Shakespeare Original First Folio "The First Part of Henry the Fourth" [140720]

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Shakespeare Original First Folio   The First Part of Henry the Fourth   [140720]
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The First Part of (King) Henry the Fourth as part of the First Folio of Shakespeare's Work, Original 1623 Copy

The First Folio of Shakespeare's plays have been widely referred to by historians, collectors and scholars as the most important literary work in the English language. It is considered by most of Academia to be one of the most important books ever published.

Offered here is a William Shakespeare (1564-1616) First Folio authenticated single play, "The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of HENRY Sirnamed HOT-SPVRRE". This play, known as a “fragment” by Shakespeare scholars because it is one of many plays within the first folio, represents one complete play (in a 2-part production of Henry IV) that was published in 1623 in the First Folio of “Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published according to the True, Original Copies.” The First Folio was reportedly compiled and edited by two of Shakespeare’s actors and friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell. It was printed in London by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount at the charges of W. Jaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley, 1623.

The original work here is finely, and professionally rebound in bright red patent leather and consists of 13 printed antique paper pages, originally numbered: 46,49-62,65-73 in the First Folio. One page of double-sided print numbered 63 / 64 is missing. A previous owner, Dr. Otto Orren Fisher (well-known rare-book collector) is evidenced by the nameplate inside the front cover.

On September 27th, 2021 Dr. Eric Rasmussen, University of Nevada, Reno, Professor and Department Chair of English and Philosophy, world-renowned Shakespearean scholar and one of the leading experts on Shakespeare's First Folios, examined this fragment and authenticated it as an original 1623 fragment of Shakespeare's First Folio. As an original fragment of Shakespeare's First Folio, these bound pages are, by definition, unique. Nowhere else exists a copy of Shakespeare's original, very first, professionally published copy of "The First Part of Henry the Fourth" that is identical to this one. From the provenance of this fragment, to the truly unique watermark design, to the old Renaissance rag paper, and stunning gold-trimmed bright red binding, this fragment of the first copy ever printed by the most important figure in Literary History is of inestimable value. The possibility of owning a piece of the most important literary work extant is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Holabird Americana is proud to present this Original Copy of a First Folio Fragment of Shakespeare's "The First Part of Henry the Fourth".

This fragment consists of 13 printed pages of antique Renaissance rag paper. Eleven of the printed pages are double-sided and two pages, the first and last, are single-sided. Five additional pages of modern paper were inserted by the binder, three in front and two in back, including one single-sided title page. It is very finely bound in bright red textured patent leather with gold print and trim and labeled only on the spine, "First Folio, 1623." The bound cover measures 8-1/8" x 12-1/8" x 3/8". Inside pages measure 8" x 12". Inside the front cover on the bottom edge of the visible binding is tiny gold print that reads " Bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe London England". Sangorski & Sutcliffe was established in 1901 and soon became one of England’s foremost luxury bookbinders. The firm achieved world-wide fame for the exquisite bindings it produced throughout the 1900s, earning recognition as the most important bookbindery of the 20th century.

The first three bound pages, inserted by the binder, are heavy, off white stationary paper of very high quality. Pages 1 and 2 are blank on both sides. The third page is a printed, single-sided title page: "Henry IV. / Part 1 / by / Wm. Shakespeare / The First Folio / 1623" The fourth bound page leaf is the first page of the original fragment. It is blank on side one, and side two is printed with the first page of print from Part 1 of Henry IV. The first printed page is on heavier paper than the inside pages. The page numbering begins with the first page of print and is numbered 46. It is followed by page 49. No portion of the play is missing or omitted between these pages. This is a pagination error that occurred at the time of original printing in the early 1600s and is well-documented by First Folio scholars. From page 49, numbering is consistent, and all pages are present until page 63 /64, which is missing with no trace of any pieces of the page remaining in the gutter of the binding. Pages are sequential and present from page 65 through the last page of "The First Part of Henry the Fourth," page 73. The last page, 73, is also printed only on one side and on heavier paper, just as the first page. Two modern blank pages follow the last page, inserted by the binder. All printed pages of the fragment are fully legible without any tears, holes, repairs or missing chunks in the body of text.

