"Knowing that I loved my books, he furnished me,
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom."
-William Shakespeare, The Tempest.
Babbitt's Books can furnish you and yours with at least four different sets of William Shakespeare's complete works.
Here we have a $25 set in its original slipcase. The books are all in very good condition, and the only defect seems to be the previous owner's tiny, tiny ink stamp on the title pages of each book. This set would be a handsome addition to anyone's library. Case in point? We have it behind the counter with all of the fine bindings.
Next up is a 1958 set from The Heritage Press. There are three lovely, thick volumes with illustrations from Edward Ardizzone. Each volume is priced at $6 apiece, but we'll let you have the entire set for $15. You must act fast, though!
If you think your Shakespeare fan would prefer a set that takes up less space, this jacketed, '50s-era set will do nicely. It's just $8, too, which is roughly what you'll pay for a measly paperback of one Shakespeare play at one of the big-box bookstores.
My personal favorite is The Norton Shakespeare. I have a copy of my own at home, which I used for Shakespeare courses at the University of Illinois. I like The Norton Shakespeare for its superior annotations. The right-hand margins are filled with synonyms for the archaic words, while more detailed information is confined to footnotes. The margin arrangement is good because you're not constantly glancing off the page when you read, as you'll do with an edition where the notes are on the opposite page. Each play or group of sonnets is prefaced by a six- or seven-page introduction to the text, which presents major themes and historical backgrounds.
The Norton Shakespeare also includes highlighted segments of text which represent material that was excised from certain editions / performances of Shakespeare's plays, either due to edits by Shakespeare himself (though bear in mind that his plays only came into print after he died) or due to corrupted transcription. If you find that last sentence confusing, you can read about the phenomenon of the bad quarto here. Like the Nelson Doubleday set, this book is only $8. It comes with a CD, which (apparently) contains a reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream and two sonnets.
And hey--if you can bear to hold these books back until tickets for the 2011 Illinois Shakespeare Fest tickets go on sale, your gift will pack twice the punch!