London: T. Longman, etc. 1793. Fourth edition. Standard copies contain a total of 8 plates (5 of which are folding). This copy, one of 25 Extra-Illustrated fine paper copies contains all 145 engraved plates plus the 5 folding plates. Contemporary diced russia calf bindings generally in Near Fine condition. Spines titled and ruled in gilt with intricate blindstamping to the compartments, marbled end-papers, all edges marbled to match. Small auction house tag on spine of Vol I. Some wear to extremities and scuffing to boards on Vol I, IV, V, X, XI; cracks to hinges on Vol I and V but holding strong. With the book plate of William Downes, the 1st Baron of Downes and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland (1751-1826). Occasional foxing and toning to the pages, and some paper loss to the bottom corner of Vol XI pages 111-12 affecting the edge of text. These aside, overall an excellent and pleasing set. In fifteen large octavo volumes, pages measuring 217 x 136 mm. The fourth Johnson & Steevens edition (with the deluxe extra illustrations).
The Johnson & Steevens edition is considered the most scholarly edition of Shakespeare's plays, setting the standard for future scholarly works on the Bard's drama. Including a glossarial index, plus essays by Samuel Johnson, George Steevens, and Alexander Pope on the life of Shakespeare, a chronological study of the plays, the learning of Shakespeare and the history of the English stage. To read the plays of Shakespeare without the benefit of the voluminous, insightful commentary in these volumes is to miss an invaluable perspective on the contemporary politics, popular culture, fashion, and religious debates in which Shakespeare engaged. The textual additions, plus the exceptional historical illustration, helped multiple generations of readers and scholars to immerse themselves in Elizabethan cultural context for a greater understanding of Shakespeare's work.
ESTC T33036. Near Fine (Item #2298)