Folio expert will discuss Shakespeare

The professor who found the most recently authenticated First Folio will discuss its significance

This year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, and if you still aren't over-barded by all the events, there is a talk and Q&A with Eric Rasmussen, an expert on Shakespeare's First Folio.

He will be at the American Center on Monday, Aug. 1, at 7 pm and online registration is required due to space.

The topic is not as dry as it seems, and Rasmussen has been compared to Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown novels like The Da Vinci Code. His expertise sometimes finds him traveling to check out rare manuscripts, looking the authentic early printings among the later copies and forgeries.

The First Folio is among the rarest and most valuable of printed books, with just 233 copies out of an original print run of about 800 known to exist.

Rasmussen was lucky enough to authenticate the last known one, found in 2014. It was in a library in a small town in northern France. Reports of the discovery racked up more than 12 billion page views, which is a lot considering there are just 7.1 people on earth. The so-called Saint-Omer copy was found by chance by a librarian in the town of 15,000. It had been entered wrongly in the library catalog as an 18th century edition because the original title page was missing. Some other pages are missing as well, but that does not detract from the importance of the discovery.

The story of how it wound up in a small town in France is an open question. Rasmussen will tell people what he has found out about this specific copy and give more details on First Folios in general and their importance in Shakespeare studies. Without the folios, many of the plays would be lost for all time.

Back in 2014, Rasmussen said he had been reluctant to go to see the newly found book. He was already scheduled to go to London to help with a Shakespeare-related exhibition when he was asked to go to France as well. Usually these discoveries don't pan out, and he was fairly certain the side trip would be a waste of time. But the Saint-Omer library had a Gutenberg Bible, so maybe it was worth a quick peek, he reconned. Despite torrential rain he made it to the small town, saw that the book was indeed authentic and then quickly had to return to the US.

Indicators that show it is authentic and not a later copy include the type of paper including watermarks, the binding and the printing technique.

Over the past century, some 72 First Folios have been located and each copy has minor differences due to the primitive printing techniques of the time.

When not traveling the world in search of rare Shakespearean manuscripts, Rasmussen is a foundation professor and chairman of the University of Nevada, Reno's English department.

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