Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, his characters are timeless and familiar, from wide-eyed Miranda to grim Macbeth. But how do we know about Shakespeare’s plays in the first place?

For many of the plays, the answer is a single book: the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare. Assembled seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio includes 36 of his plays—18 of which had never been before published. Without it, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, As You Like It, The Tempest, and more could have been lost.

In 2016, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare will bring the First Folio to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. The exhibition, which also includes panels and digital content, exclusively features First Folios from the Folger, whose collection of 82 First Folios is by far the largest in the world.

Visitors to First Folio! will come face to face with the original 1623 book, displayed open to Hamlet’s speech in which he debates whether “to be or not to be.”



The University of Iowa Libraries, along with campus and community partners, have planned a wide variety of programs for you to learn about and experience Shakespeare’s plays and the culture that shaped his writing.

The First Folio will be on display from August 29 through September 25, but programs will continue throughout the fall, including a special exhibition in the Main Library Gallery, The Books that Made Shakespeare, open from August 29 through December 30, 2016. The Books that Made Shakespeare is an exhibition of items from the University of Iowa collection selected to complement the First Folio and the statewide SHAKESPEARE AT IOWA celebration.

Please visit our EVENTS page to plan your visit to see the First Folio and learn about all the programs available.