Nicholas Rowe by Sir Godfrey Kneller

1709, 1709-10, 1714

Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) was a dramatist, editor, entrepreneur, translator, classicist, and Poet Laureate. In addition to fare such as Tamerlane (1702) and a full translation of Lucan's Pharsalia (1718), he wrote tragedies with female protagonists to attract the growing audience of women at the Drury Lane theatres: The Fair Penitent, The Tragedy of Jane Shore, and The Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey (1702, 1714, 1715). It is alleged much of his Shakespeare  simply updated the Fourth Folio (1685), but he attempted historical collation, a first, and his revisions of his predecessors were more extensive than previously thought. 

 Terry Gray's excellent page on Rowe


ROWE1v1 ROWE1v2 ROWE1v3, ROWE1v4 ROWE1v5 ROWE1v6


ROWE2v1  ROWE2v2  ROWE2v3  ROWE2v4  ROWE2v5  ROWE2v6

ROWE2v7 (Gildon-Curll-supplement)


ROWE3v1 ROWE3v2 ROWE3v3 ROWE3v4 ROWE3v5  ROWE3v6 ROWE3v7 ROWE3v8  ROWE3v9

title page of Rowe, 1709, British Library


In 1934, R. B. McKerrow, the pioneering bibliographer, discovered that Jacob Tonson had published two versions of Rowe's edition, the second most likely in 1710, though most volumes gave 1709 as the date (TLS 8 March 1934). In 1710, likely at Tonson request, Charles Gildon added a seventh volume containing the sonnets and poems as they were then known, John Benson's reconfiguration of 1640, Poems by Will. Shakespare, Gent.  Though this was flawed, it was nevertheless the first time Shakespeare's poetry became part of an edition, which would be repeated in Rowe's 1714 text and in Pope's 1725 and 1728 sets. Edmond Malone's 1780 supplement to v1778 and his landmark variorum of 1790 both included Q1609 as its copy-text of the sonnets for the first time. 

François Boitard engraving of Angelo and Isabella in MM


 Rowe's three editions were revolutionary. Some firsts:

  • a named editor
  • multivolume set
  • editorial recension: collating earlier versions of Shakespeare's plays to find the best reading, though very little. (But he still did it!)
  • sustained biography of Shakespeare
  • dramatis personae
  • scene loci
  • consistent act and scene divisions
  • performance-oriented stage directions (Rowe a dramatist)
  • images (François Boitard engravings for first and second eds; Louis Du Guernier for 1714 ed.)
  • first inclusion of poetry in any form as part of an edition (though Rowe had nothing to do with it)
  • glossary
  • history of drama contextualizing Shakespeare
  • regularization of character names in speech-headings
  • rendering of character names in the forms we use today, e.g., Puck, Gertrude, Imogen

Benson, Gildon, Lintott


John Benson (1640)

Shakespeare's nondramatic poetry has a separate publication history. Benson's edition was the first to print the Sonnets after Q1609. A "mangled hodgepodge": so Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor characterized Benson's rearrangement of the sequence by combining several sonnets, omitting seven, and changing some pronouns from masculine to feminine. Yet such liberal reformations of lyric sequences were hardly uncommon in the early modern period. Most scholars are surprised to learn that Benson left the most homoerotic sonnet, 20, in its original state, retitled "The Exchange" (B4). This stationer (writer, bookbinder, bookseller, editor) occasioned no derision for his edition, and his version of the Sonnets stayed in its state for the Gildon supplements to Rowe 2 and 3.  

Poems by Will Shakespeare, Gent.


Charles Gildon (1710, 1714)

Charles Gildon (1665-1724) and Edmund Curll (1675-1747), two notorious laborers in the underground London book trade, collaborated on these two volumes that supplemented the second and third eds. of Rowe, perhaps with the acquiescence of the publisher, the Tonson brothers. Because of The Dunciad and other completely biased sources, our opinions of Curll and Gildon have been shaped for the worse. But their supplements are a part of the critical tradition and reception of Shakespeare's poetry. 1714 makes several changes from 1710. Perhaps the Lintott ed. (below) occasioned its publication.

Gildon-Curll supplement to Rowe 2 (1710)

Gildon-Curll supplement to Rowe 3 (1714)

R. M. Alden essay on these eds.


Bernard Lintott (1709, 1711)

[I will let  do the talking about these books:]

LIN11709 (Ven., Luc., PP, Misc)

LIN21711 (Son., LC)

"The publication history for the edition of the Poems printed for Bernard Lintott is complicated. Three states have been identified. State 1: A vol. lacking "vol." designation was individually issued in July 1709, followed by the second vol. identifying itself as "the second volume" in Feb. 1711. The two vols., issued at different times, had no general t.p. State 2: The two vols. were immediately re-issued together with an undated general t.p. in 1711, with the same setting of type. State 3: The two vols. were re-issued again together with an undated general t.p., ca. 1711, lacking the first vol. t.p., with slight changes to dates on the divisional poem title pages. A later undated issue published ca. 1712, not cataloged on this record, has a different imprint which includes O. Lloyd--Folger Shakesepeare Library catalog."

