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23 Of all the remaining plays the most authentick edition is the folio 1623 ; yet that of 1632 is not without value ; for though it be in some places more incorrectly printed than the preceding one, it has likewise the advantage of various readings, which are not merely such as reiteration of copies will naturally produce. The curious examiner of Shakspeare's text, who possesses the first of these , ought not to be unfurnished with the second. As to the third and fourth impresfions (which include the seven rejected plays ) they are little better than waste paper, for they differ only from the preceding ones by a larger accumulation of errors. I had inadvertently given a similar character of the folio 1632; but take this opportunity of confessing a mistake into which I was led by too implicit a reliance on the assertions of others.
1. Mr. William Shakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true original Copies, 1623. Fol. Printed at the Charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, J. Smethweeke, and W. Aspley.
It seems, from such a partnership, that no single publisher was at that time willing to risque his money on a complete collection of our author's plays.
6 Every poffible adulteration has of late years been practised in fitting up copies of this book for sale.
When leaves have been wanting , they have been reprinted with battered types, and foifted into vacancies, with
II, D'. 1632. Fol. Tho. Cotes, for Rob. Allot.
III. Do. 1664. Fol. for P. C. out notice of such defects and the remedies applied to them.
When the title has been lost, a fpurious one has been fabricated, with a blank space left for the head of Shakspeare, afterwards added from the second, third , or fourth impression. To conceal these frauds, thick vermillion lines have been usually drawn over the edges of the gravings, which would otherwise have betrayed themselves when let into a supplemental page, however craftily it was lined at the back, and discoloured with tobacco-water till it had assumed the true jaune antique.
Sometimes leaves have been inserted from the second folio, and, in a known instance, the entire play of Cymbeiine; the genuine date at the end of it (1632) having been altered into 1623.
Since it was thought advantageous to adopt such contrivances while the book was only valued at fix or seven guincas , now it has reached its present enormous price, may not artifice be ftill more
on the stretch to vamp up copies for the benefit of future catalogues and auctions ? Shakspeare might say of those who profit by him, what Antony has observed of Enobarbus –
my fortunes have " Corrupted honeft men." Mr. Garrick, about forty years ago, paid only il. 16s. to Mr. Payne at the Meuse Gate for a fine copy of this folio. After the death of our Rofcius, it should have accompanied his collection of old plays to the British Museum ; but had been taken out of his library, and has not been heard of since.
Here I might particularize above twenty other copies; but as their description would not always meet the wishes or interests of their owners it may be as well omitted. Perhaps the original impreffion of the book did not
than 250 ; and we may suppose that different fires in London had their share of them. Before the year 1649 they were so scarce , that (as Mr. Malone has observed) King Charles I. was obliged to content himself with a folio 1632, at present in my pofseflion.
IV. Do. 1685. Fol. for H. Herringman , E. Brewster and R. Bentley.
Octavo , Rowe's, London, 1709, 9 Vols.
Of all volumes, those of popular entertainment are foonest injured. It would be difficult to name four folios that are oftener found in dirty and mutilated condition, than this first assemblage of Shakspeare's plays — God's Revenge against Murder the Gentleman's Recreation and Johnson's Lives of the Highwaymen.
Though Shakspeare was not, like Pox the Martyrologist, deposited in churches, to be thumbed by the congrer gation, he generally took post on our hall tables; and that a multitude of his pages have “ their effect of gravy, may be imputed to the various eatables set out every morning on the same boards. It should seem that most of his read, ers were so chary of their time, that (like Pistol, who gnaws his leek and swears all the while,) they fed and studied at the same instant. I have repeatedly met with thin flakes of piecrust between the leaves of our author. These un cuous fragments , remaining long in close confinement, communicated their grease to several pages deep on each side of them. It is easy enough to conceive how such accidents might happen ; – how aunt Bridget's mastication might be disordered at the sudden entry of the Ghost into the Queen's closet, and how the half chewed morsel dropped out of the gaping 'Squire's mouth, when the visionary Banquo feated himself in the chair of Macbeth. Still, it is po small elogium on Shakspeare, that his claims were more forcible than those of hunger. – Most of the first folios now extant, are known to have belonged to ancient families resident in the country.
Since our breakfasts have become less gross, our favourite authors have escaped with fewer injuries ; not that (as a very nice friend of mine observes) those who read with
Quarto, Pope's, ditto, 1725, 6 Do.
revised and augmented by the Editor of
Reed,) 10 Do.
ditto, 1793, 15 Do.
a coffee-cup in their hands, are to be numbered among the centributors to bibliothecal purity.
I claim the merit of being the first commentator Shakspeare who trove, with becoming seriousness, to account for the frequent stains that disgrace the earliest folio edition of his plays, which is now
become the most expensive single book in our language ; for what other English volume without plates, and printed since the year 1600, is known to have fold, more than once, for thirty-five pounds, fourteen shillings? STEEVENS.
octavo, with notes by Joseph Rann, A. M.
1791. The remaining two volumes are not yet published.
The reader may not be displeased to know the exact sums paid to the different editors of Shakfpeare. The following account is taken from the books of the late Mr. Tonson. To Mr. Rowe
652 Mr. Warburton
560 0 0 Dr. Johnson Mr. Capell
300 0 0
* For correcting the press and making an index to Mr. Rowe's 12mo. edition.
8 For afisance to Mr. Pope in correcting the press. 9 For the famie services. ? For correcting the sheets of Mr. Pope's 12mo.
3 Of Mr. Theobald's edition no less than 12,860 have been printed.
4 From the late Mr. Tonson's books it appears, that Dr. Johnson received copies of his edition for his fubfcribers, the first cost of which was 3751, and afterwards 105). in money. Total 4801. MALONE.