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Shakespeare's Quartos Online

Dateline: 12th September, 2004

The British Library has put all 93 copies of Shakespeare's plays in quarto online. Shakespeare’s plays began to be printed in 1594: probably the first wasTitus Andronicus. This appeared as a small, cheap pamphlet called a quarto because of the way it was printed. Eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays had appeared in quarto editions by the time of his death in 1616. Another three plays were printed in quarto before 1642.

There were a number of Quarto versions of many of the plays printed: five of Hamlet, for example, and eight of Richard III. The British Library's site has high quality facsimiles of each one. The default view is a two pages to a screen, but they can be magnified for closer inspection. In addition it is possible to compare two quartos of the same play alongside each other and with careful resizing of browser windows it is possible to have magnified sections of two versions visible at the same time.

In addition to the facsimiles, the site also contains a great deal of illustrated background material on Shakespeare himself, the theatre (and theatres) of his time, his actors, publishing in Shakespeare's London, and, in the Afterlife section, information on how his plays have been treated at various points in history, from the Restoration through to the modern day.

There are also essays by Shakespearean scholars on Shrew, Hamlet and Lear, a bibliography, a glossary of printer's terms and links to a number of scholarly sites on Shakespeare.

It's a fascinating site, worthy of leisurely exploration, and will appeal to both Shakespeare scholars and the interested layman. It can be found at

Articles Indices:

Articles from 2004
Articles from 2003
Articles from 2002
Articles from 2001
Articles from 2000
Articles from 1999
Articles from 1998
Articles from 1997



©Peter Lathan 2004