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The Collation

First Folios online

Editor’s Note, March 30, 2016: Sarah now is maintaining an up-to-date list of digitized First Folios on her personal site. When you’ve finished reading this post, please head over there to check out the current list.

I imagine that you’re all thinking the same thing I’m thinking in the lead-up to April 23rd, Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday: Where can I find a good online facsimile of the First Folio? And I’m here to tell you the answer: In many places! In fact, by my count, there are at least seven eight nine ten eleven different copies of the First Folio that are online in at least reasonably high-resolution facsimiles.

But here we must pause a moment, in case there are some of you wondering a) why would one need a high-quality online facsimile of F1 and b) why would one be so excited that there were so many? And I can tell you the answer to this, as well, based on my own experience. Recently I was working on an edition of The Taming of the Shrew and was comparing my text with that of the Folio to make sure I’d caught and listed all the emendations that had been made. That right there is a good reason to want to consult a First Folio: if you are reading (or editing) a play and you want to understand how the edited text you’re working with compares with the early printed texts of the play (especially if you’re working with one of the 18 plays that appeared in print for the first time in the 1623 Folio), 1 you might want to look at F1 for yourself to identify those changes. In this case, I was reading through the fourth act of one of the Folger’s digitized First Folios when I came across this:

"ptove Mistresse of my heart"

“ptove Mistresse of my heart” (sig. T3v) (click to enlarge in Luna)

  1. See Appendix 1 below
  2. See Peter Blayney’s The First Folio of Shakespeare (Folger 1991) (and linked below) for an overview of this, Charlton Hinman’s The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (Clarendon P, 1963) for a detailed explanation of such changes, and Eric Rasmussen and Anthony James West’s The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue (Palgrave 2012) for a list of all such corrections and an account of which changes appear in which copies.
  3. The pdf currently linked to in Hamnet seems to have been corrupted; while you can access the paratextual material, excepting Blayney’s, you cannot currently get to the First Folio. That’s in the process of being corrected, but in the meantime, you can continue to find copy 5 in Luna and you can also find Blayney’s work at the University of Pennsylvania’s Furness collection.
  4. The pdf also needs to have most of its pages rotated; I like to use this resource to rotate  and split pdfs.


Thank you, Sarah. This topic of the various First Folios reminds me of an intriguing loose-leaf notebook I once skimmed at the Folger shortly before closing time. I haven’t been able to find it since. It was shelved not far from the exit.

As I recall, someone had collated in it all the marginalia from many First Folios. I’d love to see it again when I have more time. Do you know where it is? Did I just dream it?

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. — April 22, 2013


I’m not sure about this notebook, but you should take a look at Eric Rasmussen and Anthony James West’s The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue, just out from Palgrave last year. It’s a thorough account of every Folio they could get their hands on, including descriptions of marginalia and other copy-specific details. It’s shelved in the Reading Room, just by the stairs: Z8813 .S52 2012. It’s really astonishing and very useful!

Sarah Werner — April 23, 2013


Happy birthday, Big Willie! Let’s read some first folios, via @wynkenhimself!

@m_steph_m — April 23, 2013


A look at where to find the best free first folio editions of #Shakespeare online. #ShakespearesBirthday #Gift

@BardNews — April 23, 2013


[…] at The Collation last week, I wrote a blog post providing a quick explanation for what might be gained from looking at multiple copies of digital […]

What do we want from online facsimiles of Shakespeare? | Wynken de Worde — May 4, 2013



Robert O'Brien — May 7, 2013


Greetings from Münster

Thank you for your account on online First Folios.

Perhaps you may also be interested in the Stuttgart First Folio:

Anthony James West 2003 The Shakespeare First Folio …
No. 197 Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart [Lee 23 Class IB]
“A tall copy in good condition.”

Persistant Identifier:

The Württembergische Landesbibliothek viewer:[id]=2103&tx_dlf[page]=1

H. J. Neuhaus
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

H. J. Neuhaus — May 18, 2013


Thanks for bringing this to our attention! I’ll update the post to include this copy.

Sarah Werner — May 20, 2013


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