Inside The Vault #6 (Conclusion): The Most Beautiful Book In The World

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.

And there it is.  The picture is not the greatest, but you can see the mark in the upper right corner that identifies this as a gift from Jaggard (posthumously, I’ve learned).  Amazing.  No, I did not flip through it.  I consider myself lucky to have gotten to see it.
Oh, and to do this.
Best estimates have that book as one of the top 3 most valuable in the world, possibly approaching $10 million.  For the record, I’m not touching it, nor tasting it.  I was quite careful. But I know that my guardians were ok with this particular boldness because not only did Georgianna not have heart failure, she took my camera from Garland and took the picture herself because she didn’t like the way Garland was doing it! 🙂
Today I showed this picture to a coworker.  “You look so happy!” she said.  “Look how happy you look!  It must be amazing to be that passionate about something that it can make you that happy.”
Yes.  Yes it is.
Though this was not the last stop on my tour, this is the last post in my “In The Vault” series.  Once again, a tremendous and sincere Thank You to Garland Scott and Georgianna Ziegler for allowing my family and I this once(?) in a lifetime opportunity!

6 thoughts on “Inside The Vault #6 (Conclusion): The Most Beautiful Book In The World

  1. "It must be amazing to be that passionate about something that it can make you that happy."

    I think this made me vicariously-happy. I think I even got a little something in my eye.

    I am a Shakespeare fan (theater productions especially) but I'm sure I'm nowhere near as passionate about the subject as you are (though I venture to guess that few people are!). Even so, that is an *amazing* artifact and I can only imagine how awe-inspiring it would be to stand in front of it.

    I'm thrilled that you got to see this, and that we got to enjoy it through you. : )

  2. THanks Amy. I wouldn't claim in the least to be the most passionate about my topic, not by a long shot. There are people that devote their lives to this stuff.

    But I think that's the thing – that's what makes these individual experiences so very intense for me. I don't see 100 shows a year. I don't flip through Folios as I travel from library to library. This could well have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I know that. So I was very much in the moment of the whole thing.

  3. One Book to rule them all,
    One Folger to find them,
    One Jaggard to print them all,
    And in his workshop bind them.

    " My Preciousssss…"

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