Meet the Folger First Folios

Every First Folio at the Folger has its own story, from the people who have owned it, to its binding and physical condition, and many other details. Some First Folios include handwritten notes and drawings (which may be from multiple centuries); others have appeared in news reports, such as when Henry and Emily Folger first purchased them.

After nearly four centuries, many First Folios at the Folger and elsewhere have lost some of their original pages. Some owners in the late 1800s and early 1900s replaced them with facsimiles, which were printed or drawn by hand, or with pages from other First Folios, a process euphemistically known as "sophistication." Other pages have been damaged or torn, necessitating repairs that we can examine today.

Eighteen of the Folger's 82 First Folios toured the United States in 2016 in First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Other First Folios have been displayed in a wide range of exhibitions at the Folger or have been the subject of research efforts. Learn more about some of our Folger First Folios from the list below.

Folger First Folio 1

Folger First Folio 1 is often called the Vincent copy because the First Folio's printer, William Jaggard, gave it to his friend and customer Augustine Vincent. Vincent recorded the gift on its title page with a Latin inscription.

Folger First Folio 5

When Angela Burdett-Coutts first bought this First Folio, Queen Victoria gave her an extraordinary new case in which to store it: a carved oak casket made from Herne's Oak, a tree at Windsor that had been felled by a storm in 1863.

Folger First Folio 6

Henry and Emily Folger acquired Folger First Folio 6 in 1897 as part of their first acquisition of an extensive collection, the Warwick Castle Library.

Folger First Folio 10

This is the first copy of the First Folio in which an unusual leaf with a duplicate last page of Romeo and Juliet and the first act of Troilus and Cressida was identified and discussed.

Folger First Folio 16

Folger First Folio 16 is often called the Thomas Hanmer copy, for the early Shakespeare editor Sir Thomas Hanmer, who acquired it in about 1700.

Folger First Folio 19

Folger First Folio 19 has been called the "golden retriever" copy because its 19th-century owner, the first Baron Tweedmouth, established the Golden Retriever dog breed.

Folger First Folio 22

This First Folio belonged to George John Venables, fifth Baron Vernon, in the mid-1850s. Other than several defective leaves in the introduction, which have been repaired, this is a complete First Folio.

Folger First Folio 23

Folger First Folio 23 includes some handwritten copies of poems, including "To the Ladies," from a 1703 book of poems by Lady Mary Chudleigh.

Folger First Folio 24

Folger First Folio 24 was once owned by Charles Hatchett, an early chemist who discovered the element now known as niobium. The book includes two portraits of the 3rd and 4th Earl of Pembroke, to whom the First Folio is dedicated.

Folger First Folio 31

In the late 1800s this First Folio belonged to Scottish shipbuilder and book collector John Scott, Esq., who lived in Halkshill House in Scotland.

Folger First Folio 33

In 1875, the pages of this book were completely taken apart (or disbound) to be photographed for the first-ever photomechanical facsimile of the First Folio.

Folger First Folio 43

This First Folio has been called the "complete set” copy because it arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, with the three other 17th-century editions of the First Folio—the Second, Third, and Fourth Folios.

Folger First Folio 44

Henry and Emily Folger acquired this First Folio in 1898 for only $561. While that is not the lowest purchase price for a First Folio in the Folger collection, it was still considered a bargain.

Folger First Folio 50

Several leaves of this First Folio bear stage directions, notes, and revisions, suggesting that it belonged to a director or an editor.

Folger First Folio 54

This First Folio was acquired by the Hutchinson family in the mid 17th century—a family that included Colonel John Hutchinson, who played an important role during the English Civil War, and his wife Lucy, a writer and translator. It remained in the Hutchinson family until 1913.

Folger First Folio 55

This was the very first First Folio that Henry and Emily Folger purchased, in 1896. Several early readers added their signatures to this First Folio.

Folger First Folio 58

This First Folio has been called the "scissors" copy. A 17th-century owner or binder left a pair of scissors in the pages, and its rusty traces are still visible today.

Folger First Folio 59

In 1829, two women, Mrs. Fortescue and Mrs. Gillis, offered this First Folio to their public library in Plymouth, England. Until the early 1830s, readers could check it out like any other book for up to seven days.

Folger First Folio 61

Reverend Dr. Frederick Bulley, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, acquired this First Folio in 1870. Henry and Emily Folger then purchased it from his widow, Margaret Bulley, in March 1916.

Folger First Folio 62

To acquire this First Folio in 1916 for about $3,000, Henry and Emily Folger also had to purchase a Second and Fourth Folio—two later editions of the First Folio—from the bookseller as a package deal.

Folger First Folio 67

This First Folio has the rusty outline of an early pair of scissors on its pages. Very few of this First Folio's leaves are missing, however. Aside from the scissors, it has been left relatively untouched by later owners, unlike most First Folios that survive today.

Folger First Folio 71

This First Folio's first owner, Thomas Thorpe, bought it for 15 shillings (equivalent to about $180 today) and noted the price on one of the first pages.

Folger First Folio 72

Henry and Emily Folger acquired this First Folio for $41,000 in 1926, making it one of the most expensive Folios they ever bought. The price was so high because this is a "first issue." That means it was printed and sold before the text of Troilus and Cressida was added to the book.

Folger First Folio 77

This First Folio was owned by the renowned Shakespeare scholar Clement Mansfield lngleby in the 1860s, then passed to his son Holcombe, a solicitor, politician, and Shakespeare enthusiast.