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The first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, the First Folio, published in 1623, is one of the most valuable books in the world and has historically proven to be an attractive target for thieves. Of the 160 First Folios listed in a census of 1902, 14 were subsequently stolen-and only two of these were ever recovered. In his efforts to catalog all these precious FirsThe first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, the First Folio, published in 1623, is one of the most valuable books in the world and has historically proven to be an attractive target for thieves. Of the 160 First Folios listed in a census of 1902, 14 were subsequently stolen-and only two of these were ever recovered. In his efforts to catalog all these precious First Folios, renowned Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen embarked on a riveting journey around the globe, involving run-ins with heavily tattooed criminal street gangs in Tokyo, bizarre visits with eccentric, reclusive billionaires, and intense battles of wills with secretive librarians. He explores the intrigue surrounding the Earl of Pembroke, arguably Shakespeare's boyfriend, to whom the First Folio is dedicated and whose personal copy is still missing. He investigates the uncanny sequence of events in which a wealthy East Coast couple drowned in a boating accident and the next week their First Folio appeared for sale in Kansas. We hear about Folios that were censored, the pages ripped out of them, about a volume that was marked in red paint-or is it blood?-on every page; and of yet another that has a bullet lodged in its pages. Part literary detective story, part Shakespearean lore, The Shakespeare Thefts will charm the Bard's many fans....

Title : The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780230109414
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios Reviews

  • Chris
    2019-03-07 09:28

    The premise to this book sounded like tons of fun. I went into it expecting a "riveting" and intense recounting of the various attempts (successful and failed) to steal the First Folio over the years. What I ended up reading was indeed interesting but not nearly as compelling or intriguing as the numerous marketing blurbs and synopses made me expect.First, I must applaud the author and his team. They have done astounding detective work to track down, identify and extensively catalog the known First Folio's out in the world. The amount of detail put into this effort is truly mind boggling. The knowledge and expertise that the author and the team have is amazing.The book gives an initial overview of WHAT the First Folio is and what its significance is in the literary world. This description is interesting and educational. From my own studies, I'd heard the basic overview before…the comparison of the Folio versus the Quarto, the timing of how the Folios came about, etc. The overview also goes into the rarity of the Folio as a medium and with regards to the Shakespeare Folio specifically.After the overview of the Folio history, the rest of the book follows the history of some of the known copies of the Shakespeare Folio still in existence. It is amazing the degree of detail recorded about these books…not only about their history and lineage of ownership, but also about identifying characteristics (down to creases or stains on specific areas of specific pages).Each chapter was usually focused on the specific history of one of the known surviving Folios, though some chapters were more thematic in describing similar events or occurrences that happened to numerous Folios.There were dozens of fun and interesting stories of theft, vandalism, fraud, mistaken identity (both of ownership and of the Folio itself) and more. Some stories were more interesting than others and the amount of research and detail for each story was always impressive.Where the book was lost on me was the narrative style. For some reason, I never did find myself gripped by the writing, even by the most exciting or intriguing of the histories. I think this was partly due to the number of stories and the rapidity of their telling. Even with the amount of details involved, each story usually only covered a few pages and often only a few paragraphs. Add to this that the language was often steeped in scholarship and focused on presenting everything as factual as possible, and these brief stories read more like a history textbook than an exciting retelling of intrigue and suspicion (as promised by the summary).I still found the book to be very interesting and informative. It told me a lot more about the Folios than I ever knew before and it also gave me a ton of interesting little tales of intrigue within the book world. But the book never hit home for me as the compelling read I was expecting based on the synopsis. I suspect it will have a narrow audience that may be even more narrow due to maintaining so scholarly and deep. I feel like it could have broadened its appeal by providing more engaging narratives and I'm sure this could be done without sacrificing the academic nature of the book.This isn't a bad book…in fact, it is an excellent book. But it's certainly not going to be for everyone. I'm worried that the publishing and marketing team of this book is going to lose its audience by presenting the book as something it's not. The title, the synopsis, the quotes/blurbs, etc all suggest that you're looking at a literary thriller. If you go into this book looking for an academic thriller from someone like Eco (or the more pulp-fiction version like Brown), you'll come away disappointed. If you go in looking for a scholarly analysis on the Folio, then this book is a masterpiece and will leave you very fulfilled.***3 out of 5 stars

  • Chris
    2019-02-25 05:54

    Amusing and very readable, this appears to be all the stories Rasmussen and his team couldn't (or didn't want to) publish in their monumental census. It has a lot of good anecdotes, and has been quite useful to add a bit of color to some of the scholarly work I’ve been doing on book crime and provenance issues. However, from time to time, this crosses the line from being lighthearted to being a bit too gossipy and mean spirited. It’s unfortunate, because it’s an otherwise enjoyable read.