All First Folios are printed on "Renaissance rag paper" that is easily identifiable by chain lines produced during the 17th century manufacturing process that are clearly visible upon careful inspection of the paper. Also implemented in the paper making process in the 1600s were unique watermarks that were imprinted on every signature of paper as a trademark of the original publishing house and appeared on every 3rd or 4th page of printed copy. Dr. Eric Rasmussen explained that the visible designs of the watermarks are unlimited in variety and often misshapen, unlike trademark imprints of today. This is because the marking devices were hand-made by shop workers, who bent and shaped them into the form of the desired design. The resulting imprints are often crude in appearance, reflecting the skill, experience and craftsmanship of the worker who made it. The hand malleability of the markers made them fragile, so they lacked structural integrity. Imprinting a watermark required significant pressure, breaking down the markers quickly in the process; each hand-made marker only lasted for a certain number of impressions before it failed, and another marker was bent into shape to replace it. Because of this, no two markers were identical, and a wide variety of imprints can be found, even in paper used in the same print run. Single publications from the 17th century exhibit different watermarks throughout, each unique in its design. First Folio copies are no exception, which is one of many factors that defines every single First Folio copy, whether complete or a fragment, as truly unique.

Chain Lines and watermarks are two key factors in the authentication of documents from this early period. These characteristics of 1600s paper could not be replicated when nearly identical facsimiles began appearing in the 19th Century as a result of technological advancements that made photographic reproduction possible. By the 1800s paper manufacturing processes had advanced and newer wood pulp paper was in use that lacked the "antique laid" uneven chain lines and the unique style of watermarks seen on earlier rag type paper. Because of this critical change in paper-manufacturing, the use of Renaissance rag paper is significant for authentication of Folios printed in the 1600s.

This Folio fragment was first inspected by Jacquelyn K. Sundstrand, an Associate Professor and the Manuscripts and Archives Librarian in the Special Collections and University Archives Department at University of Nevada, Reno. Ms. Sundstrand compared the fragment to the University's holdings of authenticated First Folio fragments. She determined that the paper appeared to be genuine Renaissance rag paper of the same light weight and feel as the authenticated fragments on all but two of the pages of this fragment. The first page, 46, and the last page 73 are printed on heavier paper than the inside pages of the fragment or any of the other pages in the First Folio fragments at UNR.

Identifiable chain lines and laid lines are visible in all the paper comprising this fragment, indicating wire mesh was used in the paper-making process, a method of manufacture that has been out of use for over 200 years. More importantly, distinct watermarks can be seen on 4/13 printed pages. The watermarks are in the center of the page and are crude in appearance, the design bearing slight resemblance to a crown. Aside from the heavier paper weight of the first and last printed page, Ms. Sundstrand's initial analysis of this fragment found no indication that the fragment was not an original 1623 copy.

The complete First Folio of all 36 plays was an extraordinarily expensive, labor-intensive endeavor. During our meeting with Dr. Eric Rasmussen to authenticate this fragment, he explained that the printing process of the First Folio took two years to complete and paper represented the biggest overhead expense because of how costly it was to manufacture. The cost was so high that it was prohibitive to print production, limiting publishers to 1000 print copies or less per job. To cut down on expenditures, publishers did not allow any paper to go to waste. Errors that already printed were bound "as is"; every page was filled with text, regardless of section breaks or chapters. Pages were printed on both sides and rarely left blank. These practices were applied to the First Folio as well and is the reason many plays share a page with the play printed before or after in the folio. The first page of one play was printed on the back side of the last page of the preceding play when necessary. Therefore, if an original complete First Folio was split up or fragmented into individual plays, those that shared a page might lose one page for the other to be complete. For this reason, many fragments are missing the first or last page. In other First Folio copies we viewed in digital format, Part 1 of Henry IV shares both the first and the last pages; the first page is printed on the back side of the last page of Richard II, and the last page is printed on the front side of the first page of Part II of Henry IV. In this fragment, not only are both the first and last page present, but they appear to be printed on a single side of much heavier paper or cardstock. The first page of print, however, has a barely detectable line along the bound edge of the text that resembles a very faint glue line. The heavier paper appears to be authentic rag paper from the same time period, though, ruling out the possibility that pages 46 and 73 were substituted with 19th century facsimiles. The only reference to heavy paper our research uncovered indicated that the main title pages only of certain copies of the complete Second Folio were printed on heavier paper. (Ref: The Variant Issues of Shakespeare's Second Folio..... by Robert Metcalf Smith, Ph.D.)

