EGAN, G., 2008. Making editions for close readers: the Arden Shakespeare 1899-1904. A Paper for the Seminar 'Shakespearean Close Reading, Old and New' at the 33rd International Shakespeare Conference at Straford-upon-Avon, 4-8 August.
No-one reads a Shakespeare play more closely than an editor making a
critical edition, although the closeness varies between series. The Arden
Shakespeare (1899-) was the most successful mass readership Shakespeare edition
in the twentieth century, articulating recondite textual matters to scholarly readers
while also providing commentary and notes for the general reader, the student, and
the theatre practitioner. Here I examine the first 8 volumes by 6 editors, published
immediately prior to the New Bibliography that can for convenience be dated from
the publication of A. W. Pollard's Shakespeare Folio and Quartos (1909). I try to
characterize these editors' close engagements with the texts and in particular their
confidence that their labour could bring close readers closer to Shakespeare than
they might get using the facsimiles of early printings that were, at this time, starting
to become cheaply available.