Library receives $2m worth of Shakespearean books

The University of California, Los Angeles already had a fine collection of early modern works held at its rare books library, The Clark.

But it has now received a stunning donation from book lover and physicist Paul Chrzanowski.

The collection of 72 books dates from 1479 to 1731, but it is dominated by works that Shakespeare could well have read, and in some cases clearly did.

Also included are original prints of Shakespeare's own work.

The library already possessed 12 folios (the posthumous collection of nearly all Shakespeare's plays), and now has two more, plus 11 separately printed plays which predate the first folio of 1623.

A 1619 version of Henry VI is thought to be worth $100,000 alone.

Of even more interest to a Shakespeare fanatic, however, will be first editions of works such as those of Michel de Montaigne, a French philosopher.

These English translations of his works are credited with introducing 750 new words to Shakespeare's vocabulary, including miraculous and depraved.

As Shakespeare is himself credited with introducing an estimated 8,000 words into English, this highlights one of the great potential joys of collecting rare books: holding works which have influenced the minds of great historical figures.

Other proven influences include an English translation of the 1567 Italian tale Rhomeo and Julietta and two volumes of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande published in 1587, the latter of which influenced MacBeth and King Lear.

Some of these works are rarely seen at auction, though it's surprising what can appear from the era, as with the key Galileo work for sale in the same city, Los Angeles, on Monday.

But whilst avid collectors wait in hope for their Holy Grail, they can always visit the library to view these rarities.

"[...] now you can come to the Clark and learn much of what Shakespeare may have known." enthused Bruce Whiteman, head librarian at The Clark.  "But I'm afraid you still won't be able to write like him. Most of us never get to that level."

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