Shakespeare First Folios Compared

Stationers' Company Archive

Detail from the Register of entries for November 8, 1623, when Edward Blount and Isaac Jaggard entered Mr. William Shakspeers Comedyes, Histories & Tragedyes in the Stationers’ Register

The celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's First Folio are still ongoing, including the open access website First Folios Compared.

First Folios Compared has collated more than 50 digitised copies of the First Folio owned by numerous institutions around the world who have contributed their digital version to the project, as well as relevant metadata. This means the folios can be explored and compared. 

"We don’t often compare the same book in different copies," said Professor Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford, and author of The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio. "First Folios Compared allows you to see that no extant copy is perfect; all are idiosyncratic in one way or another." 

The site offers various ways to compare including by corrections (the stage direction for Lear’s death exists in three different versions), print-shop marks and marks of use, the Martin Droeshout portrait engraving on the title-page, names and bookplates, damage as evidence of later reception, and front matter.

Other sections look at how the First Folio was printed and how the digitization process for the site was organised.