Andrew Murphy. Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. 518pp. ISBN-13: 9780521771047.

Tom Rooney
Central European University

Tom Rooney. "Review of Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print: A History and Chronology." Early Modern Literary Studies 13.1 (May, 2007) 9.1-6<URL:>.

  1. While working on an edition of Shakespeare, F.J. Furnivall is reported to have said “Why didn’t the brute edit his own works? He could have done it in a month, and spared us poor devils the bother of centuries.”(209) In Shakespeare in Print, Andrew Murphy provides readers with a history and a catalogue of much of the work these “poor devils” have done over the years. The result is a magnificently researched, stylishly written, highly informative account that both students and scholars will find useful.

  2. The book is divided into two parts. The first is a narrative history, in eleven chapters, of editing and publishing from the early quartos through the early twenty-first century. Murphy’s objective is to “set the extended narrative of Shakespeare publishing within something of its greater historical and cultural contexts.”(10) He rightly argues that editing and publishing are inextricably linked, yet the latter is often neglected by Shakespeare scholars. Thus, he does more than simply retell the history of various editions; he discusses the role of publishers such as the Tonsons, the importance of the copyright disputes of the eighteenth century, and the impact of popular editions in the nineteenth century (and beyond). The second part is an appendix of publications, in chronological order, from 1593 to 2002. Over 1,700 editions are listed, many with annotation describing them. All single editions up to Nicholas Rowe’s in 1709 are included, as are all collected/complete editions until 1821. The sheer number of editions that have appeared since the early nineteenth century led Murphy to base this part of his work on the works recommended in the Variorum Handbook, a resource for editors working in the New Variorum series. More than 1,200 editions published after 1821 are listed. Five indices guide the reader through the chronology; these are organized by title, series title, editor, publisher and place of publication.

  3. The focus throughout Shakespeare in Print is on work published in English in England, Scotland, Ireland and America. (As the author points out, trying to tell the story of Shakespeare in translation would require volumes, as would attempting to discuss editing and publishing in the wider English-speaking world.) All the usual editorial suspects are here, from Rowe, Pope and Malone in the eighteenth century to Wilson, Alexander and Wells in the twentieth. But Murphy also focuses on the important work other editors have done, including one working in the nineteenth century whose ground-breaking edition has largely been neglected by scholars rummaging around in the eighteenth-century archives: Richard Grant White. (He was the first American editor to base his work on the texts of early quartos and folios, which he was able to access in certain private collections in the United States.)

  4. One real highlight is Murphy’s style. While the narrative is in chronological order, he deftly moves back and forth across chapters to make links. For example, he splits his story of the nineteenth century into two chapters, discussing first popular and then scholarly editions, but within each chapter he refers to the other. Nothing, in other words, is discussed in isolation.

  5. My one reservation concerns balance in the chapter on late twentieth-century editions, where more than twelve pages are devoted to the 1986 Oxford edition of the complete works. This is one of the most detailed discussions of any single work in the book, no doubt due in part to its controversial reception. By contrast, G. Blakemore Evans’s 1972 Riverside edition is quickly glossed over in a page. This is a pity, as it gives readers the impression that the one has been ten times as important as the other. While Murphy is at pains to point out that his work is not as exhaustive as it might be, I believe a bit less on Oxford and a bit more on Riverside would have given a fairer impression of their relative influence.

  6. All in all, however, Murphy’s work is exemplary, and deserves to reach a wide audience. I am confident most readers will learn something new, particularly about Shakespeare publishing outside London, and in the nineteenth century. The appendix is a pioneering and essential reference work: no one has attempted to gather such a large amount of information in one monograph before. This will be the first place many textual scholars will turn to in future. The narrative should also be the starting place for newcomers to the history of Shakespeare on the page. The final three chapters on the New Bibliography, its influence and the backlash against it, are particularly fine.

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© 2007-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).