Before I’d ever left for my trip, I was speaking with Bardfilm about what I might hope to see in the vault. He replied that I might ask to get a look at Folio #1, what Mr. Folger called, “The most beautiful book in the world.”
And there I was, standing in front of a wall of Folios (a post unto itself!) and I went for it. Garland Scott had told me that I might be able to see it, “if it’s not out.” I assume that these sorts of items are often lent out to other institutions for study. “Is Folio #1 in?” I asked.
“I think so,” Georgianna replied, digging for something she wanted us to look at. “It would be up there if it was.”
That’s how they refer to their Folios, apparently. I want to curl myself up in the pages and go to sleep. The folks that see them every day say, “Oh, that one is over there somewhere.”
Why is #1 so special? It’s got a note (well, mostly a signature) from the original owner, stating that he’d received it as a gift from the printer, William Jaggard. Though it would be a mistake to assume that this makes it the actual *first* First Folio, it’s certainly evidence for being one of the very earliest. After all, William Jaggard died in November 1623, shortly before the first actual purchase of a Folio took place. So if this book truly was a gift, it was most definitely a very, very early copy.
I asked again, once we’d seen a few things and I get the feeling our time in this particular room is coming to an end. “Any chance I can see #1?”
And, just like that, I can. Georgianna pulls it down from its shelf, opens the gigantic box that contains the book, and lays it out on the table for me. I am staring at a one of a kind, almost 400-year-old book.