Copy-specific features found in Wadham's copy of the First Folio



This is a book that's been much read: lots of stains, marks and small burns (probably from strands of tobacco) are pretty consistent across all the plays. It also has a number of distinct hands annotating or marking it for different purposes.
[West and Rasmussen1 describe its features but some of my readings here add to or differ from theirs, and I have also tried to interpret and gather together the marks in a more narrative style.]

  1. An ?early hand has made occasional interventions into the text to correct or add in some play apparatus. This reader is concerned to correct, for example, some speech prefix confusions in As You Like It and in Taming of the Shrew, to add missing Exit stage directions in 1 Henry VI and Romeo and Juliet and to mark two Act divisions in Hamlet. This is interesting because these features only matter if you are reading the text as a play (compared with the more usual activity of commonplacing, see below).
  2. There are a range (although not very many) of commonplace marks, identifying lines or phrases of particular merit or potential for use elsewhere, probably by more than one reader. Iago's speech about good name (p.324) is marked with crosses. In All's Well that Ends Well for example we can see a mark against the line 'I madam with swiftest wing' (p.241), and, further, that the page must have been turned quickly because the imprint is blotted on the facing page.
  3. A small number of verbal corrections: a neatly inserted 'not', missing in a line of Coriolanus (p.12), a correction to the opening page of The Tempest where the marginal annotation has been cropped in binding (p.1), a correction to a Latin phrase in Titus Andronicus (p.32), the word 'sixteen' in the Gravedigger's speech in Hamlet corrected to 'sexton' (p.278), 'moving' changed to 'unmoving' in the margin of Othello (p.331).
  4. Annotations to the text of 1 Henry IV to cut and reshape the play, apparently for performance. These include marks of excision (including of scabrous phrases such as 'where the gluttons dog licked his sores' (p.67), the cutting of the character of the Vintner to be replaced by the Hostess (p.56) and the marginal note after 4.3 (p.68), 'Act Ends Here'. This is interesting since there is relatively little evidence of Folios being used with performance in mind.
  5. Doodling and other apparently random marks, including capital letter R in some blank space in Much Ado (p.105) and a doodled initial in the cropped bottom margin of Richard II (p.41)
  6. Page number corrections in the Tragedies section. The printed page numbers skip 100 pages at p.157 (Hamlet), which is incorrectly numbered 257 - the error continues 258 etc until the end of the book. The reader has not noticed 257 which is not corrected, but all the others thereafter are overwritten with the correct first digit.
  7. A manuscript version of the missing final leaf, Cymbeline, is supplied. The lineation, spelling and use of italic script suggests it was transcribed from the second Folio (1632). Two notable features: one, it gives the page number, 399, as it would appear (incorrectly) in the First Folio (see point 6 above). Secondly, the scribe omits a line from the final speech.

Emma Smith
January 2014

1Rasmussen, E. & West, A., eds., The Shakespeare first folios: a descriptive catalogue (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)