First Folio

First Folio

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Encyclopedia
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio.

Printed in folio format and containing 36 plays (see list of Shakespeare's plays), it was prepared by Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminges
John Heminges
John Heminges was an English Renaissance actor. Most noted now as one of the editors of William Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio, Heminges served in his time as an actor and financial manager for the King's Men.-Life:Heminges was born in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire in 1556...

 and Henry Condell
Henry Condell
Henry Condell was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing the First Folio, the collected plays of Shakespeare, published in 1623....

. It was dedicated to the "incomparable pair of brethren" William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke
William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, KG, PC was the son of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke and his third wife Mary Sidney. Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he founded Pembroke College, Oxford with King James. He was warden of the Forest of Dean, and constable of St Briavels from 1608...

 and his brother Philip Herbert
Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke
Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke and 1st Earl of Montgomery KG was an English courtier and politician active during the reigns of James I and Charles I...

, Earl of Montgomery (later 4th Earl of Pembroke).

Although eighteen of Shakespeare's plays had been published in quarto
Book size
The size of a book is generally measured by the height against the width of a leaf, or sometimes the height and width of its cover. A series of terms is commonly used by libraries and publishers for the general sizes of modern books, ranging from "folio" , to "quarto" and "octavo"...

 prior to 1623, the First Folio is the only reliable text for about twenty of the plays, and a valuable source text even for many of those previously published. The Folio includes all of the plays generally accepted to be Shakespeare's, with the exception of Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

and The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

, and the two "lost plays", Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won
Love's Labour's Won
Love's Labour's Won is the name of a play written by William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears to have been published by 1603, but no copies are known to have survived. One theory holds that it is a lost work, possibly a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost...

.

Printing


The contents of the First Folio were compiled by Heminges and Condell; the members of the Stationers Company
Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was founded in 1403; it received a Royal Charter in 1557...

 who published the book were the booksellers Edward Blount
Edward Blount
Edward Blount was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras, noted for his publication, in conjunction with William and Isaac Jaggard, of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1623....

 and the father/son team of William and Isaac Jaggard
William Jaggard
William Jaggard was an Elizabethan and Jacobean printer and publisher, best known for his connection with the texts of William Shakespeare, most notably the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays...

. The Jaggards were printers as well as booksellers, an unusual but not unprecedented combination. William Jaggard has seemed an odd choice by the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

, since he had published the questionable collection The Passionate Pilgrim
The Passionate Pilgrim
The Passionate Pilgrim is an anthology of 20 poems that were attributed to "W. Shakespeare" on the title page, only five of which are accepted by present-day scholars as authentically Shakespearean.-Editions:...

as Shakespeare's, and in 1619 had printed new editions of ten Shakespearean quartos to which he did not have clear rights, some with false dates and title pages (the False Folio
False Folio
False Folio is the term that Shakespeare scholars and bibliographers have applied to William Jaggard's printing of ten Shakespearean and pseudo-Shakespearean plays together in 1619, the first attempt to collect Shakespeare's work in a single volume....

 affair). The paper industry in England was then in its infancy and the quantity of quality rag paper
History of paper
Paper was invented by the Chinese by 105 AD during the Han Dynasty and spread slowly to the west via Samarkand and Baghdad. Papermaking and manufacturing in Europe started in Spain and Sicily in the 10th century by the Muslims living there at the time, and slowly spread to Italy and South France...

 for the book was imported from France. It is thought that the typesetting
Typesetting
Typesetting is the composition of text by means of types.Typesetting requires the prior process of designing a font and storing it in some manner...

 and printing of the First Folio was such a large job that the King's Men simply needed the capacities of the Jaggards' shop. At any rate, William Jaggard was old, infirm, and blind by 1623, and died a month before the book went on sale; most of the work in the project must have been done by his son Isaac.
The First Folio's publishing syndicate also included two stationers who owned the rights to some of the individual plays that had been previously printed: William Aspley
William Aspley
William Aspley was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras. He was a member of the publishing syndicates that issued the First Folio and Second Folio collections of Shakespeare's plays, in 1623 and 1632.-Career:...