It's worth mentioning that in the second volume, Lintott reprints Q1609 verbatim, even including the "T.T." dedication page that has occasioned so much (harebrained) comment.

Pope and Theobald

Alexander Pope, by Jonathan Richardson (MFA, Boston)

Alexander Pope (1725, 1728)

Pope (1688-1744) had been a sensation as a poet by the time he took up Shakespeare.  He had published Windsor Forest (1709) to great acclaim, along with An Essay on Criticism (1711) and The Rape of the Lock (1714-15). In adolescence he had contracted scoliosis, which meant that he spent most of his waking hours in pain, not in any way soothed by the corset he wore to make him stand more upright. He was mocked for his disability and his Catholicism, and those jealous of his Apollonian poetical gifts spoke of him as a hack and a clown. He was brave and persistent, and produced English translations of Homer, An Essay on Man (1725), and was able to earn enough money from writing so that he could survive without a patron.

Dixon essay on Pope's edition JEGP (1964)

POPE1v1, POPE1v2, POPE1v3, POPE1v4, POPE1v5, POPE1v6   POPE1v7

POPE2v1  POPE2v2, POPE2v3, POPE2v4, POPE2v5, POPE2v6, POPE2v7, POPE2v8, POPE2v9, POPE2v10

Title page of Shakespeare Restored, 1726

Shakespeare Restored (1726)

Pope was in over his head with Shakespeare, which even his most ardent defenders must admit. He was simply not knowledgeable about editorial practice and demonstrated this in his first edition, in which he degraded almost 2000 lines of Shakespeare he thought unworthy and rewrote them himself. For this he was derided by Lewis Theobald in Shakespeare Restored (1726), which mocked Pope for his amateurish presumption. Yet at least some of the unimaginably altered lines could not be described as Shakespeare's best. And the great poet, never having suffered real failure before and thus unused to it, was eventually humble enough to create a new, enlarged edition with help from Theobald's barbed suggestions, and then immortalizing him as King of the Dunces in The Dunciad. The revised 1728 version was respected by most, and reflects the extension of the concept of collation that Rowe had established, since Pope consulted the quartos of the plays that were available to him. Theobald based his 1733 text on Pope's 1728, with help from William Warburton.

Pope's preface to the works was always reprinted in subsequent editions of Shakespeare.

DNB entry on Theobald

Theobald, Shakespeare Restored (1726)

Title page of Theobald's 1733 ed. (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Lewis Theobald (1733, 1740, 1752, 1762)

Theobald was arguably Shakespeare's first professional editor, and in attacking Pope, helped create the concept of what such a scholar was supposed to do and to be. His 1733 edition was the standard for over thirty years, not equaled until the Capell version in 1768.


THEO1v1, THEO1v2, THEO1v3, THEO1v4, THEO1v5, THEO1v6, THEO1v7


THEO2v1   THEO2v2,   THEO2v3, THEO2v4, THEO2v5

THEO2v6, THEO2v7, THEO2v8


THEO3v1  THEO3v2  THEO3v3  THEO3v4  THEO3v5  THEO3v6  THEO3v7  THEO3v8  


THEO5v1  THEO5v2 THEO5v3 THEO5v4  THEO5v5   THEO5v6  THEO5v7  THEO5v8  

vols 4 and 5 1767 reprint

Britannica entry on Theobald (1911)

Nichols's Illustrations, which contains much of the correspondence between Theobald, Matthew Concanen, Styan Thirlby, and William Warburton on editing Shakespeare.

Hanmer, Warburton, Johnson


Sir Thomas Hanmer (1743-44, 1745)

Hanmer (1677-1746) was Speaker of the House of Commons as well as a Shakespeare editor. For this second feat, he quarreled with his erstwhile friends Warburton and Pope, who mostly used him for their own gain and attempt at influence, since the genial Hanmer was well-connected and well-liked, unlike the two of them.  Most of his ed. was ia reboot of Pope's second.  It is known for its excellent engravings by Hubert-François Gravelot after paintings  by Francis Hayman. It also uses a truly beautiful typeface. It does not contribute much to the editorial history of Shakespeare except to make a bridge from Pope to Warburton. Some scholars dismiss Hanmer as a dilettante.  Warburton described him once as "a true critical genius." Arguably his achievement lies between these extremes.

