Shakespeare's secret work on display

Shakespeare's secret work on display

It's considered one of the most important books in English literature.

Kept deep within the vaults of Auckland's Central Library, its exact location is so secret Newshub weren't allowed to film there.

But it's available to anyone on request.

Without it some of history's greatest tales could not be told -- dramas and tragedies which still capture the world 391 years after print.

William Shakespeare's First Folio is the original collection of the bard's greatest plays, half of which had never been published before.

"It means if this book had not existed we would've lost 18 of Shakespeare's plays and some of the works that people know and love most - Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Julius Caesar Antony and Cleopatra," says Central Library keeper of the books Georgia Prince.

Since 1887 one of few remaining copies has belonged to Auckland Libraries.

And today the first folio is worth up to eight figures.

But for directors, its value is priceless.

"I think Shakespeare's First Folio is probably one of the two most important books we have in Western culture - the other one being the bible. It's an incredibly important book," says Pop-up Globe director Miles Gregory.

The folio is on public display as part of an exhibition celebrating Shakespeare's life.

And it's not the only treasure in the library's vaults.

There are texts from the 16th and 17 centuries that paint a picture of a world before New Zealand was on the map.

Between now and June works from Shakespeare's time will be on show in the Central Library to mark 400 years since the playwright's death.

But the oldest works in the collection date back even further to whole manuscripts from the 12th century and fragments of text more than 1100 years old.

Most rarely see the light of day but all are available to view on request in the library's Sir George Grey Special Collections.

It's as close to the bard as anyone can ever get even 400 years since his passing.