 (Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

and Henry IV, Part 2
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.-Sources:...

) and John Smethwick
John Smethwick
John Smethwick was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras. Along with colleague William Aspley, Smethwick was one of the "junior partners" in the publishing syndicate that issued the First Folio collection of Shakespeare's plays in 1623. As his title pages specify, his...

 (Love's Labour's Lost
Love's Labour's Lost
Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

,
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

,
and Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

). Smethwick had been a business partner of another Jaggard, William's brother John.

The actual printing of the Folio was probably done between February 1621 and early November 1623. The printer originally expected to have the book ready early, since it was listed in the Frankfurt Book Fair
Frankfurt Book Fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world's largest trade fair for books, based on the number of publishing companies represented. As to the number of visitors, the Turin Book Fair attracts about as many visitors, viz. some 300,000....

 catalogue as a book to appear between April and October 1622. The first impression had a publication date of 1623, and the earliest record of a retail purchase is an account book entry for 5 December 1623 of Edward Dering (who purchased two); the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

, in Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, received its copy in early 1624 (which it subsequently sold for £24 as a superseded edition when the Third Folio
Folios and Quartos (Shakespeare)
The earliest texts of William Shakespeare's works were published during the 16th and 17th centuries in quarto or folio format. Folios are large, tall volumes; quartos are smaller, roughly half the size...

 became available in 1664).

Contents


The thirty-six plays of the First Folio occur in the order given below; plays that had never been published before 1623 are marked with a *. Each play is followed by the type of source used, as determined by bibliographical research.

[Some definitions are needed. The term "foul papers
Foul papers
Foul papers is a term that refers to an author's working drafts, most often applied in the study of the plays of Shakespeare and other dramatists of English Renaissance drama. Once the composition of a play was finished, a transcript or "fair copy" of the foul papers was prepared, by the author or...

" refers to Shakespeare's working drafts of a play; when completed, a transcript or "fair copy" of the foul papers would be prepared, by the author or by a scribe. Such a manuscript would have to be heavily annotated with accurate and detailed stage directions and all the other data needed for performance, and then could serve as a "prompt-book," to be used by the prompter to guide a performance of the play. Any of these manuscripts, in any combination, could be used as a source for a printed text. On rare occasions a printed text might be annotated for use as a prompt-book; this may have been the case with A Midsummer Night's Dream.]
Comedies
  • 1 The Tempest
    The Tempest
    The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

    * – the play was set into type from a manuscript prepared by Ralph Crane
    Ralph Crane
    Ralph Crane was a professional scrivener or scribe in early seventeenth-century London. His close connection with some of the First Folio texts of the plays of William Shakespeare has led to his being called "Shakespeare's first editor."-Life:What little is known of Crane's life comes from his own...

    , a professional scrivener
    Scrivener
    A scrivener was traditionally a person who could read and write. This usually indicated secretarial and administrative duties such as dictation and keeping business, judicial, and history records for kings, nobles, temples, and cities...

     employed by the King's Men. Crane produced a high-quality result, with formal act/scene divisions, frequent use of parentheses and hyphenated forms, and other identifiable features.
  • 2 The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

    * – another transcript by Ralph Crane.
  • 3 The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597. It features the fat knight Sir John Falstaff, and is Shakespeare's only play to deal exclusively with contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life...

    – another transcript by Ralph Crane.
  • 4 Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

    * – probably another Ralph Crane transcript.
  • 5 The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's earliest plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. The Comedy of Errors is one of only two of Shakespeare's...

    * – probably typeset from Shakespeare's "foul papers," lightly annotated.
  • 6 Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

    – typeset from a copy of the quarto, lightly annotated.
  • 7 Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

    – typeset from a corrected copy of Q1.
  • 8 A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

    – typeset from a copy of Q2, well-annotated, possibly used as a prompt-book.
  • 9 The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

    – typeset from a lightly edited and corrected copy of Q1.
  • 10 As You Like It
    As You Like It
    As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

    * – from a quality manuscript, lightly annotated by a prompter.
  • 11 The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

    * – typeset from Shakespeare's "foul papers," somewhat annotated, perhaps as preparation for use as a prompt-book.
  • 12 All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

    * – probably from Shakespeare's "foul papers" or a manuscript of them.
  • 13 Twelfth Night * – typeset either from a prompt-book or a transcript of one.
  • 14 The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W...