  • Katie Mercer
    2019-03-02 09:44

    So fun facts about me: I great up in Stratford (Ontario, not England) and the Festival was a huge part of basically everyone's lives - your parents worked there (yes, my mom did), you knew someone who did, your family business supported the tourists, or you worked there (yep, I did!) and it was basically non optional that you'd go there as a school and then camp field trip (True story, I saw Alice through the Looking Glass 6 times because of school and various camps) (I also hated it) (Sorry Sarah Polly). Unlike most elementary schools (or so I hear) we also studied Shakespeare all through grade school- one of the other schools did this whole big thing where they painted pictures, and their teacher re-wrote the plays to be accessible. My slacker school just had us read these books, and watch cartons. So basically I'm saying that while I'm in no way claiming to be a scholar, I got Shakespeare. My favourite play is Pericles, my favourite character is King Lear and I can explain to you in detail why the Globe, and therein Main Stage have thrust stages. So I was tentatively excited to have won this book, because with great power, comes great responsibility. By that I mean if people find out you're from Stratford, everyone becomes and expert and tells you AT LENGTH everything they know about Shakespeare and blah blah blah. From that, I do know that arguably the First Folio of Shakespeare is one of the most important publications in terms of modern English (the others probably include the King James Bible and a terrifying number of others I'm too tired to be clever about), and I also knew (because this is something we all know in Stratford (you're thrown out if you don't)) that about 1000 copies were printed, and apparently 232 have been accounted for. We know this, because Eric Rasmussen has a crack team of Folio Hunters. True Story, when I was a kid, I wanted to be on this crack team but then oops I got distracted by something shiny.But this is a review, so here you go: Rasmussen formed his team in the mid-90's with the goal of documenting as many surviving copies as possible and determining their provenance - this books is kind of a best of of what his team did. The world they discovered was... fascinating, obsessive and mildly terrifying. I don't really want to get into the stories, because I think that that ruins things, but it includes Cubans, a Pope, a bricklayer and a playboy. I don't really want to get into it, because if you're interested you should just go read it because it's a fun romp through a thoroughly obsessive and mildly insane group of people who are trying to do the impossible because you know that the next copy is hidden in Great Great Aunty Muriel's attic, under a million fur coats and possibly in a trunk that you lost the key to. So here's the thing. I wouldn't recommend this to someone unless I knew they a) loved shakespeare b) loved anecdotes or c) were really into the tracking of loss of historical record (it's a thing, I promise). That all being said, I really did enjoy the book. It's a fast read that make me laugh, taught me things about how books are lost, found and faked and generally was clever and interesting. A lot of the problems I've seen people have with it is that the author didn't get into a lot of detail about the stories - Rasmussen kind of flung the story at you, but glossed over the heavy investigative/academic work that you all know they did. I don't actually have an issue with him having done this- and I think it was the right choice. That stuff he glossed over is intense, and usually not in a way that would be interesting to a lay person reading it. I do admittedly wish he got into a bit more detail with some of the stories I found more interesting, but I think he was going for a kind of overall quick "Hey, this is what we're doing isn't it cool" thing with the book. Basically? Yeah, yeah it is cool. *** I won this book through Goodreads - all opinions are my own.

  • alix
    2019-03-03 09:46

    The subject matter of this book--along with some of the information and anecdotes contained within it--is definitely an interesting and compelling one. The author, a noted Shakespeare scholar, has traveled the globe for decades, hunting down and cataloguing First Folios. Yet for someone who has done such fascinating work and understands the folios in a deep and meaningful way, Rasmussen has written a book that largely comes across as the ramblings of a drunk uncle. It's poorly written, and its structure and organization are confusing at best. It's more or less Rasmussen flinging out little fun stories and anecdotes without rhyme or reason, as opposed to offering solid information about the First Folios. It felt, at time, as though supposition won out over fact; in parts, there were certainly more question marks than there were periods. (Ie: Did suchandsuch perhaps sell his First Folio? Or was it stolen from his collection? Did he cherish it as much as his contemporaries? We might never know the answer...etc...)I'd leave this one on the shelf and try out one of the many other works on the First Folio...

  • Alyce
    2019-03-20 04:36

    When I mentioned that I was reading this book to a friend who concentrated in Shakespeare studies in college, she said that she could not "get into" the book. I understand. I forged on because the story was so compelling; where are all of the copies of Shakespeare's first folio? The author and his team have spent a great deal of their lives tracking down extant copies of the folio, and recently published "SFF: A Descriptive Catalogue" that is referenced so many times in this book that I wonder if TST is merely a teaser for the earlier book. But the most egregious impediment to enjoyment of TST is the writing. There are no segues. The author’s mid-sentence tense changes, I suspect written to build up suspense (WAS the folio found, or IS the folio still missing /IS the thief in jail or WAS he falsely accused), only confuse and annoy. Oh, what this could have been in the hands of a skilled storyteller. Skip the body and head right to the end notes, where the most intriguing tidbits can be found.

