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2-5-FirstFolioFans of the Bard of Avon will have the opportunity to view the book that introduced his work to the world this month in Santa Fe.

“First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare,” on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, will open Saturday, Feb. 6, at the New Mexico Museum of Art and run through Feb. 28.

It has been 400 years since Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, in Stratford-on-Avon, England. To honor this milestone, the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has created a travelling exhibition of the First Folio, the 17th-century first edition of the volume that secured his place in history.

This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New Mexicans and other museum visitors to see an original 1623 First Folio, one of the world’s most influential and valuable books, and the original printed source for 18 of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. Had it not been for two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who, seven years after the Bard’s death, published the first collected edition of his works, plays such as “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “The Tempest” and “As You Like It” may have been lost forever.

The First Folio is roughly 900 pages long, with each page standing approximately 1 foot tall. Upon its arrival in Santa Fe, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line penned by Shakespeare – “To be or not to be” – from “Hamlet.” Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

“The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare,” said Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Between its covers, we discover his most famous characters – Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and hundreds of others – speaking words that continue to move and inspire us.

“Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day.”

Complementing the display, the museum will also present two companion exhibits: “Stage, Setting, Mood: Theatricality in the Visual Arts” and “Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar,” which will run through May 1. Together, the three exhibitions look at the importance of the stage, whether in life or imagination.

“We are pleased to be able to share this treasure with the people of New Mexico,” said Mary Kershaw, Museum of Art director. “For most people, to come within inches of one of the most influential books in history will foster a new, lasting appreciation of Shakespeare through personal engagement and from programming that aims to foster an appreciation of the Folio as an original, primary source.”

Also opening today at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe will be “The Book’s the Thing: Shakespeare from Stage to Page,” a Palace Press exhibit. Printers Thomas Leech and James Bourland will print facsimiles of a First Folio page on a replica Gutenberg-style press from 1:30-3:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

That exhibit will include Shakespeare-inspired creations from the Santa Fe Book Arts Group, samples of how Shakespeare’s works were interpreted and published over the centuries, and a marbled-paper-and-calligraphy collaboration by Leech and artist Patricia Musick.

The New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Ave., Santa Fe, will be open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Mondays through Sundays, for the First Folio exhibition. Admission is $6 for New Mexico residents, $9 for nonresidents. A $25 Culture Pass allows holders to visit the NMMA and all other state museums and monuments once during a 12-month period.

Sundays are free for New Mexico residents with ID, and Wednesdays are free for New Mexico resident seniors. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more, and school groups, including chaperones, will be admitted free. To schedule a group visit, call 505-476-5075.

For more information, call 505-476-5072.