    * – another transcript by Ralph Crane.

Histories
  • 15 King John * – uncertain: a prompt-book, or "foul papers."
  • 16 Richard II
    Richard II (play)
    King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

    – typeset from Q3 and Q5, corrected against a prompt-book.
  • 17 Henry IV, Part 1
    Henry IV, Part 1
    Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

    – typeset from an edited copy of Q5.
  • 18 Henry IV, Part 2
    Henry IV, Part 2
    Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.-Sources:...

    – uncertain: some combination of manuscript and quarto text.
  • 19 Henry V
    Henry V (play)
    Henry V is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to be written in approximately 1599. Its full titles are The Cronicle History of Henry the Fifth and The Life of Henry the Fifth...

    – typeset from Shakespeare's "foul papers."
  • 20 Henry VI, Part 1
    Henry VI, part 1
    Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

    * – likely from an annotated transcript of the author's manuscript.
  • 21 Henry VI, Part 2
    Henry VI, part 2
    Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

    – probably a Shakespearean manuscript used as a prompt-book.
  • 22 Henry VI, Part 3
    Henry VI, part 3
    Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

    – like 2H6, probably a Shakespearean prompt-book.
  • 23 Richard III
    Richard III (play)
    Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

    – a difficult case: probably typeset partially from Q3, and partially from Q6 corrected against a manuscript (maybe "foul papers").
  • 24 Henry VIII
    Henry VIII (play)
    The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...

    * – typeset from a fair copy of the authors' manuscript.

Tragedies
  • 25 Troilus and Cressida
    Troilus and Cressida
    Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. It was also described by Frederick S. Boas as one of Shakespeare's problem plays. The play ends on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus...

    – probably typeset from the quarto, corrected with Shakespeare's "foul papers."
  • 26 Coriolanus
    Coriolanus
    Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general who is said to have lived in the 5th century BC. He received his toponymic cognomen "Coriolanus" because of his exceptional valor in a Roman siege of the Volscian city of Corioli. He was then promoted to a general...

    * – set from a high-quality authorial transcript.
  • 27 Titus Andronicus
    Titus Andronicus
    Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

    – typeset from a copy of Q3 that might have served as a prompt-book.
  • 28 Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet
    Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy written early in the career of playwright William Shakespeare about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately unite their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare's most popular archetypal stories of young, teenage lovers.Romeo and Juliet belongs to a...

    – in essence a reprint of Q3.
  • 29 Timon of Athens
    Timon of Athens
    The Life of Timon of Athens is a play by William Shakespeare about the fortunes of an Athenian named Timon , generally regarded as one of his most obscure and difficult works...

    * – set from Shakespeare's foul papers or a transcript of them.
  • 30 Julius Caesar
    Julius Caesar (play)
    The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

    * – set from a prompt-book, or a transcript of a prompt-book.
  • 31 Macbeth
    Macbeth
    The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

    * – probably set from a prompt-book.
  • 32 Hamlet
    Hamlet
    The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

    – one of the most difficult problems in the First Folio: probably typeset from some combination of Q2 and manuscript sources.
  • 33 King Lear
    King Lear
    King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

    – a difficult problem: probably set mainly from Q1 but with reference to Q2, and corrected against a prompt-book.
  • 34 Othello
    Othello
    The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

    – another difficult problem: probably typeset from Q1, corrected with a quality manuscript.
  • 35 Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

    * – possibly "foul papers" or a transcript of them.
  • 36 Cymbeline
    Cymbeline
    Cymbeline , also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance...

    * – possibly another Ralph Crane transcript, or else the official prompt-book.


Troilus and Cressida was originally intended to follow Romeo and Juliet, but the typesetting was stopped, probably due to a conflict over the rights to the play; it was later inserted as the first of the Tragedies, when the rights question was resolved. It does not appear in the table of contents.

