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About our collections /

Printed Books

The Folger’s printed books collection ranges from the mid-1400s—the birth of printing in the West—to the present day. The books cover literary, cultural, political, religious, and social history in Britain and Europe from the 15th though 18th centuries, with a strong emphasis on the 16th and 17th centuries.

Early English Books

The Folger has the world’s third largest collection of English books printed between 1475 and 1640, many in multiple copies. It also contains English editions printed from 1641–1700, and editions dated 1701–1800.

STC books 1475-1640
Wing books 1641–1700

Shakespeare quartos in the Folger vault

The Shakespeare Collection

Including 168 early modern quarto editions of the plays and poems, 82 copies of the 1623 First Folio, 58 copies of the Second Folio (1632), 23 copies of the Third Folio (1663–64), and 39 copies of the Fourth Folio (1685). It also contains other editions spanning the 18th century through today, including modern fine press editions and translations into nearly 100 languages.

Shakespeare quartos
First Folios

Continental Books

Books on subjects ranging from religious disputes to military tactics to travel advice. Nearly 500 “incunables” (incunabula), books printed before 1501. Works related to the Reformation include volumes by Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, and other authors. The collection also has a wealth of Italian drama, travel books, classical authors, emblem books, science and technology, military history, and French and Dutch historical and political pamphlets. It includes significant collections of printed herbals and festival books.

Reformation collection
Festival Books

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Modern Scholarship

Secondary sources in the Folger collection include journals, reference works, critical and historical books, and current editions of Shakespeare, including the Folger editions and the latest Oxford, Cambridge, and Arden editions. The Folger also provides access to a number of primary source subscription databases.

Secondary sources
Subscription Databases