The Complete Shakespeare Experience
Publishers simply obtained a copy of the work (legally or illegally) and printed it for sale.
Titus Andronicus (1594 was the first of Shakespeare’s plays to be published, in this case by John Danter, who pirated the work. He also is thought to be responsible for an anonymously published work of Romeo and Juliet (1597) rife with errors as the dialogue was likely copied as shorthand made during a performance. Quartos, small, folded books about half the size of a magazine) were also produced for 18 of Shakespeare’s plays before the First Folio was published legally in 1623.
The first collection of Shakespeare’s works, the First Folio (1623) was first published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies.
The Stationers’ Company issued licenses to publish dramatic works in the early 17th Century but it was just as likely a work would be pirated and published as it would be properly licensed
The First Folio, with its 900+ pages and 36 plays (all but Pericles), was the work of five men led by Edward Blount and William Jaggard. Actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell crafted the text of which about 1,000 copies were printed (poorly say many) by Jaggard’s son, Isaac.
A second folio was published in 1632 and a third in 1663. The second, 1664 printing of the third folio saw the inclusion of Pericles, Prince of Tyre) and several other works (The Two Noble Kinsmen and Cardenio, The London Prodigal, and The History of Thomas Lord Cromwell) whose rightful attribution to Shakespeare is dubious. A fourth, final folio was published in 1685.