Second Folio

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William Shakespeare, Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, Published according to the true Original Copies. London: Thomas Cotes, 1632.

Image source: University of Oregon Rare Books Collection


New commendatory poems added to the Second Folio include the first published poem – uncredited – by the poet John Milton (second poem on the page).

The claims made on behalf of the importance of Shakespeare as a dramatist were convincing enough – demonstrated by book sales – that a second edition was published in 1632. Heminge and Condell, as well as the printers who had produced the First Folio, had all died by then. A new team of printers and publishers collaborated on the second edition. The edition expanded the opening set of commendatory poems praising Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s reputation had continued to grow. This section of the Second Folio features an elegy on Shakespeare by aspiring poet John Milton – his first published poem, though his name was not printed.

While preparing the text, the printers made nearly 1700 changes to modernize the First Folio text according to then-current conventions and to clarify obvious typos and cruxes (i.e. confusing or nonsensical text). But the printers retained the same plays in the same sequence and did not alter the basic format of the book.


The Catalogue (table of contents) of the Second Folio includes Troilus and Cressida and changes other play titles.

The images show the new title page and table of contents – the latter now with a correct listing for Troilus and Cressida  (omitted in the First Folio’s play “catalogue”). Here also is John Milton’s “epitaph” on Shakespeare, claiming that the plays are so monumental that kings would prefer a memorial like Shakespeare’s Folio to a physical tomb.

Second Folio

Title page of Shakespeare’s Second Folio