London: H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685
[D.-L.L.] (XVII) Bc [Shakespeare – 1685] fol.
Shakespeare’s plays appeared in four folio editions (a format denoting prestige) in the seventeenth century: in 1623, 1632, 1664 and, shown here, in 1685. The Fourth Folio includes Pericles and six spurious plays absent from the First and Second Folios: the title page claims mendaciously that these were “never before printed in folio”, copying the title page of the Third Folio, which included them. The Fourth Folio was set from the Third, shorn of embellishments: the ornamental head- and tailpieces present in the Third Folio are lacking in the Fourth, and not every play starts on a new page. The Fourth Folio corrects and modernises the Third Folio, with 751 editorial changes mostly designed to make the text easier to read and understand. It sets out to standardise the text: for example, making the proper names in speech prefixes consistent with their counterparts in dialogue. The Fourth Folio’s textual importance lies in the fact that it formed the basis for Nicholas Rowe’s octavo edition of Shakespeare, and hence for subsequent editions of Shakespeare until that of Samuel Johnson in 1765.