William Shakespeare is on a US tour: Or at least his so-called First Folio—the first printed collection of all of the Bard's 36 plays—is, NPR reports. Of some 750 copies printed in 1623, seven years after his death, 233 survive, per NPR. Now, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's 1616 death, the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC is sending out 18 of its 82 First Folios to be put on temporary display throughout the year at museums, universities, libraries, and other venues in all 50 states. “We’re excited to see the many different ways that communities across the country will be celebrating Shakespeare," Folger Library Director Michael Witmore says in a press release.
The tour—"First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare"— kicks off this week with copies going to Notre Dame University, Norman, Okla., and Eugene, Ore. First Folios will be on display at each tour stop for three to four weeks, per the Folger Library, and only a max of six will travel (in custom-built traveling cases) at any one time. The Folger Library has the largest collection of Shakespeare materials, according to the Eugene Register-Guard, and NPR notes that First Folios are kept on a lower level of the library. To reach them, one must go through a fire door, a heavy safe door, an alarmed door, yet another door, and then take an elevator down to a vault. Clearly, it's an important work, the "paper equivalent of the Holy Grail," NPR writes. "If you had to pick one book to represent Shakespeare," Witmore tells NPR, "this is it."