  • Erin
    2019-03-24 02:50

    I'm not sure why this book disappointed me so much. It's such a neat premise, and the author and his team are doing a really interesting and important thing-- tracking down, studying, and cataloging all of Shakespeare's First Folios, to authenticate them and trace their owners through history. But the book itself, instead of getting into the meaty investigative and academic work necessary to do this, glossed over it all, and the book came away feeling "fluffy." The information thatwaspresented was intriguing, and a few less obvious themes (like nationalism and the folio) were brought up, but it was never enough to justify the drama implied in the title-- really, the drama implied in the research project itself. Still an interesting book, but it didn't cover any particular topic (historical readers and owners of Shakespeare's works, the printing and publishing of Elizabethan plays, current dealers and collectors in rare books) in enough depth for me to recommend it.

  • Scotchneat
    2019-02-24 07:43

    BOOK NERDS. Well, folio nerds in any case. Rasmussen and a small group of historians and archivists set out to track down as many of the known copies remaining of the first edition of the First Folio (Shakespeare`s collected works).As one would expect, there are some crazy characters and eccentric rich people. Some pretty amazing stuff - there`s a vault in Japan, for example, that has quite a few folios, and there are lots of bits and pieces missing or brought back together in the different versions.Quite a few mysterious lives of the folios are tracked as well - with several black market transactions, as one can imagine. Ultimately, the group has put together an exhaustive catalog of identifying marks and physical descriptions of everything they could get there hands on, which ought to get the bibliophile hearts going pitter-patter.

  • Rick F.
    2019-03-05 03:29

    "The first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, the First Folio, published in 1623, is one of the most valuable books in the world and has historically proven to be an attractive target for thieves. Of the 160 First Folios listed in a census of 1902, 14 were subsequently stolen-and only two of these were ever recovered."In the hands of an average writer,this non-fiction account of one of the most infamous crimes could be quite dry- happily Eric Rasmussen is far from an average writer! The Shakespeare Thefts: Stealing the World's Most Famous Book reads like a mystery novel, thriller peppered with superb reserch - which immediatly graps the reader and refuses to let go!A JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READRICK FRIEDMANFOUNDERTHE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB

  • Josiphine/Tessa
    2019-03-04 09:32

    This was a really interesting book. Eric Rasmussen worked with a team who researched First Folios and then made a definitive catalog of them, and this book is about interesting anecdotes they discovered. Though it could have been longer and more detailed, I really enjoyed it. Recommended for people interested in old books, Shakespeare, or the 17th-century.

  • Chain Reading
    2019-03-09 05:36

    This is the memoir of a rare book expert who spent many years trying to track down and document all existing editions of Shakespeare's first folio - so expensive and prestigious that both in its time and now, it was owned by the kings and queens and celebrities, and has always been a target for thieves.This book has an unedited feel to it - the order to the anecdotes seems randomly chosen, and there's no overarching structure. The author's voice has an earnest, nerdy enthusiasm. It works - it feels like you're standing next to him at the cocktail party, as he speaks off the cuff.

  • d
    2019-03-26 01:50

    Not what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be quite a fun and exciting read about tracking down the Folios and the process of provenance investigation, but this turned out to be much more anecdotal and rather disjointed. There were some interesting tidbits peppered throughout the first half of the book, but otherwise I found it quite disengaging. I spent most of the last chapter wondering when I might have the opportunity to use 'moves like Jaggard' as a printing error joke. I *will* make it happen, I can't have read this book for nothing.

