Internet Shakespeare Editions

About

About the Folios used on this site

Copies of Folios 1-4 used for the images on this site are provided by the generous cooperation of the State Library of New South Wales. The Internet Shakespeare Editions acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of the Library and the Librarian, Mr. Alan Ventress.

The Library provides this description of the process by which it acquired the Folios, in a pamphlet dated 1989:

The first Folio, published in 1623, some seven years after the poet's death, was donated to the Library by English philanthropist Sir Richard Tangye in 1885, along with a beautifully carved oak casket to hold the volume. Now valued at over half a million dollars, the Folio is the only copy within Australia.

Next to the translation of the Bible, the First Folio is arguably the greatest book ever to be published in the English language. It remains the only known source for over half of Shakespeare's plays. Yet this important work had a perilous beginning. The two compilers, fellow actors of the King's Company of Players, had carefully to sift through numerous unauthorised versions circulating at the time.

Added to these problems, the printer, Jaggard, died before the text went to press and the final work was completed by his son whose name appears on the title page.

The Library's Second Folio (1632) originally belonged to the beautiful actress Essie Jenyns, a darling of the Australian stage during the 1880s. Miss Jenyns had been presented with the volume by four admirers while performing in Hobart in 1887. Three of the four signatures recorded in the front of the volume are all but illegible. But the fourth, that of John Robert Wood, adds an air of romance since Essie Jenyns retired from the stage the following year to marry her admirer.

In 1664, the Third Folio was published by Philip Chetwynde who secured the necessary copyright by marrying the widow of the previous owner. Few copies of the Third Folio survive due to large numbers being destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Library's copy originally belonged to a penny-wise Scot, for a note in the back of the volume complains that "the binding of this booke cost five pence..."

The Library's Fourth Folio was purchased by the great benefactor, David Scott Mitchell, and was bequeathed to the Library with the rest of his remarkable collection in the early years of this century.

An earlier booklet created for the Shakespeare Memorial Exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 1564 provides details of the four Folios.

The Folios

The first edition of Shakespeare's Works appeared in 1623, almost eight years after his death. The importance of the volume can scarcely be exaggerated: it is, next to the translation of the Bible, the most important book ever published in the English language. Of the 36 works printed here, 20 had not been published before. 500 copies of the book were printed, but only about half that number has survived, and no more than about 20 are in perfect condition. The price of these volumes is consequently extremely high: a perfect copy might fetch up to 25,000 pounds. The published price of the volume was one pound.The copy exhibited here was purchased in 1884 by the Brothers Tangye of Birmingham for 750 pounds and given to the Public Library of N.S.W. in 1885. It is the only known copy in Australia.

  1. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, histories & tragedies, published according to the true originall copies. London, printed by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount, 1623. Colophon (454a): Printed at the charges of W. Iaggard, Ed. Blount, L. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.

    [Portrait in second state; signed Martin Droeshout, London sculpsit. Size: 12 3/8" x 8".
    454 leaves, the first 9 preliminary matter, the Comedies 152, the Histories 132, Troylus & Cressida 15, the Tragedies 146.
    A fine copy; bound in full 19th cent. red morocco.
    ]

  2. Mr. William Shakespeare Comedies, histories & tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies. The second impression. London, printed by Tho. Cotes for Robert Allot, 1632.

    [This copy is incomplete; instead of [xx], 304, 232, 420 pp., it contains [xiv], 304, 232, p. 1-303, 343-416. The last pages are in very poor condition, repaired.
    The text of the second folio follows that of the first, with some corrections. This copy was bequeathed to the Public Library of N.S.W. by Miss Essie Jenyns in 1921.
    ]

  3. Mr. William Shakespear's Comedies, histories & tragedies. Published according to the true original copies. The third impression. And unto this impression is added seven playes, never before printed in folio. Viz. Pericles Prince of Tyre, The London prodigall, The History of Thomas Ld. Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle Lord Cobham, The Puritan Widow, A York-shire tragedy, The tragedy of Locrine. London, Printed for P. C.[hetwynde], 1664.

    [xx], 878 + 20 + 100.

    [This, the third, issue occurs with the date 1663 or 1664, and some of the 1663 printings do not contain the seven spurious plays. The third folio is extremely rare, because a large number of copies were destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666. It is, in fact, rarer than the First Folio. This copy had been purchased by the Trustees in January, 1964. The first 8 leaves are missing and have been supplied in facsimile. A few corners at the beginning have also been repaired by facsimiles. There is a ms. note at the end, dated Feb. 16th, 1693: "The binding of this booke cost 5d. . . ."]

  4. Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, histories & tragedies: published according to the true original copies. Unto which is added seven plays, never before printed in folio: viz. Pericles Prince of Tyre, The London prodigal, The history of Thomas Lord Cromwel, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, The Puritan widow, A Yorkshire tragedy, The tragedy of Locrine. The Fourth ed. London, printed for H. Herringman, and R. Bentley, 1685.

    Port. pp. [x], 272 + [ii] + 328 + 303.

    [This copy was acquired by D. S. Mitchell and is now in the Mitchell Library.
    Fly-leaf and title-page have been supplied in facsimile from the first folio.
    ]

About the graphic images of the Folios

The graphic images for the Folios in the collection of the State Library of New South Wales were provided by W.&F. Pascoe, Sydney, Australia. All images have been minimally cropped so that the sides of the pages can be seen, in order to provide a clear sense of the physical nature of the page as photographed.

Mr. Tony Wheeler, Managing Director, writes of the process of creating the images:

The colour images of the first edition were captured on a 3.1 megapixel array camera mounted on to a Pascoe designed bookholder assembly. The exposure used was 1/8 second at f8 lens aperture.

The images were generated using the lowest compression jpeg format and then saved as a tiff image. The tiff images had an average file size of 6 megabytes (this is the equivalent of 300 d.p.i.).

After the images were balanced and unwanted background removed, the images were compressed to an average of 750k each.

In order to make the files of a manageable size for the Internet, they have been further modified to produce two resolutions:

  1. Large scale images have been further compressed to create files of approximately 380K in size.
  2. Smaller images, close to the original size on many monitors, were created by reducing the original images by 58%, and enhancing them by increasing contrast and sharpness slightly. File size is approximately 150K.

The images for Folios 2-4 will be in 8 bit greyscale, format jpeg.