A royal martyr’s Folio

The title page of a large book; yellowed with age at the edges, with paper bookmarks visible along the right edge. At the top, the title is printed: 'Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Publish'd according to the true Original Copies. The second Impression.' Much of the page is taken up with an engraved portrait of Shakespeare: he has a high forehead, heavy-lidded eyes, a thin moustache and short beard, and wears a high starched white collar over an embroidered black doublet. Immediately below the image is printed the credit 'Martin Droeshout sculpsit, London.' Below, in larger type, are the publication details for the book: 'London, Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, and are to be sold at his shop at the sign of the Blacke Beare in Pauls Church-yard. 1632.' In the top right corner, an inscription in ink reads 'Pawb yn y Arver' meaning 'Everyone has his own customs,' and is signed 'T Herbert.'

One of the Royal Collection's treasures, this rare copy of Shakespeare's Second Folio bears handwritten annotations from two different kings.

Ben Jonson's dedicatory poem, printed opposite the title page, invited readers to understand Shakespeare's collected works as a monument to the author: 'Reader, look | Not on his picture, but his book.'

The book, which was in the possession of Charles I before his execution, is thus a double monument: to Shakespeare, the national poet, and to Charles, the king who became a martyr in the eyes of his royalist supporters.

Objects in this room