Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, William Shakespeare. 3rd Folio Edition, London: for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685.
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Presented by Adam Douglas, Senior Specialist in Literature at Peter Harrington Rare Books.
Folio (368 × 235 mm). Contemporary mottled calf, red morocco label, red sprinkled edges, rebacked preserving most of the original spine, tips restored. Engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout above the verses To the Reader on verso of the first leaf, title with fleur-de-lis device (McKerrow 263), double column text within typographical rules, woodcut initials. Minor occasional light browning, a few tiny burn-holes, small tear with loss to margins of Gg3, Rr6, Uu3, *Ddd6, 3E4 and 3Y2 (not affecting text), slight staining to 3B5 with short tear at lower margin (not affecting text), a few other tiny oil and other stains, the condition generally very good, and a notably tall, well-margined copy.
Fourth folio, and the last of the 17th-century editions of Shakespeare’s works, edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627), the seven plays added by Philip Chetwin (d. 1680), publisher of the Third Folio. A reprint of the ill-fated Third Folio, this edition was issued by Henry Herringman in conjunction with other booksellers, and has three settings of the title-page. Of the seven additional plays, also included in the Third Folio, only Pericles is today recognised as the work of Shakespeare. In common with the Third, the Fourth Folio dropped the final “e” from Shakespeare’s name, a spelling that persisted until the beginning of the 19th century.
The printer of the Comedies has been identified from the ornaments as Robert Roberts. Although this is the only edition in which each play does not start on a fresh page, it is in a larger fount and more liberally spaced than the three earlier editions. (The two pages of L1 are set in smaller type, presumably after the discovery that some text had been omitted.) The Fourth Folio remained the favoured edition among collectors until the mid-18th century, when Samuel Johnson and Edward Capell argued for the primacy of the First Folio text.
Provenance: The lawyer and politician Simon Harcourt, first Viscount Harcourt (1661?–1727), his bookplate affixed to verso of title, thence by descent (armorial bookplate of Edward William Vernon Harcourt (1825–1891) on front pastedown). Simon Harcourt was the only son of Sir Philip Harcourt (d. 1688), the landowner and politician of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, and his first wife, Anne (d. 1664), the daughter of Sir William Waller of Osterley Park, Middlesex. In a distinguished political career he became Queen Anne’s solicitor-general on 30 May 1702, subsequently promoted to attorney-general in 1707 after his close involvement in the negotiations for the Union with Scotland. He became lord chancellor in April 1713.