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Distributed for Bodleian Library Publishing

The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio

Shakespeare is synonymous with English literature. Well-loved the world over, his work endures for its ability to speak powerfully to the follies and foibles of human nature. We endlessly debate not only the finer points of each of his plays and sonnets but also the identity of the Bard himself. Yet no fanfare surrounded the initial publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio—no queue of eager readers, no launch to the top of the best seller list. It wasn’t until four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death that the book would be the subject of a national book tour.
The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio offers the first comprehensive biography of the earliest collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. In November 1623, the book arrived in the bookshop of the London publisher Edward Blount at the Black Bear. Long in the making, Master William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragediesas the First Folio was then known—appeared seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Nearly one thousand pages in length, the collection comprised thirty-six plays, half of which had never been previously published. Emma Smith tells the story of the First Folio’s origins, locating it within the social and political context of Jacobean London and bringing in the latest scholarship on the seventeenth-century book trade.
Extensively illustrated, The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio is a landmark addition to the copious literature on Shakespeare. It will shed much-needed light on the birth of the First Folio—of which fewer than 250 copies remain—and the birth of Shakespeare’s towering reputation.

208 pages | 16 color plates, 24 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

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“The Bodleian Library’s The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio . . . [is] full of admirable detail and scholarship, but what we want most of all is to see Shakespeare that feels new and fresh. This kind of performance does just that.”


"With its beautiful illustrations and intriguing background covering aspects of early modern life, this is just the thing for Bard lovers looking to fill in some of the blanks related to the book that gave us ­Shakespeare."

Library Journal

“Smith’s close reading of Shakespeare’s First Folio reveals a trove of information.”


The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio . . . is appropriately published by the Bodleian Library, where Professor Smith played a main part in the ‘Sprint for Shakespeare’ campaign to stabilize and digitize their copy, which has supplied many of the book’s rather sepia-coloured images . . . . This is a clearly written account of the main issues in its printing and publication, drawing on the standard authorities.”

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

1. The Plays & their Presentation
2. Shakespeare’s Reputation
3. Team Shakespeare: The Backers
4. Printing & Publishing
Coda: Early Readers
Further Reading

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