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William Shakespeare rare books

William Shakespeare, (1564-1616), English poet and dramatist of the Elizabethan and early Jacobean period; the most widely known author in all English literature.


Collecting William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare rare books come in all shapes and sizes, with something for all sorts of book collectors. Inevitably acquiring a First Folio in original condition is a dream of many, but the multi-million pound plus price tag, combined with the chances of finding such a thing, take it beyond the reach of most mere mortals.


Other collectors seek out individual plays, from across the first four Folio editions, which can be challenging but rewarding. For those looking for elegant works of Shakespeare without the hankering for antiquity, many of the Private Presses of the late 19th & 20th centuries produced many handsome editions, including the Nonesuch Press and Officina Bodoni. Shapero Rare Books also specialise in collected editions of Shakespeare, from the 18th century to the 20th century, often in handsome bindings, which are perfect for gifts, or just a bit of self-indulgence.


Collect William Shakespeare

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  1. 3 vols, 8vo; portrait frontispieces of Shakespeare, some light spotting to prelims; contemporary half dark blue calf over blue cloth boards by Thomas de la Rue & Co., gilt Admiralty crest to upper covers, Admiralty prize label to front pastedown of each volume, spines gilt in compartments, red morocco labels with gilt lettering, spines slightly faded, marbled edges, marbled endpapers, corners slightly rubbed, covers slightly soiled, otherwise an attractive set.

  2. Number 234 of a limited edition of 500 copies, signed by Thomson; 4to (290 x 235 mm); 40 tipped-in colour plates with captioned tissue-guards, some light peripheral spotting, mostly to endpapers; publisher's full vellum gilt, silk ties, discolouraton to spine from glue reaction (as is common), upper board slightly bowed, otherwise very good.

  3. One of 300 copies on paper, this one of 200 for distribution outside Italy; small folio (265 x 175 mm); printed on Pescia paper in red & black; original morocco-backed patterned cloth, gilt, top edge gilt, others uncut, original plastic dust-jacket and cloth slip-case, a fine copy.

  4. Number 95 of 650 copies signed by the artist and the engraver; portfolio (360 x 275 mm); title printed in red & black, 8 mounted rice paper plates window-mounted and with captioned tissue guards, foxing to two plates, some creasing to the plate margins due to shrinkage, but rendered invisible by the window mounts; loose as issued in publisher's terracotta & green cloth decorated in gilt, light contemporary gift inscription to inside front cover, overall a very good example.

  5. Folio (361 x 229 mm). Contemporary calf, rebacked with old red morocco spine label laid down, edges marbled, in a red quarter morocco solander box. Engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout above the verses To the Reader on verso of the first leaf, title with fleur-de-lis device (McKerrow 263), double column text within typographical rules, woodcut initials. Covers worn and repaired, free endpapers renewed; first owner's signature on blank recto of portrait causing show-through and a single tiny burnhole from the ink in the hatched background, restored, E6 folded in the press at lower corner and so printed without loss, F3 with tiny split at border rule, 2Hlv with 18 letters neatly supplied by an early hand in pen and ink as a result of light inking in the press, sig. 2H slightly dampstained towards fore edge, 3Z2 with press tear affecting nine lines and partial loss of a word, about five tiny rust holes and about eight natural paper flaws affecting approximately thirty letters throughout, a few very minor nicks, tears and trifling wormholes, all marginal, a few very minor stains; overall, a very good, fresh, unsophisticated copy.

  6. 4 vols, presentation dedication from Francis Meynell on front free endpaper of the Comedies; 8vo; woodcut title vignettes, pictorial dedications and part-title devices by Reynolds Stone, Shakespeare portrait by Leonard Beaumont; publisher's buckram-backed marbled boards, a fine set, in the original card slip-case, slightly worn.

  7. Limited edition number 85 of 106 specially-bound copies on hand-made paper and signed by the artist, Granville-Barker and Rutherston, from an total edition of 606; 4to; colour plates by Charles Ricketts, printed at the Shakespeare Head Press of Stratford-upon-Avon; publisher's brown morocco with elaborate strapwork panels in gilt, by Zaehnsdorf, spine gilt, top edge gilt, others untrimmed, a little rubbed at extremities, joints starting but sound, small dent to rear board, otherwise very good-plus; lix, [blank], 84, [1]pp.

  8. Fourteen volumes, small 8vo, engraved portrait frontispiece of Shakespeare, numerous plates, a little spotting, mostly to verso and margins of plates, some margins trimmed, else very good, contemporary calf, maroon lettering pieces to smooth spines, other panels gilt, marbled edges, rubbed and aged but mellow and pleasant.

  9. 15 volumes, 8vo., EXTRA-ILLUSTRATED with about 145 engraved plates by S. and E. Harding, Millton Park stamp to each volume, occasional browning and off-setting, mostly to margins and verso of plates, near-contemporary straight-grained light brown morocco, all edges gilt, a little rubbed and bumped at extremities, otherwise a very good and readable set.

  10. 8 vol., engraved portrait and 36 plates after Hugo Gravelot, one plate misbound (at p.209, vol. II, rather than vol. I), occasional spotting, mostly to edges, else very good internally, contemporary tree calf, red lettering pieces to each spine, marbled edges, rubbed, bumped on spine ends, a couple of joints starting but still firm otherwise beautifully aged with a marvellous patina.

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