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The Shakespeare Collection

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Printed Books: The Shakespeare Collection



At the historic heart of the Folger Shakespeare Library is the large Shakespeare Collection, acquired primarily by Henry and Emily Folger. The Shakespeare Collection includes 229 quarto editions of the plays and poems—small, inexpensive editions that began to appear during Shakespeare's lifetime. Some of the quartos are extremely rare, existing in only a few copies. The Folger's quarto of Titus Andronicus (1594), once thought to have been lost, is the only known copy.
 
The Folger's best-known holdings are its 82 copies of the 1623 First Folio, published seven years after Shakespeare's death. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. Without it, eighteen of the plays, including Macbeth and As You Like It, would have been lost. A First Folio is on permanent display in the Folger exhibition hall.
 
The Folger also holds 118 copies of the Second Folio (1632), Third Folio (1663–64), and Fourth Folio (1685). The Second Folio includes a poem about Shakespeare by the young John Milton that was the first of Milton's poems to be published. Among the Folger's Second Folios is one signed by the British actor David Garrick and another that once belonged to Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James I. Still another Second Folio is from the English college in Valladolid, Spain, which bears the certificate of Guillermo Sánchez, a censor for the Holy Office, or Inquisition; in it, lines, scenes, and even the entire play Measure for Measure have been blotted out or literally cut out by the censor.
 
In the Third Folio, seven "new" plays were added to those from the previous Folios, but only one of these—Pericles—has been accepted into the Shakespeare canon.
 
The Shakespeare Collection includes about 7,000 other editions of Shakespeare's works, from the Rowe edition of 1709 to the present. Hundreds of foreign editions of the plays and poems translate Shakespeare into more than 40 languages.
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Shakespeare. Plays. 1623. London, 1623



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