One of the Most Important Editions of the Works of Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare. The Works of Mr. William Shakespear in Six Volumes. Revis'd and Corrected, with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author by N. Rowe, Esq.. London: Jacob Tonson, 1709. The first edition of Shakespeare not printed in folio form, and the first with modern punctuation, added by the editor, Nicholas Rowe. This is the fifth overall edition of the plays of Shakespeare; editorially, it is considered almost as important as the First Folio itself. It is also the first illustrated edition of Shakespeare. Six octavo volumes. With frontispiece in volume I (the other volumes bound without portrait frontispieces), the plate depicting the Stratford Monument in volume I, and forty-three engraved plates depicting the plays inserted throughout. Each volume with title-page. Finely bound in modern three-quarter red levant morocco over red cloth boards, spines tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, five raised bands, marbled endleaves, all edges gilt. Some toning and occasional soiling or foxing in text, top margins trimmed a bit close, affecting some page numbers. Still, a fine copy of this scarce and important set, rarely seen with all volumes.

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    Rowe's (1674-1718) contribution to Shakespearean scholarship cannot be overstated. He added modern punctuation, divided the plays into acts and scenes, stated locations and created complete lists of the characters of each play. Rowe's biography of Shakespeare is the first serious biography of the playwright. "In Importance and interest, this edition ranks second perhaps to the editio princeps. It is the first manual text, the first to present a biography of the poet, the first to bear an editor's name, the first to possess illustrations, and the first of the endless army of editions in octavo... and the plates are of no small value because of their contemporary costume. In this issue will also be found the earliest effort to trace parallels between Shakespeare and other classics." (Jaggard). Since this set is based on the Fourth Folio (1685) it also has the six spurious plays found in that edition. Jaggard, p. 497.

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