The Boydell Shakespeare folio was commissioned by the British publisher and engraver John Boydell (1720-1804). Seeking to capitalize on the popularity of Shakespeare, Boydell conceived of a three-part project consisting of a gallery of paintings to be displayed in London, an illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays, and a folio of prints. The project was initiated in 1786.
The gallery opened in London in 1789 to positive reviews, but the first volume of the folio did not appear until 1791. Though the illustrations had been solicited from the most notable artists of the day including Joshua Reynolds, some of the plates were hastily completed by lesser artists. The quality of the plates was criticized, as was the slow pace of publication. Subscriptions dropped. By the time the last volume was published until 1805, Boydell's firm had suffered a financial collapse.
This folio is from the library of Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966).
Browse Evelyn Waugh's Boydell Shakespeare Folio.