First Folio



  • The first complete collection of Shakespeare's 36plays. Under the title Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories,and Tragedies, they were published in 1623 for 20 shillings byhis fellow actors Henry Condell (d. 1627) and John Heminge (1556 - 1630).Both were shareholders in the Blackfriars Theatre and GlobeTheatre. They added 20 plays to the 16 that had already beenprinted in quarto during Shakespeare's lifetime, ensuring that hisworks would survive (for none of his manuscripts have). No indicationis given of the dates of composition.

    The First Folio included Ben Jonson's poem declaringthat Shakespeare "was not of an age, but for all time"and a title-page engraving by Martin Droeshout (1601 - 50), thoughtto be the only authentic likeness. It also included an invaluablelist of contemporary performers who appeared in the plays. Condelland Heminge also edited the plays, dividing them (somewhat arbitrarily)into five acts in imitation of Ben Jonson (who was following Horace'sadvice). The number of copies published is unknown, but a second printingwas not ordered until 13 years later; two more printings were madein the 17th century. The auction price of a 1623 First Folio is currentlybetween £20 and £30 million.