A rare copy of Shakespeare's first published collection of plays has been discovered on the Scottish Island of Bute, Mashable reports. Shakespeare's First Folio was printed in 1623, and contains 36 of his plays, including Macbeth, As You Like It, and Julius Caesar. It's thought to be one of the most coveted rare books on earth, and now there are only 234 known copies in existence.
After the historic Mount Stuart House on Bute claimed to own an original copy, Emma Smith, a professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University, confirmed the folio to be authentic. A letter shows that the book was acquired by a London literary agent named Issac Reed in 1786. Following his death in 1807, the most recent records of the folio indicate it was then sold to a "JW" for £38.
Even in the early 19th century, that still would have been quite the deal. In 2003, a copy of the First Folio owned by Oxford University sold for more than $4.9 million. This newly-surfaced copy has a few quirks that make it unique: the pages are marked with notes and annotations from Reed and in 1932 the covers were rebound in goatskin.
The folio is broken up into comedies, histories, and tragedies. Researchers believe that as many as 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, though it's uncertain how many surviving books are still out there waiting to be discovered. The Mount Stuart copy went on display in the home today as part of an exhibition commemorating the 400-year anniversary of the Bard's death.