Head: 'Early Editions of Shakespeare'


THE literary value of the ancient editions of the plays of Shakespeare so much depends on the genuineness of their condition, that care has been taken, in the following list, to distinguish with accuracy the state in which the copies are preserved. For many years, it has been the fashion to form perfect copies from imperfect fragments, and as in some cases different early editions of the same play correspond exactly in catchwords, signatures, and head-lines, deception has been practised in the sale of copies presumed to be perfect; though it may be that, in the generality of instances, nothing fraudulent has been intended. It is believed that every one of the pieces here described is absolutely genuine, and has not been perfected from any other copies.

J. O. HALLIWELL.       
      June 22nd, 1857.

[Written in ink:]
Only 25 copies printed.


Y WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, as it hath beene divers Times acted by his Highnesse Servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where.

London, for N. L. and Iohn Trundell. 1603

     No perfect copy is known of this, the original sketch of Shakespeare's Hamlet. All the elder commentators were ignorant of its existence, and it was not until the year 1825 that a copy, wanting the last leaf, was discovered. That copy, long supposed to be unique, is now in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. The present one has the last leaf, but wants the title. It is otherwise perfect. In firm sound genuine condition throughout, and most of the leaves remarkably fine.


      THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY THE FIFTH, containing the Honorable Battell of Agincourt, as it was acted by the Kings Majesties Servants.

     London, Imprinted by Barnard Alsop, and are to be sold by Timothie Barlow, at his shop in Paules Churchyard, at the Signe of the Bull-head. 1617.


     "This beautiful copy of the Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, though corresponding in text with the known editions of 1617, and one without date printed about the same time, is in itself, so far as I know, unique. The other copies of 1617 are stated to be 'Imprinted by Barnard Alsop, dwelling in Garter Place in Barbican, 1617.' " — MS. Note.

     Perfectly genuine throughout, not a single leaf being supplied from any other copy.


      THE TRAGEDIE OF KING RICHARD THE THIRD, conteining his treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence, the pitiful murther of his innocent Nephewes, his tyrannicall usurpation, with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserved death. As it hath beene lately Acted by the Right honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his servants. By William Shakespeare.

     London, Printed by Thomas Creede for Andrew Wise, dwelling at Paules Church-yard, at the Signe of the Angell. 1598.

     A most beautiful copy, with edges uncut, and genuine throughout, with the exception of the title. The title is in fac-simile. The British Museum copy is made up at the end by fac-simile, and not very accurately done. Thus at Sig. M. 2, line 31, foote is metamorphosed into soore, and at Sig. M. 3, verso, line 3, towne becomes towre. Another copy made up has still worse blunders, and more in number. The present copy, with the title-page of the imperfect one in the Museum, would make the finest known. It is an extremely rare edition. Malone was unable to meet with a copy, and no sale of one is cited by Lowndes.


      HENRY THE FOURTH, Second Part. 4to, 1600.

One Sheet only.

     There is only one early edition of this play, but some copies have an enlarged sheet E, with an additional scene, consisting of six leaves. The fact clearly is that, as originally published, sheet E contained only four leaves. The error was found out, and in copies issued afterwards, the sheet was altered.

     There are two copies of this edition in the Museum, but both have the enlarged sheet. The present genuine copy of the original sheet is taken from a duplicate in my collection.



     At London, by G. Eld for T. T. and are to be solde by Iohn Wright, dwelling at Christ Church gate. 1609.

     Quite perfect, firm, and genuine throughout.

     "There is but one copy of the Sonnets in England with this imprint, and from that the date has been unfortunately cut away, so that the Swiss (the present) copy is peculiarly valuable. This imprint establishes that two other stationers, besides Thomas Thorpe, were concerned in the publication of the Sonnets." — J. P. Collier, in a Paper in the Athenaeum.

     This most precious relique was taken by myself out of a volume of tracts, collected in 1728, which was discovered in a library on the Continent.


      THE TRAGEDIE OF KING RICHARD THE THIRD, conteining his treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence, the pittifull murther of his innocent Nephewes, his tyrannicall usurpation, with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserved death. As it hath bin lately Acted by the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlaine his servants. Newly augmented. By William Shakespeare.

     London, Printed by Thomas Creede, and are to be sold by Matthew Lawe, dwelling in Paules Church-yard, at the Signe of the Foxe, neare S. Austins Gate, 1605.

     A good, perfect, genuine copy.

     This is almost the rarest of any editions of Shakespeare's plays. It was quite unknown to all the commentators, is not in any bibliographical list, and was first mentioned in Collier's edition. The only other known copy is in the Bodleian Library.


      THE PAINFULL ADVENTURES OF PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE, being the true History of the Play of Pericles, as it was lately presented by the worthy and ancient Poet John Gower.

     At London, Printed by T. P. for Nat. Butter, 1608.

     BLACK-LETTER. Woodcut. In fine and genuine condition.

