Despite the success of their resident playwright, Shakespeare’s company (called the Chamberlain’s Men) were in dire financial straits by 1597 and had to sell off the playbooks of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Richard II in 1598 and Henry IV Part One and Richard III in 1599. About half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in such individual “Quarto” copies (Quarto refers to the size of the book) before the big “Folio” of 36 plays was published posthumously in 1623.
THE THEATRE COMPANY MADE NOTHING ELSE FROM THE SALES OF THESE BOOKS … AND THEY WERE NOT EVEN PROOF-READ FOR THE MOST OBVIOUS ERRORS.
This may have been in part deliberate. It was a desperate act for the company to lose its monopoly on performances, although such sales did create a reading audience for the plays.