LONDON - A rare, nearly 400-year-old copy of a first edition of William Shakespeare's collected plays has been found at a stately home in Scotland, on the Isle of Bute.
Experts consider the First Folio, as such editions are known, the most reliable text for 36 plays written by the man considered by many to be the world's greatest playwright.
They include "Macbeth" and "As You Like It".
The edition found at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute was authenticated by Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University.
"The collections managers were in touch to say they had a Shakespeare First Folio and my first reaction was yeah, right, sure you do. But on much closer inspection they turned out to be right," Smith told the BBC in an interview.
The three leather-bound volumes, worth an estimated 2.5 million pounds, bring the total of known surviving copies in the world to 234.
"Without this (edition) we would have lost probably half of Shakespeare's work," Smith said.
They were collated and first published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, according to the British Liabrary.
The details of the hands through which the folio passed are documented in a letter from the book's 18th century editor, Isaac Reed, accompanying the book, Smith said, helping the authentication process.
The folio will be on display for the first time at Mount Stuart from Thursday as part of an exhibition that will run until 30th October.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death on 23rd April 1616.