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The Unique Titus Quarto



This 1594 quarto of Titus Andronicus, discovered in 1904, is the only known copy in existence. Inexpensive, small editions of Shakespeare's plays, called quartos, began to appear in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The quartos were sold unbound, sometimes in small numbers, and some no longer survive. For centuries, the 1594 quarto of Titus Andronicus was thought to have been lost in this way.

 

Then, in 1904, this immaculate copy was discovered in the home of a Swedish postal clerk. As if to symbolize the luck of the find, the piece was found wrapped in a pair of eighteenth-century lottery tickets, which remain with it to this day. Although the purchase marked a new level of financial commitment for him, Henry Folger immediately cabled an agent to buy the book, which remains the rarest and most valued quarto in the Folger collection.

 

The unique Titus quarto is also one of the earliest extant printed Shakespeare plays, together with an early version of Henry VI, Part 2 from the same year. Quartos printed after about 1598 often display the name of William Shakespeare, presumably as a selling point. At the time of the Titus quarto, however, the printer followed the custom of displaying the name of the acting company rather than the author.


Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus. London, 1594


 
 
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Infinite Variety
To find similar stories about other items from the Folger collection, look for Infinite Variety: Exploring the Folger Shakespeare Library.


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