The earliest Shakespeare quartos are over four hundred years old and constitute the rarest, most fragile body of printed literature available to Shakespeare scholars. Sold unbound and often read to pieces, they are among the most ephemeral books of the age and survive in relatively low numbers. In the absence of surviving manuscripts, the quartos offer the earliest known evidence of what Shakespeare might actually have written, and what appeared on the early modern English stage.
The Shakespeare Quartos Archive expands the British Library’s “Shakespeare in Quarto” website into an online collection reproducing at least one copy of every edition of William Shakespeare’s plays printed in quarto before the theatres closed in 1642. Joined to this resource is a prototype of an interactive interface and toolset aimed at facilitating scholarly research, performance studies, and new pedagogical applications derived from detailed examination and comparison of the quartos.