There are now 234 known original copies of the First Folio—the very important posthumously published collection of Shakespeare’s works—after a new copy surfaced in the library of “Mount Stuart,” an ornate Victorian mansion on Scotland’s Isle of Bute, which belongs to the seventh Marquess of Bute.
I mean, of course the seventh Marquess of Bute had a First Folio in the library of his grand Victorian home, Mount Stuart. Why wouldn’t he?
That’s according to the New York Times (which describes Mount Stuart as “an enormous Gothic revival pile”). The University of Oxford Shakespeare expert who put her stamp of approval on the book compared finding a previously unknown First Folio to “spotting a panda.” And on the eve of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, no less!
The copy in Scotland was not, strictly speaking, totally unknown. It had been listed in the typed catalog of the Bute family library as early as 1896, but its existence seems never to have been made public, even after a census of First Folios in 1902 by the scholar Sidney Lee led more than one millionaire to complain that his prize treasure had not been listed.
Maybe the late nineteenth century Butes were just distracted installing all the modern conveniences. “Truly a house of firsts, we believe Mount Stuart was the first home in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool, and the first in Scotland to be purpose built with electric light, central heating, a telephone system and a Victorian passenger lift,” explains the home’s website. “Most of which are, quite remarkably, still in use today.”
First Folios are incredibly valuable, not just for their rarity but their importance—published seven years after the great playwright died, they included 18 plays that had never made it to print in his lifetime and might’ve been lost otherwise. But the Marquess, Johnny Dumfries—“a former Formula One driver who is descended from Robert the Bruce, the medieval hero of Scottish independence”—has no plans to sell the First Folio, and it will remain on the Isle of Bute.