Unlike many of his contemporaries, Shakespeare never expressed a desire to publish his plays. They were nevertheless extraordinarily popular in print, and they remain so to this day. It was the Renaissance book trade—the printers, publishers, and booksellers working in London—that first made Shakespeare into a best-selling author.
The book we now call the “First Folio”—the large format collection of thirty-six plays published in 1623—was a commemorative volume compiled by Shakespeare’s colleagues in the theater. It was printed by William Jaggard, who had a long history of selling Shakespeare. Jaggard’s involvement with Shakespeare must be contextualized within his business as a printer and publisher, and these items represent several of the books that were important to him. Other items include some of the books that reshaped Shakespeare’s reputation in the century after his death.