The earliest known edition of King Lear is a quarto published in 1608, with the titlepage as follows:
M. William Shak-speare: | HIS | True Chronicle Historie of the life and | death of King LEAR and his three | Daughters. | With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne | and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his | sullen and assumed humor of | TOM of Bedlam: | As it was played before the Kings Maiestie at Whitehall upon | S. Stephans night in Christmas Hollidayes. | By his Maiesties seruants playing vsually at the Gloabe | on the Bancke-side.
| LONDON, | Printed for Nathaniel Butter, and are to be sold at his shop in Pauls | Church-yard at the signe of the Pide Bull neere | St. Austins Gate. 1608.
A second quarto was issued by Butter in the same year, the title-page of which is similar, except that instead of the imprint “LONDON,” &c, it has “Printed for Nathaniel Butter. | 1608.”
It has been stated by several editors that a third quarto was brought out in 1608 ; but this is an error, due to the fact that of the existing copies of the first quarto no two are exactly alike. As the Cambridge editors remark, the text was apparently corrected when the book was on the press, and the corrected and uncorrected sheets were bound up indiscriminately. This is also the view taken by Dr. Furness in his “New Variorum” edition of the play.