Although Shakespeare’s plays were written for the stage and the experience of performance, many people also read them, whether in printed books or online, for pleasure and study. Shakespeare’s works in print – both his plays and his poems – have preserved his language and stories across four centuries.
What is the First Folio?
The first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays. Without it, half of his plays might have been lost forever.
About the Folger First Folios
The Folger has 82 copies of the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623, the largest collection in the world.
A censored Second Folio from Valladolid
An official of the Spanish Inquisition crossed out passages from Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII that use imagery evocative of the Virgin Mary to describe Elizabeth I.
Folger First Folio 1
An inscription from 1623 records this book as a gift from the First Folio’s printer, William Jaggard.
Sangorski’s Songs and Sonnets
Alberto Sangorski’s manuscript book of Shakespeare’s songs and sonnets features beautiful calligraphy and gold-leaf illuminations, created in 1926.
Early modern printing
Shakespeare’s plays and poems were originally printed as quartos and folios. Learn more about this early modern printing process.
See the first print editions of Shakespeare’s plays and poems.
Poetry in print Plays in print
This online resource of items from the Folger and other institutions brings together all known manuscript and print references to Shakespeare and his works, as well as additional references to his family, in his lifetime and shortly thereafter.
Who was the first person to buy one of Shakespeare’s books?
We don’t know for sure, but this diary entry, written by Richard Stonley on Tuesday, June 12, 1593, records the first known purchase of the first edition of Shakespeare’s first printed work, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis.