SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616)
The Merchant of Venice
London: Printed by Tho. Cotes, 1632. Folio. (12 1/8 x 8 1/2 inches). 163-184pp.
Expertly bound to style in panelled calf, covers tooled in blind, upper cover lettered in gilt
Rare and coveted second folio edition of Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' showcases the Bard's masterful blend of drama and comedy, exploring themes of love, justice, and prejudice that still resonate with audiences today.
Shakespeare's famed four folios comprise the first four editions of his collected plays, all printed in the 17th century. The Second Folio of 1632, like the First Folio of 1623, contains 36 plays. It is estimated that fewer than 1000 copies of the Second Folio were printed and fewer than 200 copies are in existence today. "The Merchant of Venice" follows a merchant named Antonio who, in helping his friend Bassanio court a love interest named Portia, takes out a loan from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock who asks that Antonio give him a "pound of flesh" as collateral against the loan. Portia and Bassanio successfully marry, but drama ensues when Antonio realizes he cannot repay the loan. The Shakespeare Folios have "an aura of book magic about them. For a bibliophile it is a volume devoutly to be wished for and rarely attained; to a library it is a crowning jewel of a collection. Shakespeare, indeed, is a name to conjure with. No lengthy explanations are needed; he is simply the most distinguished author in the English language" (Wolf).
STC 22274a. Pforzheimer 906. Greg III, 1113-1116. Jaggard, 496; Wolf, Legacies of Genius 36.