MENU

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.

All Documents

1598
Richard II was printed in a second quarto edition in 1598, a year after its first printing. It was again published by the London bookseller Andrew Wise and printed by Valentine Simmes.
1598
Shakespeare’s Richard II was printed in a third quarto edition in 1598, the same year as its second edition. As was the case with the first two editions, London bookseller Andrew Wise was the publisher.
1598
Richard III was an immediate success in the bookshops of London. Andrew Wise published the first edition in 1597, and copies seem to have sold out very quickly, since he published the play again the next year, in 1598, as shown here.
1599
Customers browsing in the bookshops of London in 1599 would have found a new version of a popular play based on the well-known story of Romeo and Juliet.
1599
The title page of the second edition of Henry IV Part 1 identifies William Shakespeare as the play’s author for the first time in print. The practice of including authorial attribution on title pages was becoming increasingly common at the turn of the century.
1600
This is the second edition of The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York, now known as Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 3.
1600
The second edition of Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 2 was printed as The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster in 1600, six years after the first edition.
1600
This is the first edition of Henry IV, Part 2, printed in 1600 by Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise and William Aspley, who entered it into the Stationers’ Register on August 23, 1600, along with Much Ado About Nothing.
1600
This is the variant of the first edition of Henry IV, Part 2, printed in 1600 by Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise and William Aspley, who entered it into the Stationers’ Register on August 23, 1600, along with Much Ado About Nothing
1600
The first edition of Henry V, shown here, was printed in 1600 by Thomas Creede for Thomas Millington and John Busby.

Pages