First folio on display

A First Folio of Shakespeare is on permanent display, one of many Exhibitions at the Folger.

Printed in the large “folio” size, the First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It was put together after his death in 1616 by two fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, and was published in 1623. The First Folio is the only source for eighteen of the plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, and As You Like It, all of which would otherwise have been lost.

The Folgers acquired this particular First Folio in 1897 as part of their first acquisition of an extensive collection, the Warwick Castle Library. The earl of Warwick assembled his library between about 1852 and 1870 with the help of J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps, an important Shakespeare scholar and collector. This copy is especially fine because the title and verse page are both original, just as they were printed in 1623. Many other surviving copies of the First Folio have verse and title pages that are repaired or that have been replaced with facsimiles.

The Folger holds 82 copies of the First Folio, about a third of those still in existence, and by far the largest collection in the world.

Listen to Gail Kern Paster discuss the First Folio.

View the First Folio in high-resolution in the Folger's Digital image collection.

Learn more about the First Folio via the exhibition, Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The Shakespeare First Folio.

Watch scholars discuss the allure of the First Folio.