SHAKESPEARE, William. Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true original copies. The third impression. London: for Philip Chetwinde, 1663. Third Folio
2° in 6s (338 x 223mm). With the 'Verses to the Reader' from both the first and second issues, the latter with the engraved portrait by Droeshout in third state. With the 1664 title page, listing the additional plays, as well as the 1663 title. Double column within typographical rules. Woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. (First leaf a little creased and first title slightly soiled, minute holes in 15 leaves, those in T1, Y6, 2M5, 2O1, 2Q1 and 2R5 causing slight loss, most due to paper flaws, other holes at inner margin of 3B4 and \\hB1, small tear in 3M2 slightly affecting text on verso, marginal tears to 3B2, 3G1, 4D5, \\hB2 and \\hC3, some rust spots including a small but heavy spot on H3, small wax drip on 2F6, 2Q1 with wax drip causing partial loss to 4 lines of text on verso, occasional light spotting.) CONTEMPORARY GOLD-TOOLED CRIMSON TURKEY, possibly an Oxford binding by Roger Bartlett, sides with double fillet borders and rectangular central panel of double fillets and a floral roll, volutes at angles, floral corner-pieces with three tulips at head and four small pansies below, spine in seven panels with raised bands, the second panel lettered 'Shakespears Workes,' and that below tooled with the initials 'S.P.,' two of the remaining panels with central ornament enclosed by volutes, the top, middle and bottom compartments with all-over gilt tooling, the roll repeated on board edges, comb-marbled endpapers, gilt edges (extremities rubbed, upper joints splitting slightly at foot, lower joints splitting at head, top edge of lower cover slightly damaged, inner hinges split), preserved in crimson morocco-backed cloth box, spine lettered and tooled in gilt. Provenance: S.P. (initials on binding); Sir Philip Sydenham, Baronet of Brimpton, 1699 (engraved armorial bookplate); Tollemache family, Ham House, Richmond (sold Sotheby's, 25 November 1947, lot 448, to William Foyle for £4,400, described in the catalogue as 'the most desirable example that has ever passed through the sale room'). Exhibited: National Book League, Loan Exhibition of Shakespeare's Plays, January 1948.
AN EXCEPTIONAL COPY OF THE THIRD FOLIO IN A FINE RESTORATION BINDING. 'This edition has always been thought to be the rarest of the seventeenth century folios,' states Jackson. 'The legend, for the address of Chetwind's shop before 1666 is not known, that a large proportion of the copies of this edition were destroyed by the Great Fire would seem to be substantiated by the records ....' Robert Allot's widow, Mary, was forced to relinquish her husband's copyrights before marrying Philip Chetwind, a Clothworker who was not a member of the Stationers' Company. Chetwind successfully contested the assignment and recovered the copyrights on her behalf. His name alone appears on the title. But other proprietors were Eleanor Cotes, Miles Flesher, William Leake, John Martin, Gabriel Bedell, Thomas Collins and Alice Warren. The printing itself was divided between Roger Daniel, a second shop perhaps that of John Hayes, and Alice Warren.
There are two issues of the third edition. The first issue is dated 1663 and has two variants of the title, either with or without the portrait of Shakespeare; some copies of this issue are with and some are without the additional plays at the end. The second issue includes the portrait on the same leaf as Ben Jonson's 'Verses to the Reader,' and has a new title, dated 1664, which lists the seven additional plays found at the end. While Pericles was partly written by Shakespeare, the other six plays are now regarded as spurious, although all appeared in Shakespeare's lifetime with either his name or initials attached. THIS COPY REPRESENTS AN INTERMEDIATE STATE BETWEEN THE TWO RECOGNISED ISSUES. It retains the 'Verses to the Reader' leaf and the title page (without portrait) of the first issue, but these are supplemented by the 'Verses to the Reader' leaf with portrait, the title of the second issue, and the seven added plays. Gregg notes, in regard to the 1663 issue, that 'in most cases the title appears to lack the portrait and that in many copies the 1664 title, and in some the additional plays, are present as well.' This leads him to raise a doubt whether the 1663 issue 'was more than a trial issue and whether copies were actually put on the market. The only copy seen that has the portrait on the title (Wadham) is followed by the additional plays to which the 1664 title with the stub of the portrait is prefixed. This suggests that, if 1663 was actually issued, the additional plays and the 1664 cancel were also issued by themselves as a supplement.'
In the same year that Apsley Cherry-Garrard paid £7,700 for a set of all four folios, William Foyle paid £4,400 for this copy of the Third Folio, a just reflection of its superlative condition and retention of its first or contemporary binding. The corner-pieces on the contemporary goatskin binding are similar in conception to those used on a binding in the Henry Davis Gift II, no. 103, described by Mirjam Foot as 'possibly made in Oxford': the tool itself is not the same, but the delicacy of the flower stems and the overall closeness of design suggest that it may have come from the same workshop. Roger Bartlett had settled in Oxford after the Great Fire, and a strong resemblance has also been noticed between the roll-tool on this binding and other bindings by Bartlett, including the Henry Davis Gift II, no. 129.
The initials 'S.P.' on the spine have not been positively identified. Even though his Diary records the purchase of an edition of Shakespeare's plays in 1664, later sold when he acquired the newly-published Fourth Folio, Pepys used a monogram rather than initials as a mark of ownership, and in the absence of a shelf mark there is no evidence to identify 'S.P.' with Samuel Pepys. It seems improbable that these initials stand for Sir Philip Sydenham (1676-1739), the third and last Baronet of Brympton, as he was not born early enough to be the first owner of this copy, and the binding itself is unlikely to be any later than 1690. Sydenham, who became a baronet in 1696, used eleven book-plates of which 23 varieties are known, the earliest examples being dated 1699 (see Brian North Lee 'Gentlemen and their Book-plates' in Property of a Gentleman, Winchester, 1996, pp. 43-44). In his account of Sotheby's two-day sale on 24-25 November 1947, published in the Daily Telegraph on 26 November, A.C.R. Carter led with the story: 'SHAKESPEARE THIRD FOLIO SOLD. £4,400 FOR 1663 ISSUE. Rich and rare old books attracted a big company in Sotheby's yesterday. The most exciting event was when the bibliophile, Mr. William Alfred Foyle, beat a host of professional competitors at £4,400 for a well preserved copy of the Third Folio of Shakespeare.' The article comments on the provenance as being 'from the library of the Tollemache family at Ham House, Richmond,' mentions the prices paid for two other books from the same library, including 'a noble Caxton,' and concludes: 'From another source came a second copy of the Third Folio. Mr. Foyle bought this also at £780. The total of the two days came to £18,852.' Bartlett 121 & 122; Gregg III, pp. 1116-19; Jaggard p. 496; Pforzheimer 908 & 909; Wing S-2913 & 2914.