The Folger Shakespeare Library has 82 copies of the First Folio, all of which were collected by the library’s founders, Henry and Emily Folger. Learn more about our First Folios, how they were acquired, and how they still provide inspiration and lead to new discoveries.
The First Folio
The First Folio of Shakespeare, published in 1623, is an extraordinary book. About half of Shakespeare's plays had never previously appeared in print, including As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Tempest, and many more. Without the First Folio, 18 plays might have been lost forever. Learn more about this remarkable book—and the Folger's collection of First Folios, the largest in the world.
About the Folger First Folios
The First Folio is the first printed collection of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, seven years after his death. Shakespeare's friends and fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell assembled the 36 plays. But what is a folio? What did a First Folio cost? Why is its portrait of Shakespeare so important? How many copies survive? Learn more about this classic book.
The First Folio probably sold well, but it was hardly the equivalent of a modern-day best-seller. Today, however, it is far more famous than other English books of its day—including some that are much rarer. How did the First Folio become a star in the time since it was published? Learn more about who owned and collected the First Folio and what gave it a special allure.
Imagine what it was like to buy the First Folio or to leaf through it when it was brand new. You would have been one of the first people in the world to read some of Shakespeare's plays. Just like an early reader, explore some of the First Folio's pages, including a playful introduction by Heminge and Condell, famous lines from a few of Shakespeare's plays, and common phrases that we use today.