The Reading of Books and the Reading of Literature

Reading the Ideal Copy > Shakespeare's Folio

This folio advertises on its title page that it was “Published according to the true Originall Copies.” In so doing, it implicitly asserts that it is a superior edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

The folio’s catalogue classifies the plays by genre. Notice that Richard III is classified as a history play. The quarto edition refers to the play as a tragedy.

George Steevens famously called the Shakespeare folio a dirty book, remarking that he encountered copies that were covered in gravy stains and filled with the remains of pie crusts. This copy is fairly clean, although it does have a few stains, which may or may not be gravy.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 /