SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627). London: Isaac Jaggard, and Edward Blount at the Charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.
No VAT on hammer price or buyer's premium. THE FIRST FOLIO
SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627). London: Isaac Jaggard, and Edward Blount at the Charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.

SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627). London: Isaac Jaggard, and Edward Blount at the Charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.

Median 2° (306 x 201mm). 445 leaves (of 454, lacking all preliminary leaves, provided separately in facsimile; see collation below). Roman and italic types 82mm, larger cursive for running titles, set by at least nine compositors. Double column, 66 lines, headlines and catchwords, pages box-ruled, woodcut head- and tailpieces and initials.

Bound by Roger Payne c. 1795 in red straight-grained morocco gilt, sides panelled with single fillets with flower-head at inner corners, spine elegantly tooled with foliate, floral, crescent and star tools, lettered ‘SHAKESPEARE / THE FIRST EDITION / 1623’, turn-ins with double single-fillet frame, floral tools at corners, light olive endpapers, wove and laid paper endleaves, one watermarked 1795, green headbands and silk ribbon marker (a few very minor scuff marks, very minor rubbing at extremities).

Robert Edwards (18th-century inscription on t1 lightly deleted); a few marginal calculations or other annotations;

Sir George Augustus William Shuckburgh-Evelyn (1751-1804), Baronet, Member of Parliament, mathematician, astronomer, and Fellow of the Royal Society (flyleaf inscription dated 1800; pencilled inscriptions attributing the binding to Payne and giving the price as £15-15-0). Sir George made significant contributions to meteorology and statistics, and was a pioneer in the collation of price indexes; the Shuckburgh crater on the moon is named after him. In addition, Shuckburgh was a passionate bibliophile whose collection ranked with those of Spencer, Roxburghe, Blandford, Devonshire and Cracherode. If less well known today, this is owing to Shuckburgh's discretion in his own lifetime (his library went unremarked in his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine) and to the fact that the collection has remained in the hands of his descendants, with only occasional sales of small selections of books across the centuries disguising the extent of the whole. His library contained not only the Folios of Shakespeare but a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (now at the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz), other monuments of early printing and fine illuminated manuscripts. Shuckburgh’s notes tucked into his copy of the First Folio attest to his studiousness and sophistication as a collector. They were made at the time of his purchase of the First Folio either from Thomas Payne, ‘a bookseller of the very first reputation’ (Dibdin Decameron III, pp 435-7) and close associate of Roger Payne as binder, or his son who succeeded him in the 1790s. One note describes the contents of the present copy as ‘Mr Payne’s Shakespeare said to be the 1st Edn of 1623’. It is accompanied by ‘Memoranda from the 1st, 2d, & 3d Editions of Shakespeare in the Kings Library at Buckingham House in 1798’, which gives the contents of copies in what is now the British Library. At his death in 1804 his collection was inherited by his daughter Julia and passed by descent: on Julia’s death in 1814 it passed to her husband, Charles Jenkinson (1784-1851, later third Earl of Liverpool); then to Lady Selina Jenkinson (1812-83), Lord Liverpool’s second daughter, whose first marriage was to William Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1812-35); Lady Mary Selina Charlotte Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (1833-99), only daughter of the above, who married William Henry Berkeley, second Viscount Portman (1829-1919); Henry Berkeley, third Viscount Portman (1860-1923), whose wife Emma Andalusia Frere Kennedy (d.1929) was the widow of Lionel George Henry Seymour Dawson-Damer, fifth Earl of Portarlington (1858-1900); and continued by descent to the present owner.


In the four centuries since his death, Shakespeare has become ‘the first universal author’ (Harold Bloom). His plays are both universal and timeless, engaging and entertaining audiences and readers around the globe. In the words of his contemporary Ben Jonson, ‘[Shakespeare] is not of an age but for all time’; ‘his drama is the mirrour of life’ (Samuel Johnson). As W.A. Jackson concluded, the First Folio is ‘incomparably the most important work in the English language and will always be valued and revered accordingly' (Pforzheimer III, p.935).

The First Folio is the first collected edition of the plays of Shakespeare. Its publication in 1623 is of supreme importance for preserving 18 plays – almost half of Shakespeare’s entire oeuvre – which would otherwise be lost, and for establishing authoritative texts for the remaining plays. The plays which appear for the first time in print in the First Folio are: Macbeth, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Winter's Tale, King John, Henry VI part 1, Henry VIII, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline. Three plays now accepted as genuine in whole or in part were not included: Pericles, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Sir Thomas More.

