The rare Third Folio in Auckland: a much travelled Folio by Mr William Shakespeare

In 2023 the world is celebrating four hundred years since the publication of Shakespeare’s plays in the volume now called the First Folio. Auckland Libraries is proud to care for the First Folio (1623) and the subsequent 17th century folios two, three and four. All but one were gifted to Auckland by Sir George Grey whose founding bequest established the Auckland Free Public Library in 1887. The story of the provenance of the Third Folio is an interesting one.

The Third Folio is a rarer volume than either the Second (1632) or the Fourth (1685), probably because unsold copies perished in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Our copy was purchased from the Lush Family some time after 1951. It came to New Zealand some hundred years earlier when the Reverend Vicesimus Lush, his wife Blanche and four children arrived here. It had been owned by a forebear of Mrs Blanche Lush nee Hawkins, the Reverend Thomas Hawkins, Chaplain of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1754-1772 whose bookplate is in the volume.

Image: Bookplate in the Third Folio. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. SHAK 1664.

Thomas Hawkins married Mary Lever on 12 August 1766. Notes from the Lush Family with the Third Folio indicate that Mary was his “amenusensis” and that the notes in the Third Folio are in her hand. John Webster, former curator at Ewelme Cottage notes that ownership of the Third folio went from Reverend Thomas Hawkins to his son Edward Hawkins, who took it with him to Jamaica. Blanche claimed the Folio after Edward’s death and brought it to New Zealand with all their property when they emigrated in 1850.

The Third Folio comes with additional plays. Although the stationer Philip Chetwinde inherited the copyright to Shakespeare’s plays in the 1630s, it was not until 1664 that he brought out this edition with a supplement containing:

“seven plays, never before printed in folio”:

Pericles, Locrine, The London prodigal, The puritan, Sir John Oldcastle, Thomas Lord Cromwell and A Yorkshire tragedy.

Image: Title page of the Third Folio. Mr. William Shakespear’s comedies, histories, and tragedies. London: Philip Chetwinde, 1664. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. SHAK 1664.

Shakespeare is unlikely to have contributed to any of the seven new plays, except Pericles. Auckland Libraries is delighted to own a rare quarto edition of Pericles published in 1619. This play is generally believed to have been a collaborative effort with George Wilkins. Refer to Auckland-based Shakespearean authority Macdonald Jackson’s Defining Shakespeare: Pericles as test case (2003) for further detail on this topic. 

Our Third Folio is heavily annotated / marked up, either by Thomas Hawkins or his wife, Mary. Thomas Hawkins was Chaplain at Magdalen college in Oxford, 1754-1772. He was known to have worked on the 1769 edition of the Hanmer Shakespeare during this period.

Image: Twelfth Night showing annotations. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections SHAK 1664.

The edition is noteworthy bibliographically as the first edition of Shakespeare’s collected works to be printed outside of London and the first produced by a university press (Clarendon Press) but it does not rank with the other 18th century editions by Samuel Johnson, Edmond Malone and George Stevens. Sir Thomas Hanmer’s Preface to the first edition printed at Oxford (1743-44) claims: a “true and correct Edition of Shakespear’s works cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded”. A new edition of the Hanmer Shakespeare was launched in 1769. This edition expanded Hanmer's original and much-criticised efforts. The glossary was doubled in size, and the commentary clarified.

Thomas Hawkins’ copy of the 1770 edition remained with the family. The six volumes of the Hanmer Shakespeare owned by the Lush Family are still in Ewelme Cottage in Parnell. These volumes show the ownership of Charlotte Hawkins, 1797. Charlotte was one of Thomas and Mary’s children. Mary later married Sir William Taunton. She became Blanche’s guardian when Blanche was orphaned at age thirteen. Blanche Hawkins (1819-1912) married Vicesimus Lush in 1842. They left England in 1850 and Lush Family members lived in Ewelme Cottage in Parnell from 1864 until 1968. The house museum is now owned by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and can be visited.

Image: Inside cover of Hanmer’s Shakespeare volume IV (1770) at Ewelme Cottage, Auckland. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga

Author: Jane Wild, Curator Rare Books