Fortunately, we had access to the leading world expert on First Folios and inquired about this anomaly. According to Dr. Rasmussen, single plays from the first folio were sometimes prepared for individual sale by adhering the first and last page to heavier paper, which served as covers. He said this was done by the print house to maximize profits, possibly during the two-year printing process, as individual plays were completed, and printing costs were piling up. One could speculate that perhaps the reason only 750 complete First Folios were published, rather than 1000, is because a couple hundred copies of individual plays were pre-sold as fragments with card stock covers, as a way to generate revenue and cover expenses during the lengthy production process. In his explanation of the process of binding individual play copies with heavy card stock, Dr. Rasmussen confirmed for us that the faint line we saw on the inside edge of the first page, was indeed visible evidence that the original first page of the play, which was printed double-sided on the much thinner, light weight paper used for every other First Folio page, was glued to a page of heavy card stock paper. Rasmussen stated that if the page were removed from the heavy paper, the second side would be printed with the last page of “The Life & death of Richard the Second,” as expected of a true First Folio page copy.

The complete First Folio of the work of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) that was published in 1623 included 36 plays. Half of the published plays were printed by pirates and sold during Shakespeare's lifetime, but about 18-20 plays were never published in print before the folio was compiled, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Dr. Rasmussen estimates that about 750 complete copies of the First Folio were originally produced but to date fewer than 240 copies (considered "complete" or near complete) are known to exist. Most of those are now in the Special Collections of prestigious Universities or in special exhibits of world-class museums, but a few complete First Folios exist in the private libraries of a select group of very fortunate collectors.

Print production of the First Folio took over two years to complete, according to Dr. Rasmussen and the complete 900-page publication was not printed in sequential page order. Plays were printed in sections, in the order that earlier written copies were found, compiled and edited, which did not correspond with the layout planned for the book. When a particular script was delayed during text collaboration or final editing, a gap in page numbers was estimated and plays from the end of the Folio were printed first. This accounts for the page number problems and missing page numbers that are characteristic of the First Folio, such as the omission of page numbers 47 and 48 in "The First Part of Henry the Fourth", as is the case with this fragment. Over the course of the 2-year print job, various edits were made by the printer at different stages and some edits implemented midway through as proofs were returned to the typesetter. Certain changes were incorporated late in production for various reasons, but earlier copies were bound "as is". As a result, there are different versions of the same text between some First Folio copies and differences in how the text was edited. Dr. Rasmussen claims that no two original copies of the First Folio are exactly the same, adding to the literary appeal and collectability of original fragments.

The Second Folio of 1632 is basically a reprint of the First Folio. No truly substantive changes occur in it, but there are numerous minor textual changes and format incongruities. In 1632 these differences were considered to be corrections of mistakes made by the first print setter of technical errors in the text. Under this premise, countless small changes were implemented while "editing" the copy for the Second Folio. The editing procedure continued with the production of later folios; a process responsible for some versions of Shakespeare's work that stray far from his original writing. Referencing the different contextual edits attributed to specific Folio publishers and then checking the dates when key edits, significant changes in format and obvious typesetting errors first appeared in print, is critical to dating fragments and Folio designation.

We consulted the 1858 Whitaker and Co. Publishing of Shakespeare's works edited by J. Payne Collier, ESQ. FSA when we began our research on this fragment. After examining the text of approximately 12-15 of the differences noted between the pre-1623 versions of Henry IV Part 1, the First Folio edits and the Second Folio edits to this play, referenced in Collier's footnotes, none of the text we compared reflected any of the Second Folio edits. We also viewed 3-4 digital images of original First Folio pages of "The First Part of Henry the Fourth," and every page of this fragment appears to be identical to the First Folio in format. Further, all pages of this fragment have the same heading, "The First Part of Henry the Fourth", something inconsistent on all the same pages of copies from the Second Folio that we viewed.

When we contacted Dr. Rasmussen and asked him to examine this fragment, we were fairly certain the fragment was authentic, but we didn't want to leave any stone unturned. Rasmussen's expertise on First Folio text variations, print copy edits and print production errors has proven invaluable to the authentication process and his work in cataloging the number, current ownership and historical provenance of First Folio copies and fragments in existence today is an important source work for Literary researchers. Dr. Rasmussen was kind enough to meet with us and look at this fragment personally. After carefully examining the text on the first printed page, Dr. Rasmussen definitively identified this fragment as textually original to the First Folio. All copies printed after the 1623 publishing of the First Folio have differences in formatting, minor changes or "corrections" to text and edits specific to the publisher that do not appear in this fragment.

