Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland

Shakespeare’s Library –  History

#9 Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587)

This monumental history of England was compiled by Raphael Holinshed, who was hired by the printer Reyner Wolfe to carry out the project. The massive and expensive undertaking was part of a broader nationalist movement that sought to elevate England’s political and cultural status. It can be considered a secular counterpart to Foxe’s Acts and Monuments (item 11). The first edition, in two volumes, was published in 1577; after Holinshed’s death, it was revised and expanded to three volumes by the scholar Abraham Fleming, and was finished by a consortium of printers and publishers in 1587. Both editions were censored by government authorities, who were anxious about the chronicle’s treatment of recent political events. The 1587 edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles was one of the most important sources for Shakespeare. It provided much of the material for the English history plays—such as Richard III, visible here—but Shakespeare also found the narratives that inspired tragic plays such as King Lear and Macbeth.  On loan from the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield