"UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS A CROWN": SEVEN OF SHAKESPEARE'S GREAT HISTORICAL PLAYS, RICHARD II, HENRY IV, HENRY V, AND HENRY VI, EXTRACTED FROM THE THIRD FOLIO, 1664, SPLENDIDLY BOUND
SHAKESPEARE. The Life and Death of King Richard the Second; The First Part of King Henry the Fourth; The Second Part…; The Life of King Henry the Fifth; The First Part of King Henry the Sixth; The Second Part…; The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth. [London: Printed for P.C., 1664]. Folio (9 by 12-3/4 inches), period-style full black morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine and covers, raised bands, red morocco spine label, marbled endpapers; pp. 327-508. $35,000.
Ninety original leaves from the rare and important Third Folio, containing the complete text of seven of Shakespeare's historical dramas: Richard II, Parts 1 and 2 of Henry IV, Henry V, and the three parts of Henry VI (with five leaves supplied from another copy of the same edition). Splendidly bound in elaborately gilt-decorated period-style morocco.
The four folios of Shakespeare are the first four editions of Shakespeare's collected plays. These were the only collected editions printed in the 17th century (a 1619 attempt at a collected edition in quarto form was never completed). The 1664 second issue of the Third Folio (from which these plays were taken), is the first to include Pericles (along with six other spurious plays) and is therefore the first complete edition of Shakespeare's plays. The Third Folio is believed to be the scarcest of the four great 17th-century folio editions, a large part of the edition presumed destroyed in the Great London Fire of 1666. "The folios are incomparably the most important work in the English language" (W.A. Jackson, Pforzheimer Catalogue).
Leaves [Dd6]-[Tt6] contain the seven plays Richard II, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; Henry V; and Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 and 3. Henry IV, Part I, likely written in 1597, is one of Shakespeare's greatest and most important history plays, introducing the memorable characters of Prince Hal, Hotspur and Falstaff—a "veritable monarch of language" whose very name, Fal/staff, playfully parallels Shake/spear (Bloom, Shakespeare, 294). "Most critics agree that Henry IV, Part I, marks the first totally successful product of Shakespeare's mature talent. The verse is lively and expressive, depending less on formal rhetoric than a sure sense of individual characters. The prose is consistently fluent and colloquial, as if Shakespeare had emerged from writing Romeo and Juliet with an inspired awareness of the great possibilities of the medium. Moreover, for the first time in any of his history plays, every character in the Henry IV plays is completely individuated by diction and speech rhythms" (Ruoff, 190-1). Shakespeare's great character Sir John Falstaff is featured in both parts of Henry IV: "The Shakespearean exuberance or gusto is part of what breaks through linguistic and cultural barriers. You cannot confine Shakespeare to the English Renaissance any more than you can keep Falstaff within the limits of the Henry IV plays… Shakespeare is to the world's literature what Hamlet is to the imaginary domain of literary character: a spirit that permeates everywhere, that simply cannot be confined" (Bloom, The Western Canon, 52). The three parts of Henry VI are among the earliest of Shakespeare's plays, written in the early 1590s when historical dramas were in vogue. The early histories drew heavily on the 1587 edition of Holinshed's Chonicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, and depict the results of weak or corrupt rule, possibly in an attempt to justify the origins of the Tudor dynasty. Two leaves (Hh3-4) in Henry IV, Part 1, two leaves (Mm3-4) in Henry V, and one leaf (Tt) in Henry VI, Part 3 supplied from another copy of the same edition, and slightly shorter. Text complete. The facsimile title page and frontispiece reproduce these pages of the second issue of the Third Folio, bearing the date 1664 in the imprint rather than 1663. See STC 22274; Jaggard, 496. Old ink annotations to upper margin of page 405, first page of Henry V.
Paper repair to upper margin of leaf Ee2; paper repair to upper margin of leaf Rr3, with parts of border (only) supplied in neat facsimile. Some infrequent foxing and soiling to generally clean text. A splendidly bound volume, a substantial grouping of Shakespeare's fascinating historical plays.