  • Steven Belanger
    2019-03-16 02:51

    Extremely easy to read and interesting book, but probably only for those interested in Shakespeare, his folios, or really old books. I talked about this recently with a friend and she just rolled her eyes.But I thought it was interesting, and the author's fascination and joy of his subject also leaps off the page. He clearly loves what he does, and he is clearly very knowledgeable of what he does.What is that, exactly? Well, he's a Shakespearean scholar, and an overall authority on the 1623 Folio, and its 250 or so copies out there. (He believes there are maybe 250 more out there, somewhere, possibly in boxes in libraries--or in somebody's attic.) His lifelong ambition: to very minutely survey and catalogue every single copy of the 1623 Folio. Why? Because they're frequently stolen, because even one in poor condition is worth a few million, and because...well, because he's sort of a fanatic about it. And I mean that in a very, very complimentary way. Had I the education of this stuff, and the time and the money, I would definitely join him on his travels. Though the whole waiting, and the dealing with people, I would have to leave to them.I don't know how to explain the joy someone would have about reading stuff like this, except to maybe give you an example. I'm sort of a nut about very old baseball cards as well. The cream of the crop for such things is the 1909-1911 T206 Honus Wagner card, which even in poor condition is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. A very good one sold recently for seven million dollars. People are absolutely fanatic about this card. Many would steal it, if given the chance--and not for the money. Just for the chance to hold one. And to own one? Heaven. Bliss. I feel that, too. I saw one a few years ago at the New York Public Library in Manhattan. Someone thought it would be a great idea to paste that one to a scrapbook page, so that all anyone again would ever see of that card is the front of it. Not only does this greatly reduce its value, but it's not about the money--it's about the awesomeness of the card itself. If you can say, "So the hell what?" then maybe this book isn't for you. But if that makes you grind your teeth with frustration and anger, you'd enjoy this book.Because the stories in this book about the trials and tribulations that people--and their folios--have undergone over the years matches the above example. People have stolen them just to have a copy. Just to hold it in their hands, to flip through the cloth pages, to...You get the idea. Being a Bardolater (supreme lover of Shakespeare) is probably a must to feel this way about the folios--which Shakespeare himself never got to touch. They were edited and collected by Henry Condell and John Heminges, actor friends of Shakespeare's, at great personal cost, in terms of money and of time, and published in 1623. Shakespeare died in 1616. If you didn't know any of this (I did), then maybe this book isn't for you. If the thought of holding one and leafing through its pages makes you giddy, then it is. I bought a facsimile of the 1623 Folio at a consignment store for $38, which still feels like a bargain to me.You'll learn how some of them were stolen, how some were returned, how some are missing, and how some have mysteriously disappeared. For example: Sir Thomas Phillipps, compulsive collector of tens of thousands of very old and very valuable books, had a son-in-law who was in the habit of cutting up very old and very valuable books and scrapbooking some of his snippets. (If this makes you recoil in horror, as it does me, you'll want to read this book.) Well, this made Phillipps horrified as well, so to make sure that this son-in-law (married to Phillipps's only child) wouldn't cut up and scrapbook anything in his collection, he had his entire vast library moved out of his mansion and moved into another, bigger, mansion, in 1863. He then had a will made up that said that nothing could be taken out of this second mansion, and that this son-in-law, and Phillipps's daughter, couldn't go into this mansion. For good measure, any Roman Catholic couldn't go in, either. (He had to do this because the first mansion hadn't been originally his, and his descendant had a will that didn't have these restrictions.) Furthermore:--this mansion was so huge that he rode a horse from room to room.--it was so huge that prepared food would be served cold because the kitchen was so far away from the dining room--the book collection was so huge that Phillipps had to hire 175 men to drive 250 cart horses pulling 125 wagons to this vast collection 20 miles away. This took a few years.And it didn't matter. Someone, probably the daughter or the son-in-law, stole the 1623 Folio anyway.If the thought of a 1623 Folio being cut up and mutilated, and of a couple of these mutilations being scrapbooked, doesn't make you grit your teeth, Rasmussen's book isn't for you. Ditto, if you can't understand why someone would have so many books. I have a few thousand, none of them very valuable, so I can completely understand this.Anyway, if owning a 1623 Folio just to own it, regardless of value, sounds super-awesome to you, read this book. It's a very fast and enjoyable read, at just 172 pages, minus acknowledgements and notes, which are sort of interesting as well. (The 1623 Folio, by comparison, had over 900 pages, and cost one pound--about 25% of the average worker's salary in 1623.)

  • Ramona
    2019-03-08 07:33

    I found the format and theme of the book interesting. Who knew there could be so much history and intrigue about Shakespeare's folios of his works. I admit I skipped parts and others held my interest.

  • Steve
    2019-02-26 04:31

    It is hardly debatable that the two most important publications in terms of modern English language are the King James Bible and the First Folio of Shakespeare. In 1623, two actors who had worked with Shakespeare sought to publish a collection of his work in order that the acting company could profit rather than the many knock offs that were circulating at the time. Only about 1,000 copies were printed, of those 232 remain accounted for. How do we know this? Because of the work of Eric Rasmussen and his crack team of Folio Hunters. Rasmussen formed his team in 1996 with the expressed aim of documenting as many surviving copies as possible and determining their provenance in the process. The Shakespeare Thefts can be looked at as a highlight reel of what they have been able to accomplish.What they have done is to uncover “a fascinating world … populated with thieves, masterminds, fools, and eccentrics, all of whom have risked fortunes and reputations to possess a coveted First Folio.” What makes this book an enjoyable read is hearing these tales and the lengths they have gone to attain what is arguably the most famous book in the collecting world, such as, a nineteenth-century bricklayer who stole a Count’s personal copy and sold it for wrapping paper to shopkeepers, an accidental theft by a 20th century Pope, a shoe salesman disguised as a professor who stole one right out of a college reading room; and then there is my personal favorite involving a playboy living off stolen credit cards, Cubans, and the Folger Library. (I won’t spoil it. You have to read it to believe it.) If this book has a flaw it is that there is little flow to the narrative. It reads as a series of stand alone essays with little if anything moving in a linear direction. There are many tales of books they feel are out there but that they have failed to find. As a reader I kept waiting for the author to get back to those stories and tell me they found this one or that one, but this never happens. Overall though I can strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Shakespeare, or simply appreciates books for their own sake. It is a very quick read and by the end you will know more about how books are made, faked, stolen and retrieved than you did before. What more can you ask of a book.

