Eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays were printed during Shakespeare's lifetime, in a small, inexpensive format called a “quarto.” A quarto is a book in which each printed sheet is folded twice—in half, and then in half again—to produce four double-sided leaves, or eight pages. Quartos were sold in flimsy bindings or sometimes no bindings at all, making them vulnerable to damage and loss over the years. The early Shakespeare quartos are now extraordinarily rare; some survive in only a single copy. The texts in the quartos sometimes differ significantly from the same plays in the 1623 First Folio, the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, which was published seven years after he died.
The first quartos of Shakespeare's plays appeared in 1594 and included Titus Andronicus, and Henry VI Part 2 (as it is now titled). Some plays, such as Richard III and Henry IV Part 1, appeared in multiple quarto editions, showing their popularity. Many of the earliest of the quartos do not include Shakespeare's name but highlight instead the acting company that first performed the play.