Dame Judi Dench and Gregory Doran, Artistic Director Emeritus at the Royal Shakespeare Company, have written the introduction and foreword for a landmark Folio Society edition of William Shakespeare’s The Complete Plays, to mark the 400th anniversary of the First Folio being published.
Limited to 1,000 sets, each hand-numbered and signed by artist and illustrator, Neil Packer, The Complete Plays will be priced at £1,000 each and available exclusively from The Folio Society from 26 September 2023.
The Complete Plays will mark the 400th anniversary of the registration of Shakespeare’s First Folio, which was published in November 1623 and is considered one of the most influential books in history.
The magnificent new set of The Complete Plays will be published in three volumes: comedies; histories; tragedies. Exquisitely illustrated by artist b, renowned as a master of his art, the set will be presented in a box of remarkable design. Packer is known for bringing literature alive and has illustrated 56 projects, including Harry Potter, The Divine Comedy, The Odyssey, and Catch 22.
Representing the finest in British craftsmanship, each copy of The Complete Plays will be meticulously hand-made by dedicated experts passionate about artisan bookmaking. The elegant bindings will be created using techniques established in Shakespeare’s lifetime. The book bindings, designed by Packer, are inspired by 16th-century blackwork embroidery. The stunning silk and linen-woven bindings have been woven by Stephen Walters & Sons, the British weavers known for recently creating Queen Camilla’s Coronation robes.
The Complete Plays will be printed and bound by quality book binders, Smith Settle.
Containing 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, the First Folio was compiled by Shakespeare’s colleagues seven years after the playwright’s death, ensuring that his work was preserved for future generations. With 750 copies originally published, there are now 235 copies known to remain, with 50 copies in the UK. The majority of the surviving copies of the First Folio are owned by institutions around the world, with 27 in private ownership. In 2020 a ‘complete’ copy was sold at auction for $10million.
The Folio Society edition of William Shakespeare’s The Complete Plays will include two originally omitted works, Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen.