Cherry Hill, NJ ophthalmologist Ravi D Goel MD has collected rare books and historical documents for more than fifteen years. He has three collections at the Yale University Library and one collection at the Amherst College Library.
His collecting was heightened soon after watching a 60 Minutes piece about a possible Jackson Pollock painting purchased at a yard sale near Pollock’s ancestral home. (“A Thrift-Shop Jackson Pollock Masterpiece? Ex-Trucker Claims She Scored A Multimillion-Dollar Painting For $5”).
Exactly 10 years ago to this glorious day, Ravi happened upon a local yard sale. He came across a somewhat musty copy of the works by William Shakespeare. The seller was the grandson of a US soldier who served in World War I. The descendant explained that his grandfather had studied Shakespeare while at Yale and had carried a pocket copy of Hamlet throughout the war. At the conclusion of the Great War, the scholar soldier — also a founder of Yale’s venerated Whiffenpoofs & Last Man tapped for Skull & Bones — visited bookstores throughout Europe and happened upon this copy.
Generations of the seller’s descendants used this copy to read Shakespeare, believing this to be a circa 1910 copy of the 1623 work.
The seller was eager to clear out his grandfather’s estate before embarking on a world tour of golf courses owned by the 45th President of the United States.
Believing this to be a reliable and complete yet complex imitation, Dr. Goel for many years lent the copy to his nieces and nephews as they studied Shakespeare, wrote poetry, sonnets and book reports. After studying his yard sale find and seeing an obscure notation from one of Shakespeare’s contemporary lovers, Dr. Goel realized that he had perhaps purchased — for the remarkably same price as the Jackson Pollock painting — an original 1623 copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio.
According to Wikipedia, “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare‘s plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio.”
It is believed that around 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, of which there are 234 known surviving copies. The British Library holds 5 copies.
This is the first known copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio to be sold at a yard sale.
Sotheby’s top estimate for the Goel copy is £3.5 million. Dr. Goel plans to donate this edition (as it is a duplicate in his collection to one used & signed by Queen Victoria during her reign as Empress of India) to a rare book library which does not currently own a copy. Interested curators should contact him via this page (below) or tweet him via @RaviDGoel.
(Originally posted on the first day of the second quarter, 2017)