- Canonising Shakespeare: Stationers and the Book Trade, 1640–1740 ed. by Emma Depledge and Peter Kirwan
This collection of scholarly and engaging essays includes its own review: Cambridge University Press is supporting a new art of puffing. The book is divided into three main sections: "Selling Shakespeare," "Consolidating the Shakespeare Canon," and "Editing Shakespeare." There is a general introduction by the editors, summarizing and praising the essays, and then a similar essay at the head of each section. Finally, Patrick Cheney provides a fine critical review, summarizing the essays and telling us how good they are. As the essays themselves edge toward hyperbole in presenting their conclusions, there is a danger of inducing an unnecessary sense of disappointment.
The essays provide a valuable supplement to Don-John Dugas's Marketing the Bard: Shakespeare in Performance and Print (2006). That study focused on the plays; these essays have much to say about the poems, the booksellers, and their markets, and they find original ways of revisiting the editions of Shakespeare, both the fourth and "fifth" folios, the poems, and the editions by Rowe, Pope, and Theobald. On the poems, Adam G. Hooks writes perceptively about an interregnum edition of The Rape of Lucrece, to which was added John Quarles's "The Banishment of Tarquin," a poem that skillfully neutralized the republican resonances of Shakespeare's poem, while Faith Acker tackles "John Benson's 1640 Poems and Its Literary Precedents." Acker persuasively argues that the collection drew on the tradition of printed miscellanies from Tottel onward, and even relates it to manuscript miscellanies. I would have been happy to see the good comments on the typography (thirty-two lines to the page were not enough) complemented by some illustration of what actually happened to the poems as they were being revised and combined.
The editors argue that there was a lot of book trade activity in this period to keep Shakespeare's reputation alive, even though the publications have not been valued by modern scholars. There are essays on both the fourth and "fifth" folios, the latter particularly successful in identifying the date of the reprinted section that qualifies as the "fifth." The identity of the scholar who edited the reprint remains a mystery and, as there are only six copies known to survive, the effort may have been wasted. Lucas Erne con-tributes a detailed essay on Cupid's Cabinet Unlock't, part of a book that reflects the importance of Shakespeare's reputation by claiming on its section title "By. W. Shakespeare," when not one of the poems is. I particularly enjoyed Anthony Brano's wellillustrated essay on the frontispieces of Antony and Cleopatra. The early illustrations are tied in well to the nationality of their illustrators; the contrast between engravings that represent enclosed spaces and those that represent the city beyond are well managed; and the case that the text of Capel's edition (and of the Garrick production associated with it) was influenced by the 1734 engraving is well urged. In another carefully argued essay, [End Page 211] Claire M. L. Bourne shows how the Restoration quartos of Hamlet improved the use of italic in distinguishing between Polonius's own speech and Hamlet's letter in act 2. In combination, these contributions give a sense of intelligent work going on quietly in the printing house and behind the scenes.
The remaining essays take a variety of approaches to the eighteenth-century development of editions with named editors. Pope keeps cropping up in this section, a hopeful sign that scholarship may finally be escaping from the terms of Theobald's attack and Pope's response. In a well-observed essay on "Editing and Connoisseurship," Edmund G. C. King traces the transmission of ideas from Pope's friend, Jonathan Richardson's "Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as It Relates to Painting" through Pope to George Steevens. The "Essay" he claims, summarizes and develops "nearly two centuries of continental discourse on the authenticity of art objects." Jonathan H. Holmes focuses on Pope's...