London: J.O. Halliwell, 1853-1865
[Rare] YH 853 (fol.)
James Halliwell (later Halliwell-Phillipps) was a charismatic but controversial figure, whose literary interests crystallised into a narrow focus on Shakespeare. He used his own large and diverse collection of Shakespeareana, which constantly ebbed and flowed as he was forced to sell items to save himself from bankruptcy, when compiling this extremely expensive, well illustrated limited edition, printed in 150 copies and selling for eighty guineas. At sixteen volumes, it was at the time the most exhaustively annotated edition ever attempted. Halliwell speaks of ‘copious archaeological annotations’, a phrase that fittingly captures his desire to excavate, clean and contextualise a pure text from degraded modern versions. Reviewers in The Athenaeum and The Edinburgh Review were unimpressed by the extent of annotation, the latter stating the “magnificent folios” rejoiced the eye but afforded “no solace whatever to the mind”.
Halliwell continued to edit and write authoritatively on Shakespeare, most notably producing the vast but modestly titled Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (1881), which reached its seventh edition by the end of the decade and which considerably extended Shakespearean bibliography.