The Complete Plays

William Shakespeare

Illustrated by Neil Packer

Introduced by Gregory Doran

Foreword by Dame Judi Dench

Limited to 1,000 hand-numbered sets

Folio’s magnificent limited edition of The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, features fabulous artwork by Neil Packer, a foreword by Dame Judi Dench and an introduction by Gregory Doran. Limited to 1,000 hand-numbered sets each signed by the illustrator.

‘I have many copies of Shakespeare’s plays in this house but I have NEVER been given anything so special as this one. It is practically my entire life in 3 volumes! Thank you.’
  1. Dame Judi Dench

On 8 November 1623, the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays was registered, bringing together the great playwright’s work as a single printed collection for the first time and saving it for centuries to come. 400 years on, Folio is delighted to commemorate the anniversary with a sensational limited edition; a triumph of the bookmakers’ art and a legacy for future generations, which includes a foreword by Dame Judi Dench and an introduction by Gregory Doran, the RSC’s Artistic Director Emeritus. Neil Packer’s designs for the elegant, bespoke bindings are inspired by Elizabethan blackwork embroidery – his artwork perfectly replicated in sumptuous silk and linen jacquard cloth woven by Stephen Walters & Sons, the oldest silk-weaving company in Britain. Packer has also contributed 40 illustrations and designs for the presentation box. The text, set in black and red throughout, was printed by Northend in Sheffield. Smith Settle, also in Yorkshire, renowned for exemplary craftsmanship, have bound the books employing traditional techniques, and, finally, Stan Lane, the last of the famous Monotype artisan printers, has printed the limitation tip on his original Heidelberg press at his studio in Gloucestershire. Signed and numbered by Neil Packer, the tip is in the front of The Comedies.

Three-volume set

Bound in bespoke silk and linen jacquard cloth 

Hot metal letterpress-printed limitation tip signed by Neil Packer 

1,464 pages in total set in Caslon with a version by Neil Packer as display 

Printed in two colours throughout on Munken Pure paper 

40 illustrations in total 

Gilded on all 3 edges in gunmetal 

Cloth-covered presentation box lined with printed Woodstock Betulla paper 

Books: 8” × 11½”   Box: 7˝ x 8½˝ x 12˝

‘Without the First Folio we would have lost a world of words.’
  1. Gregory Doran, from his Introduction

Echoing the divisions in the First Folio; the plays are divided between three volumes – The Comedies, The Tragedies and The Histories. Uncluttered by notes, and with a generous setting, the 38 plays are beautifully readable and follow The Arden Shakespeare Third Series Complete Works – the most up-to-date and authoritative versions. Although the First Folio comprised 36 plays, both Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen are included for completeness.

About William Shakespeare

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire in April 1564, Shakespeare is widely considered to be the world’s greatest dramatist and the most influential writer in English. Along with at least 38 plays, he wrote over 150 sonnets and three longer narrative poems. In the late 1500s Shakespeare is noted as being in London, a member of a leading theatrical company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men who performed at the original Globe Theatre. They became The King’s Men following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon where he died on 23 April 1616. 

About Neil Packer

Neil Packer was born in Birmingham in 1961. He trained at the Colchester School of Art before becoming a full-time illustrator in 1984 with the publication of his first children’s book. He has had a long career working in design, publishing and advertising, mostly in the United States. He has illustrated a number of titles for The Folio Society, including I, Claudius (1994), The Name of the Rose (2001), Catch-22 (2004), One Hundred Years of Solitude (2006), Foucault’s Pendulum (2016), Mythical Beasts (2021), The Divine Comedy (2022) and The Complete Plays by William Shakespeare (2023). Packer’s work has been exhibited in London, Singapore and the United States.

About Dame Judi Dench

Since playing Ophelia in Hamlet at The Old Vic Theatre over 60 years ago, Judi Dench has garnered wide popular and critical admiration for a career marked by outstanding performances in classical and contemporary roles on both stage and screen. She has won numerous major awards – including an Academy Award, ten BAFTA Awards and a record eight Laurence Olivier Awards, and in recognition of her many achievements she received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1970, became a DBE (Dame of the British Empire) in 1988, and in 2005 was awarded a Companion of Honour. 

About Gregory Doran

Gregory Doran is Artistic Director Emeritus of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has been described as ‘one of the supreme Shakespeare directors of our era’ (The Financial Times), and ‘one of the finest present day directors of Shakespeare’ (The Sunday Telegraph). He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as an actor in 1987, and became its Artistic Director in 2012, programming his first season from September 2013. Doran was awarded the Sam Wanamaker Prize for pioneering work in Shakespearean Theatre in 2012, in 2023 was the recipient of the prestigious Pragnell Shakespeare Prize, is an honorary associate of the British Shakespeare Association, an honorary senior research fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, and a trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


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