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Shakespeare in print

Shakespeare quartos in the Folger vault

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.

Collection highlights

A censored Second Folio from Valladolid
Page is divided into 3 sections. Many words and phrases in top half of page are crossed out in black ink. Bottom half of page contains epilogue and a scrollwork triangular shaped printer’s device. Two yellow spots stain the Epilogue.

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
Title page with engraved portrait of Shakespeare in the middle. Text printed above it reads

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
Title on white background with a gold vine-leaf design in the upper right corner opposite a large, decorated letter “S.” Oval portrait of bearded European man with a receding hairline wearing a gold hoop earring in his left ear and a deep blue coat with a white collar. Two nude cherubs with blue wings recline on opposite sides of lower corners of the page. The surrounding background is a blue and purple, trailing floral vine.

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.

Shakespeare Documented

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.

Stonley diary
Diaries of Richard Stonley

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.

Learn more on Shakespeare Documented