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Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies : published according to the true original copies.
London : Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632.
2nd imp.

Image from Shakespeare's Plays

The first published edition (1623) of the collected works of William Shakespeare, originally published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, but more commonly known as the First Folio, is the major source for contemporary texts of his plays.

The publication of drama in the early 17th century was usually left to the poorer members of the Stationers' Company (which issued licenses) and to outright pirates. The would-be publisher had only to get hold of a manuscript, by fair means or foul, enter it as his copy, and have it printed. For the First Folio, a large undertaking of more than 900 pages, a syndicate of five men was formed, headed by Edward Blount and William Jaggard. The actors John Heminge and Henry Condell undertook the collection of 36 of Shakespeare's plays, and about 1,000 copies of the book were printed. Around 100 of these survive today.

In 1632 a second folio, the volume shown here, was issued, and in 1663 a third. The fourth and final folio was published in 1685.

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