The Works of Shakespeare: in Eight Volumes

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by William Shakespeare

The Works of Shakespeare

Title page from The Works of Shakespeare, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author William Shakespeare
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed for H. Lintott, C. Hitch, J. and R. Tonson, C. Corbet, R. and B. Wellington, J. Brindley, and E. New
Date 1740
Edition Second, Revised and Augmented
Language English
Volumes 8 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 12mo (17 cm.)
Location Shelf M-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Frontispiece, volume one.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is widely considered the foremost writer in the English language.[1] Shakespeare was an actor who begun to write plays sometime between 1585 and 1592.[2] He began his career as a playwright with English histories such as Henry VI, comedies such as The Taming of the Shrew, and tragedies such as Titus Andronicus.[3] His first published work was the poem Venus and Adonis (1593).

In the mid-1590s, he wrote Love's Labour's Lost, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He continued to write prolifically during the late 1590s and early 1600s. In 1606 Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth, which were both influenced by contemporary politics. By 1609, about half of Shakespeare’s plays had been printed. Shakespeare continued to write plays until 1613, three years before his death.

Shakespeare is known for his exploration of human nature. As Samuel Johnson states in his famous “Preface to the Works of Shakespeare”, "His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. . . .Shakespeare has no heroes; his scenes are occupied only by men, who act and speak as the reader thinks that he himself should have spoken and acted on the same occasion."[4]

The Works of Shakespeare: In Eight Volumes was published in 1740 during a time when Shakespeare was enormously popular in England. In addition to his plays, it includes multiple elegies written about Shakespeare, his will, and biographical documents that provide a background of his life.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Shakespeare by Theobald. the first 6.v. 12mo." and given by Thomas Jefferson to his granddaughters, Ann and Ellen Randolph. The precise edition of the incomplete set inherited by Jefferson is unknown. George Wythe's Library[5] on LibraryThing indicates as much, adding "Duodecimo editions were published in seven volumes at Dublin in 1739; in eight volumes at London in 1740, 1752, 1757, 1762, 1767, and 1773; and in twelve volumes at London in 1772." The Brown Bibliography[6] lists the first edition, seven volume set published in London in 1733. The Wolf Law Library found a copy of the London second edition (1740) eight volume set and purchased it for the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Eight volumes bound in contemporary full calf with raised bands, red title labels and gilt decoration to spines. Purchased from Wadard Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

Headpiece from The Tempest, volume one.

See also


  1. Peter Holland, "Shakespeare, William (1564–1616)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed October 7, 2013. Unless otherwise noted, all biographical details are from this source.
  2. Holland, "Shakespeare, William."
  3. S. Schoenbaum, “William Shakespeare, Gentleman,” The Wilson Quarterly, 3, No. 1 (1979), p. 184.
  4. Samuel Johnson, "Preface," The Plays of William Shakespeare, accessed through Shakespeare’s Editors (Palomar 2009), vii and xii.
  5. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 18, 2013,
  6. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: