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Rare book on show at last after export ban

Historic: Exhibitions officer Kirsty MacNab with book PICTURE: SWNS

AN ANTIQUE book seen as so culturally important it could not leave the UK is on display for the first time.

The 1640 edition of The Workes of Benjamin Jonson was put up for sale last year, but the government intervened when a foreign buyer tried to snap it up. British libraries were given first option to buy it for £48,000 and it is now part of the University of Edinburgh’s rare books collection, which will be on display at the university’s main library until March 2.

Playwright Jonson, who died in 1637, is ‘second in reputation to Shakespeare’, according to the Poetry Society, and the annotated book of plays even has margin notes telling actors how to perform them. It includes Epicene, the tale of an elderly man tricked into marrying a mute woman, who is actually a boy.

Also on display is a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which is covered in 18th-century graffiti; one of the UK’s first road maps, published in 1909; plus a silk escape map given to Allied servicemen in World War II to help behind enemy lines.