London: Jacob Tonson, 1709
[S.L.] I [Shakespeare – 1709]
Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) was himself a poet and playwright when he produced his edition of Shakespeare, the work for which he is most widely known. Rowe’s edition of Shakespeare’s plays (including the apocryphal ones) is based on the Fourth Folio. It is a trailblazer in many ways. It is the first to name an editor on the title page, the first non-folio collected edition of the plays, and the first illustrated edition, with the forty-five engraved illustrations restoring something of the prestige lost by the move from folio to octavo format. Rowe supplied the first biography of Shakespeare, largely from anecdotes gathered by the actor Thomas Betterton: an account which remained the basis of Shakespearean biography until the early nineteenth century. He also introduced conventions which would persist well into the twentieth century, introducing act and scene divisions for all the plays, including a list of characters for every play, ordered by social rank and gender, and increasing the number of indicators of location included in the text. He also modernised the spelling and punctuation.