"Reade him, therefore ; and againe, and againe" (Préface de J. Heming et Henry Condell)
Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies
Londres, Isaac Jaggard et Ed. Blount, 1623
The First Folio and the Saint John’s Bible produced a few years earlier are said to be the most important books ever published in the English language.
The First Folio contains all 36 plays attributed to Shakespeare (with the exception of those he contributed to). For 18 of the plays – including Macbeth, The Tempest, Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale – the First Folio, printed seven years after the playwright’s death, is the only first edition and the only original source.
John Heming and Henry Condell, two actors of the King’s Men, the company of actors to which Shakespeare belonged, put together the texts from manuscripts, actors’ scripts and Shakespeare’s notes copied by official scribes. The frontispiece to the First Folio is the famous engraving by Martin Droeshut the Younger. It portrays the mysterious playwright for the first time, there being no pictures of him during his lifetime.
Of the original 750 copies printed (sold unbound for 15 shillings), around 220 have been found. No two are identical: as was customary with English books printed before the 18th century, errors were corrected during the printing process.
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