London: Tho. Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632. [The Second Impression]. Folio (305 x 210 mm; 12 x 8"). Paginated 205-232. Large woodcut headpiece. Bound by Bernard Middleton in full calf antique, tooled to a Cambridge design: contrasting paneled boards with outer frame and inner panel sprinkled, fillets and corner ornaments tooled in blind, sympathetic pastedowns and endpapers. Title lettered in gilt direct on front cover, along with "Second Folio 1632." Signed by Bernard Middleton in calligraphic script on final binder's leaf. Excellent condition. Item #2944
Beautifully bound copy of the entire play of "Henry VIII" extracted from the Second Folio. This is one of the most desirable of all the history plays in the Shakespearian canon. The synopsis of "Henry VIII" is so justly famous that it requires little introduction. It was written by Shakespeare with John Fletcher, and as such is one of the so-called collaborative plays; stylistically it exhibits characteristics of Shakespeare's late romances. It is a remarkable fact that in 1613, during one of the earliest performances of Henry VIII, a "special effects" cannon was triggered and accidentally ignited the thatched roof of the Globe Theatre, resulting in its total ruin. The principal historical source of the play was Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1577). In the play Shakespeare transposed many events for dramatic effect; the beheading of Anne Boleyn is omitted, and there is no reference to her four successors. The text of the play seems to imply that the charges against the Duke of Buckingham were groundless. More explicit are the pleas of Catherine of Aragon to Henry before the Legatine Court, which were based on fact. "Henry VIII" is further notable in that it has more stage directions than any other Shakespeare play, and as such it remains an invaluable primary source for Elizabethan theater production.
The binder of our copy is the legendary Bernard Middleton, MBE (b. 1932). Middleton trained at the Central School of Art and Design in London and spent many years at the bindery of the British Museum / British Library; afterwards he managed Zaehnsdorf, one of the most prestigious binderies in London, and then established his own business. He has researched and written extensively on the history of bookbinding; produced many designer bindings; and received commissions from noted collectors, academic institutions and libraries. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1951 and received an MBE in 1986.
¶ As is well known, the so-called First Folio edition of Shakespeare's incomparable "Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies" is now practically unobtainable; today even single plays from the First Folio sell in the six-figures: most recently the "Tragedie of Julius Caesar" was offered at Bonhams New York and realized USD $175,000 including buyer's premium (the original estimate was $50,000 - $70,000). We are offering a finely bound copy of the entire play of "Henry VIII" from the Second Folio for a fraction of that price (approximately 2.5%).