William Shakespeare, Mr William Shakespeares comedies, histories and tragedies..., 1623, 'First Folio' - Commendatory letter 'to the great variety of readers', p.A3r

Move your pointing device over the image to zoom to detail. If using a mouse click on the image to toggle zoom.
When in zoom mode use + or - keys to adjust level of image zoom.

Date:1623

Description:Shakespeare’s friends write about the ‘First Folio’.

John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare's fellow members in the King's Men at the Globe wrote dedicatory and prefatory letters for the 'First Folio' in which they described why they had collected Shakespeare's plays for publication 'to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive as was our Shakespeare [we] gather his works and give them to you to praise him'.

This page reads:

To the great Variety of Readers.
From the most able, to him that can but spell: There
you are numbered. We had rather you were weighed,
especially, when the fate of all books depends upon
your capacities, and not of your heads alone,
but of your purses. Well! It is now public, & you
will stand for your privileges we know: to read,
and censure. Do so, but buy it first. That doth best
commend a book, the stationer says. Then, how odd soever your
brains be, or your wisdoms, make your licence the same, and spare
not. Judge your six-penn'orth, your shillings worth, your five shillings
worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the just rates, and welcome.
But, whatever you do, Buy. Censure will not drive a trade,
or make the jack go. And though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit
on the Stage at Blackfriars, or the Cockpit, to arraign plays daily,
know, these plays have had their trial already, and stood out all appeals;
and do now come forth quitted rather by a decree of court,
then any purchased letters of commendation.
It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that
the Author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own
writings; But since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed
from that right, we pray you do not envy his friends, the office
of their care, and pain, to have collected & published them; and so to
have published them, as where (before) you were abused with diverse
stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds
and stealths of injurious impostors, that exposed them: even those,
are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs; and all
the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived the[m]. Who, as he was
a happy imitator of nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind
and hand went together: And what he thought, he uttered with that
easiness, that wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers.
But it is not our province, who only gather his works, and give them
you, to praise him. It is yours that read him. And there we hope, to
your divers capacities, you will find enough, both to draw, and hold
you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Read him,
therefore; and again, and again: And if then you doe not like him,
surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. And so
we leave you to other of his friends, whom if you need, can bee your
guides: if you need them not, you can lead yourselves, and others.
And such readers we wish him.
Iohn Heminge.
Henrie Condell.



Full title: William Shakespeare, Mr William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies published according to the True Originall Copies, London, printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, 1623.

The 'Ashburnham' copy owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


Timeline

The timeline shows resources around this location over a number of years.

1570s
Henri Estienne, A mervaylous discourse upon... Katherine de Medici…, 1575 - title page
Henri Estienne, A mervaylous discourse upon... Katherine de Medici…, 1575 - title page

Shakespeare may have owned this book. Shakespeare purchased New Place, the largest ...

1590s
William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1594, leaf F4v.
William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1594, leaf F4v.

Shakespeare’s first published works. The long poem, Venus and Adonis, was ...

1610s
George Tuberville, The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting, 1611 -  A royal picnic, p.91.
George Tuberville, The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting, 1611 - A royal picnic, p.91.

A picnic for Shakespeare's royal patron. Among the many engravings of huntsmen ...

1630s
William Shakespeare, Quartos, Love's Labour's Lost, 1631 - title page
William Shakespeare, Quartos, Love's Labour's Lost, 1631 - title page

A play for the Blackfriars Theatre: Shakespeare's Love’s Labour’s Lost. The ...

View Location

Share:

Link to this resource

Donor ref:SR/OS 37 1623 [1] (32/10623)

Source: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Library

Copyright information: Copyrights to all resources are retained by the individual rights holders. They have kindly made their collections available for non-commercial private study & educational use. Re-distribution of resources in any form is only permitted subject to strict adherence to the usage guidelines.