Reed, Malone, Boswell


Samuel Johnson-George Steevens-Isaac Reed V (1803, "First Variorum")

The largest edition of Shakespeare to date, v1803 occupied the first three volumes with prefatory materials before getting to the plays in volume 4.  The meticulous fulsomeness was counterbalanced by a desire to present more Shakespeare and less scaffolding.

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Samuel Johnson-George Steevens-Isaac Reed VI (1813, "Second Variorum")


Edmond Malone-James Boswell the Younger (1821, "Third Variorum")

 James Boswell the Younger conceived of the edition as a way to validate Malone and defend him from what he considered to be Steevens's unjust criticism of his hero.

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Boydell, Chalmers, Singer


The Boydell Shakespeare (1791-1805)


Josiah Boydell conceived an edition of Shakespeare based on those of Steevens and Reed, illustrated by prints based on episodes in the plays in order to encourage historical painting in England.  A gallery was established as well, and the edition was produced between 1791-1805. Arguably, this initiated the movement away from the encyclopedic variorum text in favor of an illustrated, popular Shakespeare, which accorded well with nineteenth-century taste.


Wiki on Boydell

William D. Moffat  on Boydell in Shakesperiana (1887)


Alexander Chalmers (1805)

Chalmers presented the v1803 virtually entire, sans commentary, which some saw as a welcome development.

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Chalmers's DNB entry


Samuel Weller Singer (1826, 1856)


Singer’s 1826 multivolume edition of the plays was created in reaction to the line of Variorum editions of Johnson, Steevens, Reed, and Boswell (1773-1821) with their sometimes prodigious commentary, with illustrations and relatively few commentary notes. His second edition (1856) reflects three subsequent decades of Shakespeare scholarship, as well as the controversies created by the Collier forgeries in the Perkins Folio. It is almost always fully collated by contemporary Shakespeare editors. The 1856 ed. was greatly improved by the help of Knight and Collier, handsomely printed, and well respected. Singer was an autodidact like many Shakespeareans. Though he was somewhat disdainful of his 18th. c. predecessors, he relies on them heavily for commentary, most often uncredited.

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The Text of Shakespeare Vindicated (1853)

Singer's DNB entry.

Valpy, Knight, Collier


Abraham John Valpy (1832-34)

Valpy (1787-1854) was a scholar, classicist, and foremost a printer, bringing out scholarly and popular editions of modern and ancient writers His Shakespeare featured the sumptuous illustrations of Boydell accompanying the text as edited by Malone, with a minimum of commentary.





Valpy's DNB entry from 1900


Charles S. Knight (1841)

 Knight was a publishing polymath. He produced four fine editions of Shakespeare along with a biography and weighed in on the Collier controversy. He was a journalist, published The English Cyclopedia (vol1, vol2, vol3) and a history of England, and superintended the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. This first edition was second in line, after Samuel Weller Singer’s 1826 Shakespeare, of the major post-Variorum editions. Like Singer, he eschwed the extensive scholarly commentary of the Enlightenment editors, aiming for a general, even popular audience. The illustrations, of course, were the selling point, and are marvelously done.

His entry

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Studies of Shakspere (1849)


John Payne Collier (1842-44; 1878)

Collier chose criminality because he believed he would not be taken seriously on his own merits, even though it was well known that he had been friends with Keats, his father had entertained Wordsworth and other luminaries at the family home, and he had tutored Singer and Knight to some extent in perfectly legitimate editorial method. Nevertheless, entrusted with valuable mss. and books, he forged names and signatures and commentary in an unconvincing secretary hand.  His greatest crime was his interpolation of neo-seventeenth-century marginalia in the "Perkins Folio," a copy of F2, ruining it forever.  He was discovered and excoriated.  Oddly, the emendations he forged were good and tenable conjectures, and would have been acceptable in book form or as part of an edition under his own name, without the folderol travesty of "Tho. Perkins." He published four Shakespeare collections and the first is usually the one that scholars consult. Because his chicanery was so intertwined with his second and third editions,  scholars often quote them because, like it or not, they are part of the textual history of the plays. Some later scholars adapted those emendations in their published editions. The fourth edition (1878) was advertised as a clean break from the past, though he sometimes defends "Perkins folio" materials.


