This talk considers a number of different ways to value Shakespeare: personal, educational, economic, aesthetic – by focusing on the life stories of the first collected edition of his plays, the First Folio of 1623. This book was sold for 15 shillings on publication; copies now fetch millions of pounds. A book that often shows marks of casual use – wine-ring stains, doodling, even pet paw prints – is now treated as a relic.
The cultural geographer Tim Cresswell argues that ‘value is produced by the passage of things in and out of different regimes of value… objects have biographies that are formed as they pass through these regimes of value’. Tracing the biography of the book via its different regimes of value gives a new way to understand questions of Shakespeare, worth, and value.