Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.
London, Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blout, 1623.
Folger STC 22273, Fo. 1, no.1.©
The Shakespeare Folios, the
four earliest complete editions of Shakespeare's plays, published in the
large, folio format, were the core of the Folgers' Shakespeareana.
"The most precious book
in the world" is what Mr. Folger called the Vincent Copy, shown left,
one of several copies of the First Folio (1623) shown in the exhibition,
but the phrase can as well be taken as denoting the Folgers' evaluation
of all of the early folio editions.
Collecting with a knowledge
of the textual variations in all copies of the Shakespeare Folios, the
Folgers eventually amassed 79 copies of the First Folio edition (1623),
58 of the Second (1632), 23 of the Third (1663) and (1664), and 37 of
the Fourth (1685), plus many fragments.
"This remarkable gathering
of the Folios," wrote bookseller Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, "they
form almost a complete library in themselves."