Images of Shakespeare’s First Folio

These images are taken from the First Folio – the first edition of the collected plays of William Shakespeare – published in 1623.  Prior to this date, some of his plays had been published individually, but the editors of the First Folio took his entire dramatic output and arranged it, not always logically, into three distinct genres.  For anyone with an interest in the physicality of Shakespeare’s texts, the following images give us the best possible sense of how his printed word would have been read in the years immediately following his death.  Originals of the First Folio are now housed in libraries around the world.



Detail from A Midsummer Night’s Dream



Act 1.1.1 Macbeth


 The balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet


Shylock’s speech from The Merchant of Venice




Much Ado About Nothing

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  • March 2, 2010 - 2:37 pm | Permalink

    The First Folio would have been a costly undertaking, and it is supposed about 500 copies were printed initially, selling for about a pound; the equivalent of several hundred pounds today.

  • February 26, 2010 - 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Martin, I agree entirely with your comments about the actual presence of a book. Check here for more background info on the printing etc –

  • Martin McDonald
    February 26, 2010 - 11:15 am | Permalink

    There is something magical about the physicality of books.

    I wonder how long it would have taken to print something like that. I assume it was a very manual process. How expensive would the folio have been? Do you know how many copies were printed?


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