"UNSURPASSED IN THE WEST'S IMAGINATIVE LITERATURE": EXTREMELY RARE 1683 QUARTO EDITION OF SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET, ONE OF THE EARLIEST OBTAINABLE EDITIONS
SHAKESPEARE. The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. London: Printed for H. Heringham and R. Bentley, at the Blew Anchor in the New Exchange, and in Russell Street, in Covent Garden, 1683. Slim quarto, 20th-century three-quarter brown morocco, marbled boards, all edges gilt; pp. (4), 88. $65,000.
Exceptionally rare and desirable 1683 quarto edition of Hamlet, Shakespeare's most famous tragedy.
"Shakespeare's standard play is Hamlet… the truest mirror of Shakespeare's personality and the ripest production of English literary art" (Baugh, 527-8). Few dispute Samuel Johnson's declaration that "Shakespeare is above all writers," or a view of Hamlet as "theatre of the world, like The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost or Faust, or Ulysses, or In Search of Lost Time… The phenomenon of Hamlet, the prince without the play, is unsurpassed in the West's imaginative literature" (Bloom, Shakespeare, 383-4). The quarto editions of Shakespeare's plays (appearing between 1594 and 1709) were the first separate printings; the existence of eleven quarto editions of Hamlet between 1603 and 1703 is a clear indication of its immense popularity. This 1683 edition is the eighth quarto edition, published two years before the Fourth Folio. All of the quarto editions are scarce, and those published before the Fourth Folio are particularly desirable. Occasional mispagination without loss of text. Jaggard, 307. Bartlett 86. Bartlett & Pollard, 12 (locating only 21 copies). Wing S2952. See Pforzheimer 881-2. Ink gift inscription; bookplates, including that of Kenneth Rapoport, American bibliophile renowned for his library of rare scientific works.
Mild spotting to slightly toned text, small and faint marginal dampstain to a few leaves. Light rubbing to extremities of binding. An attractive and desirable copy of this extremely rare quarto edition of Shakespeare's immortal Hamlet.