Team Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s bottom line

Creating the First Folio was a risky leap of faith for its investors.

It is estimated that each copy would have cost about 6 shillings 8 pence to make. With a print run of 750 copies, the entire project would have cost £250. Today that would be about £25,000. This was an unprecedented amount when compared to typical wages at the time. A shoemaker might earn £4 a year, a goldsmith perhaps up to £5.

Financial clout for the project was provided by Isaac and William Jaggard. They had published Shakespeare plays before and had a ruthless reputation. They teamed up with Edward Blount, a publisher and bookshop owner.

Two other investors joined at the last minute. John Smethwick and William Apsley are credited at the end of the First Folio. They owned rights to some of the plays and stood to take a cut of the profits.

To simply break even, the syndicate had to sell 333 of their copies at full price. Whether this paid off or not, we’re still not quite sure.



Explore the dedications and poems which introduce the plays and the folio team…


Ben Jonson’s To the Reader:

FFE Ben Jonson to the reader poem

The dedication to the First Folio patrons by Henry Condell and John Heminge:

FFE To the funders pt1 FFE To the funders pt 2

Listen to a reading from Condell and Heminge’s dedication:
Dedicatory poems by Leonard Digges and James Mabbe:

FFE Digges and Mabbe dedications

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