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.