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The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  294 Ratings  ·  82 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 St. Martin's Press
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(showing 1-30 of 1,130)
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Dec 30, 2011 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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
Jan 13, 2012 Alyce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2013 alix rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
This was a really interesting book. Eric Rasmussen worked with a team who researched First Folios and then made a definitive catalog of them, and this book is about interesting anecdotes they discovered. Though it could have been longer and more detailed, I really enjoyed it. Recommended for people interested in old books, Shakespeare, or the 17th-century.
Dec 30, 2012 Scotchneat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Oct 03, 2011 Rick F. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Katrina Shawver
Though clearly well-researched, the author's passion for identifying authentic copies of Shakespeare's First Folios falls short of interesting reading. While he tries to make the history of each search for originals interesting, the truth is I got lost in all the names of complicated routes of ownership over four hundred years, for each copy he chose to write about. It's like reading chapter after chapter of complicated family trees, and I stopped caring, quickly scanning the last 2/3 of the boo ...more
Feb 17, 2016 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"The Shakespeare Thefts" is an inconsistent book of mostly insubstantial moments. I liked it, but I love most things connected to Shakespeare. It is not a text that deserves to be listed on the same level as many of the wonderful recent books about Shakespeare ("Will in the World", "Soul of the Age", etc.) but for what it is, it is not bad.
As other reviews have mentioned, the title is misleading, but I was not greatly bothered by that. I read the book because of an interest in Shakespeare and th
Manuel Antão
Jul 26, 2015 Manuel Antão rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
No Redemption for First Folio Thieves: "The Shakespeare Thefts" by Eric Rasmussen Published October 30, 2012.

I’m lost in the desert, beer thirsty, hungry, and desperately searching for any sort of book-nourishment Shakespeare-related. What is that I see in the distance? It's something stuck in the sand, and I think it may be oval. As I get closer, I’m also able to see it more clearly. Is it a cave? Yes, I think it is! But to where does it lead? Doesn't matter! As I bend down to enter the cave, I
Not what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be quite a fun and exciting read about tracking down the Folios and the process of provenance investigation, but this turned out to be much more anecdotal and rather disjointed. There were some interesting tidbits peppered throughout the first half of the book, but otherwise I found it quite disengaging. I spent most of the last chapter wondering when I might have the opportunity to use 'moves like Jaggard' as a printing error joke. I *will* ...more
Jim Lyons
Read in advance of seeing a First Folio – great background

With the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death , there is a tour of first folios , stopping in each of 50 states . So reading some of the interesting stories that color the history of the legendary volume, printed not quite 400 years ago, makes for a great read, with our state and cities hosting beginning as the book was finished. Cannot say it would hold as much value for a more general reader , but in my circumstances definitely a fi
Cynda Garza
Feb 27, 2016 Cynda Garza rated it really liked it
I remember when I and other English grad students spoke abiut our thesis, we would tell stories about our research and writing. We would sometimes be particularly charmed by a story, and we would want to know more about the research sources. If this sharing is so for grad stidents, how much more so for doctoral candidates and professional researchers and their teams. These sketches seem to be the stories shared over cups of coffee or lunches, and the research info provided for those who want to ...more
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 ...more
Meri Greenleaf
May 16, 2014 Meri Greenleaf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
Aug 08, 2013 Steven Belanger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 13, 2012 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 31, 2012 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare

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
May 01, 2012 Rebekah Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Jan 18, 2013 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2013 Molly Zeigler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2013 Kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was ok
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
Aug 29, 2014 Cynthia Egbert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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...

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