More First Folio Resources

The Folger has produced a wealth of material related to the First Folio, which is at the heart of the Folger collection. Here are some of those resources—and materials from other institutions and authors, too.

Shakespeare Unlimited podcast | Shakespeare & Beyond blog | The Collation blog

Videos | Additional online resources | Books and articles


Shakespeare Unlimited podcast

The Folger’s Shakespeare Unlimited podcast has produced multiple episodes about the First Folio and related topics. Among them:

How Shakespeare’s First Folio Became a Star
Adam Hooks and Daniel De Simone chart the rise of the First Folio—how and when this book became a cultural icon with such a dizzying price tag.

Creating Shakespeare’s First Folio
Emma Smith offers an intimate, step-by-step examination of how the First Folio was conceived, how Shakespeare’s plays were gathered, how the rights for them were obtained, how the book was laid out, and – most vividly – how it was assembled and printed.

The Millionaire and the Bard
Andrea Mays talks about some of the fascinating financial and personal details of Henry Folger's life and, in particular, how he went about collecting so many First Folios.

A New First Folio Discovery
Eric Rasmussen, who authenticated the discovery of a new First Folio in 2014, shares fascinating stories and observations about one of the world's most iconic rare books.

Inside the Folger Conservation Lab
To celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare in 2016, 18 of the Folger's First Folios toured the United States. Go behind the scenes with Renate Mesmer, head of conservation at the Folger, whose team prepared the books for travel.

Editing Shakespeare
Paul Werstine and Suzanne Gossett talk about editing Shakespeare and why the First Folio is considered such a foundational text.

Portraits of Shakespeare
The Droeshout engraving in the First Folio is considered one of the few portraits of Shakespeare that was approved by those who knew him. Katherine Duncan-Jones explains why that matters.

The Book of Will
Lauren Gunderson discusses her play about John Heminge and Henry Condell, their families, and everyone involved in gathering and creating the First Folio.


The Shakespeare & Beyond blog

The Folger's Shakespeare & Beyond blog includes wide-ranging posts on topics related to Shakespeare and his world, including the First Folio. It kept pace with the 2016 First Folio national tour with updates from the host sites, but it has also included posts on other First Folio topics. Here are some highlights:

Folger copy 54: The First Folio as family scrapbook
Kathleen Lynch, executive director of the Folger Institute, tells the story of a First Folio owned for more than 250 years by the Hutchinson family—and used by a 19th-century owner to reflect on his family's place in English history.

Playing Richard Burbage
Austin Tichenor, artistic director of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, describes the challenge of playing Richard Burbage in Laura Gunderson's The Book of Will, a play about the First Folio. Shakespeare & Beyond has also covered the play: The Book of Will: An imagined backstory for the Shakespeare First Folio.


The Collation blog

The Folger's The Collation blog, written by Folger staff and visiting researchers (known as readers), has included many different blog posts on the First Folio. Some of its First Folio posts include:

Hinman, Redux
Andrew R. Walking, associate professor of art history, English, and theater at Binghamton University (State University of New York), writes about his use of the Folger's Hinman collator, a 1970s model of a device created at the Folger to compare First Folios.

Sophisticating the First Folio
Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints Caroline Duroselle-Melish explores how First Folios with missing pages were made up, or "sophisticated," with pages from other original First Folios or with facsimile pages.

The Other First Folio
Research and Reference Librarian Abbie Weinberg takes note of Ben Jonson's First Folio, which preceded the First Folio of Shakespeare.

Much Ado about Eighty-Two
In 2011, Curator of Books Steven Galbraith noted the scholarly challenge of counting partial or fragmented First Folios, and how the number of Folger First Folios was ultimately set at 82, rather than Henry Folger's figure of 79.



The Folger YouTube channel includes several short videos, many filmed in connection with different exhibitions, that are related to the First Folio. Among them:

The First Folio: A 400 Year Obsession (7 minutes)
Sotheby's Selby Kiffer and others discuss the First Folio and its appeal. This video includes footage of the Hinman collator in use. Produced for the exhibition Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio.

Why is the First Folio So Important? (1 minute)
Anthony James West, co-curator of the Folger exhibition Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio, discusses why the First Folio is so significant.

Caroline Duroselle-Melish on the First Folio and the Droeshout Portrait of Shakespeare (2 minutes)
Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints Caroline Duroselle-Melish discusses the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare and its role in the First Folio. Produced for the exhibition Beyond Words: Book Illustration in the Age of Shakespeare.

Inside the Collection: Droeshout Portrait of Shakespeare (2 minutes)
Erin Blake, then Curator of Art and Head of Collection Information Services, discusses the four different "states" of the Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare in the First Folio, all four of which were displayed in the exhibition Shakespeare's the Thing.

