Academicians Slam University of London’s Proposal to Sell Shakespeare’s Folios


The decision of the Senate House Library at the University of London to sell Shakespeare's first four set of folios has been heavily criticised. Critics have termed the act as 'egregiously wrong' and 'completely unjustifiable.'

Prominent academics have warned that if the university goes ahead with the premeditated auction at Bonhams in November, the institution could damage its reputation, integrity and its future bequests.

"I feel strongly that the first folios are the cornerstone of any great library. And you can't just sell them when you feel like it and when you fall on hard financial times," the rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, Henry Woudhuysen said.

Woudhuysen feels that if a wealthy buyer purchases the folios, it is less likely to be purchased again by a library.

"How can a library that has received such a gift within living memory bring itself to dispose of it? And how can it expect anyone else in future to give it anything at all of value?" Anthony Smith, the former president of Magdalen College, Oxford said.

A final decision has not been made yet and the officials are in the process of 'consulting with the academic community.' In order to sell the folios, they would require authorization from the Charity Commission to act against the conditions of the bequest.

The four iconic and unique books were bequeathed to the university by Sir Louis Sterling, an American philanthropist, when he died in 1958, to be housed permanently in the library.

However, the Bonham's auction house have already photographed and evaluated them.

"Sir Louis was a great advocate for refreshing the collection and we believe he would have supported the idea of reinvesting in fresh items," a spokesman of the library said.

The library officials claim that they can earn up to $7,803,148 by selling the set of four folios. Sir Brian Vickers, a visiting professor at University College London, said that no two books can be similar due to the practice of printing and correcting them.

"One of these copies may contain a correction that has puzzled people for many years and has never been solved. So to sell them is an act of stupidity of the highest order. These are invaluable documents for research purposes," Vickers said.

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