SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616)
The Merry Wives of Windsor
London: Printed by Tho. Cotes, 1632. Folio. (12 1/8 x 8 1/2 inches). 39-60pp.
Expertly bound to style in panelled calf, covers tooled in blind, upper cover lettered in gilt
Second Folio edition of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor presents a delightful comedic romp through Elizabethan England, complete with cunning schemes, bawdy humour, and unforgettable characters.
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 Merry Wives of Windsor" follows Sir John Falstaff in his attempts to seduce Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford, the wives of two wealthy merchants, in order to gain access to their husbands' wealth. At the same time, three potential suitors vy for the hand of Anne Page, Mrs. Page's daughter. When the wives realize Falstaff sent the both of them identical love letters, they determine to deceive him themselves. Though initially jealous and enraged, Mr. Ford eventually joins the wives in their tricks, which culminate in one final humiliation to put an end to Falstaff's deceit. 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.