Compositors


As far as modern scholarship has been able to determine, the First Folio texts were set into type by five compositors, with different spelling habits, peculiarities, and levels of competence. Researchers have labelled them A through E, A being the most accurate, and E an apprentice who had significant difficulties in dealing with manuscript copy. Their shares in typesetting the pages of the Folio break down like this:
  Comedies Histories Tragedies Total pages
"A" 74 80 40 194
"B" 143 89 213 445
"C" 79 22 19 120
"D" 35½ 0 0 35½
"E" 0 0 71½ 71½


Compositor "E" was most likely one John Leason, whose apprenticeship contract dated only from November 4, 1622. One of the other four might have been a John Shakespeare, of Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

, who apprenticed with Jaggard in 1610–17. ("Shakespeare" was a common name in Warwickshire in that era; John was no known relation to the playwright.)

The First Folio and variants



W. W. Greg has argued that Edward Knight
Edward Knight (King's Men)
Edward Knight was the prompter of the King's Men, the acting company that performed the plays of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, and other playwrights of Jacobean and Caroline drama.In English Renaissance theatre, the prompter managed the company's performances, ensuring that they...

, the "book-keeper" or "book-holder" (prompter
Prompter
The prompter in an opera house gives the singers the opening words of each phrase a few seconds early. Prompts are mouthed silently or hurled lyrically in a half-voice, audible only on stage...

) of the King's Men
King's Men (playing company)
The King's Men was the company of actors to which William Shakespeare belonged through most of his career. Formerly known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it became The King's Men in 1603 when King James ascended the throne and became the company's patron.The...

, did the actual proofreading of the manuscript sources for the First Folio. Knight is known to have been responsible for maintaining and annotating the company's scripts, and making sure that the cuts and changes ordered by the Master of the Revels
Master of the Revels
The Master of the Revels was a position within the English, and later the British, royal household heading the "Revels Office" or "Office of the Revels" that originally had responsibilities for overseeing royal festivities, known as revels, and later also became responsible for stage censorship,...

 were complied with.

Some pages of the First Folio – 134 out of the total of 900 – were proofread and corrected while the job of printing the book was ongoing. As a result, the Folio differs from modern books in that individual copies vary considerably in their typographical errors. There were about 500 corrections made to the Folio in this way. These corrections by the typesetters, however, consisted only of simple typos, clear mistakes in their own work; the evidence suggests that they almost never referred back to their manuscript sources, let alone tried to resolve any problems in those sources. The well-known cruxes
Crux (literary)
Crux is a term applied by palaeographers, textual critics, bibliographers, and literary scholars to a point of significant corruption in a literary text...

 in the First Folio texts were beyond the typesetters' capacity to correct.

The Folio was typeset and bound in "sixes" – 3 sheets of paper, taken together, were folded into a booklet-like quire or gathering of 6 leaves, 12 pages. Once printed, the "sixes" were assembled and bound together to make the book. The sheets were printed in 2-page forms, meaning that pages 1 and 12 of the first quire were printed simultaneously on one side of one sheet of paper (which became the "outer" side); then pages 2 and 11 were printed on the other side of the same sheet (the "inner" side). The same was done with pages 3 and 10, and 4 and 9, on the second sheet, and pages 5 and 8, and 6 and 7, on the third. Then the first quire could be assembled with its pages in the correct order. The next quire was printed by the same method: pages 13 and 24 on one side of one sheet, etc. This meant that the text being printed had to be "cast off" – the compositors had to plan before-hand how much text would fit onto each page. If the compositors were setting type from manuscripts (perhaps messy, revised and corrected manuscripts), their calculations would frequently be off by greater or lesser amounts, resulting in the need to expand or compress. A line of verse could be printed as two; or verse could be printed as prose to save space, or lines and passages could even be omitted (a disturbing prospect for those who prize Shakespeare's works).

Performing Shakespeare using the First Folio


Some Shakespeare directors and theatre companies producing Shakespeare believe that while modern editions of Shakespeare's plays, which are heavily edited and changed, are more readable; they remove possible actor cues found in the Folio, such as capitalization, different punctuation and even the changing or removal of whole words. Among the theater companies that have based their production approach upon use of the First Folio was the Riverside Shakespeare Company
Riverside Shakespeare Company
The Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City was founded in 1977 as a professional theatre company on the Upper West Side of New York City, by W. Stuart McDowell and Gloria Skurski...