     "This is one of the rarest and most important pieces connected with Shakespeare, quite unique in its kind, being a novel founded on the play as acted at the Globe Theatre. No other copy is known to exist in England, but by an extraordinary chance, another has lately been found in the public library of Zurich, in Switzerland. This latter has a dedication by G. Wilkins, but such dedication is in a different type, of longer form, and if at all belonging to the work (which I doubt), was unquestionably a subsequent introduction." — MS. Note.

     A long description of this piece, taken from the present copy, will be found in Collier's "Farther Particulars regarding Shakespeare and his works," 1839, pp. 33-54.


      M. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, HIS TRUE CHRONICLE HISTORIE OF THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING LEAR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS, with the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam : as it was played before the Kings Majestie at Whitehall upon S. Stephans night in Christmas Hollidayes. By his Majesties Servants playing usually at the Gloabe on the Banckeside.

     London, Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls Church-yard at the signe of the Pide Bull neere St. Austins Gate. 1608.

     FIRST EDITION. A perfect and genuine copy.

     Only three perfect copies of this first edition have, to my knowledge, been sold by auction during the last thirty years, two in Heber's collection, and the present one. Both of Heber's copies are now in America, one in the collection of Mr. Lenox, the other in that of Mr. Barton. It is almost the only first eidtion not in the Daniel collection.


      THE HISTORY OF HENRY THE FOURTH, with the battell at Shrewseburie betweene the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Henry Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceites of Sir John Falstaffe. Newly corrected by W. Shakespeare.

     London, Printed for Matthew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules Churchyard, neere unto S. Augustines gate, at the signe of the Foxe. 1608.

     "This is one of only two perfect copies known. It is not in the Capell, or in any other collection except the Bodleian, which has the single copy that passed through the various sales to Heber's time. So extremely rare is it, that I gladly gave Garrett, of Newcastle, £25 for an imperfect copy. The present is in a perfect genuine state, not made up in any way." — MS. Note.

     See a long note in Bibl. Heber., ii, 298.


      THE MOST EXCELLENT AND LAMENTABLE TRAGEDIE OF ROMEO AND JULIET, as it hath beene sundrie times publikely Acted by the Kings Majesties Servants at the Globe. Newly corrected, augmented, and amended.

     London, Printed for John Smethwick, and are to be sold at his Shop in Saint Dunstanes Churchyard in Fleet-streete under the Dyall. 1609.

     A fine, genuine, perfect copy.

     This is a most difficult book to find in perfect condition. The only copy sold, to my knowledge, during the last thirty years, was Heber's, now in the Bodleian, but that is made up with MS. in the last leaf.


      THE HISTORIE OF HENRY THE FOURTH, with the Battell at Shrewseburie betweene the King and Lord Henrie Percy, surnamed Henrie Hotspur of the North. With the humorous conceites of Sir John Falstaffe. Newly corrected by W. Shakespeare.

     London, Printed by W. W. for Mathew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules Church-yard, neere unto S. Augustines Gate, at the signe of the Foxe. 1613.

     A perfect genuine copy.


      THE LATE AND MUCH ADMIRED PLAY CALLED PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE, with the true Relation of the whole History, Adventures, and Fortunes of the sayd Prince : Written by Will. Shakespeare.

London, Printed by I. N. for R. B., 1630.

     A fine, perfect, genuine copy.

     This, with the short imprint as above, is believed to be unique. The imprint is longer in every other copy known, and in different type.


      THE FIRST PART OF THE LIFE OF SIR JOHN OLDCASTLE, the good Lord Cobham, as it hath been lately acted by the right honorable the Earle of Notingham Lord high Admirall of England his servants.

     London, Printed by W.S. for Thomas Pavier, and are to be solde at his shop at the signe of the Catte and Parrots, neere the Exchange. 1600.

     The title in fac-simile, otherwise perfect and genuine. This edition differs very greatly from the common one of the same date.


      THE FAMOUS HISTORIE OF TROYLUS AND CRESSEID, excellently expressing the beginning of their loves, with the conceited wooing of Pandarus Prince of Licia. Written by William Shakespeare.

     London, Imprinted by G. Eld for R. Bonian and H. Walley, and are to be sold at the Spread Eagle in Paules Churchyard, over against the great North doore. 1609

     "This beautifully clean perfect copy of the first edition of Troilus and Cressida, with the preface, has never been in any sale, and is perfectly genuine throughout, having been cut out by myself from a volume of tracts collected and bound at the period. This first edition is very rare in any state, but is most particularly so when quite complete with the prose preface, which is omitted in all copies of the second edition of the same year, and is only found in some copies of the first. Not more than three complete copies are known to exist. The present copy has the reading, thrice-repured considered by Mr. Collier to be peculiar to the Duke of Devonshire's." — MS. Note.
     This precious volume may be considered the gem of the collection, superior in condition and perfection, nearly equal in rarity and value to the first Hamlet.