Halliwell0002Between 1853 and 1865 James Orchard Halliwell produced one of the most lavish editions of the nineteenth century, in sixteen extensively illustrated folio volumes, with woodcuts by F. W. Fairholt. The edition was strictly limited and very expensive.

According to the Edinburgh Review, “Mr. Halliwell’s magnificent folios, which rejoice the eye . . . afford no solace whatever to the mind.”

A total of 150 copies were produced for subscribers, after which the ‘blocks and plates of the numerous woodcuts , facsimiles, and engravings used’ were destroyed.

In 25 copies the plates were reproduced on India paper (the cost of these copies was 150 guineas). For regular copies, the subscription price was 80 guineas.Halliwell0001

Halliwell, who co-founded the Shakespeare Society with John Payne Collier (Shakespearean critic, editor, and forger) and others, had a rather shady past. Granted access to the manuscript collections of Trinity College (Cambridge), he stole some materials from the library and sold them to the British Museum! He managed to weather that storm (the two institutions failed to agree on terms regarding legal action), and became friendly with Sir Thomas Phillipps, the wealthy antiquarian and collector. After gaining access to the library, Halliwell also sought Phillipps’ daughter in marriage, which enraged the father and led to a schism, but the couple inherited the Phillipps fortune after his death in 1867.

Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge UP, 2003)

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