Skip to content

News

The changing face of Shakespeare

Four centuries after the first publication of Shakespeare’s plays, a new book explores for the first time how different eras and different editors have presented his work to the reader.

Written by Dr Andrew Murphy, an academic at the University of St Andrews, ‘Shakespeare in Print’ is the first ever book-length complete history of Shakespeare publishing from the Renaissance through to the present.

Utilising new archival material, it discusses the many different faces that Shakespeare has worn, from the first collected edition published in 1623 to the miniature Pickering edition of the 1820s (pic available) described by one reviewer as ‘exclusively intended for sale in the kingdom of Lilliput, or for the benefit of opticians’.

It is the first ever complete history of Shakespeare’s texts as they circulated in printed form, from their early editions of no more than a thousand copies to the mass-produced Shakespeare editions of today

‘The significance of the many different editions in which Shakespeare appears over time goes far beyond size, layout, or typeface’, explained Dr Murphy.

‘At issue is the very text that editors choose to prefer. The question of how Shakespeare is rendered in print raises the fundamental problem of what constitutes Shakespeare’s work. Can we ever arrive at a ‘correct’ version? How would we go about trying? And would such a version be the most desirable one? The intense and continuing historical debate about how Shakespeare should be edited, which the book details and analyses, underlines the truth that each edition literally makes its own “Shakespeare”. The history of Shakespeare in print is the history of how we want – and want others – to read him’.

Previous works of scholarship have considered individual editors of Shakespeare or short periods in the history of publishing his work. Nobody before now, however, has examined the full trajectory of Shakespeare editions from first to last. Dr Murphy hopes that his book will become a standard work of reference for scholars in the field, and also a resource for editors, collectors, and enthusiasts.

‘I’d like to think that it’s a book that’s accessible to anybody who takes an interest in Shakespeare’, said Dr Murphy.

‘I myself became fascinated by the colourful life stories of some of Shakespeare’s historical editors. Often they seem like a real rogues gallery – Thomas Hanmer was a former Speaker of the House of Commons, deserted by a young wife who revealed his sexual secrets in public; John Payne Collier was a notorious forger; James Orchard Halliwell Phillipps stole manuscripts from Cambridge University and sold them to the British Library – he also absconded with his patron’s daughter.

“I’ve also enjoyed doing archival work on the letters of famous Shakespeare editors, discovering things like the fact that Edward Dowden asked to be relieved of the general editorship of the Arden Shakespeare, because he didn’t think it was likely to be a success. That fear seems incredible now, when Shakespeare editions form a keystone of the publishing industry’s bridge between the general reader and the academic world.

“Shakespeare at some level is familiar to all, but the works of Shakespeare we think we know have been mediated by hundreds of years of editorial preference, presumption, disagreement and doubt. I wanted to provide a thorough history of that process.’

Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology of Shakespeare Publishing by Andrew Murphy is published by Cambridge University Press, priced £55.

ENDS NOTE TO EDITORS:

DR MURPHY IS AVAILABLE TODAY (THURSDAY) FOR INTERVIEW ON (01333) 313127.

PICTURE EDITORS:

A JPEG OF THE MINIATURE PICKERING EDITION OF SHAKESPEARE WORKS PUBLISHED IN THE 1820’S IS AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE. CONTACT ALLISON IRVINE ON 01334 462529 OR ai@st-andrews.ac.uk PHOTOGRAPHED IN B/W AGAINST A RULER, IT MEASURES JUST 8CM HIGH.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: Changing Face of Shakespeare pr 111203 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

Research

Related topics

Share this story

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *