London: John Stockdale, 1784. Octavo, measuring 8.75 x 5.5 inches: , 1079, . Full period-style calf, boards ruled and decorated in gilt, lyre cornerpieces, spine elaborately tooled in gilt, red morocco spine label. Engraved frontispiece of Shakespeare; preliminaries including Rowe’s life of Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s will. Text in two columns, page of publisher’s advertisements at rear. Light occasional foxing, a few pages of Julius Caesar with underlining and marginal calculations.
First single-volume octavo edition of Shakespeare’s plays, lightly footnoted, designed to appeal to “the middling and lower ranks of the inhabitants of this country,” who had been priced out of previous editions, as well as to those readers looking for a light alternative to their library sets: “The book now offered to the public may commodiously be taken into a coach or a post-chaise, for amusement in a journey. Or if a company of gentlemen should happen, in conversation, to mention Shakespeare, or to dispute concerning any particular passage, a volume containing the whole of his plays may, with great convenience, be fetched by a servant out of a library or a closet.” Stockdale includes all thirty-six plays represented in the 1623 First Folio, with the text “as it has been settled by the most approved commentators.” A bright, near-fine example of a popular milestone in Shakespeare printing, handsomely bound in eighteenth-century style by Philip Dusel.