View our rare First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays at The Play’s The Thing.

Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare_ 1623. The frontispiece from the First Folio_ the first collected book of Shakespeare_s works._William Shakespeare_63881
Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare, 1623.
© RSC – Image Licensing

The First Folio is the common name for the 1623 published collection of Shakespeare's plays - Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.

Printed in folio format and containing 36 plays, it was prepared by Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell. It was dedicated to the "incomparable pair of brethren" William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke and his brother Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery (later 4th Earl of Pembroke).

Although 18 of Shakespeare's plays had been published in quarto format prior to 1623, the First Folio is arguably the only reliable text for about 20 of the plays, and a valuable source text for many of those previously published.

The Folio includes all of the plays generally accepted to be Shakespeare's, with the exception of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won.

The Royal Shakespeare Company First Folio is one of only 234 surviving copies dating from 1623 and is on display in our permanent exhibition, The Play's The Thing.

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