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Preface to the First Volume of the First Edition.
The present work, as differing from the existing Shakespearian glossaries, the object of which has been only to explain what has become obsolete and unintelligible in the writings of the poet, is to contain his whole vocabulary and subject the sense and use of every word of it to a careful examination.
As it was not intended to establish a critical standard, but only to furnish some of the necessary materials for criticism, it seemed convenient to lay aside, for the present, the question of the authenticity of the works generally ascribed to Shakespeare, and to consider as genuine all that has been commonly printed together as Shakespeare's, namely the thirty-six plays of the first and second Folios, together with Pericles, and the so called Poems; but to disregard the apocryphal pieces of the latest Folios as well as those which the criticism of still later times has brought into connection with the name of the poet. The stage-directions, too, even those of the earliest editions, have been left unnoticed, as it appeared more than doubtful whether they were written by Shakespeare himself.
In the present unsettled state of textual criticism it could not be decided, whether the Folios or the extant Quartos deserved greater credit. But fortunately the business of a lexicographer was, in this point at least, easier than that of an editor, who must make his choice between