An over 400-year-old edition of the first playbook

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An original copy of William Shakespeare’s first playbook has sold for £2.4m at Sotheby’s in New York.

The first edition of Shakespeare’s works, often mentioned as one of the most important books in English literature, was put up for auction on Thursday evening and bought by a private collector, reports news.ro.

The edition is more than 400 years old and contains a collection of 36 plays.

Only 750 copies of the manuscript were printed, of which only about 220 are known to have survived.

Without the First Folio it is possible that 18 of Shakespeare’s best-known works, including Macbeth, The Tempest, Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night, would have been lost, as no contemporary manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s acting company partners, John Heminge and Henry Condell, collected the plays into the book that was published in 1623, seven years after the playwright’s death.

Last sold in 1996, the pieces belonged to an “important private collector”. The book was originally owned by the Gordon family, the name being present in the texts.

The manuscript later passed through the hands of British political activist and historian RW Seton-Watson and was later purchased by Abel E Berland, a Chicago real estate executive and bibliophile. It contains various annotations and markings from its owners over the centuries.

The text put up for auction on Thursday is believed to be one of only 20 that remain in private ownership. The British Library owns five copies, the rest being exhibited in museums and libraries around the world.