Friday, January 15, 2021

Many Times Removed

Frontispiece of the Fourth Folio with an engraving of Shakespeare and the "To the Reader" poem by Ben JonsonAs just about everyone here at Dartmouth knows, we have a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623 by friends and fellow troupe members of the playwright and poet. It's probably our most requested item, just after our first edition of the Book of Mormon. And, as we've blogged about before, we also have two Second Folios (1632), three Third Folios (1662), and two Fourth Folios (1685). Some of these folios are what we sometimes call "Frankenstein Folios," in that they've been pieced together from the remnants of multiple partially-destroyed originals. Others have had specific pages removed or severely damaged, to the extent that pen and ink facsimiles have been pasted in to fill the gap. They're all technically still originals, sorta, but maybe not in the eyes of bibliographic purists. In addition to those "complete" Folios, we also have a decent number of fragments from all four Folios, including a complete Timon of Athens from the First Folio and King Lear from the Second Folio. There's even a cleverly bound book titled The English Historical Plays of William Shakespeare, which is really just the "Histories" chunk of the Fourth Folio.

Title page of Timon of Athens from the First FolioTitle Page of King Lear from the Second Folio

To get a list of all of the Folios in all their various conditions so that you can come in and look at them, follow this link to a search query in the library catalog. There's a 20th-century spoiler in that list, but otherwise (I think!) the rest of the Folios are there.