The editorial attention brought to the plays has been recognised since the mid 18th century when Samuel Johnson and Edward Capell established the superiority of the First Folio text. The plays were either set from ‘good’ quarto editions, in half a dozen cases collated against play-manuscripts, or were newly edited from complete manuscripts that either varied or in most cases greatly improved the text of earlier editions.

Shakespeare’s genius as poet and playwright was recognised in his own lifetime. Such was his reputation that plays were falsely attributed to him in order to take advantage of his popularity. In 1619 the printers William Jaggard and Thomas Pavier made an abortive attempt to produce a collected reprint of ten plays, including Pericles and two spurious plays, but none of the texts was authoritative, and the King’s Men, Shakespeare’s acting company, intervened to prevent the plan. Instead, Jaggard and Pavier illicitly printed quarto editions of some individual plays with false dates. Soon thereafter work on an authoritative edition began, a collaborative effort by the King's Men and the publishers to secure the rights to Shakespeare’s plays and establish an accurate text, resulting in the publication of the First Folio in late 1623. John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare’s fellow players and close associates who were named in his will, led the task of editing the texts and establishing the Shakespeare canon. It is the first publication in the English language devoted solely to plays.

The printing shop of William and Isaac Jaggard, father and son, was responsible for printing the First Folio. The Jaggard shop held the monopoly on printing playbills for the King’s Men, and their large shop was an obvious choice for printing the substantial folio volume of Shakespeare’s plays. Production began in early 1622, and the work was advertised already in October of that year for the Frankfurt book fair. The sequence of printing has been minutely studied and our current understanding owes much to Hinman’s classic monograph, The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare. At least nine compositors, most commonly working in pairs from two different typecases, set the type. Compositor B set almost half the pages of the First Folio and he also supervised the work of others, specifically that of compositor E, who has been identified as the teenage apprentice John Leason of Hurley, Hampshire. While the printing progressed, Jaggard and Blount negotiated for rights to quarto texts held by other publishers; Pericles, whose rights were owned by Pavier, was omitted for unknown reasons and not reprinted until the Third Folio of 1664. The negotiations for the rights to Troilus and Cressida were prolonged, which caused the printers to stop its composition and later to take it up again, resulting in the complications of cancellation and the distinction of three issues described below. Printing was completed in November 1623, by which time the elder Jaggard had probably died; he was succeeded as Printer to the City of London by his son Isaac on 4 November. The colophon reads 'printed at the charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley’. Jaggard and Blount were clearly the more important names, with Smithweeke and Aspley involved as copyright holders of several plays.

Three issues of the First Folio are known, distinguished by Troilus and Cressida, indicating clearly that the publishers had difficulty obtaining the rights to reprint the play. It was intended to follow Romeo and Juliet but printing was interrupted and then abandoned, and Timon of Athens took its place. Its inclusion only became possible at the very last stage of printing. The printers were able to reuse one sheet, with its original and now incorrect pagination, and printed the remainder anew. A first issue, represented by only 3 surviving copies, omits Troilus entirely; a second issue, represented by only 4 copies, contains the play but not the prologue; and a third issue, as the Shuckburgh copy, contains play and prologue. Hinman recorded hundreds of press variants on many dozens of pages, particularly in the Tragedies. They represent stop-press corrections of errors spotted after proofs of the two-page formes had been read; the apprentice compositor designated E was especially prone to making new mistakes while correcting and his work was more frequently checked during the press-run than that of others. In practice, no attention was paid to the state of the sheets as they were gathered, and it is probable that no two copies of the finished book would have contained exactly the same corrections.

Opinion about the number of copies printed has varied from as few as 500 to as many as 1500. Peter Blayney argues for ‘probably no more than 750 copies, and perhaps fewer’. His estimate of the number of copies that survive in complete or fragmentary state totals some 300, of which most are imperfect, many seriously defective. (Of the 82 copies held by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., only 13 are complete.) Anthony West, author of the modern census, has identified 232 other copies, the vast majority held in institutions, of varying degrees of completeness.

From the time of its publication in 1623 the First Folio has been a significant acquisition. It is a substantial volume of 454 folio leaves, and its original purchase price is thought to have been 15 shillings unbound and one pound bound in calf. The earliest documented owners are men such as Sir Edward Dering, who purchased two copies on 5 December 1623 for £2. Although not a rare book by some standards, the First Folio continues to be one of the most desirable acquisitions for any bibliophile.

The First Folio edition turned out a commercial success and was no doubt out of print by the time the Second went into production (1632). The First Folio served as printer's copy for the Second, the Third was set from the Second with the addition of seven plays (only Pericles being authentic), and the Fourth Folio was a reprint of the Third. The First Folio is textually superior to its successors, a fact not generally realized by Shakespeare editors before Dr Johnson and Edward Capell in the 1760s.

