Christie's Exceptional Sale will mark the first time in nearly 20 years that a complete copy of the First Folio has come to auction.
The First Folio, also known as "Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies," was published in 1623 by Shakespeare's friends and fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, who collaborated after the Bard's death to compile this authoritative edition of his work.
This collection contains thirty-six of Shakespeare's plays, including eighteen that may have otherwise been lost forever.
Among them are "Macbeth," "The Twelfth Night," "Measure for Measure" and "Julius Caesar," with the First Folio marking the first time that Shakespeare's works were organized into the categories of comedies, tragedies, and histories.
Christie's pointed out that the large size of the First Folio helped elevate the cultural standing of the Bard, as this imposing format was typically reserved at the time for Bibles, theology, and law books.
Now hitting the auction block at Christie's New York, this highly sought-after collection is estimated to fetch between $4 million and $6 million.
In 2001, the last complete edition of the First Folio sold for a record-setting $6.2 million on the behalf of the Library of Abel E. Berland at Christie's New York.
"This copy is especially exciting as one of the very few complete copies surviving in private hands and knowing that it was once in the hands of the great Shakespeare scholar Edmond Malone, who himself affirmed its completeness already 200 years ago," Margaret Ford, who is the International Head of Group, Books & Manuscripts for Christie's London, said in a statement.
With only six complete editions held in private hands, Shakespeare's First Folio will be a marquee item of Christie's forthcoming Exceptional Sale.
Ahead of the auction on April 24, the book is currently on tour across the world, with stops in London (until January 19), New York (January 22-27), Hong Kong (March 17-20), and Beijing (April 1-3) before returning to the Big Apple.