Neither of Hanmer's productions names him as editor.  Controversy embroiled the publication of both. For the 1743-44 first ed., Warburton complained that Hanmer stole many of his best ideas for conjectural emendations, which has never been verified. It was the first Shakespeare not to be published in London by the Tonson brothers. They took exception to this, thinking themselves the holders of proprietary rights over the works. In 1745, they issued a pirated "reprint" of the first ed. in London under their flagship. However, the matter did not end there.  Some later commentators believed that this was actually Warburton's edition, a prelude to the text that he published in 1747. This second Hanmer has revealed itself to be not so much a reprint as a revision of the first, which is why Shakespeare editors refer to it as Hanmer 2.  If Warburton were responsible for the changes, argued Arthur Sherbo (see below), it is curious that he neither claimed nor included them in his ed. of two years later, which would have been unusual for the vainglorious prelate. 


HAN1v1  HAN1v2  HAN1v3  HAN1v4  HAN1v5  HAN1v6


HAN2v1  HAN2v2  HAN2v3  HAN2v4  HAN2v5  HAN2v6


HAN3v1  HAN3v2  HAN3v3  HAN3v4  HAN3v5  HAN3v6

Sidney Lee's DNB entry on Hanmer

Giles Dawson essay on the 1745 ed.

Arthur Sherbo response

Terry Gray's archived Hanmer page.


William Warburton (1747)

William Warbuton (1698-1779) became Bishop of Gloucester in 1759. Of Shakespeare's 18th c editors, his reputation is the lowest. He corresponded with Hanmer and Theobald and claimed they had plagiarized notes from their correspondence with him for their own eds.  He remained friends with Pope, edited his works, and based his Shakespeare ed on his second ed. (1728).  He convinced Pope to replace Colley Cibber with Theobald as King of the Dunces in The Dunciad. Because of Theobald's Shakespeare Restored (1726), Pope was only too happy to comply.

Posterity and Warburton's contemporaries administered the criitcal equivalent of a savage beating. Heath, Thomas Edwards, and John Upton were not kind in their evaluations. Dr Johnson seems to have taken something like glee in ridiculing some of his conjectures and emendations. Yet he based his own ed. on Warburton's, and he thought some of the attacks were too much, undignified. In The Life of Johnson, James Boswell reported:

Soon after Edwards's Canons of Criticism came out, Johnson was dining at Tonson the Bookseller's, with Hayman the Painter and some more company. Hayman related to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Edwards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit. But when they went farther, and appeared to put that authour upon a level with Warburton, "Nay, (said Johnson,) he has given him some smart hits to be sure; but there is no proportion between the two men; they must not be named together. A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still."

Cambridge History entry on Warburton

Arthur Sherbo essay


Upton, Critical Observations (1748)

Edwards, Canons of Criticism (1748)

Heath, Revisal of Shakespeare's Text (1765)


Dr. Samuel Johnson (1765, 1766)

Dr. Johnson produced two eds. in as many years. As great as he was, it has been said that his practices as editor were not that innovative, and it was left to Capell after him to advance that state of the art that Theobald had demonstrated in his first production of Shakespeare in print  (1733). It was long held that Johnson merely updated Warburton.  Yet Arthur Eastman proved in the middle of the last century that Warburton based his text on Theobald's second ed. of 1740, which Johnson apparently knew, and better yet, Johnson used Theobald's revised text of 1757 to assist him further. The same critic in another study estimated correctly that the 1765 ed. offered approximately 15,000 changes from its two purported copy texts. This  revelation benefited the reputation of all three Enlightenment editors. 

JOHN1v1  JOHN1v2  JOHN1v3  JOHN1v4  JOHN1v5  JOHN1v6  JOHN1v7  JOHN1v8 

Mr. Johnson's Preface to His Edition of Shakespear's Plays (1765)

Marcus Walsh, "Making Sense of Shakespeare: Editing from Pope to Capell" (2004)

Ritson, Remarks (1783)

Eastman on Johnson's text (1950)

Capell, Steevens, Rann


Edward Capell (1768)

Most Shakespeare scholars who study his publication history have concluded that Capell's was the second of the triad of great 18th c. eds., preceded by Theobald and followed by Malone. Marcus Walsh (2001) noted that it was the first issuing of the works since the seventeenth century that used the original title of the Folios, with Shakespeare's name first. Capell omitted his name from the title-page, just as Jennens did and Boswell the Younger would. As Walsh said, "To revert to the 1623 folio title is at once to make a claim of genuineness and originality, to assert the authenticity of the text presented in these volumes." Therefore, "These are strategies which give Shakespeare an uncontested authority." Capell went further than Theobald in collating early editions, perhaps inspired by George Steevens's Twenty Plays of two years earlier, the first ed. to be based on the quartos.

