Shakespeare collection

This article is about editions of Shakespeare in the Folger collections. For related articles, see Shakespeare collection (disambiguation).

The Shakespeare collection includes editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems from his lifetime to the present day, with 178 Quarto editions (as recorded in ESTC, for further information see Shakespeare Quartos at the Folger), 82 First Folios (for more information see First Folios at the Folger), 58 Second Folios, 23 Third Folios, and 39 Fourth Folios as the foundation.


  • Pre-1641 English editions have STC call numbers
  • English editions published between 1641 and 1700 acquired before the establishment of the accession shelves have Wing call numbers.
  • Most translations and post-1700 editions have Sh.Col. call numbers (pronounced shuh-CALL, and short for "Shakespeare Collection"). Generally speaking, closed-stacks Shakespeare editions acquired before 2012 have the suffix "Sh.Col." after a Library of Congress-style call number. Closed-stacks Shakespeare editions acquired after 2012 have "Sh.Col." as a prefix to an accession-number-based call number.
  • Some illustrated and extra-illustrated editions have ART Vol. call numbers
  • Shakespeare editions in the open stacks have ordinary Library of Congress classification call numbers


Shakespeare editions from 1830 and earlier are cataloged according to the same specialized instructions as other hand-press era books in the Folger collection. Post-1830 editions are cataloged according to the same basic standard as other machine-press era books, but with enhancements that records for non-Shakespeare modern materials do not routinely receive.

Not all of the Shakespeare collection is in Hamnet yet:

  • Pre-1701 English editions were recataloged for Hamnet as part of the 1996–2003 Mellon and NEH grant projects
  • Cards for post-1800 items with Sh.Col. call numbers were originally part of the modern materials retrospective conversion contracted with Retro Link Associates (now Backstage Library Works), but English editions were removed from recon because of quality concerns, so were not added to Hamnet at that time.
  • Post-1700 English editions, with the exception of school series, were recataloged for Hamnet as part of the Cataloging and Preserving the Shakespeare Collection, an NEH grant project begun in 2011.
  • Translations of Shakespeare editions were included in the recon project and are therefore represented in some form in Hamnet; as of November 2015, many translations have been fully recataloged, particularly those printed in Latin alphabets.
  • Most school series are represented on cards only.


The "Sh.Col." system of call numbers was developed in the 1950s by Eleanor Pitcher, Virginia Mason, Giles Dawson, and Paul Dunkin as a way to cope with the fact that none of the editions had been cataloged.[1] Arranging the backlog into some kind of logical order prior to cataloging made it possible (in theory, at least) to see if the Folger had a particular edition without the help of a catalog. Arranging was done by Giles Dawson, who added slips of paper with brief notes about relationships to other editions or issues when they weren't apparent from the title page, and about significant former owners.

English-language editions of Shakespeare's collected works from the 18th century onward were originally classified as follows:

  • PR2752: 18th- and 19th-century editions arranged by date on title page (different editions in the same year distinguished by a, b, c, etc.; different issues of an edition in the same year distinguished as a1, a2, a3, etc.)
    • example: PR2752 1747c2 copy 1 Sh.Col.
  • PR2753: 20th-century editions:
    • arranged by editor in Reading Room Reference
    • example: PR2753 .F5 v.20 R.R. (Love's labour's lost, 1904 Variorum edition edited by Horace Howard Furness)
    • arranged by date on title page elsewhere (with different editions in the same year distinguished by a, b, c, etc.; different issues of an edition in the same year distinguished as a1, a2, a3, etc.)
    • example: PR2753 1904c Sh.Col.
  • PR2754: post-1830 editions without a date on the title page, and without a named editor (unless the named editor was one of the three historic editors Johnson, Steevens, and Malone)
    • arranged first by number of volumes in the edition (often "1" or "3")
    • then by alphabetical designation of the setting of type, regardless of title page information (based on comparing the the last line of the first play of the first volume against a file identifying stereotyped settings a, b, c, etc.)
    • then by sequential number for different "printings" from the same setting of type
    • example: PR2754 8c5 Sh.Col.
  • PR2755: post-1830 editions without a date on the title page, but with a named editor (except for historic editors Johnson, Steevens, and Malone)
    • same number-letter-number arrangement as PR2754, but preceded by a Cutter number representing the editor's surname (e.g. "K4" for "Keightley")
    • example: PR2755.K4 D3b Sh.Col.

At some point (in the 1960s or 1970s?) the fine distinctions between different classifications were abandoned, presumably because the backlog had been cleared, and Shakespeare editions were added to the card catalog more or less immediately.


  1. This information comes from copies of documents a file folder labeled "Shakespeare" that was re-discovered in 2021. The preliminary plan, dated 23 December 1953, concludes "Miss Pitcher, Miss Mason, Mr. Dawson, and Mr. Dunkin are agreed on the above routine and submit it for the Director's revision and approval. Work can begin as soon as a Cataloger is secured."