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Univeristy of Delaware page on the Collier Controversy

Terry Gray's page on Collier

Reasons for a New Edition (1842)

Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare's Plays from Early Manuscript Corrections in a Copy of the Folio, 1632 (1853)

Verplanck, Delius, Keightley


Gulian C. Verplanck (1847)


Nicolaus Delius (1854-60)



Leopold Edition (1883): Frederick Furnivall's English version of Delius's text. 

Bekannt wurde Delius durch seine Shakespeare-Ausgabe, die er zwischen 1854 und 1860 veröffentlichte. Dies verschaffte ihm, der seit 1855 eine Doppelprofessur für Französisch und Englisch hatte, bis 1880 einen Lehrstuhl für Anglistik, den ersten in Deutschland überhaupt. Delius war Mitbegründer und lange Zeit Vorsitzender der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaftund verfasste eine Vielzahl von Aufsätzen, Abhandlungen und Übersetzungen zu diesem Themenfeld. Seine wertvolle Shakespearesammlung vermachte er der Stadtbibliothek Bremen

Nikolaus Delius became well known for his edition of Shakespeare’s works between 1854 and 1860. Since 1855 Delius held a chair for combined French-English studies but because of this edition he was given a chair in English studies, the first ever to be given in Germany. He held the chair up to 1880. Delius was a co-founder and for years to come chairman of the Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (German Shakespeare Society). He was the author of a multitude of articles, papers, and translations regarding Shakespeare. He left his valuable Shakespeare collection to the Bremen public library 


Thomas Keightley (1864)


Keightley edited Milton as well as Shakespeare, but was probably better known for his History of Greece (1848) and The Fairy Mythology (1828), both of which went through many subsequent editions. He was not conservative with Shakespeare’s text, emending freely, often judiciously, and tends to be quoted occasionally by Variorum editors 


The Shakespeare Expositor (1867)

Halliwell, Hudson, Dyce


James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (1864)

Halliwell-Phillipps (known by his first surname for most of his life) was a Shakespeare polymath and well-regarded editor and biographer to most.  The dark side: some theft, book mutilation, and other chicanery.  He had an enormous collection of antiquarian material that Henry Clay Folger acquired from a third party, which now resides at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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Guardian article on Halliwell-Phillipps


Henry N. Hudson (1851, 1891)

 Hudson created the first significant American edition of Shakespeare (1851-56) after that of G.C. Verplanck (1847), with others to follow, most notably the Hudson School Shakespeare (1871-73) and the magisterial final edition (1881). Some scholars consider him invaluable in the line of editors and commentators. 


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Alexander Dyce

Dyce was a Johnsonian polymath, with three editions of Shakespeare (1857; 1864-67; 1875-76), one of Skelton, Middleton, an anthology of women poets, Shirley, Will Kempe, Collins, Beaumont and Fletcher, Marlowe, and more.  He was friends with Collier but did not spare him in his analysis of the Perkins folio or other forgeries.

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Staunton, White, Rolfe


Howard Staunton

Staunton was much better known as a chess player than a Shakespearean, but enjoyed editing so much that he took it up as a kind of vocation.

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Richard Grant White

Known as Grant White, just as John Dover Wilson was known as Dover Wilson and C.F. Tucker Brooke preferred to omit his praenomen, he was probably the first truly original American editor.  

(1857-66--some vols. are the 1888 rpt. of this ed.)

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1883 Riverside ed.

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Studies in Shakespeare (1886)

Terry Gray's Grant White page


William J. Rolfe

Rolfe was an educator who spent most of his career in Boston and environs.  It is said that George Lyman Kittredge used his editions of the plays in his courses at Harvard. He helped with the revision of George L. Craik's The English of Shakespeare (1872), focusing on JC.  He edited Tennyson, Milton, Ovid, and Vergil.

"The Friendly Shakespeare," 40 vols.  (1870-1911)

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Life of Shakespeare (1904)

The Globe Shakespeare

Globe tp, 1864

The Fabulous Globe

The Globe was immensely popular and affordable. The original print run of 50,000 was thought to be a disastrous exercise in publishing overconfidence. As it happens, that was not nearly enough to satisfy demand, and its sales reached 100, 000 copies. Its line-numbers and act and scene divisions are still used for Norton and Riverside editions. It was the first truly critical edition. Each play for the first time was completely collated by the earliest editions of the the given work generally known.  

Its final editors, William George Clark (1823-78) and William Aldis Wright (1831-1914) are generally credited with standardizing the spelling of Shakespeare's name as is seen now, rather than the many forms in early editions according to his signatures or interpretations of them. 