Shakespeare mania reached a new height in the mid 18th century. His plays were performed at a rate never previously equalled; 15 new editions of his works were published between 1743 and 1800; his monument was erected in Westminster Abbey in 1741; and David Garrick organised a Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769 which established Stratford as a tourist destination. This elevation was mirrored in avid collecting of the First Folio, and booksellers ensured that the available copies were in the best state for their wealthy patrons, washing and repairing leaves, using defective copies to make others more complete, and rebinding. The highly respected bookseller Thomas Payne supplied Sir George Shuckburgh with the present copy, bound by Roger Payne, celebrated bookbinder to royalty and nobility, and embodying English 18th-century taste.

Numerous leaves slightly short and 16 bifolia disjoint, minor repairs at extreme corners or edges in about 30 lvs, occasional small stains, more noticeable in c. 60 lvs, neat repairs at fore-edge in c. 6 lvs; short, neat repairs at lower edge in c. 5 lvs, tiny hole affecting one or two letters in c. 6 lvs, lower corner of 7 lvs repaired with several words replaced in pen-and-ink, occasionally with rule at head just shaved, bbb3-5 repaired at outer and lower edge, bbb6 with minor repairs and mounted on verso. A HIGHLY ATTRACTIVE COPY.

COLLATION: [Lacking preliminary leaves, which consist of pA6(1+1), ?2 (A1r blank, A1v Ben Jonson's verses To the Reader, A1+1r title with engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout, verso blank, A2 editors' dedication to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, A3r editors' address to the reader, verso blank, A4 Ben Jonson's verses To the memory of my beloved, The Author, A5r Hugh Holland's verses Upon the Lines and Life of the Famous Scenicke Poet, verso blank, A6r list of plays, verso blank, ?1r verses To the Memorie of the deceased Authour by L. Digges and I.M., verso blank, ?2r actors’ names, verso blank)]; A-Z, Aa-Bb6 Cc2 (Comedies: A1r The Tempest, B4v The Two Gentlemen of Verona, D2r The Merry Wives of Windsor, F1r Measure, For Measure, H1r The Comedie of Errors, I3r Much adoe about Nothing, L1v Loves Labour's lost, N1r A Midsommer Nights Dreame, O4r The Merchant of Venice, Q3r As you Like it, S2v The Taming of the Shrew, V1v All's Well, that Ends Well, Y2r Twelfe Night, Or what you will, Z6v blank, Aa1r The Winters Tale, Cc2v blank); a-g6 gg8, h-v6 x4 (Histories: a1r The life and death of King Iohn, b6r The life and death of King Richard the Second, d5v The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry Sirnamed Hot-spurre, f6v The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, Containing his Death: and the Coronation of King Henry the Fift, gg8r Epilogue, gg8v The Actors Names, h1r The Life of Henry the Fift, k2v The first Part of Henry the Sixt, m2v The second Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Good Duke Humfrey, o4r The third Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Duke of Yorke, q5r The Tragedy of Richard the Third: with the Landing of Earle Richmond, and the Battell at Bosworth Field, t3r The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight); 2?1= . 2gg3 3?1=2gg4 ¶-¶¶6 ¶¶¶1 (singleton), aa-ff6 2gg6 ( . 1.2, . 3=2?1, 4=3?1, -5, -6) 3gg-hh, kk-zz aaa-bbb6 (Tragedies: 2?1r The Prologue, verso The Tragedie of Troylus and Cressida, aa1r The Tragedy of Coriolanus, cc4r The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus, ee3r The Tragedie of Romeo and Iuliet, 3gg1v The Life of Tymon of Athens, hh6r The Actors Names, verso blank, kk1r The Tragedie of Iulius Caesar, ll6r The Tragedie of Macbeth, nn4v The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, qq2r The Tragedie of King Lear, ss3v The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice, vv6v The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra, zz3r The Tragedie of Cymbeline, bbb6r colophon, verso blank).

Arber IV, 107; Bartlett 119; Gregg III, p. 1109; Jaggard p. 495; Pforzheimer 905; STC 22273.

Sidney Lee. Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies: A Census of Extant Copies. Oxford, 1902.

A.W. Pollard. Shakespeare Folios and Quartos: A Study in the Bibliography of Shakespeare's Plays. London, 1909.

W.W. Greg. The Shakespeare First Folio: Its Bibliographical and Textual History. Oxford, 1955.

Charlton Hinman. The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare. 2 volumes. Oxford, 1963.

Peter W.M. Blayney. The First Folio of Shakespeare. Washington, D.C., 1991.

Anthony James West. The Shakespeare First Folio. The History of the Book. Volume I. Oxford, 2001.
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