London, Jun 5 (UNI) A rare first volume of Shakespeare's plays, regarded as the most important book in the history of English literature, has been sold for 435,250 pounds at Christies.
Only 200 examples of the book, without which many of the Bard's finest works would have disappeared, now remain.
Published in 1623, seven years after the playwright's death, it was first sold for 20 shillings, the equivalent of 100 pounds today.
The folio contains 36 plays, 18 of which had not been published before. They include 'Macbeth', 'Twelfth Night', 'The Tempest', 'The Taming of the Shrew' and 'As You Like It'.
The book was yesterday bought by an unnamed buyer at a price comfortably exceeding the 400,000 pounds forecast.
Rupert Neelands of Christies told the Daily Telegraph, ''The preservation of over half Shakespeare's works is owing solely to the publication of the First Folio, the undisputed keystone of any serious collection of English literature.'' The present copy was sold to Sir Thomas Munro of Lindertis in 1837 and remained in the family until 1976 when it was sold at Christies for 12,000 pounds.
The book was in a sale of manuscripts and literature which also included the first draft of one of Sir Winston Churchill's famous wartime speeches which made 139,250 pounds (estimate 100,000 - 150,000 pounds).
Sir Winston's moral-boosting speech was delivered to MPs during the height of the Battle of Britain in August 1940.
The speech was kept by Sir John Colville, Churchill's assistant private secretary from 1940 to 1941. It was framed and given on loan to Chequers, where Churchill wrote much of the speech, from 1982 to 2007. The typescript contains 250 of Churchill's handwritten words.
Described as the most important Churchill manuscript to be put up for sale, it eventually became the speech famous for the tribute to the Battle of Britain pilots, ''Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.'' That line is actually contained in the second half of the hour-long speech, which is owned by the Churchill archive in Cambridge.
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