Shakespeare’s Book

Laoutaris, Chris

The true story of how the First Folio creators made ‘Shakespeare’.

2023 marks the 400-year anniversary of Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, known today simply as the First Folio. It is difficult to imagine a world without The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, and Macbeth, but these are just some of the plays which were only preserved thanks to the astounding labour of love that went into creating the first collection.

Without the First Folio, Shakespeare was unlikely to acquire his towering international stature and become the legend that inspired so much of language, art, education and public institution. But who were the personalities behind the project and did Shakespeare himself play a role in its inception?

Shakespeare’s Book: The Intertwined Lives Behind the First Folio charts, for the first time, the manufacture of the First Folio against a turbulent backdrop of seismic political events and international tensions which intersected with the lives of its creators and which left their indelible marks on this ambitious publication-project. This transporting book uncovers the friendships, bonds, social ties and professional networks which facilitated the production of Shakespeare’s book, as well as the personal challenges, tragedies and dangers which threw obstacles in its way. And it reveals how Shakespeare himself, before his death, may have influenced the ways in which his own public identity would come to be enshrined in the First Folio, shaping the transmission of his legacy to future generations and determining how the world would remember him ‘not of an age, but for all time’.