TODAY (Wednesday)  is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio - and Craven Museum in Skipton is proud to have one of the very few on public display.

The folio, a collection of the Bard's at the time unprinted work, was published by Shakespeare's friends seven years after his death, on November 8, 1623.

There were 750 copies made and without it, a number of plays, around half of Shakespeare's works, including not just Macbeth but Julius Caesar, The Tempest, As You Like It and Twelfth Night, could have been lost.

Today, 235 original First Folios are known to survive - 150 are in the US, and about 50 in the UK and Ireland - including the copy at Craven Museum.

Although it was gifted to the museum in 1936, it was mistakenly identified as a second folio, of much reduced rarity, a situation only corrected when it was examined by literary expert, Dr Anthony West, in 2002.

The folio has clearly had a chequered history and the condition of some pages suggest it spent some time without a binding.

Its history is only known from the point it was acquired by businessman and amateur playwright John James Wilkinson, whose family owned Primrose Mill at Embsay.

After his death, he left the document to his sister, who bequeathed it to the museum in 1936.

It is one of four First Folios known to be on permanent public display in the world, alongside copies at The Folger in Washington, the New York Public Library and the British Library in London.

In 2011, Shakespearean actor, Sir Patrick Stewart, who at the time had a home in Hebden, recorded an accompanying commentary to the First Folio, while on a visit to Craven. At time, he told the Craven Herald how important Shakespeare had been in his career and also spoke of his love of the Yorkshire Dales.

At the time, he spoke of the missing copies, saying: “There are approximately 500 copies [of the First Folio] missing from the published list. There could be one anywhere, just as there was one here in Skipton. They were significant volumes and one it’s a little surprising that such a small percentage of them still exist.