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The exhibit of a book that changed the world — the First Folio of 36 Shakespeare plays published in 1623 — is a centerpiece of this year's Utah Humanities Book Festival.

The First Folio exhibit at the Salt Lake City Library's downtown branch is part of Folger Shakespeare Library's 50-state tour to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.

"This is the closest, clearest and most transparent touch we have to the man of William Shakespeare," says Michael Bahr, eduction director of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, who will be presenting workshops as part of the exhibit. "This is the shroud. This is whatever other holy icon we want to talk about here."

The compilation was published in 1623 by two members of Shakespeare's King's Men theater troupe eight years after the playwright's death. Eighteen of the plays are considered the earliest records of those scripts. That means works such as "The Tempest" and "Much Ado About Nothing" might have been lost to history if the First Folio hadn't been published.

"It's just really exciting being in a room with a book that is that old," says Bahr, who will offer two workshops at the downtown library (for teachers Oct. 11 and for students on Oct. 15) as part of a monthlong series of events, including a display recounting 166 years of theater history in Salt Lake City.

Another fun library event is Utah Children's Theatre's interactive workshop that explores the zany language of some of Shakespeare's death scenes, "Thus With a Fish I Die."

Also part of the exhibit is a "Recovering the Classics" exhibit, with an opening reception Saturday, Oct. 1, featuring book designer Steven Attardo, art director for W.W. Norton. The crowd-sourced national exhibit invited artists and designers to create new covers for classic books. The library will display 40 covers from that exhibit, along with 12 works by Utah artists invited by Art Access to re-envision the covers of Shakespeare plays.

"It was fascinating to have modern artists interpret whatever piece is interesting to them in a play, and then make a cover of it," says Sheryl Gillilan, the agency's executive director.

Utah artist Mark Robison, for instance, focused on the reference in "Othello" to "the green-eyed monster," and in his cover artwork created green eyes in the type of the script's title that function as the character's eyes.

This year's 19th annual Utah Humanities Book Festival, which partners with local agencies and bookstores to offer some 120 events in 16 Utah towns, offers readings and other events through October. Big-name national authors include Jonathan Lethem ("The Fortress of Solitude" and "Motherless Brooklyn"), hosted by Weller Book Works, who will read from his new novel, "A Gambler's Anatomy"; and Utah's best-selling James Dashner, who will launch "The Fever Code," the fifth book installment of his Maze Runner series.

Other highlights include a series of poetry readings by Utah's academic creative writers, University of Utah's Katharine Coles reading from "Flight," Utah Valley University's Alex Caldiero reading from "Who Is the Dancer, What Is the Dance" and Salt Lake Community College's Lisa Bickmore, reading from "flicker." Also launching books are UVU's Scott Abbott, reading from his memoir "Immortal for Quite Some Time," about his brother, John, who died of AIDS in 1991, and Karen Brennan, launching her seventh book, a collection of short fiction, "Monsters."

Other events include the announcement on Oct. 20 of the Utah Book Awards winners, and the launch of "Hope, Heart, and the Humanities," a book written by the founders of Utah Humanities' Venture Course, which offers college courses to "adults of modest means."

Plus, for lovers of lively literary performance art, there's the return of the madcap Literary Death March, a happening described as the love child of Def Poetry Jams and reality show judges' panels.

Also expected to draw a crowd will be the return of Salt Lake City's lovefest with storytelling, The Bee, which launched its every-other-month series two years ago. The book festival show, with the theme of "Church & State," will take place at the former church-turned-business incubator, Church & State. Tickets will go on sale at 6 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, and usually sell out within a couple of hours, says The Bee host Giuliana Serena. —

Utah Humanities Book Festival

Most events in the festival are free, unless noted. For a complete schedule, click on the Book Festival calendar at For a complete schedule of events relating to the First Folio exhibit, visit

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. • The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City. Novelists Charlie Quimby and Barbara K. Richardson discuss the complexities of writing female characters along with editor Kirsten Johanna Allen, of Torrey House Press, a nonprofit book publisher focusing on conservation.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. • Ken Sanders Rare Books, 268 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City, Book launch for Alex Caldiero's new collection of poems, "Who Is the Dancer, What Is the Dance," based on a journal the writer kept on a Colorado River trip.

Saturday, Oct. 1, 6 p.m. • Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City. Reception for "Recovering the Classics" exhibit, featuring book designer Steven Attardo, the art director for W.W. Norton / Liveright books.

Oct. 4, 9 p.m. • The State Room, 638 State St, Salt Lake City. Hosts the Literary Death Match and Adrian Zuniga; tickets, $10, at

Oct. 11, 7 p.m. • Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, Salt Lake City. City Weekly's Scott Renshaw reads from his first book, "Happy Place: Living the Disney Parks Life."

Oct 14, 7 p.m. • The Bee: True Stories from the Hive! at Church & State, 370 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City. Tickets, $13, available at at 6 a.m. Friday.

Oct. 17, 7 p.m. • The King's English Bookshop hosts Utah writer James Dashner, reading from "The Fever Code," the fifth book in his best-selling Maze Runner series.

Oct. 20, 7 p.m. • Utah Book Awards announcement in 4th Floor Conference Room of downtown's City Library.

Oct. 26, 7 p.m. • Gore Business Auditorium at Westminster College, 1840 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City. Teachers who launched Utah Humanities' Venture Course introduce their book, "Hope, Heart and the Humanities: How a Free College Course is Changing Lives."

Oct. 27, 7 p.m. • Auditorium, Salt Lake Masonic Temple, 650 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City. Novelist Jonathan Lethem will read from his just-released novel, "A Gambler's Anatomy." Tickets are $5, or free with the book purchase at Weller Book Works.