Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography

Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography

Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography

Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography

Synopsis

Recent studies in early modern cultural bibliography have put forth a radically new Shakespeare--a man of keen literary ambition who wrote for page as well as stage. His work thus comes to be viewed as textual property and a material object not only seen theatrically but also bought, read, collected, annotated, copied, and otherwise passed through human hands. This Shakespeare was invented in large part by the stationers--publishers, printers, and booksellers--who produced and distributed his texts in the form of books. Yet Shakespeare's stationers have not received sustained critical attention.

Edited by Marta Straznicky, Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography shifts Shakespearean textual scholarship toward a new focus on the earliest publishers and booksellers of Shakespeare's texts. This seminal collection is the first to explore the multiple and intersecting forms of agency exercised by Shakespeare's stationers in the design, production, marketing, and dissemination of his printed works. Nine critical studies examine the ways in which commerce intersected with culture and how individual stationers engaged in a range of cultural functions and political movements through their business practices. Two appendices, cataloguing the imprints of Shakespeare's texts to 1640 and providing forty additional stationer profiles, extend the volume's reach well beyond the case studies, offering a foundation for further research.

Excerpt

Marta Straznicky

It does behove us to honour the labours and risks of those men, who
sought indeed a livelihood and even a fortune in their occupations;
but who often did far worthier than that, even sometimes to the
risking of all that they possessed, and without whose speculations all
this would have been lost to us.

—Edward Arber

The phrase “all this,” with respect to the present volume, refers to the imaginative writings of William Shakespeare. Preserved in print chiefly by the “labours,” “risks,” and “speculations” of dozens of printers, publishers, and booksellers, Shakespeare’s poems and plays in their earliest editions are evidence of direct and historically meaningful encounters with the community of tradesmen to whom, as Arber reminds us, we owe much of the intellectual heritage of early modern England. the collective term for printers, publishers, and booksellers in the early modern period was “stationer,” meaning a practitioner of any of the trades involved in book production, including binding, parchment making, and copying, and after 1557 referring more strictly to a member of the Stationers’ Company, which was incorporated in that year. While not all stationers would have had the opportunity or even the inclination to engage in cultural or political movements through their business practices, it is clear that a large number did, and did so in ways we are only now beginning to understand. To construe such stationers as “readers”

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