Erne 2013

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Erne, Lukas. Shakespeare and the Book Trade. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013.

"Shakespeare and the Book Trade argues that Shakespeare’s place within early modern textual culture made of him a surprisingly prominent man-in-print. I provide a corrective to the view that Shakespeare’s early bibliographical reception in no way anticipates his eighteenth-century canonization. ”

distant reading approach; gathering wide swath of data rather than selective readings

focusing on quarto play books and poetry, since first folio has been extensively covered elsewhere

39 plays appeared in print in early modern period; 18 during his lifetime in quarto

topsellers: 3 history plays, I Henry IV, Richard III, Richard II; Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Pericles also successful

Venus and Adonis was popular, 10 editions before the end of Shakespeare’s life

table: chronological listing of Sh publications to 1660

18-20 play books originally appeared anonymously

"“The evidence suggests that Shakespeare, as Patrick Cheney has argued, was a poet-playwright, whose presence in print precisely combined the two genres.35” “Another observation which emerges from the chronological table is that Shakespeare’s arrival in the book trade was sudden and massive.”

“The number of Shakespeare publications peaked early and then steadily declined over the next decades. The view that Shakespeare was not discovered by the book trade until after his death and that the rise of his reputation was gradual and posthumous is thus precisely wrong.”

“The stationers, to whom Shakespeare and his fellows released many of his play texts, turned Shakespeare into a remarkably successful author in print, and we have every reason to believe that he was keenly aware of, and affected by, this development.”

Chapter 1. Quantifying Shakespeare’s Presence in Print

"“In the period from 1586 to 1637, a decree limited the number of copies of ordinary books to 1,500, but, as Philip Gaskell has shown, ‘the masters ignored the decree and printed larger editions whenever it suited them to do so’.”

popularity of Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis — went through more editions than many other now more widely-read poems

"“As far as I am aware, the only literary titles in English first published in Elizabethan or Jacobean London of which there were more editions than of Venus and Adonis are John Lyly’s prose romances, Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and His England (1580).”

cf of Shakespeare’s published output to Robert Greene

Blayney, Farmer, Lesser - debate over the popularity of playbooks, SQ 2005

“for the whole period from the beginning of the publication of professional plays to 1642, when public performances ceased, Shakespeare, with seventy-four editions of playbooks, out-publishes all his contemporaries by more than 50 per cent. ”
“I would argue, then, that our thinking about Shakespeare’s status from his own time to the eighteenth century has been too linear, too much anchored in the belief that the reputation he came to acquire in the eighteenth century is diametrically opposed to his lack of cachet in the early seventeenth century.”

Chapter 2. Shakespeare, publication, and authorial misattribution

number of misattributions is remarkably high for Shakespeare; and no other dramatist in the period had any misattributions

“During his lifetime and in the years following it, pseudepigraphy appears to have been a Shakespearean prerogative.”

“The likely reasons why the misuse of most of these names seems to have been considered a good commercial device are manifold: recent collections and/or folio editions which lent their authors’ names prestige (Chapman, Jonson, Fletcher); a well-selling playbook whose success the misattributed play was hoped to replicate (Rowley); plays of a certain genre (Turkish plays) with which a dramatist was then associated (Goffe); an authorial label which had established itself with considerable success on quarto playbook title pages (Beaumont and Fletcher). Clearly, there were many contexts for the creative approach to authorship attribution.”

Shakespeare’s name not misattributed in this period (1634 to 1657)

but only misattributions that appear 1584-1633 are Shakespeare

“no genuine Shakespeare text was ever ascribed to ‘W. S.’ or ‘W. Sh.’ on a printed title page in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century”

“The pattern of misattributed playbooks is an eloquent testimony to the remarkable place ‘Shakespeare’ occupied in the London book trade in the final years of the Elizabethan and in the Jacobean period.”

more than half of misattributions in this period are from 1604-1613 — a stretch when few of Shakespeare’s plays reached print

1603 — Sh and fellow players change attitude toward publication of plays; “Before then, the plays written for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were usually published unless there was a specific reason to prevent the sale of a manuscript. Yet after 1603, this pattern ceases, and the new supply of Shakespeare playbooks becomes much scarcer. ” — Sh in short supply, so misattributions “were made to stand in for the real thing”

not successful strategy; high reprint rate of Sh, not for misattributions

Heywood’s mention of Shakespeare being upset about the misattributions of The Passionated Pilgrim

“What Shakespeare must have registered and what he cannot have been indifferent to is that the misattributions were a powerful testimony to the influence his name exerted in the London book trade. As Chapter 1 has argued, Shakespeare became a remarkably popular man in print during his own lifetime and the years immediately following it, and, as this chapter has suggested, ‘Shakespeare’ did so too, so much so that ‘Shakespeare’ became a coveted book trade construction with which quite a number of stationers tried to make money.”

The bibliographic and paratextual makeup of Shakespeare’s quarto play books

“The object of New Bibliographical desire has been a conjectured Shakespearean text which was ideal precisely because it was immaterial. As Massai points out, Shakespeare studies have in fact suffered more from what we might term ‘the tyranny of the lost manuscript’ than from any alleged ‘tyranny of print’.”

Elizabethan age: play books are “little more than ‘do-it-yourself’ staging aids” or “records of performance”; toward end of century, they start being read as literature, in 17c “received the dignity of Folio publication”

title pages as advertisements

catalogues featuring the work of one stationer (common on Continent from 16c) did not start appearing until 1650s

“In the late Elizabethan period, the majority of playbooks are still published anonymously, but from the early Jacobean period, the majority are assigned to authors.”

“Another title page feature which suggests that Shakespeare’s playbooks were important for the literary status of playbooks generally is the frequency with which Shakespeare is identified as having ‘corrected’, ‘augmented’ or ‘enlarged’ his dramatic texts. ”

“The evidence presented so far indicates that Shakespeare’s playbooks were crucial agents in the process by which commercial drama was increasingly endowed with literary respectability in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.”

no Latin epigraphs (unlike Johnson); 11.5 percent of play books between 1600 and 1623 contained Latin mottoes

“Contrary to Jonson, Shakespeare habitually seems to have composed his plays without marked act division, nor, it seems, did he impose the neo-classical division on his plays prior to their publication.”

Prynne’s complaint that Shakespeare’s second folio was printed on better quality paper than most bibles

use of “new” roman typeface, rather than “old-fashioned” blackletter

play books set in pica roman

“In some respects, Shakespeare’s playbooks reveal a conspicuous presence of ‘Shakespeare’, whereas many other paratextual and bibliographic features suggest a conspicuous absence of authorial inscription. Although the evidence seems to suggest that Shakespeare had extraordinary cachet as a dramatic author and, in that capacity, participated in the authorization of printed drama, numerous paratextual and bibliographic features indicate an absence of Shakespearean agency, and this in a double sense: absence of Shakespeare’s involvement in the paratextual and bibliographic constitution of his own playbooks as well as absence of Shakespeare’s playbooks in the process that turned playbooks into more respectable, more literary publications.”