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Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.

Published according to the true Original Copies. Unto which is added, Seven Plays, Never before Printed in Folio …

London: for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685 Stock Code: 133696
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The Fourth Folio, a tall copy in handsome diced russia

A notably tall and handsome copy of the Fourth Folio, the last of the 17th-century editions of Shakespeare's works, and the most grandly produced.

The 1623 first folio was edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627), and seven plays were added by Philip Chetwin (d. 1680) for the third folio of 1663, of which only one, Pericles, is today recognized as the work of Shakespeare. This fourth folio was a straight reprint of the third, and was issued by Henry Herringman in conjunction with other booksellers, with three settings of the title-page. 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 most immediately striking aspect of the Fourth Folio is its height: Herringman and his co-publishers used a larger paper size to increase the number of lines per page and decrease the bulk of the book. Although this is the only edition in which each play does not start on a fresh page, it is in a larger font 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 printer of the Comedies has been identified from the ornaments as Robert Roberts. 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.

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Folio (369 x 234 mm). Late 18th-century diced russia, spine divided in six compartments by double raised bands, gilt-lettered direct in second, third and fourth compartments, first, fifth and sixth with central ornament in blind; sides with wide borders of a thick-and-thin rule in gilt enclosing a blind roll of leaves and acorns and a gilt wavy roll incorporating leaf sprays, gilt acorn roll to turn-ins and leather inner hinge, drab endpapers, gilt edges; the binding unsigned but quality work. Housed in a brown quarter morocco fleeced-line folding case by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.


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.


Engraved bookplate of T. Allen, FSA. Small wormhole(s) in lower inner margin, from beginning through to quire Uu and the extreme lower outer of corner of leaf Hhh5 to end, never touching text area; small hole in title leaf neatly repaired, not touching letters, consequent to a bookplate being sometime removed from the verso; small spill-burns in F3, Dd5,6, Eee1, Ttt5, and Vvv4 affecting the odd word or letter; a few letters marked by a contemporary hand on Bb6r; paper flaw in outer margin of *Ddd5, Ttt5 not affecting text; occasional faint browning; the odd isolated rust mark; notwithstanding these relatively trivial flaws, an exceptionally good unsophisticated copy.


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