First Folio Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies.  

 First Folio Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies. Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623. First Folio Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies. Printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623.
The first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays – commonly known as the First Folio – is one of the most highly prized books in the English language. About a thousand copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio were printed. A worldwide census completed in 2003 identified 228 still in existence, some in fragmentary form. Gifted to the Library by Sir George Grey in 1894, this copy is one of only three in the Southern Hemisphere.

Apart from a messy draft of Sir Thomas More, a collaborative work to which Shakespeare might have contributed a few revisions, no manuscripts of his plays have survived. Thus we must rely on the printed texts as our earliest sources. Of the thirty-six plays contained in the First Folio, eighteen (including The Winter’s Tale, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Twelfth Night and The Tempest) had not appeared in print before. Others, such as Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, were previously available only in corrupt pirated versions.

A “folio” is a printer’s term, indicating a large-format book, made by folding the printed sheets of paper only once (as opposed to “quartos”, which are folded twice). The First Folio was prepared by two of Shakespeare’s former colleagues, the actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, working with the London bookseller Edward Blount. It was printed in north London, at the shop of William Jaggard, who died midway through production. The book was completed by Jaggard’s son, Isaac.

From Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.