There are two letters signed 'John Heminge' and 'Henry Condell' in the front matter of Shakespeare's First Folio. The first letter is to modern ears a somewhat obsequious - certainly deferential - dedication to William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, and his brother Philip - addressed as your L.L - your Lordships. The more jaunty second letter addressed 'To the great Variety of Readers' is largely an advertisement urging the potential reader to buy the book. It begins rather wittily: "From the most able, to him that can but spell: There you are numbered. We had rather you were weighed. Especially when the fate of all Books depends upon your capacities: and not of your heads alone, but of your purses." The concern with the financial viability of books in general is that of a professional writer, and both this and the witty tone do point towards Johnson as the author of this letter - presumably with the consent, and some of the words, of the two men whose names are below it. John Heminge and Henry Condell, as you'll remember, were named in Shakspere's will. The line bequeathing the money for rings was an interlineation - an afterthought - but nevertheless, it is there, and provides a certain link between Shakspere and these two shareholders of the company who performed, and later published, the Shakespeare plays. For that reason, it is important that letters supposedly written by Heminge and Condell are included in the First Folio. For orthodox scholars, it is another reason why the First Folio is the key text that links the traditional author to the works. It was their company, The King's Men, who owned these plays and had them published, as their two letters make clear. The first letter, addressed to the Herbert brothers says, "We have but collected them" - by which they mean the plays - "onley to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare, by humble offer of his playes to your most noble patronage". So Heminge and Condell claim Shakespeare as their friend. In the letter 'To the great Variety of Readers', they refer to themselves as his Friends again as they describe their role in putting Shakespeare's writings together: "...we pray you do not envie his Friends, the office of their care, and paine, to have collected & publish'd them". Eighteen of the plays in the 36-play Folio had never been published before. The other eighteen had been published in cheap quarto versions that were different - sometimes radically different - from the Folio ones. We do not know why they are different, how these variant versions arose, or who had a hand in them. But the letter addressed to Readers tells them "...where (before) you were abus'd with diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors, that expos'd them: even those, are now offer'd to your view cur'd, and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them". 'Numbers' is a reference to the meter of blank verse, iambic pentameter, and it's true that where some lines in earlier versions were curtailed, many in the Folio have been revised to the correct count of syllables and what are called metrical feet. Someone, in other words, has been editing. And also adding: Othello was published in quarto but the very first time the year before, 1622: yet the 1623 Folio version has about 160 extra lines. But what's most interesting to us about the letter to the readers is this vision of Shakespeare the writer. Heminge and Condell say, "...he was a happy imitator of Nature, was a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went together. And what he thought, he uttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarce received from him a blot in his papers". We will look more at the issue of Shakespeare's unblotted papers in the next lecture. But for now, you can probably see, these letters from Heminge and Condell pose a real problem for those who doubt Shakspere's authorship of the works. They undoubtedly knew him personally, they received plays from him in manuscript, and they appear to believe he is the author of these works. Could they have been duped? Are they lying? Or is this clinching proof that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon is the author of the works generally attributed to him?