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

This is the first edition of Troilus and Cressida. This play was recorded twice in the Stationers’ Company register before it was ever printed.
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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The third edition of Pericles was printed in 1611. It retains certain textual errors introduced in the second edition, indicating that the third edition was based on the previous one.
This is the third edition of Titus Andronicus. On April 19, 1602 Thomas Millington transferred the right to publish the play to Thomas Pavier. However, the third edition was not printed until 1611, and lists Edward White, not Pavier, as the publisher.
This is the fifth edition of Richard III, printed in 1612. Like the fourth edition, it was printed by Thomas Creede for Matthew Law.
Mathew Law published this fifth edition of Henry IV Part 1 in 1613.
Matthew Law published a fifth quarto edition of Richard II in 1615, seven years after the previous edition, this time working with the printer Thomas Purfoot.
The fourth edition of Pericles was published by Thomas Pavier and printed by William Jaggard in 1619. Pavier and Jaggard printed ten plays by or attributed to Shakespeare, now known to scholars as the Pavier quartos.
In 1619, William Jaggard and Thomas Pavier issued a joint reprinting of the anonymous plays The First Part of the Contention (1594) and The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York (1595), titled The Whole Contention Between the Tw