  • Rebekah Scott
    2019-03-26 05:33

    In 2008, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. was approached by a man who wanted to have his copy of the First Folio authenticated. Raymond Rickett Scott, a British citizen, who claimed to have procured this copy in Cuba from one of Fidel Castro’s bodyguards, caused a bit of a sensation with this request. Even at the Folger, it’s not every day that someone just shows up out of the blue with a previously unknown copy of the First Folio.The printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623 gave birth to somewhere between 750 and 1,000 copies of one of the most coveted rare books in the world. Now, almost 400 years later, only 232 copies are known to remain; and Shakespearean scholars, bibliophiles and collectors around the globe yearn to possess, examine, or simply be in the presence of a copy of this seminal work.Eric Rasmussen, a noted Shakespearean scholar and a team of First Folio hunters have spent more than a decade traveling the world tracking down as many of these 232 copies as possible. Their goal was to create a definitive record of every existing First Folio, detailing page measurements, binding elements, and every single identifying watermark, tear, stain and bit of marginalia on each and every page.The scholarly result of all that work is “The Shakespeare First Folios: a Descriptive Catalog,” an incredibly detailed and thoroughly exhaustive creation that is of invaluable assistance to scholars, book dealers, and researchers. The more entertaining result of all that work is “The Shakespeare Thefts,” a collection of accounts regarding the long history of deception, greed, obsession, and thievery that have surrounded the First Folio for centuries.Rasmussen covers a fascinating history filled with compelling tales, from the eccentricities of First Folio owners to the numerous thefts to the copy unintentionally stolen by the Pope, “The Shakespeare Thefts” is sure to interest not just serious Shakespeare scholars but anyone with a taste for history and literature.And that previously undiscovered copy presented at the Folger? Stolen. From Durham University in England in 1998, and identified by its unique measurements and a missing triangular piece of paper as distinctive as a fingerprint

  • Meri Greenleaf
    2019-03-19 03:28

    When I saw the summary on the Early Reviewers request page I quickly jumped over to the "request" button. I studied English in college and absolutely loved renaissance literature, particularly Shakespeare, so I was excited to jump right in as soon as I received the book. Despite being quite familiar with Shakespeare's works, I never really knew much about the plays in physical form, if that makes sense; when I studied them, the folios and what the plays were written on rarely came up as it was the plays themselves that we concentrated on. This book opened my eyes to just how valuable the original folios are and all the mystery and intrigue that occurred as those books changed hands throughout the years. I found this incredibly interesting and was a bit disappointed that the book was less than two hundred pages because this is a subject I'd gladly have read much more about.Reading this book I realized part of what made it so captivating for me: the author clearly loves what he does and that shows through in his writing. I liked all the personal anecdotes about his team's experiences as they worked on tracking down different copies of the folios. While I do realize that frequently Rasmussen gives his own opinions about what could have happened in the past rather than cold hard facts about missing copies, I didn't find this to be a problem and thought it made the book more accessible to a wider audience than if it had been more scholarly.There are only two real flaws I could see with the book. The first is that it is just a sort of introduction into the subject. It isn't particularly in depth and the author does include a lot of personal opinions and speculations, but I do think this to be a really good introduction. It ensnared me and has me wanting to find out more on the subject, anyway! The other problem is that the book was somewhat disjointed; maybe with a bit more editing, the chapters could have fit better together or something like that. Regardless of these two flaws, I really enjoyed this book and I'll give it 4 stars.

  • Denise
    2019-03-09 06:46

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This book belongs on the shelf of everyone, who loves books and collects them. It tells the true story of what happened to various first editions, of one of the most coveted and valuable books in the world, the first folio of the works of William Shakespeare. The author has dedicated years in an attempt to document the present whereabouts of every known, documented surviving copy of this work. Each copy that he has found has it's own unique story from the very first purchaser to the present day owner. Each folio is also one of the most studied and documented, as regards to its condition. As a result, it is hard to fake. One of the most fascinating stories was that of the folio owned by Charles l of England, who was executed. When Charles was first imprisoned,it was one of the few personal treasures, that he took with him. He escaped by boat from his prison and his folio was with him, when he was recaptured. Another early English obsessive collector, had all his folios and other books stored in wooden coffins because he was afraid of fire and thought this storage method would be the fastest way to remove his treasures in the event of a disaster. Boy, was he mistaken! It took his heirs years to have all his books removed from his country home, when they liquidated his estate. Another folio was stolen in the States during World War 2 to "save it from Hitler's hands" according to the confession of the thief, who was eventually caught. Many folios are owned by reclusive Japanese millionaires, who needed years of friendly persuasion to show their copies to the author. It is amazing the number of book collectors, who died shortly after their purchase of a first folio, all under unusual circumstances. One owner even went down on the Titanic. A definite must read! Highly enjoyable!

