Project Gutenberg’s Shakespeare Books

This page describes Project Gutenberg’s multiple versions of the works of William Shakespeare.

Project Gutenberg’s first Shakespeare in 1994

The works of William Shakespeare have a special role for the Project Gutenberg collection. Founder Michael Hart’s father was a Shakespeare scholar, and Michael collaborated with his father throughout the 1980s to digitize the complete works of Shakespeare.

The result was #100, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Since 1994, #100 has been updated many times to provide an HTML file, to fix typos and other errors, and to be made consistent with the individual works that were published later by Project Gutenberg as separate books.

Additional Shakespeare over the years

Other Shakespeare versions were added to Project Gutenberg after #100. They had different print sources and were digitized by different volunteers.

By the 2010s, the Project Gutenberg errata team was working on fixing typos and other errors, ensuring there were HTML versions of all works (rather than just plain text, as was originally the case), and that duplicate or near-duplicate files were merged.

In this document, we refer to different document series. Project Gutenberg assigns a unique accession number to every book. #100 was the 100th book, for example.

Groups of Shakespeare books were published by Project Gutenberg over the years. For simplicity, we refer in this document to the 1100 series, the 1500 series, the 1700 series, and the 2200 series. You can hover over every link to see which series it was part of.

Some titles were maintained over the years such that they are best grouped with another series, such as Venus and Adonis which, while its book number is 1045, we group with the 1500 series.

Where to start for everyday reading enjoyment

For readers who want to enjoy Shakespeare, these are probably the best starting points. They are the #1500 series, along with #1041 and #1045.

The #1500 series is generally the most complete. It contains Pericles, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the five longer poems. Note that in this document we present titles in sorted order including words like “A” and “The.”

The Complete Works has every play, and it has been maintained consistently with #1041, #1045 and the 1500 series (i.e., any changes/updates to those are also update in #100).

The 1500 series has covers taken from the First Folio, although they are not First Folio versions.

For scholars and others with specialized interests

The 1100 series books are taken from The Shakespeare First Folio.

The First Folio is, as the title implies, from the 1623 printing.

Other versions

The 1700 and 2200 series are near-duplicates of each other. These Project Gutenberg books were originally created by different volunteers and had somewhat different layout, but since then they have been updated and each pair of titles is, or will be, identical.

These have mostly not had errata reports applied (as of late 2023), and are mostly only available as plain text.

The 1700 series (below) and 2200 titles have not been updated as much as the 1500 series and #100. Generally, readers are advised to instead choose from the 1500 series or #100.

The 2200 series:

Note that #2270, The Shakespeare First Folio, is listed among the recommended titles above. This has been kept consistent with the #1500 series.

About copyright status

A number of Project Gutenberg’s Shakespeare versions had been listed as copyrighted based on “sweat of the brow” effort to transcribe printed works. Based on contemporary copyright law interpretations, we have updated metadata for these to indicate they are in the public domain in the US. The metadata changes were made in October 2023 to these Shakespeare versions:

The 1700 series: