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Rare Shakespeare Folio Found in French Library

FILE - Photo provided by VisitBritain shows a monument to William Shakespeare at Westminster Abbey in London.

A rare copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio - the first compilation of his plays - has been discovered in a small French town after laying unrecognized for more than two centuries.

Remy Cordonnier, a librarian in the northern town of Saint-Omer, made the rare find as he was selecting books for an upcoming exhibition on historical links between the region and England.

The First Folio was originally published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Only about 230 copies are still in existence.

Without the First Folio edition, much of Shakespeare’s work, including Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Twelfth Night and Macbeth, might have been lost to the world. They were among 18 of his plays that remained unpublished at the time of his death in 1616.

The newly discovered copy was authenticated last Saturday by Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen of the University of Nevada in the United States.

The First Folio is one of the world’s most valuable books in the English language. The edition in Saint-Omer is only the second known copy in France.

A First Folio edition fetched more than $4.4 million at auction in London in 2006 and another sold for $5.6 million in New York in 2001.

The library in Saint-Omer says it has no plans to sell the discovery, but it will display it in its forthcoming exhibition of rare books by English authors.

Some information in this report was provided by AFP.