CAPv1a  CAPv1b  CAPv2  CAPv3 CAPv4 CAPv5  CAPv6  CAPv7  CAPv8 CAPv9  CAPv10

Notes and Various Readings


CAPN1783:  VRv1  VRv2.  VRv3

Terry Gray's Capell page


George Steevens (1766); Samuel Johnson-George Steevens (1773)

George Steevens's Twenty Plays (1766) was the first edition based on the quartos, and the first to include the 1609 quarto of the Sonnets. Charles Gildon had previously published the mashups of Shakespeare's cycle from the John Benson 1640 Poems in Rowe's 1709 text, vol. 7. Most of the quartos were from the personal collection of David Garrick.


v1773 was the first real variorum edition in the spirit of the Latin phrase "cum notis variorum" (with the notes of various editors). It was mostly Steevens's work, without much input from Johnson.

v1773v1  v1773v2  v1773v3  v1773v4  v1773v5  v1773v6  v1773v7  v1773v8  v1773v9  v1773v10


Joseph Rann (1787-94)

The Reverend Rann's 6-volume ed. (1787-95) largely follows v1778 (below).  He contributed a clean text and spare notes to Shakespeare studies, an alternative to the commentary-heavy variorums of the time. He was Vicar of S. Trinity in Coventry, the market town near Stratford (17 m, 27 km) with its own mystery cycle that Shakespeare might have witnessed. 

Rann's ed. has the distinction of being the second major Shakespeare set to be published in Oxford after Hanmer's (1744), and the second by the Clarendon Press, after Hanmer's third ed. of 1770-71

RANNv1  RANNv2  RANNv3  RANNv4  RANNv5  RANNv6  

Charlotte Endymion Porter on Rann

Reed, Malone, Steevens

Isaac Reed

Samuel Johnson-George Steevens-Isaac Reed II (1778) & III (1785)

Steevens revised v1773 with the help of Isaac Reed.  Johnson's notes were preserved but he added nothing original. The real value in the edition is the two-volume supplement by Edmond Malone, which added more commentary and other invaluable context. 

v1778v1   v1778v2  v1778v3  v1778v4  v1778v5  v1778v6  v1778v7 v1778v8 

v1778v9  v1778v10

MAL1780v1 MAL1780v2

Reed supervised v1785, and it was long thought that most of it merely reprinted v1778.  However, the work of William Woodson has revealed that this is absolutely untrue. All plays were revised in some way, more than a few heavily. 

v1785v1  v1785v2  v1785v3  v1785v4  v1785v5  v1785v6  v1785v7  v1785v8  v1785v9  v1785v10

Mason, Comments on the Last Edition of Shakespeare's Plays (on v1785)


Edmond Malone (1790)

All in all, probably the best edition of the eighteenth century, and in some ways, it has not been equaled. Malone was the finest editor Shakespeare had been privileged to have to that point, and the achievement only becomes more remarkable when considering Malone's two-volume 1780 supplement to v1778. For the first time, in both eds., the Q1609 Sonnets was the copy-text.

v1790v1a  v1790v1b  v1790v2  v1790v3  v1790v4  v1790v5  v1790v6  v1790v7  v1790v8  v1790v9  v1790v10


Samuel Johnson-George Steevens IV (1793)

This was sometimes known as "Steevens's own edition," though it is a correction and continuation of the previous variorums of 1773, 1778, and 1778.

v1793v1  v1793v2  v1793v3  v1793v4  v1793v5  v1793v6  v1793v7  v1793v8

v1793v9   v1793v10  v1793v11  v1793v12

v1793v13  v1793v14  v1793v15

Ancillaries: Thomas Johnson, Charles Jennens


Thomas Johnson (1710-11)

Johnson was a printer and bookseller who worked out of the Netherlands, an ancient place of business for English book traders and publishers. He issued two versions of A Collection of the Best English Plays, 1710-11 and 1720-22. The first lists its place of publication as The Hague, and the second as London, though different volumes in both editions are inconsistent on this matter.  Most of Johnson's playwrights are from his own time, but the first two volumes are Shakespeare or adaptations, and therefore consulted by scholarly editors of those plays.  Some believe that both Pope and Rowe (3rd version, 1714) owned some of Johnson's editions, since their readings sometimes seem to have been anticipated by his.

TJOH1v1  TJOH1v2


Charles Jennens (1774)


Jennens (1700-73) was a wealthy patron of the arts, and a supporter and librettist for Handel, contributing the libretto for Messiah. He created five excellent critical editions with footnotes of the "Big Four" plus one: Ham., Lr., Oth., Mac. and JC. Editors of those plays usually consult his versions and adopt some of his readings and commentary. These were the first single truly critical editions of Shakespeare plays.


Telegraph article on Jennens

Messiah: An Oratorio (1770)