coveted and valuable books in the world, the first folio of the works of William Shakespeare. The author has dedicated years in an attempt to document the present whereabouts of every known, documented surviving copy of this work.
Each copy that he has found has it's own unique story from the
I was destined to enjoy this book because I love Shakespeare and work in a Rare Book Department with a First Folio. What I appreciated most was the book's readability. You don't need to be an expert in Shakespeare or book collecting or history to enjoy the stories within. The text is approachable and not intimidating, much like Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps. I imagine this will be featured on a number of reading lists come 2014, which is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth.

Molly Zeigler
I devoured this non-fiction work in two days.
For ten years Eric Rasmussen (co-editor of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s working edition of the Complete Works and an English Professor out of Reno, NV) headed up a passionate team dedicated to tracking and cataloging the provenance of every existing First Folio in the world. The First Folio is the 1623 first printing of the Complete Dramatic Works of WS. It is one of the most important, sought after, famous, and expensive books in the world.
This te
Gerald Sinstadt
Theft is only a fraction of it. Eric Rasmussen is not just a Shakespeare enthusiast; he is a First Folio fanatic. The Professor and his team have set out to catalogue, in detail, right down to the least significant misplaced comma, every known copy of this coveted first collected edition of all the plays. Along the way, they have become aware of some that have disappeared, not all of them stolen but all vanished in tantalisingly mysterious circumstances.

So this book's two hundred pages introduc
The Shakespeare Thefts by Eric Rasmussen is a book about what might be arguably THE book of English Literature, the 1623 First Folio (F1). Rasmussen's book will be somewhat polarizing to readers. For those who want in depth, over-scholarly analysis of the F1, Rasmussen will disappoint. He is one of the world's experts on the Folios, and he is a widely-published scholar, but The Shakespeare Thefts is not so much about scholarship as it is about stories. Who originally owned some of the F1's, how ...more
The book started off fine, a collection of anecdotes relating to celebrated and infamous owners of the First Folio, but something turned sour, around chapter 4, where Rasmussen's drive to catalogue the exact details of every known edition becomes imperialistic. So much more daunting did his description of his "Ocean's eleven" team of folio hunters (mostly American fortune-seekers, it should be noted) make the following chapters, that I lost track of why the Descriptive Catalogue of folios seems ...more
Feb 24, 2012 Carrie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but considering that I'm an English teacher and I really enjoy Shakespeare, I was happy to give this a try. Given the subject matter of the book and the expertise and experiences of the author, I think that there was plenty of opportunity to create a really excellent text, but frankly, it fell short. The book felt disorganized and almost careless. Rather than transitioning from story to story in a logical manner, the author jumps from the story of one copy of th ...more
Cynthia Egbert
I know that there is a number of less than sterling reviews for this book, but I dearly loved it and am purchasing my own copy. I envy the team behind this work their jobs and I hope to be able to find out if they make any more discoveries. The anecdotes about their travels and the quirkiness of many book collectors was so enjoyable. And the author's dry wit made me smile regularly. If you are a Shakespeare lover, you should really appreciate this one.
Fraser Sherman
Rasmussen is the head of a project cataloging, in exhaustive detail, the physical features of Shakespeare's First Folios, the original "collected Works" (without which we wouldn't have any copies of many plays, including Macbeth). The book details the frequent thefts of the various copies, the diverse and often quirky owners and his own occasionally obsessive impulses (like buying a picture he's absolutely sure is of Shakespeare). Slight, but enjoyable.
I was expecting a bit more in terms of suspense and intrigue, based on the inside cover's summary, but it was still an enjoyable read. The amount of work this team has put into tracking down the history and location of first folios is truly astounding. The author does present some great histories of various copies of the folio, but I always felt like more detail could have been included.
I am no more or less a Shakespeare fan than the average book-lover, and found this to be a delightful read. If you enjoy narratives that take you through many different historical times, characters, and events then this is for you. The author's love of Shakespeare and the First Folios is both apparent and contagious. Fun and quick read.
I think calling Eric Rasmussen the "Indiana Jones" of First Folios is overstating it a bit. An interesting read specifically for Shakespeare/history/book history nerds. I lost interest when there were lists of names and dates that don't really matter, since each story only lasts the short chapter. But an interesting, quick read.
David Macpherson
Ugh. This book was one of the longest little books I have ever suffered through. It was supposed to be about searchng for First Folios, but it just presented random information about the people and the books over the years in an unstructured, passive voice. I thought this was going to be fun. I like the idea of book detectives, but the author gave no one he worked with the spotlight. Everything was about the dully presented history. And then the last chapter was a straight presentation of how th ...more
Jun 16, 2012 Phoebe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lisa
A compelling and entertaining book about the most elusive and valuable of old books: the original first edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623 by actors in his play company, and of which 750 copies were produced. About 230 are still out there somewhere (Rasmussen and his colleages hope) but because the First Folio is so valuable, theft and mutilation are commonplace. And so Rasmussen lays out his literary mystery, which reads like good fiction, all the more intriguing because the stor ...more
Jenna May
Wonderful fun, and very addicting.

Tales of theft truly are only a portion of this book. It really reads like a sort of memoir. Extremely easy to read, and extremely difficult to put down, I think it will appeal to both seasoned Shakespeare scholars/bibliophiles (because who wouldn't want to get their hands on these treasures?), as well as the most general readers who happen to pick it up in a bookstore.

Reading this book feels much like one of those lovely, long pub conversations that hop from on
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I am the author of the forthcoming title THE SHAKESPEARE THEFTS (Palgrave Macmillan), a part literary detective story, part Shakespearean lore that follows my efforts to catalog Shakespeare's First Folios.

I am also co-editor of the RSC Complete Works of William Shakespeare, the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama, and of the works of Christopher Marlowe in the Oxford World's Classics se
More about Eric Rasmussen...
Much Ado About Nothing (The RSC Shakespeare) The Tempest (The RSC Shakespeare) A Textual Companion To Doctor Faustus The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue Comparative Excellence: New Essays On Shakespeare And Johnson

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