Please Do Not Joke About Burning A First Folio We have a gazillion (that’s a scientific term for “metric buttload”) of books about the publication of the sonnets, but how many do we have about the First Folio?  I mean, I’m sure like all things Shakespearean there are more than a few, but it’s not like I see them knocking down my door like the aforementioned sonnet books. Hence my curiosity about Paul Collins’ “The Book Of William”, where he goes in search of the known 230 copies of the most important book in the history of literature.  Sounds like he’s got a sense of humor, too:

“In a room filled with middle-aged men in spectacles and dapper linen blazers for the July heat, I’m the one guy who looks most likely to douse himself in lighter fluid and scream gibberish about Freemasons,’’ he jokes. Later, at auction, he finds himself “within spitballing distance of Steve Martin.’’

I have to admit I cringe at the image (lighting the book on fire, not spitballing Steve Martin).  I’ve read too many “DaVinci Code for Shakespeare” stories.  Is it wrong of me that in the image he describes he never actually mentions burning the book, but I care more about that than the human being? 🙂 I wonder if I’ll be able to get my hands on this one?

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2 thoughts on “Please Do Not Joke About Burning A First Folio

  1. I think there are a few reasons there are fewer books about the printing of The First Folio. 1) It was printed after Shakespeare died. 2) There is a lot more known about it. Heminge and Condell wrote a nice little introduction explaining about its production and there is documentary evidence about the authorizations given in the Stationers Register. 3) Any controversies have to do with which plays are truly Shakespeare's and which copies are the best, the Folio's or some of the Quartos–very scholarly. Nothing at all sexy or scandalous here like the stuff that has been made of the printing of The Sonnets.

    At any rate, there is some really good stuff in the introduction to "The Norton Facsimile" edited by Charlton Hinman. A new hardcover edition is a couple of hundred bucks, but you can pick up a used copy on Amazon or Abebooks for about $50.


  2. Wow– only 200 bucks? Just dropped by Amazon. Things have certainly changed since some friends got together about 14 years ago to buy a copy as a birthday gift for me. Then it was "out of print". It is a first edition of the '68 original–but it was previously owned, and they had to hire a headhunter to track down a copy. Finally found one in the mid-west somewhere. I remember now, hearing something about upcoming plans for another printing.
    Doug Moston edited a paperback copy and included a preface with some fairly extensive acting notes and applications for referencing along with the text. I also have one of those for "roughing it" when I'm hanging around stages and such. I think they're around 30-40. The print is a tad bit smaller. But heck, if you can get a hardbound for not much more, why not?

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