A 1623 first edition of all Shakespeare’s works, worth around £4million, has been found at a library in Saint-Omer, northern France.
The rare 400-year example of the complete works of Shakespeare worth was found in the archives of the library.
Only 750 editions of the book were printed, and until now just 228 were thought to be still in existence, inlcuding five in the British Library and 82 in America.
The book containing 36 plays is entitled ‘Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies’ and is referred to by modern scholars as the First Folio.
It is one of the most valuable printed books in the world, with a copy selling at Christie’s in New York in 2001 for £3.7million.
Museum curator Remy Cordonnier said Saint-Omer’s status as one of the 17th century’s most important towns meant it was a likely place to have discovered the rare book.
It was found buried in the museums archives two months ago, but its existence was not revealed until this week while it was authenticated, Mr Cordonnier said.
He added: “Experts have assessed it as 99 per cent certain to be genuine.
“Several pages appear to be missing, including the title page, which may explain why no one spotted it earlier.
“The most incredible thing is that it was sitting here in Saint-Omer for 400 years without anyone knowing about it.
“We will put it on display to the public in the coming months, but like all our rare and precious books here, we will never sell it.