Second Folio

Shakespeare, William. Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published According to the True Originall Copies. The second Impression. London, Printed by Tho Cotes, for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the blacke Beare in Paul’s Church yard, 1632. 

Most Unforgettable I

Shakespeare’s Second Folio

This edition commonly referred to as the 'Second Folio' was published nine years after the first edition of 1623, and was compiled by John Heminge and Henry Condell, who claimed to have brought together authoritative texts of all of Shakespeare’s plays. In all there were four great Folios of the works of William Shakespeare.

We place this work in the Unforgettable category partly because we can’t forget that we do not have a First Folio in Special Collections.


Woodcut of Richard Mather

John Foster. Woodcut of Richard Mather. Boston, ca. 1670. 

The First Woodcut in America

This woodcut of the Reverend Richard Mather (progenitor of the New England race of Puritan divines) survives in only five copies (American Antiquarian Society, Harvard, Massachusetts Historical Society, Princeton, and—thanks to Tracy McGregor—U.Va.). It may originally have accompanied copies of The Life and Death of that Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather, published in Cambridge in 1670, a year after Mather’s death.

Note the horizontal break just below Mather’s beard. Perhaps the block split during printing (only the Harvard copy shows a fully intact neck), and a bit of wood lost when the two edges were fastened together again. Or perhaps the block was originally made as a portrait of someone else, and Foster recycled the lower part of his earlier block to save himself the trouble of having to cut a body for Richard Mather. Foster is clearly working at the limit of his ability here. The result is crude but unforgettable: the earliest known woodcut executed in the English- speaking New World.


A Dictionary of the English Language

Johnson, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language: in Which the Words are Deduced from their Originals, and Illustrated in their Different Significations, by Examples from the Best Writers. To Which are Prefixed a History of the Language, and an English Grammar. London: Printed by W. Strahan, for J. and P. Knapton [etc], 1755. 

Johnson’s Dictionary

Johnson’s great Dictionary, still a milestone in English lexicography, was completed in nine years with little assistance, and remains perhaps the single greatest achievement of lexicography ever accomplished by an individual. In comparison, it took the French Academy fifty-five years to complete their national dictionary, employing the offices of over forty scholars. Johnson wrote over 250,000 examples to serve as illustrations for the words, culled from his vast knowledge of history, philosophy, religion, science, and literature.


The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Now Newly Imprinted. Upper Mall, Hammersmith, in the county of Middlesex: Printed by me William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 1896.

Chaucer’s Works

"Everything in moderation: certain are those limits beyond which there cannot be right." Ludovico Vicentino’s warning speaks directly to William Morris’s most monumental—and most grotesque—attempt at bookmaking. Morris began by creating a startlingly unreadable typeface for the text of this poor book. He then filled its margins with distractingly heavy border designs alternating with stupifyingly solemn illustrations. Books are to read: this one is only to look at. The result is indeed unforgettable.


The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer

Commonly known as the "Kelmscott Chaucer," this edition was limited to 425 copies. This copy was owned by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, who contributed eighty-seven pictures, and was William Morris’s chief collaborator.