Printing 101 (4 minutes)
Then Curator of Books Steven Galbraith, co-curator of Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, discusses early modern printing, including a demonstration with a scale model printing press. Produced for the exhibition Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible.

Shakespeare First Folio Tour 2016 (1 minute)
A whirlwind, one-minute visual summary of the national 2016 tour of Folger First Folios to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC. Produced for the touring exhibition First Folio: The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.

The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare (1 minute, 30 seconds)
A review of the Folger's activities marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016, including the national Folger First Folio tour.

Gravedigger's Tale (1 minute)
Highlights from Folger Theatre's one-man, interactive retelling of Hamlet, featuring Helen Hayes Award-winning actor Louis Butelli as the Gravedigger. Arriving with a trunk and large book, Butelli answers "questions" from the audience using lines from Hamlet. Conceived and directed by Robert Richmond. Gravedigger's Tale was created in conjunction with the national Folger First Folio tour.


Also see:

Congressman Bob Dold, Illinois 10th District, on the First Folio Tour (1 minute)
A one-minute speech on Shakespeare, the Folger, the Folger's nationwide First Folio tour in 2016, and the First Folio's arrival as part of the tour at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois. From C-SPAN, uploaded to the Folger YouTube Channel.

Discovery of Shakespeare First Folio in Saint-Omer (8 minutes)
From La Bibliothèque d'Agglomération de Saint-Omer, this video includes content in French and English. Includes footage of the First Folio discovered in Saint-Omer in 2014.

Introduction to the First Folio: The importance of printing (2 minutes)
Narrated by Gregory Doran, then Chief Associate Director, Royal Shakespeare Company. Includes the Royal Shakespeare Company's own First Folio.

Stealing Shakespeare (47 minutes)
Narrated by David Tennant, a documentary about the recovery of a stolen First Folio from Durham University at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


Additional online resources

The Folger’s collaboratively edited online encyclopedia includes individual pages on each of the 52 host venues for the 2016 First Folio national tour. In addition to a number of other articles, it has resources for some of the Folger's First Folio exhibitions, including Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio; First Folio! Shakespeare's American Tour; and A Shared Passion: Henry Clay Folger, Jr. and Emily Jordan Folger as Collectors.

Shakespeare Documented
An online exhibition documenting Shakespeare in his own time, Shakespeare Documented includes, among other resources related to the First Folio, an entry for the book in the Stationers' Register, which records the publishing rights for many of the works printed in England in Shakespeare's era. Shakespeare Documented also exhibits an anonymous epitaph on Shakespeare handwritten inside a copy of the First Folio held by the Folger.


Books and articles

Blayney, Peter. The First Folio of Shakespeare. Folger Shakespeare Library, March 1991.

Collins, Peter. The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World.  New York: Bloombury USA, 2009.

Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Portraits of Shakespeare. Oxford: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2015. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview with Duncan-Jones about portraits of Shakespeare, including the Droeshout portrait in the First Folio)

Erne, Lukas. Shakespeare and the Book Trade. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Hooks, Adam. Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview with Adam Hooks and then Folger Librarian Daniel De Simone.)

Kastan, David. Shakespeare and the Book. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Mays, Andrea E. The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview with Mays about this book.)

Rasmussen, Eric. The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview with Eric Rasmussen about identifying newly found First Folios.)

Shakespeare, William. Charlton Hinman (editor) and Peter Blayney (introduction). The First Folio of Shakespeare: The Norton Facsimile. Second edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.

Schuessler, Jennifer. "The Rare Book Scholar's Secret Weapon." New York Times, July 24, 2012.

Smith, Emma. The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2015. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview with Smith about this book.)

Smith, Emma. Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Smith, Steven Escar. ""The Eternal Verities Verified": Charlton Hinman and the Roots of Mechanical Collation." Studies in Bibliography 53 (2000): 129-61.

Stern, Tiffany. “From Stage to Printing House.” Making Shakespeare: From Stage to Page. New York: Routledge, 2004. 137-59. (Also listen to the Folger's Shakespeare Unlimited interview on "The Sights, Smells, and Sounds of Elizabethan Theater" with Tiffany Stern and Farah Karim-Cooper of Shakespeare's Globe.)

Sutcliffe, Jane. Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk. Charlesbridge, 2016. Children's nonfiction for ages 7 to 10 and beyond, encompassing the story of Shakespeare, his plays, and the theater, with a focus on words in common use today—including the role of the First Folio.

West, Anthony James. The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book. Vol I: An Account of the First Folio Based on its Sales and Prices, 1623–2000 and Vol. II: A New World Census of First Folios. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 and 2003. (Also watch West's one-minute video on Why is the First Folio So Important? recorded in conjunction with the Folger exhibition he co-curated, Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio.)

Williams, Owen, editor, with Caryn Lazzuri. Foliomania! Stories Behind Shakespeare's Most Important Book. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 2011. Re-issued 2016.