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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.

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1604
Matthew Law published the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of Henry IV Part 1.
1605
This is the fourth edition of Richard III, printed in 1605. On June 25, 1603, Andrew Wise, who published the first three editions, transferred the rights to Matthew Law.
1605
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1608
Working with printer William White, Matthew Law published the fourth edition of Richard II in 1608.
1608
The fourth edition of Henry IV Part 1 features the same information on its title page as the previous two editions printed in 1599 and 1604, including the claim that it was “Newly corrected by W.
1608
This is the first edition of King Lear. It was printed in 1608 by Nicholas Okes, most likely within a year of when Nathaniel Butter and John Busby registered the play with the Stationers’ Company on November 26, 1607.
1608
At some point in 1608, Mathew Law re-published Richard II, including a new title page.
1609
The publication rights for Romeo and Juliet were transferred twice in 1607, on January 22 from Cuthbert Burby to Nicholas Ling, and on November 19 from Ling to John Smethwicke.
1609
This is the first edition of Troilus and Cressida. This play was recorded twice in the Stationers’ Company register before it was ever printed.
1609
This is the second edition of Troilus and Cressida. This play was recorded twice in the Stationers’ Company register before it was ever printed.

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