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.

The fourth folio, the last of the 17th-century editions of Shakespeare's works, and the most grandly produced, this issue with the three booksellers imprint.

(Item #5861) Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true Original Copies. Unto which is added, Seven Plays, Never before Printed in Folio …. William Shakespeare.

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. Fourth Folio. Folio (346 x 227 mm). Early 18th-century sprinkled calf, rebacked to style and corners restored, red morocco label, sides with double gilt rules, red sprinkled edges. Housed in a custom full morocco folding case. Engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout above the verses To the Reader on verso of the first leaf, double column text within typographical rules, woodcut initials. Frontispiece skillfully remargined at upper and inner margins not affecting text and with 4 cm tear extending up from foot of portrait plate almost imperceptibly closed, expertly washed and pressed, erasing early 18th-century ownership marks on blank recto; title leaf expertly washed and apparently with removal of the original ownership inscription next to the edition statement; skillful paper extensions to outer and lower edges of 19 leaves (2B3-4, *3C3-4, 2T4, 3A1, 3A3-4, 3B5, 3F2-5, 3K2, 3Q3-4, 4B5-6, 4C1), A1 shorter at outer margin and 4B3-4 shorter at foot, these leaves all likely supplied from other genuine copies; several leaves with skilful paper repairs, mostly closed tears at foot, not affecting text except Z2 repaired with loss of two words at beginning of last line on verso, small hole in 2O4 with loss of one letter on recto and touching two letters on verso, 3A2 repaired with loss of a few letters on recto, 3A4 with closed tear at head with small loss to three lines either side; these restorations apparently all completed before 1918 to judge from the Anderson Galleries description; occasional scattered spots, stains, and blemishes typical of early reading; overall, a very good copy.

The 1623 first folio was edited by John Heminge (d. 1630) and Henry Condell (d. 1627), and seven plays were added in 1664 by Philip Chetwin (d. 1680) for the second issue of the third folio, of which only one, Pericles, is in part the authentic work of Shakespeare. This fourth folio was a straight reprint of the second issue of the third folio, issued by Henry Herringman in conjunction with other booksellers, part of Herringman’s larger project of publishing pre-Restoration playwrights in folio. The Shakespeare volume was first of a trio completed by the Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679 and the Ben Jonson folio of 1692.

The most immediately striking aspect of the fourth folio is its height: Herringman 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 sig. L1 are set in smaller type, presumably after the discovery that some text had been omitted.) The text was set from a copy of the third folio divided into three portions and sent to three different London printers. The Comedies were printed by Robert Roberts, the Histories and first four Tragedies by Robert Everingham, and the remaining Tragedies by Everingham’s former master printer, John Macock; the three parts are separately paginated.

There were three issues, with slightly different imprints. Macock printed the title page for Herringman’s copies, “to be sold by Joseph Knight and Francis Saunders”, the booksellers to whom Herringman had entrusted his retail business. Roberts printed the title pages for the other issues from a single type setting, with either three booksellers named, as here, or with four, adding Richard Chiswell. There is no known precedence among the three issues.

The fourth folio remained the favored edition among collectors until the mid-18th century, when Samuel Johnson and Edward Capell argued for the primacy of the first folio text. 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.

Provenance: the erased inscriptions on the blank recto of the frontispiece include a date of 170[?]; with the bookplate of the English educator Edward Clarke Lowe (1823-1912); bookplate of the New York lawyer William Temple Emmet (1869-1918); his sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 21-23 Oct. 1918, lot 690; pencil stock numbers of later booksellers, including one from Heritage Book Shop on the rear pastedown. This copy is not recorded in the online Shakespeare Census.

Bartlett 123; Gregg III, p. 1121; Jaggard, p. 497; Pforzheimer 910; Wing S-2915. For identification of the printers, see Christopher N. Warren et al., “Who Rpinted [sic] Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio?” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 74, Issue 2, Summer 2023.
(Item #5861)

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

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