Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Not Peer Reviewed

Prefatory Materials (Folio 1, 1663)


To the great Variety of Readers.
FRom the most able, to him that can but spell: There
you are number'd. We had rather you were weighd.
Especially, when the fate of all Bookes depends vp-
80on your capacities : and not of your heads alone,
but of your purses. Well! It is now publique, & you
wil stand for your priuiledges wee know : to read,
and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best
commend a Booke, the Stationer saies. Then, how odde soeuer your
85braines be, or your wisedomes, make your licence the same, and spare
not. Iudge your sixe-pen'orth, your shillings worth, your fiue shil-
lings worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the iust rates, and wel-
come. But, what euer you do, Buy. Censure will not driue a Trade,
or make the Iacke go. And though you be a Magistrate of wit, and sit
90on the Stage at Black-Friers, or the Cock-pit, to arraigne Playes dailie,
know, these Playes haue had their triall alreadie, and stood out all Ap-
peales; and do now come forth quitted rather by a Decree of Court,
then any purchas'd Letters of commendation.
It had bene a thing, we confesse, worthie to haue bene wished, that
95the Author himselfe had liu'd to haue set forth, and ouerseen his owne
writings; But since it hath bin ordain'd otherwise, and he by death de-
parted from that right, we pray you do not envie his Friends, the office
of their care, and paine, to haue collected & publish'd them; and so to
haue publish'd them, as where (before) you were abus'd with diuerse
100stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds
and stealthes of iniurious impostors, that expos'd them: euen those,
are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all
the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceiued thẽ. Who, as he was
a happie imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind
105and hand went together: And what he thought, he vttered with that
easinesse, that wee haue scarse receiued from him a blot in his papers.
But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them
you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. And there we hope, to
your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold
110you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him,
therefore; and againe, and againe: And if then you doe not like him,
surely you are in some manifest danger, not to vnderstand him. And so
we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your
guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others.
115And such Readers we wish him.
Iohn Heminge.
Henrie Condell.