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Ir is not to be understood that the Editor approves of all the changes in the text of the plays contained in the ensuing volume; but while he is doubtful regarding some, and opposed to others, it is his deliberate opinion, that the great majority of them assert a well-founded claim to a place in every future reprint of Shakespeare's Dramatic Works.
The value and importance of not a few of these early emendations have been admitted on all hands; and the present volume has been published, to satisfy an almost universal wish, that they should be placed beyond the reach of destruction, and that all who desire it should be able to obtain a copy of the productions of our great dramatist, comprising the manuscript corrections recently discovered by the Editor, in one of the folios of "Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies," printed in the year 1632.
The size and type chosen for the purpose may be said fairly and substantially to represent the original: the number of double-columned pages is very nearly the same in each, and in both the letter-press is unencumbered by notes, the latter being less necessary, on account of the additional elucidation so many difficult passages and words have received. While, however, a general similarity has been preserved, care has been taken to rectify the admitted mistakes of the early impression, and to introduce such alterations of a corrupt and imperfect text, as were warranted by better authorities. Thus, while the new readings of the old corrector of the folio, 1632, considerably exceeding a thousand, are duly inserted in the places to which they belong, the old readings which, during the last century and a half, have recommended themselves for adoption, and have been derived from a comparison of ancient printed editions, have also been incorporated.
Those who are curious to ascertain in what particulars the text now offered differs from that founded upon known authorities, published in the latter end of the sixteenth, and in the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, may readily do so by consulting the edition in eight volumes octavo printed in 1844, under the superintendence of the present Editor. It may be the more necessary to mention this circumstance, because various alterations
(most of them, indeed, of a minor character) have been introduced in the following sheets, which did not seem to require distinct and separate mention among the "Notes and Emendations" recently published.
In order still farther to make the volume in the hands of the reader as nearly as possible resemble that from which it is principally derived, all the preliminary matter belonging to the folio, 1632, has been prefixed, precisely in the form and sequence there observed. At the conclusion, however, a material difference will be remarked, in the addition of the play of "Pericles," which unquestionably proceeded from Shakespeare's pen, and which, in modern times, has always formed part of every complete reprint of his productions: although it was not inserted in the folio, 1632, it ought, on no account, to be excluded; but, of course, none of the proposed emendations can be applicable to it, and our text is that of the most authentic impressions. The present edition, therefore, contains every drama that can properly be imputed to Shakespeare, with the manuscript emendations of the folio, 1632, and with the remainder of the text regulated by the various copies which came from the press during the lifetime of the Poet, or within a comparatively few years after his decease.
As an interesting illustration, a characteristic fac-simile of a portion of a page of the corrected folio, 1632, is appended. The head of the Poet, which forms our frontispiece, is a faithful copy of the engraving by Martin Droeshout, which occupies the centre of the title-page of the folios, of 1623, and 1632, and upon which Ben Jonson wrote the memorable lines inserted on p. xv. It may be proper to add merely, that this contemporaneous testimony to the fidelity of the resemblance, in the two folios we have specified occupies a separate leaf facing the title-page.