Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies

Chrzanowski 1685sThe Fourth Folio, printed in 1685, is the grandest in size and the last 17th-century edition of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. It includes the plays that were published in the Third Folio. All four Shakespeare folios are eagerly sought by book collectors and research libraries. Exceptional copies have histories that, when documented, make for entertaining reading. Rosenbach, the biography of A. S. W. Rosenbach, the 20th century’s greatest bookseller, tells of the efforts of Arthur A. Houghton Jr. to acquire the four early Shakespeare folios for his remarkable collection. Edwin Wolf 2nd with John F. Fleming write:

Dr. Rosenbach had been more than curious about the serious young man. He knew perfectly well that he was one of the Houghtons of the Corning Glass empire. And, needless to say, he was not impervious to the implications of a fortune of such magnitude. As happened time and time again, the fact that Dr. Rosenbach won a customer became absolutely secondary in the relationship between the two men. The Doctor sold books and Houghton bought them, but in the process the younger man found in the older a person with exciting knowledge….It was a happy day for both of them when Dr. R persuaded Houghton to send back to Maggs a copy of the Second Folio, which he had ordered, and buy instead the far superior Holford Second Folio and the superb Carysfort Fourth Folio.

The present copy is the Carysfort–Houghton Fourth Folio. In this collection it joins the Houghton copy of the fourth edition of the collected Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1561). Other copies of early English books gathered here also come from great 20th-century collections and collectors and notable names: John Barrymore, Abel E. Berland, John L. Clawson, Estelle Doheny, William Foyle, William Randolph Hearst, Robert Hoe III, The Henry E. Huntington Library, Henry and Alfred E. Huth, Donald & Mary (Viscountess Eccles) Hyde, Jerome Kern, and H. Bradley Martin.

The Carysfort–Houghton Fourth Folio’s vastly more prestigious older brother, the Houghton First Folio, sold in auction in 2001 for more than six million dollars and is now part of the outstanding Shakespeare Collection at Meisei University Library in Tokyo, which includes eighteen copies of the First Folio. Significant early English books are finding permanent homes in great libraries around the world.

Chrzanowski 1685s *

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675