Folio refers to the size of a printed work, specifically, how many times a piece of handmade paper has been folded after printing in order to compile a volume. The paper used for folios has been folded in half one time, resulting in 4 pages. A quarto refers to paper that has been folded twice resulting in 8 smaller pages from the same sized piece of paper. The more folds, the smaller the size of the pages (octavo, duodecimo, etc.) The First Folio refers to the first folio sized work of the complete works of William Shakespeare, produced in 1623. The Second Folio refers to the second folio sized work, produced in 1632. The third and fourth are also considered significant publications.
Many scholars study Shakespeare primarily through the textual analysis of his literary works. Another approach is to look the documentary record through examining primary sources that may illuminate his life and times. We have many items published near or during Shakespeare's lifetime as well as extensive electronic database packages that provide access to relevant early modern books and records. See the second tab of this guide or consult with a librarian for access to the electronic packages.