Without a doubt, the most remarkable item among our Shakespeare treasures is a set of ten plays printed in quarto format and bound together in a single volume. Scholars and bibliographers know these quartos as the “Pavier quartos” because a publisher named Thomas Pavier was responsible for their having been printed.
Although their title pages each name William Shakespeare as author, two of the plays, A Yorkshire Tragedy and Sir John Oldcastle, are actually not by Shakespeare.
All these quartos are reprints of earlier editions and
despite some title pages with dates as early as 1600 and 1608 they were in fact
all printed in the year 1619. It is
thought by some scholars that Pavier was attempting to demonstrate his ownership
of what then amounted to “copyright” in these nine plays and that he may
have hoped eventually to obtain permission from the Stationer’s Company (the
guild which assigned rights to printers) to publish the authorized collection of
all Shakespeare’s plays. However,
that collected edition of thirty-six plays–the famous First Folio –was not
to be published until 1623 and not by Pavier.