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Rare Shakespeare book sells for $2.75 million in London

A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio plays has sold for $2.75 million. Dubbed the "Holy Grail of publishing" by Christie's auction house, the sale comes hot on the heels of the 400th anniversary of the bard's death.

The sale was of an unrecorded copy of the First Folio - the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It is widely considered to be the most important literary publication in the English language.

The copy contains 36 plays, half of which had never been previously printed and might otherwise have been lost forever, according to Christie's.

It surfaced

for the first time in 200 years, the auctioneer said in statement.

The book was published just seven years after Shakespeare's death in 1616. Of 750 First Folios that were printed, 233 are recorded as having survived.

It includes "Macbeth," "the Tempest" and "Twelfth Night," and is divided into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.

Eternal truths

"The universality and timelessness of Shakespeare's insight into human nature continues to engage and enthrall audiences the world over," Margaret Ford, international head of books and manuscripts for Christie's, said in a statement.

Orson Welles in Macbeth in 1948

Orson Welles in "Macbeth" in 1948

A very private buyer

The folio - and later editions published in 1632, 1664 and 1685 - was sold in individual lots but were all bought by a private American collector. Christie's said it and two of the other folios came from a "discreet and off-the-radar" private collection in Europe and have not been seen in public for 200 years.

The buyer - whom Christie's Ford said was "a very private person" who wished to remain anonymous - paid $2.75 million (2.46 million euros) for the First Folio and reportedly joins a small group of people who own copies of all four early editions of Shakespeare's work.

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It was "exhilarating" to sell the four folios in the year marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death, Ford added.

The world celebrated the

anniversary of Shakespeare's death

400 years ago in April with a series of events, including many in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon in central England.

jbh/sms (AP, AFP)

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