With the term First Folio, scholars indicate the first publication of William Shakespeare's works, entitled Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. It contains 36 works by Shakespeare and was prepared by his fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell in 1623, some seven years after the bard's death.
Although 18 of Shakespeare's works had been published in quarter format before this date, the First Folio represents the only reliable source for about twenty works and a very important source for many of those previously published. The text includes all the works that are generally attributed to the pen of Shakespeare, except Pericles, Prince of Tire and The Two Conjoined Nobles. It does not include poems or poems.
Printing the book
The contents of the First Folio were collected by Heminges and Condell, members of the Stationers Company, while booksellers Edward Blount and William and Isaac Jaggard, father and son respectively, published the book. The Jaggards were both printers and booksellers, a combination of unusual but not unprecedented activity. The choice to rely on William Jaggard seemed like a strange move by the members of the King's Men company, as he had published the questionable collection The Passionate Pilgrim as if by Shakespeare and, in 1619, had printed new editions of ten in fourth for which he did not have the rights, partly falsifying the dates and titles. It is thought that the making of the First Folio was such a complex job that the King's Men simply needed the professionalism and skills of the Jaggard workshop. some of the works that had previously been printed: William Aspley (who had Much Ado About Nothing and Henry IV, Part 1) and John Smethwick (who had Lost Love's Pain, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet). Smethwick had also been a business partner of another member of the Jaggard family, William's brother John.
The actual printing of the book probably took place between April and October 1621 and, after a pause to allow for another work, it was completed from autumn 1622 until the beginning of the following year. It was put up for sale towards the end of 1623; the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford received its own copy in early 1624 (copy which was later resold for £ 24 as an outdated edition when the Third Folio became available in 1664).
The thirty-six works contained in the First Folio are found in the order presented below; Works that had never been published before 1623 are marked with the ✓ symbol. The type of source used by the editors is indicated for each work, as determined by subsequent bibliographic searches. It is necessary to specify the meaning of some definitions. The term "foul papers" refers to Shakespeare's working drafts; once the work was completed, a transcription or "good copy" of the foul papers was prepared by the author himself or by a scribe. On this manuscript then thick annotations were often added with precise indications for the preparation and everything that was practically needed for the representation. At this point it could be used as a scene "script" and used by the comedian or the prompter to guide the realization of the work. Some of these manuscripts may have been used as a source for the printing of the text. On rare occasions, even a printed text may have been annotated for use as a script, as would seem to have happened in the case of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
1 The Tempest ✓ - the work was prepared for printing on the