Open Source Shakespeare page on the Globe.

The complete Globe text

Wliiam George Clark

Clark and Wright

Both Clark (pictured) and Wright reached Cambridge from humble origins, the former the son of a farmer and the latter the son of a Baptist minister. Wright's adhered to his family's faith, so his religious nonconformity  prevented him becoming a fellow at Trinity College until 1878, even though he was the college librarian.  Clark's Anglicanism meant he could reach this status by the age of 23 in 1852.  It is alleged that the two men were antipodal in personality, Clark gregarious and pleasant, Wright a dour loner. 

Trinity College bio of Wright

Christopher Decker on the Clark and Wright collaborations

William Aldis Wright, NPG


Wright (pictured) and Clark bore a resemblance to one another. Neither married, seeing their profession as a vocation. Each read several languages and produced scholarship on ancient texts, Clark on Greek antiquity, Wright on the Bible. They were both self-taught textual scholars and encouraged each other's ideas for innovation, such as standardized act, scene, and line-numbers, which greatly aided scholarship and reference work. 

 Open Source Shakespeare site on Clark and Wright 

Clark, Glover, Wright


Clark, Glover, and Wright: First Cambridge (1865)

In tandem, GLO and CAM1 were arguably the first edition in the modern dual incarnation of a one-volume and multivolume form.  William George Clark (pictured) and William Aldis Wright were the editors for the Globe and the last eight volumes of CAM1, Clark with John Glover (1823-84) on the first. Glover was Librarian at Trinity College, Cambridge.  When Glover left Cambridge to be Vicar of Brading, Isle of Wight in 1862, Wright took over his position with the university and with Clark on the Globe. 

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William Aldis Wright, by Walter William Ouless

Second Cambridge (1891), Clarendon Press Series

William Aldis Wright (pictured) prepared this edition entirely by himself. 

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Clarendon Press Series, First Oxford

William Aldis Wright (NPG)

Clarendon Press Series Shakespeare (1869-90)

William Aldis Wright (pictued) assumed complete control of this series on the retirement of Clark.  These are handsome single editions that reflect the best of the Cambridge work. 



First Oxford (1891)

W. J. Craig (1843-1906) taught at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Trinity College, Dublin. He preferred private tutoring in London, for which he was highly esteemed. One of his pupils was the future great Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki.  This helped add to Shakespeare's reputation and popularity in Japan, influencing artists such as Akira Kurosawa, the film director known for his adaptations of Mac (Throne of Blood) and Lr. (Ran).  

Craig's major project was a glossary of Shakespeare that he never finished. Yet his ed. (1891) was his legacy, serving as Oxford's Shakespeare for almost a century. R . B. McKerrow had planned an old-spelling complete works, even writing a Prolegomenon laying out his principles (1938), but death intervened. 


Pickering, Irving-Marshall


William Pickering (1825)

Although there is some debate about the matter, Pickering (1796-1854) is often credited with developing the first dyed cloth binding on boards with the title printed on the spine. He was apprenticed to a printer in 1810 and set up his own shingle in 1820.  He was an impresario and a raconteur, spending money freely. He enjoyed the craft of printing and bookbinding, but not the business end of it. Pickering specialized in miniature books, and his 1825 Shakespere was the smallest edition (9 x 5 cm) known up to that time. It could be said that he invented the modern pocket book. The text is said to follow v1778 or v1785.

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(Illustration: William Pickering and Charles Whittingham in the summer house at Chiswick)


Henry Irving and Frank Marshall (1889-90)

There had been no performance-oriented Shakespeare since Bell's edition of 1773, which printed promptbooks from Drury Lane. Irving and Marshall's edition of 1889-90 changed that. Of humble and obscure origin, Irving (born John Henry Brodribb in 1838) was self-educated, flamboyant, and wonderfuly entertaining as an actor in Shakespeare and popular repertory. He took over the management of the Lyceum Theatre in the West End in 1878.  The year was momentous because he began his professional partnership with Ellen Terry (1847-1928). They collaborated on a number of magnificent Shakespeare productions, including a MV that ran for 260 nights, with Terry as Portia and Irving as Shylock. 

Irving was especially keen on making his edition for actors, with cues and added stage-directions. Marshall and many other great scholars wrote the other notes and the introductions. Each volume is lavishly illustrated.

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(Terry and Irving in an adaptation of Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield.  They were fortunate to have each other, and they knew it.)