  • Brian
    2019-02-25 02:37

    "The Shakespeare Thefts" is an inconsistent book of mostly insubstantial moments. I liked it, but I love most things connected to Shakespeare. It is not a text that deserves to be listed on the same level as many of the wonderful recent books about Shakespeare ("Will in the World", "Soul of the Age", etc.) but for what it is, it is not bad.As other reviews have mentioned, the title is misleading, but I was not greatly bothered by that. I read the book because of an interest in Shakespeare and the Fist Folio of his work. The "detective" aspect of the text was not a big deal to me. If a literary true crime book is what you are looking for, this is not it.What "The Shakespeare Thefts" really is is an easily accessible and consumed prologue to what is clearly Mr. Rasmussen's passion, the cataloging of every detail of every extant First Folio. Rasmussen's constant references to this project get old after a while. This catalogue was published but it is purely for historical and academic record and not something that the general public would be interested in consuming. That is what "The Shakespeare Thefts" seems to have been for. This is fine, but again, know what you are buying before picking it up.The text is arranged in very short chapters, each a free standing anecdote in its own right, and together they form a loosely connected survey of some of the more colorful moments in the history of the First Folio. I think a much more interesting book that achieves the same results with a better effect is "The Book of William" by Paul Collins. It is a much more enlightening and engaging read."The Shakespeare Thefts" will be added to my collection of books on Shakespeare, and I learned some things from it that I did not previously know. I can't ask more from it, and I am satisfied having read it.

  • Rebecca Reid
    2019-03-22 03:31

    The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen (Palgrave Macmillian 2011) is a personal account of Mr Rasmussen’s work with a committee to track down and record the condition of the less-than-300 remaining first portfolios of Shakespeare (originally printed 1623) in the world. The book is part general history of the creation and issue of Shakespeare’s folio (including a history of the thefts of this most expensive book), part detective work in trying to determine which copies are genuine and where they are (including the personal histories of the owners over the past four centuries), and part bibliophilic adoration of 400 years of marginalia on one of the world’s greatest writer’s first edition (this discussion of the marginalia was the most interesting to me).It sounds like a lot to cover, but the author’s personal tone (he regularly refers to himself and the things he loves about searching and examining these Shakespeare volumes) gives it a memoir-ish feel, all the while imparting a general appreciation for 400 years of history as found in a particular first edition (or, rather, in the many different first editions that still are in existence). It’s a rather brief work (less than 200 widely spaced pages), but not much more is needed to infuse the reader with a greater appreciation of Shakespeare and where we’ve come since he first was writing. If anything, I wish some of the stories were a bit more drawn out. Most of the chapters were just a few pages long so the stories tended to run together in retrospect. But in general, it was fascinating to learn a bit more about the first readers of the author who would become legendary.I received a complimentary review copy The Shakespeare Thefts from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Cross-posted on my blog.

  • Kathleen
    2019-03-06 07:31

    Author Eric Rasmussen and his team are on a mission: to track down and document every surviving copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. Only half of Shakespeare's plays (in quarto form) were published during his lifetime, and the First Folio gathered 36 of his plays. It was published by John Heminges and Henry Condell, two actors from Shakespeare's acting company, The King's Men, as a tribute to the playwright. They were also names in Shakespeare's will. Shakespeare died in 1616, and the 908-page First Folio was published in 1623, costing the enormous sum of one pound. From an initial printing of 750 copies, 232 known copies still exist, and the author is convinced that there are other copies still "out there." He tells some fascinating tales of certain copies, including the "curse" of ownership, as several people perished soon after purchasing or inheriting their copy. Many copies have gone to Japan during the 1980s when the Japanese currency and economy were surging. In 2002 Sir Paul Getty purchased a copy for $7 million. Literary forensics--who knew?"The Shakespeare Thefts explores what my team of First Folio hunters and I learned while cataloging, in situ, each of the known copies and searching for those that have vanished. Like a Shakespearean play, we uncovered a fascinating world between the covers of one of the world's most expensive printed books, one populated with thieves, masterminds, fools, and eccentrics, all of whom have risked fortunes and reputations to possess a coveted First Folio." [xv]

