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Leicester Special Collections

The Folios

Shakespeare's Fourth Folio

Title page of Shakespeare's Forth Folio. 1685.

Thanks to the work of scholars in different disciplines, we now know quite a lot about the history of the Folio’s creation – from compilation to printing – as well as about its reception soon after publication and in the almost 400 years since then.

Some original surviving copies of the First Folio can be found in the British Library, in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and, quite a number of them, at the Folger Library in Washington, DC and the Meisei University in Tokyo. Archives and Special Collections holds a facsimile of the First Folio which viewers can compare to an original copy of the fourth edition of the Folio (1685).

The Fourth Folio includes the Sonnets and  ̶  curiously  ̶  seven other plays wrongly attributed to Shakespeare listed in the frontispiece. These spurious additions have now been removed from modern editions of Shakespeare’s complete works but at the time they may have attracted a considerable number of buyers eager to read the new edition “Published according to the true original copies. Unto which is added, seven plays, never before printed in folio" Of the seven added plays, only Pericles is now seriously considered to have any Shakespearian connection.

The Folio and the King James’ Bible are arguably the two most influential texts in the English language. They have shaped the way we speak, think, and conduct ourselves in the world. Yet it is perhaps mostly through Shakespeare that the ideas, concepts and cultural significance of classic, historical, philosophical, and religious writings from different periods and cultures have reached us.