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The Tragedie of King Richard the second.
1597
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Huth 46, title page

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Huth 46, title page
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From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: The Tragedie of King Richard the second. As it hath beene publikely acted by the right Honourable the Lorde Chamberlaine his Seruants.
Date: London : Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Androw Wise, 1597. 
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: Huth 46, title page
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Item Creator
William Shakespeare
Item Title
The Tragedie of King Richard the second. As it hath beene publikely acted by the right Honourable the Lorde Chamberlaine his Seruants.
Item Date
London : Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Androw Wise, 1597.
Repository
The British Library, London, UK
Call Number
Huth 46, title page

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

From the collections of: THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Terms of use
The British Library has graciously contributed the above images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copy-specific information
Creator: William Shakespeare
Title: The Tragedie of King Richard the second. As it hath beene publikely acted by the right Honourable the Lorde Chamberlaine his Seruants.
Date: London : Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Androw Wise, 1597. 
Repository: The British Library, London, UK
Call number and opening: Huth 46, title page
View online bibliographic record

Shakespeare’s Richard II made its debut in print in 1597, approximately two years after the play’s original performance on stage. Likely performed in autumn of 1595, the earliest account of the play in performance survives in the form of a letter from Sir Edward Hoby to Robert Cecil dated December 7, 1595.

London bookseller Andrew Wise entered the play in the Stationers’ Register on August 29, 1597, and published the first edition that year. Richard II was the first of several Shakespeare plays Wise would eventually publish. In addition to two more editions of Richard II, he brought out four editions of Richard III, three of Henry IV Part 1, and one each of Henry IV Part 2 and Much Ado About Nothing. Valentine Simmes, a frequent collaborator with Wise, and a recurrent printer of Shakespeare’s plays from 1597 to 1603, printed the first three editions of Richard II

The first edition is the only edition of Richard II printed without Shakespeare’s name on the title page. This edition contains a shorter version of the play; the version we are more familiar with today was not printed until 1608. The later, longer version features the on-stage deposition of King Richard, a potentially controversial scene. The absence of “the deposition scene” in the first three quarto editions has led critics to debate the possible censorship and revision of Shakespeare’s plays.

Besides the absence of Shakespeare’s name on the title page and the lack of the “deposition scene,” the first edition of Richard II is generally believed to be the closest to Shakespeare’s original manuscript. Subsequent quarto editions largely reprint the text of the prior edition, while the First Folio edition of the play is believed to have been based on the third or fifth quarto edition with consultation of a playhouse document.

The copy shown above is one of four listed in the English Short Title Catalogue. It was owned by the 19th century book collector and writer George Daniel and sold following his death in July 1864. The text then came into the possession of book collector Alfred Henry Huth, whose will bequeathed the British Museum their choice of 50 of his volumes before the public auction of the rest of his library in 1911. This copy of the first edition of Richard II was among their selection. To learn more about this copy, please see the British Library’s Shakespeare in Quarto.  

To learn more about Richard II, see the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare's Works and the British Library’s Shakespeare in Quarto.

Written by Manuel Jacquez

Sources

Charles R. Forker, ed., King Richard II (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002).

Cyndia Susan Clegg, “‘By the choise and inuitation of al the realme’: Richard II and Elizabethan Press Censorship,” Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997), 432-48.

DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks. Ed. Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser. Created 2007. <deep.sas.upenn.edu>.

English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). British Library. <estc.bl.uk>

John Jowett and Gary Taylor, “Sprinklings of Authority: The Folio Text of Richard II,” Shakespeare Bulletin 38 (1985), 151-200.

Shakespeare in Quarto. “Richard II, Fourth Quarto variant, 1608.” Accessed February 1, 2017. <bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/richard2bibs.html#first>
 

Last updated February 23, 2017