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SHAKESPEARE, William (1564--1616)
[Works. Selections. 1766]
Twenty of the plays of Shakespeare, being the whole number printed in quarto during his life-time, or before the restoration, collated where there were different copies, and publish'd from the originals, by George Steevens, Esq; in four volumes. ...
London: printed for J. and R. Tonson; T. Payne; and W. Richardson, 1766.
4 vols ; 21.6 cm. (8º)
I: 24, [462] p.
II: [306] p.
III: [266] p.
IV: [324] p.

This is the first printing of George Steevens' edition, which was the first to retain the original spelling of the quartos published in Shakespeare's lifetime and to print more than one version of those plays which had varying editions. It includes the sonnets and a version of 'King Lear' entitled 'The true chronicle history of King Leir, and his three daughters ...'. Apart from the prelims in vol.I the whole set is unpaginated. Each play and the sonnets has a separate title-page. Steevens benefited from access to copies of the early quarto editions in Garrick's possession. ESTC t140378; Jaggard p. 502. Hooked on Books 8.5.

Copy Notes Copy 1: Fine Paper issue. Bought by Soane from T. & W. Boone on 3 May 1823 for £25 4s. plus £1 5s. commission following the Garrick sale on 23 April 1823. (Priv. Corr. XVI.E.5.5). Inscribed in pencil on first free-endpaper in William Boone's hand This Book was the Gem of Garrick's / sale, and doubtless the finest copy / extant. / Only 12 copies were printed on this / Paper. With David Garrick's engraved bookplate in each volume. David Garrick's bookplate was designed by John (Issac) Wood with a quotation in French from the fourth volume of Menagiana, the 'table-talk' of Gilles Ménagé (1613--1692). This bookplate is discussed by Kevin R. Cox in Journal of Library History, vol. 24, no. 3 (Summer 1989), pp. 370--373. The image comprises a bust of Shakespeare occupying a place of honor on the crest, with various symbols of the theatre around the edges of the cartouche, such as a Fool's staff and the mask of Drama on the left, Pan's pipes and a bow and quiver on the right, and stage props including a crown, sword, and lyre at the bottom. The text from Ménagé reads 'La premiere chose qu'on doit faire quant on a emprunté un Livre, c'est de le lire afin de pouvoir le rendre plûtôt [sic]' ('The first thing that one must do when one has borrowed a book is to read it so that it can be returned as soon as possible').
Copy 2: 20.7 cm. Ordinary issue. Presumably the copy brought as a Present by Mr. T. [i.e. John Taylor], who had come to tea in the evening on 27 March 1821. (SNB). With the round printed label of 'Jee, Bookseller, 447 Strand - Books in all Languages Bought & Sold' on front pastedown of vol. I, which is inscribed in pencil 4 vols 18s. Volumes III and IV are from a different set, and both are inscribed in ink on front pastedown 3 vols and with bookseller's codes E/ and 1274.


Binding Copy 1: C18th red morocco, gilt-tooled Harleian-style borders, gilt-tooled spines and lettering reading 'Plays / of / Shakespeare / Vol ... / [title and date of each play]', marbled endpapers, gilt edges, light blue silk bookmarks.
Copy 2
: Vols I & II: C18th mottled calf, gilt-tooled spine compartments; vols III & IV: C18th plain calf, gilt-tooled spine compartments; all four volumes with C19th green morocco spine-labels, gilt-lettered reading 'Steevens's / Shakespeare' / 1766'.

Reference Number 1528


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