, which, in the early 1980s, began a studied approach to their stage productions relying upon the First Folio as their textual guide. In the 1990s, the First Folio was reissued in a paperback format more accessible to the general public.

Today, many theatre companies and festivals producing the works of Shakespeare use the First Folio as the basis for their theatrical productions and training programs, including London's Original Shakespeare Company, a theatre company which works exclusively from cue scripts drawn from the First Folio.

However, the First Folio does not contain every word of the plays. For instance, small passages of Hamlet are omitted – among them Horatio's line "A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye", and his subsequent speech beginning with "In the most high and palmy state of Rome, / A little ere the mightiest Julius fell..." Also missing is Hamlet's encounter with the Norwegian captain from Fortinbras's army in Act IV, Scene IV, along with perhaps the most important cut, the soliloquy "How all occasions do inform against me".

Holdings, sales, and valuations


The First Folio's original price was 1 pound
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

, the equivalent of about £95–£110 or US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

190 to $220 in 2006. Like most books of that time the Folio was sold unbound and buyers would spend another pound or two to have it bound in leather, with various embellishments.

It is believed that around 750 copies of the First Folio were printed. The most recent census (1995–2000) records 228 still in existence. The British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

 holds the following copies: 1st impression (1623) – 2 copies; 2nd impression (1632) – 5 copies; 3rd impression (1663) – 1 copy, total 8 copies. The Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library
The Folger Shakespeare Library is an independent research library on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It has the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare, and is a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period...

 in Washington, D.C. holds the world's largest collection with 82 copies. Another collection (12 copies) is held at Meisei University
Meisei University
is a private university in Tokyo, Japan. The school's two campuses are in Hino and Ōme. It also offers correspondence courses which it introduced in 1967.-History:...

 in Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, including the Meisei Copy (coded MR 774), said to be unique because of annotations by its reader.

The First Folio is one of the most valuable printed books in the world: a copy sold at Christie's
Christie's
Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.- History :The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England, on 5 December 1766, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766...

 in New York in October 2001 made $6.16m hammer price (then £3.73m).

Oriel College, Oxford, raised a conjectured £3.5 million from the sale of its First Folio to Sir Paul Getty in 2003.

On 13 July 2006, a complete copy of the First Folio owned by Dr Williams's Library
Dr Williams's Library
Dr Williams's Library is a small research library located in Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, London.-History:It was founded using the estate of Dr Daniel Williams as a theological library, intended for the use of ministers of religion, students and others studying theology, religion and...

 was auction
Auction
An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder...

ed at Sotheby's
Sotheby's
Sotheby's is the world's fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation.-History:The oldest auction house in operation is the Stockholms Auktionsverk founded in 1674, the second oldest is Göteborgs Auktionsverk founded in 1681 and third oldest being founded in 1731, all Swedish...

 auction house. The book, which was in its original 17th century binding, sold for £2.5 million hammer price, less than Sotheby's top estimate of £3.5 million. This copy is one of only about 40 remaining complete copies (most of the existing copies are incomplete); only one other copy of the book remains in private ownership.

On 11 July 2008 it was reported that a copy stolen from Durham University
Durham University
The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...

, England, in 1998 had been recovered after being submitted for valuation at Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Shakespeare Library
The Folger Shakespeare Library is an independent research library on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in the United States. It has the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare, and is a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period...

 in Washington, D.C., in the United States. The folio's value was estimated at up to £15 million. Although the book, once the property of John Cosins the Bishop of Durham, was returned to the library, it has been mutilated and is missing its cover and title page. The folio was returned to public display on 19 June 2010 after its 12 year absence. Raymond Scott was jailed for eight years for handling stolen goods (he was acquitted of the theft of the copy). A July 2010 BBC programme about the affair, Stealing Shakespeare, portrayed Scott as a fantasist and petty thief.

External links



  • First Folio – Shakespeare Digital Collection
  • First Folio – plain text from Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...