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University of Oregon

University of Oregon to Host Shakespeare’s First Folio Exhibition in 2016


The University of Oregon has been selected as the host site for the state of Oregon for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, a national traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books. The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is bringing a First Folio of Shakespeare in 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

“We are thrilled to host a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 2016,” said Lara Bovilsky, Associate Professor of English at UO and coordinator of the UO’s bid to host the Folio. “As our only source of half of Shakespeare’s plays, this volume has been uniquely influential, and we can’t wait to share it and talk about it with Oregonians.”

Many of Shakespeare’s plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The 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 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. “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.”

When the First Folio arrives in Eugene, its pages will be opened to one of Shakespeare’s most quoted lines, “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

The University of Oregon will add to this content with some of the most exciting volumes from its Special Collections and University Archives – including copies of Shakespeare’s second and fourth folios (later editions of the touring volume) and a copy of Ben Jonson’s second folio, as Ben Jonson, a fellow playwright in Shakespeare’s London, invented the form, which brought new dignity to the popular theater, not seen at the time as possessing literary value.

The exhibition will be held at the UO’s on-campus Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), and will feature a free opening gala at which the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – partnering with the UO English Department, Libraries, and JSMA – will perform.

During the exhibition, the University of Oregon will run numerous programs for the public, families, teachers, and students of all ages around the First Folio exhibition. The JSMA will offer educational programming themed to Shakespeare’s First Folio for students around the state.

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. It is believed that 750 copies were originally printed.

The Shakespeare First Folio is 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.

Final touring dates for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare will be announced in April 2015.

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 and the Folger’s other Wonder of Will programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death are available; learn more at

About the University of Oregon English Department

The University of Oregon English Department includes 4 professors who specialize in the work and time period of William Shakespeare. Having conducted original research on Shakespeare and his culture and taught thousands of students, these faculty members will be contributing numerous free gallery talks, lectures, and curation as part of the exhibition. See

About Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit theaters and has been staging Shakespeare for almost 80 years; it has staged Shakespeare’s entire works three times and currently boasts four permanent performance spaces and a company of more than 500 actors, artists, and production crew members. OSF welcomes over 400,000 attendees each year. OSF will contribute to the exhibition’s opening gala with a performance. Find out more at

About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the UO campus and welcomes 60,000+ visitors annually, including 14,000 attendees of public programs, participants in school tours, and students of the UO pursuing course-related activities. The JSMA’s Education Department, led by Lisa Abia-Smith, will offer interpretive and creative learning activities for students of all levels and their teachers as part of the exhibition. Many students whose schools have no budget for school trips will be brought to the museum using the JSMA’s own bus. See 

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—theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, 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