Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton. The Guardian reports: The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne's study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to "the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue." She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton's hand.
The first folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published seven years after his death. Without it, 18 plays including Macbeth and The Tempest might have been lost to history. Around 750 first folios were printed, with 233 known to survive. They command huge sums at auction, with one selling for 1.87 million pounds three years ago. Scott-Warren has made a detailed comparison of the annotator's handwriting with the Paradise Lost poet's. He also believes that the work the annotator did to improve the text of the folio -- suggesting corrections and supplying additional material such as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet, along with cross-references to other works -- is similar to work Milton did in other books that survive from his library, including his copy of Boccaccio's Life of Dante.
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