THE ‘most important book in English literature’ has gone on show at the Yorkshire Museum in York.

Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio,’ which has been lent by the Craven Museum and Gallery in Skipton, is being displayed to coincide with the York Literature Festival.

A museum spokesman said that at the time of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, eighteen of his plays had not reached print, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest.

“They merely existed as handwritten actors’ stage notes and Shakespeare’s own drafts,” he said.

“In 1623, a compilation of 36 William Shakespeare plays, including these, were published together in one volume. It is unlikely that any of the plays would have survived without the Folio, which is why it has come to be regarded as the most important book in English literature.”

He said that of the 750 copies originally printed, about 230 survived, and only four were on permanent public display, with the others at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, the British Library in London and the Folger Library in Washington D.C.

Natalie McCaul, curator of Archaeology, said that, having taken over two years to print, it was believed that no two copies of the book were the same, which made the folio even more special.

The Folio is on loan to York until July 15 in an exchange with Craven Museum for the Yorkshire Museum’s recently acquired gold torcs, two golden iron-age bracelets.

A series of events is planned at the Yorkshire Museum to celebrate the Folio’s arrival, including an after-hours Shakespeare film night to be held in June.