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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Shakespeare text 'worth millions'
Anne Humphries
Mrs Humphries wants the book to go to a museum
A Shakespeare text that could be worth millions has been inherited by a woman, from a cousin she did not know she had.

Anne Humphries, from Greater Manchester, is to sell the First Folio of Comedies, Histories & Tragedies.

Mrs Humphries, of Bramhall, Stockport, will make 80,000 according to a "conservative" estimate, but bids could reach 4.1m at the auction next month.

The 1623 text has been described by experts as the most important book in the English language.

The book is one of only six in private hands and the last one, which was in a better condition, topped the 4m price tag in 2001.

It is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays and only around 750 copies were printed.

The index page of the rare Shakespeare First Folio
A Shakespeare First Folio is what every auction house dreams of
Rupert Powell, Bloomsbury Auctions
Mrs Humphries said she had no idea what she had got her hands on when she received the book.

"I was almost afraid to open it," she said. "I knew it was something special."

The book had belonged to Frances Cottle, from Tottenham, north London.

She was the widow of a tailor's cutter, and the book had gathered dust at her house until she died in 2002, leaving the legacy to Mrs Humphries, her closest living relative.

It took a genealogist two years to track down the rightful owner.

Mrs Humphries was then telephoned by a solicitor to tell her of her inheritance and to come and collect an "old book."

"I was told it was William Shakespeare. I thought, 'Oh, right, it's just going to be a copy'.

"But when I got hold of it, I thought, 'Oh God! I don't think it is a copy.'

'Absolutely amazing'

"I had to have it checked out."

It is to be sold on 7 October by Bloomsbury Auctions, whose "very conservative" estimated value of the book is 80,000.

Rupert Powell, managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, said: "A Shakespeare First Folio is what every auction house dreams of."

Mrs Humphries, who admits her experience of Shakespeare is limited to school study, has no idea how her cousin came to have such an important book.

"It is absolutely amazing for it to turn up out of the blue," she said.

"At the end of the day I hope it goes to a museum, the public deserve to look at it."


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