  • Manuel Antão
    2019-02-27 09:28

    No Redemption for First Folio Thieves: "The Shakespeare Thefts" by Eric Rasmussen Published October 30, 2012.  I’m lost in the desert, beer thirsty, hungry, and desperately searching for any sort of book-nourishment Shakespeare-related. What is that I see in the distance? It's something stuck in the sand, and I think it may be oval. As I get closer, I’m also able to see it more clearly. Is it a cave? Yes, I think it is! But to where does it lead? Doesn't matter! As I bend down to enter the cave, I’m able to see something deep inside. I can't quite make out what it is; I need to squint my eyes, trying to focus as I begin to slowly waddle towards it. As I get closer, I’m able to discern something. I think I may know what it is, but I don't want to get my hopes up only to be utterly devastated. But wait, yes it is, it's a book! It’s a book with the word “Shakespeare” on the cover. I start furiously waddling towards that delectable, precious gift from heaven, practically falling on my damn face until I notice that the cave has narrowed. I have to slow down my pace, but I clearly am not deterred, because I’m going to get to that book no matter what. However, as I’m thinking that, my shoulders begin to hit the cave walls, knocking me back and forth as I make my way forward, until I’m no longer able to waddle, having to resort to more prosaic methods of locomotion, i.e., crawling on my hands and knees…. The rest of this review can be read elsewhere.

  • Kyle
    2019-02-23 05:27

    The book started off fine, a collection of anecdotes relating to celebrated and infamous owners of the First Folio, but something turned sour, around chapter 4, where Rasmussen's drive to catalogue the exact details of every known edition becomes imperialistic. So much more daunting did his description of his "Ocean's eleven" team of folio hunters (mostly American fortune-seekers, it should be noted) make the following chapters, that I lost track of why the Descriptive Catalogue of folios seems necessary. We can learn lots about the plays and even guess at what was going on in the mind of Shakespeare by seeing the plays in performance. However, the amount of time and money spent on tracking down moldy, marked-up and stained copies of the original print takes one further away from the author's intention to please and entertain. So much less like the humble and humane description of the folios in Collins' Book of William that I read ecstatically last year. So much more did Rasmussen's findings, particularly the bogus Shakespeare portrait, remind me of the scene in Merchant-Ivory's Remains of the Day where Nazi officers coolly surveyed Darlington's art collection, making note of eventual acquisitions. Better off to have the anonymous folio owners in Japan keep their genkan closed to this project, and have some respect for private ownership of something already abundant in the public domain.

  • Molly Zeigler
    2019-03-25 08:33

    I devoured this non-fiction work in two days.For ten years Eric Rasmussen (co-editor of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s working edition of the Complete Works and an English Professor out of Reno, NV) headed up a passionate team dedicated to tracking and cataloging the provenance of every existing First Folio in the world. The First Folio is the 1623 first printing of the Complete Dramatic Works of WS. It is one of the most important, sought after, famous, and expensive books in the world.This team of passionate lit geeks produced a meticulous catalog of their findings (from a hunt that took them around the globe) that is also available.This book, 'The Shakespeare Thefts,' is the story of some of the more amusing and unbelievable situations they uncovered along the way - including some of the more high-profile instances of thievery and skullduggery surrounding the most important work in the English language.It's a fun, fast-paced, interesting and highly accessible literary detective/mystery work.You don't have to be a 'Shakespearean' to appreciate the anecdotes - each chapter can be read as a stand-alone story. It’s a popular market/mass appeal book that explores just how much books, themselves, are loved.It’s of great appeal to bibliophiles, mystery and history fans, and to lit geeks of all stripes.It is unabashedly geeky, fun, and exuberant in its unmasked passion.Highly recommended.

  • Gerald Sinstadt
    2019-03-22 04:29

    Theft is only a fraction of it. Eric Rasmussen is not just a Shakespeare enthusiast; he is a First Folio fanatic. The Professor and his team have set out to catalogue, in detail, right down to the least significant misplaced comma, every known copy of this coveted first collected edition of all the plays. Along the way, they have become aware of some that have disappeared, not all of them stolen but all vanished in tantalisingly mysterious circumstances. So this book's two hundred pages introduce a motley cast of collectors and con men, connoisseurs and thieves, in an anthology of colourful anecdotes and escapades. Perhaps we should not be surprised at the number of copies now residing in a vault in Japan, but we surely raise our eyebrows at the way a Pope, offered the Royal Shakespeare's copy to be blessed, accepted it as a gift! The author emerges as a magpie assembler of facts of greater or lesser relevance. An examiner for the Spanish Taylorian scholarship at Oxford is identified in parentheses as "the aunt of Aldous Huxley," rubbing shoulders in the early pages with Fidel Castro and Adolf Hitler among others. Easily readable and consistently entertaining, the brook earns its four stars. There might have been five had I not encountered on page two "Having gotten the attention ... " Hard to excuse a professor of English and a consultant to the Royal Shakespeare Company even if he does live in Reno, Nevada.

