Today in 1616 William Shakespeare died. His works have been enjoyed by generations of readers, which means that generations of printers have been busy editing and reprinting his texts. The images above are special. They are from the 1791 edition of The Bard’s “dramatic works”, as the title page has it, which included his play Richard III. Except, these images don’t show the actual book. You are looking at the proofs corrected by the editor George Steevens himself, which miraculously survived.
The proofs show the editor at work. Using the 1790 text of Malone as a basis, Steevens changed Shakespeare’s words into what he thought was the best text to print. Words were deleted (“guilty” and “done” are crossed out), clarifications were added (a character exited “with the body”, penned next to it), and entire passages appear to have been rewritten (note the pasted pieces of paper with Steevens handwritten text). The proofs seen here show how Shakespeare is prepared for a new generation of readers: his words were perfected to reach a new audience - and new potential buyers.
Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength.