#William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". Wikipedia#
In the 16th century, Saint-Omer was home to an important Jesuit order that welcomed Roman Catholic clergy fleeing Protestant persecution in England. The First Folio discovered in the town is thought to have been brought to France during that era and held in the Jesuit library until the French Revolution when the order’s collection was confiscated and used as the basis for a public library.
The Shakespeare First Folio, said to be the most important book in English literature is one of only 230 believed to still exist. It included almost all of the plays widely accepted to have been written by Shakespeare and is credited with being the reason his literary legacy survived. The tattered book lay in a library in Saint-Omer, near Calais, for 200 years.
St Omers College began there in 1593, later changing name to Clitheroe's Stonyhurst College. A spokeswoman said the "dog-eared" book must have been "overlooked" when the establishment was ordered to leave in 1762 and moved to its present home in Lancashire.
The rare copy was discovered by librarians planning an exhibition on the historic links between the Calais region and England.
The librarian contacted one of the world’s most eminent authorities on Shakespeare, Prof Eric Rasmussen of the University of Nevada in Reno, who was in London working at the British Library.
The book, once believed to contain 300 pages, has around 30 pages missing and no title page. However, it will be the centerpiece of the French library’s exhibition next summer.
The Saint-Omer library holds a collection of 50,000 books and manuscripts dating from the 7th to the 19th century. The library also holds one of only 48 existing copies or partial copies of the 15th century Gutenberg Bible, one of the world’s most valuable books.
Unfortunately, the original copy of First Folio will not go on general display, but will be scanned so it can be consulted on the library website, available for other libraries and museums to borrow.
Don't you just love it when precious items from the past are discovered? Dreams of the future: My Moonstone series of novels will be published as one book and citizens of the future will find a single copy in a golden casket, hidden in the bell tower of Elstree Church just up the hill from where I live. But, that's the plot of another novel. Now, back to reality. Shakespeare's works are incredible.