First Folio of Shakespeare (The Norton Facsimile)

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9780393041316: First Folio of Shakespeare (The Norton Facsimile)

One of the essential books of English literature and culture, the justly famous First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, a full-size photographic facsimile that has won the admiration of actors and scholars throughout the world.

When it was published in 1968, The Norton Facsimile set a new standard for scholarly accuracy. It was the first facsimile in which every page had been selected from a large number of copies in an attempt to find a clean, clear example with minimal show-through. Even more important, it offered the latest, most corrected state of pages known to vary from copy to copy because of correction at press. Finally, it introduced a standard system of reference, "through line numbering," based on the lines printed in the 1623 edition rather than on the acts, scenes, and lines of a modern edition. These improvements, the meticulous work of the great Folio scholar Charlton Hinman made possible by the extensive Folger Library Collection, established The Norton Facsimile as an indispensable volume for book collectors and serious readers of Shakespeare.

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Review:

Charlton Hinman's facsimile of Shakespeare's First Folio was a colossal achievement when it was first published in 1968, and its reputation is further enhanced by this beautiful second edition. Looking for a way to provide scholars with a reliable version of Shakespeare's text, Hinman invented a device that sped up the collation process, allowing him to compare 82 of the surviving copies of the Folio and bring to light features of Shakespeare's work that have been--and continue to be--edited out of most modern editions. A Midsummer Night's Dream, for example, contains what are known as false starts, fragments of earlier versions of certain speeches. These traces of the composition process survive only because the printers, working directly from Shakespeare's handwritten copy, were not given a chance to thoroughly proofread their work. Though they would make crucial changes during the printing process, it was too wasteful to throw away pages that were already printed. Thus, when they went to bind the Folios, each book contained a fascinating patchwork of corrected and uncorrected copy.

Also hidden beneath the familiar text of the plays is a portrait of the printers who created the book. Their names remain unknown, but Professor Hinman was able to track individuals' work by examining their spelling habits. Their story is as important to this book as the works of literature that it contains. The many errors the printers introduced into the text of Shakespeare's work still provide fertile ground for theatrical and academic debate. Hamlet, for example, wishes that his "too, too solid flesh would melt."--or is it his "sullied" flesh, or perhaps his "sallied" flesh? Which is Shakespeare, and which is an error? We cannot blame the printers; they spent long hours setting page after page of tiny type, working in a cramped space that smelled strongly of the stale urine they used to soften the inking pads. It is ironic that the most revered symbol of English high culture owes its existence--in part, at least--to the productive bladders of a handful of pressmen. This book gives these men their due, demonstrating the extent to which Shakespeare's plays were the work not just of one man but of a whole society.

About the Author:

The late Charlton Hinman was the editor of the Shakespeare Quarto Facsimiles and professor of English at the University of Kansas.

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William Shakespeare
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William Shakespeare
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