  • Peter
    2019-03-02 03:37

    The Shakespeare Thefts by Eric Rasmussen is a book about what might be arguably THE book of English Literature, the 1623 First Folio (F1). Rasmussen's book will be somewhat polarizing to readers. For those who want in depth, over-scholarly analysis of the F1, Rasmussen will disappoint. He is one of the world's experts on the Folios, and he is a widely-published scholar, but The Shakespeare Thefts is not so much about scholarship as it is about stories. Who originally owned some of the F1's, how others were lost and found, how a semi curse of death seems to follow ownership, how a hair or an eyelash, or a paw print of a dog and a cat can be a fascinating, unsolvable mystery. Rasmussen's book is almost anecdotal, but for those who love not only reading novels, but wondering about their origins, and if the book is antiquarian, about their previous owners and history, The Shakespeare Thefts is a wonderful read.A personal sidebar to this review: I live in Victoria, British Columbia where The University of Victoria has on display for the month of October Shakespeare's F1, F2, F3, and F4. To stand in a room about the size of a two car garage and be surrounded by these books is humbling. They are in separate, climate controlled glass cases, loaned by the British Columbia Museum, but still, to be with them, alone, just for a few minutes is as close to "touching the robe" as I believe is possible.

  • Karin
    2019-02-28 01:41

    I was destined to enjoy this book because I love Shakespeare and work in a Rare Book Department with a First Folio. What I appreciated most was the book's readability. You don't need to be an expert in Shakespeare or book collecting or history to enjoy the stories within. The text is approachable and not intimidating, much like Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps. I imagine this will be featured on a number of reading lists come 2014, which is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth.There are a few places where I feel there's some unnecessary repetition, such as the discussion of copies owned by Japanese individuals and institutions and the difficulties of obtaining access to come of these copies. However, I can see how this would be useful for people who read the chapters as they would short stories in somewhat unconnected fits and starts. My only other lament is that our library's First Folio was not interesting enough to be highlighted. Then again, since interesting enough would likely mean it had been stolen/lost/etc. and then found, I suppose I should be thankful that it isn't.

  • Katrina Shawver
    2019-02-24 04:45

    Though clearly well-researched, the author's passion for identifying authentic copies of Shakespeare's First Folios falls short of interesting reading. While he tries to make the history of each search for originals interesting, the truth is I got lost in all the names of complicated routes of ownership over four hundred years, for each copy he chose to write about. It's like reading chapter after chapter of complicated family trees, and I stopped caring, quickly scanning the last 2/3 of the book, hoping it would get more interesting. I even bought an extra copy for a friend before I read it because the premise sounded great - a literary mystery. I am not giving it to her as a great read. Like a scholastic author, the book is full of accurate details, and a seeming need to document years of work. I bought the book at a book festival; Eric Rasmussen is far more interesting in person than in his literal and scholarly documentation of these rare treasures. I give it three stars for content, but one and a half for being an interesting read, unless you are truly a Shakespeare and rare book enthusiast. I am not.

  • Erin
    2019-03-13 04:52

    Disappointing.I was totally intrigued by the idea of this book, and the first few chapters were so readable that I was quickly engaged. However, it quickly became clear that this book is simply a small collection of largely unrelated vingnettes, totally lacking in depth and substance. It's as if the author wrote this book simply to get you to buy his other book (which he references constantly throughout). The author and a team of enthusiasts (none of whom we ever get to know) travel the world to record all the Shakespeare First Folios in existence. Well, that's what happens in his other book. In this book, he just tells us stories about a few of those folios. Pretty much every story leaves you wanting more, and there's no real rhyme or reason as to which folios get profiled and which don't. Some chapters are simply, "We really wanted to look at this folio, but we couldn't. Oh well." Not very satisfying. Also, the book ends abruptly, without any kind of real resolution.There's no story arc in this book. No character development. Nothing that allows you to really dig in and enjoy the experience. To be honest, I feel cheated.

  • Carrie
    2019-03-26 05:46

    I don't read a lot of nonfiction, but considering that I'm an English teacher and I really enjoy Shakespeare, I was happy to give this a try. Given the subject matter of the book and the expertise and experiences of the author, I think that there was plenty of opportunity to create a really excellent text, but frankly, it fell short. The book felt disorganized and almost careless. Rather than transitioning from story to story in a logical manner, the author jumps from the story of one copy of the Folio to another with no obvious plan. He often stops the telling of one story to tell a little bit about another instance...then he goes back to what he was originally talking about.If you really enjoy Shakespeare and/or history, and if you like the idea of learning more about a handful of the 232 copies of the First Folio in existence, the book is a quick read, so it might be worth picking up. But don't expect the "thrilling narrative" that the book description promises.

  • David Macpherson
    2019-03-21 07:31

    Ugh. This book was one of the longest little books I have ever suffered through. It was supposed to be about searchng for First Folios, but it just presented random information about the people and the books over the years in an unstructured, passive voice. I thought this was going to be fun. I like the idea of book detectives, but the author gave no one he worked with the spotlight. Everything was about the dully presented history. And then the last chapter was a straight presentation of how the First Folio was printed, what the hell was that doing at the end? Where does that figure in except that his editor told him that he had to fill ten more pages? It was one of those reads that I finished because Icouldn't believe it was that awful, that it had to pick it up and get better. Ah well.