There are some small chips and tears on the edges of some of the inside thinner paper pages of the original printed fragment. Similar wear on edges is consistently found on all surviving First Folio pages, according to the experts we consulted. Likewise, the paper is discolored in varying degrees from page to page, exactly as expected with age. The last inside page on thin paper (numbered 71 / 72), has some small, slight stains on the page and a gray tone to the discoloration, although all the print is still clearly legible. The condition of the fragment is consistent with two other authentic First Folio fragments we inspected, and during Dr. Rasmussen's inspection, nothing concerning about the condition of this fragment was noted. The hard binding and modern leading pages inserted by the binder are in excellent condition. The bound fragment has been carefully protected for the last 100+ years, judging from the like new condition of the binding.

There is one page missing from this fragment of "The First Part of Henry the Fourth". The missing page is printed on both sides and is numbered pages 63/64. Missing pages are common for authentic First Folio copies and fragments. It is also possible that one page was removed from this bound version intentionally due to accidental damage or as an act of theft. It is more likely, however, the page was known to be absent at the time of binding. Often pages are lost to antiquity and authentic replacements cannot be acquired. According to Dr. Rasmussen, it is not uncommon for both fragments and "complete" folios to be bound with many pages missing, as the rarity of original 1623 copies make compiling a truly complete copy of even a single play a monumental task. Rasmussen claims that missing pages is normal condition expectation of original First Folios whether complete copies or fragments, and the subject of missing pages has been a topic of much debate; specifically, of how many missing pages is acceptable before a 900-page First Folio no longer qualifies as "complete", a distinction of great importance to those in possession of such a rarity. Put in the context of 400-year-old literature, and "complete" copies missing as many as 30-40% of the original pages, only one missing page out of 14 does not significantly affect the condition rating. Overall, this First Folio fragment is in very fine condition.

Inside the front cover a custom book plate is affixed with the name Otto Orren Fisher. Dr. Otto Orren Fisher was a nationally renowned collector of rare books and manuscripts. He graduated from Miami University in 1909 and also attended John Hopkins University School of Medicine before relocating to Detroit for a career in the auto industry. He worked as an industrial surgeon for the Hudson Motor Company in Detroit and established one of the first modern industrial first aid units. In 1941 he won the Miami University Alumni Association’s prestigious Bishop Medal for his contributions to society.

Dr. Fisher began his hobby of collecting with the goal of owning one rare item in his lifetime. By 1961 when he died, he owned more than 80,000 rare books that occupied three floors of his home. Included in his collection were four complete Shakespeare Folios—described as “the first printed collections of English literature’s greatest writer and among the rarest volumes in the world.” In 1949 Dr. Otto Orren Fisher donated all four complete Shakespeare Folios to Miami University; today they are housed within Miami University’s King Library.

As Henry IV was one of the most popular of Shakespeare's plays at the time, copies of this play were highly prized and treasured, and therefore may have had a higher likelihood of surviving three to four centuries. It is possible Dr. Fisher acquired many different fragments of original Folios over the years as he was amassing his rare book collection. With the acquisition and later donation of four complete Folios, extraneous folio fragments appear to have remained in his collection. It is safe to assume, given the time period of the binding and the name plate present, that Dr. Fisher had this fragment bound by the prestigious London firm of Sangorski & Sutcliffe. Rare books containing the Otto Orren Fisher nameplate have surfaced all over the world, many donated to academic institution’s libraries’ special collections departments and others appearing in rare book auctions.

There are very few sales of First Folio fragments published online and none are comparable to this one, relative to page count, completeness, binding, and condition.

Special Thanks to Jacquelyn Sundstrand and Dr. Eric Rasmussen for their contribution to this paper. Their invaluable assistance authenticating this First Folio fragment and the information they generously provided is greatly appreciated.

* Dr. Eric Rasmussen's accomplishments include a distinguished career with the University of Nevada in Reno as a Professor of both English and Philosophy as well as Chair of both Departments. He co-edited the Royal Shakespeare Company's Collaborative Plays and Complete Works of William Shakespeare, the Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue, the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama, Arden Shakespeare, Oxford's World's Classics and other important works. Dr. Rasmussen contributed to the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare Beyond Doubt and served as a Trustee Board member for the Shakespeare Association of America and the Council of the Malone Society. He was the Editor of the MLA's New Variorum Shakespeare and the Internet Shakespeare Editions Project and the U.S. Representative on the Advisory Board for the 2016 World Shakespeare Exhibition at the British Library in London. Dr. Rasmussen’s literary contributions culminated with his published award-winning work, the Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios, for which he received?the Best Shakespearean Book of the Year Falstaff Award in 2007, 2012 and 2013.