The Works of Shakespear in Nine Volumes with a Glossary. Carefully Printed from the Oxford Edition in Quarto, 1744 (1747)

By M. L. Stapleton

I collect eighteenth-century Shakespeare editions, an outgrowth of my scholarship in this area, which in turn originated from my work as editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare Julius Caesar.  I recently acquired a 1747 reprint of the 1743-44 Oxford Shakespeare, a relationship that the former’s title page explicitly proclaims, albeit without the sumptuous typefaces and magnificent illustrations by Francis Hayman and Hubert Gravelot in the latter. Sir Thomas Hanmer’s name appears nowhere in the six volumes of the original or the nine of the reissue, but scholarly consensus decreed that he composed the preface preceding Alexander Pope’s and the Rowe biography of the playwright in the first tome. A second, corrected Hanmer edition appeared in 1745, and a third in 1770-71. 

In my group of nine, each except the first includes the handwritten name of its two probable owners, El[i]z[abeth] Philips and Maria Goodford Jun[io]r, the first in quill pen, the second likely in nineteenth-century steel fountain ink. In each signature, Philips commemorates her date of possession as 1756. Goodford simply identifies as herself. In every instance, someone has crossed out Elizabeth’s name.  There are no other annotations in the set: no significant passages marked out, no underlining, no starred lines or words.

Who were these women? The most recent seller of the set spells Elizabeth’s surname as Philips, but in some of her signatures, she seems to have spelled it Phelips, which would be an unusual, but not unheard of, variation. Philips, Phelps, and Phelips might have similar origins. Though Junior and Senior are traditionally male appendages, so to speak, some women named after their mothers adopted them in the nineteenth century, which might account for Maria’s form of self-identification.  An intriguing search revealed that an Elizabeth Philips in the late eighteenth century had a sister named Maria, who in turn married a Goodford. However, the dates do not match up well enough to make a sibling relationship probable.

That the otherwise unknown Philips and Goodford owned this pocket-sized reprint set of the Hanmer Shakespeare accords perfectly with what scholarship has uncovered over the last fifty years about English women’s readership in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.  Many notable studies, such as those by Fiona Richie, have tended to concentrate on recognizable figures such as the Enlightenment actresses, critics, and playgoers who left the Shakespeare-imbued traces of themselves that a scholar would be delighted to unearth, analyze, and bring to light in print. [1] Yet a rise in the literacy rate from 25% to 40% among European women between 1714 and 1750 allows for the possibility that those who were not Elizabeth Pepys, Margaret Cavendish, Lady Montagu, or Sarah Siddons read the plays and poetry, as well. [2]

As most students of mid-eighteenth-century Shakespeare editions know, negotiating the relationships and rivalries between Pope, William Warburton, Lewis Theobald and Sir Thomas can be formidable. Accounting for their squabbles to an audience unfamiliar with them can only be more so, and inadvisable here as a result. However, the publishing history of the 1747 Hanmer reprint is less complex, and significant for my present task. 

The “Tonson cartel” considered itself the owner of the Shakespeare copyright throughout the century and guarded what it believed to be its proprietary interest in publishing the works. Warburton had been preparing his edition of the plays and signed over his rights to Jacob Tonson III in January of that year, a deal brokered in part by the publishers of his theological works, John and Paul Knapton, sub-proprietors of the family business that Jacob had inherited. The expensive nine-guinea Oxford edition was not under the firm’s purview but would prove to outsell Warburton’s less pricey eighteen-shilling publication. [3] Hence John Osborn, a London publisher, saw his opportunity, defied the status quo, and issued the more affordable nine-volume reprint delineated here that belonged to Philips and Goodford, variously described as duodecimo or octodecimo, but in any case, a small size. Predictably, the monopolists  “threatened, prosecuted, and tried every other artifice, to intimidate him from printing Shakespear.”  However, “Mr. Osborne having calmly answered, That, if they talked any more to him in that Style, he would print a Dozen of Books which they had such pretended Rights.” As a result, “They immediately, and justly took the Alarm, and were glad to take the half of the Impression off his Hands, at the Price he was pleased to put upon it, besides allowing him, as it is said, an annual Pension, which he enjoys to this Day, to buy him off from reprinting upon them.” [4] In other words, the Knaptons bought out Osborne’s copies and reissued them under their own names along with the Tonsons, thus re-cementing the monopoly, which could now boast of an inexpensive version for sale of the Hanmer production that had so eluded them.

Traditional textual editors, unlike most book historians today, have not often concerned themselves with material labeled “paratextual”—introductions, annotations, typefaces—though such divisions have become less distinct. As Georg Stanitzek drolly observed, these things “mean that no text ever has a truly paratext-free moment.” [5] Sociological theories of book production usefully attempt to account for other factors involved, e.g., the influence of stationers, printers, publishers, or how fluid these categories were three centuries ago; market forces; and, of course, the person identified as the editor and what he actually did. These are things worth considering, since they probably influenced the creation of the material text in ways we have yet to discover. Why did an editor make a choice to emend, or not? What did he think he was doing? If there was a theory behind what he did, did he always follow it?

Did contemporary readers care about such things? This economic competition in Shakespeare publishing doubtless favored the consumer. It shows there was a market for an affordable edition of the playwright who was becoming the National Poet some two decades before the Garrick Jubilee of 1769, such as the Osborne reprint of Hanmer’s edition. The books were small, designed for one hand if necessary, yet clearly printed in legible type, unencumbered with engravings and explanatory notes of warring commentators. Margins were large enough to allow for annotations, passages that could be marked out to be recalled or memorized. The 1747 set was one that women such as Philips and, later, Goodford could buy, keep, inscribe with their names, resell, and enjoy. 

[1] See Richie’s Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 2014).

[2] Christina de Bellaigue, Educating Women—Schooling and Identity in England and France, 1800-1867 (Oxford, 2007).

[3] A. W. Ward and A. R. Waller, eds., The Cambridge History of English Literature, v. 5, The Drama to 1642, pt. 1 (Cambridge, 1910), 303.

[4] Respectively, Some Thoughts on the State of Literary Property, Humbly Submitted to the Consideration of the Public (London: Printed for Alexander Donaldson, 1764), 20; and Considerations on the Nature and Origin of Literary Property (Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Donaldson, 1767), 13-14.

[5] Georg Stanitzek. “Texts and Paratexts in Media,” Critical Inquiry 32 (1995): 30; 27-42.

Source: books privately owned. Photos by M. L. Stapleton, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Joan Acocella, “Turning the Page: How Women Became Readers,” The New Yorker, October 15 2012.

Giles Dawson, “Warburton, Hanmer, and the 1745 Edition of Shakespeare,” Studies in Bibliography 2 (1949-50): 35-48.

Donald W. Nichol, “Warburton (Not!) on Copyright: Clearing up the Misattribution of An Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Literary Property (1762),” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 12 (1996): 171-82.  A website devoted to historic editions of Shakespeare

3 thoughts on “The Works of Shakespear in Nine Volumes with a Glossary. Carefully Printed from the Oxford Edition in Quarto, 1744 (1747)

  1. georgiannaziegler

    Great find! I wonder if Elizabeth Phelips was from the Phelips family of Montacute House (16th c until 1911)? An Elizabeth Phelips was the second wife of Edward Phelips of Montacute. She died in 1750 but perhaps the name Elizabeth passed to one of her daughters or granddaughters? Montacute House had a major library, but in later years, the family ran into difficulties and many of their treasures were sold off. It looks as though your books are in the original 18th-c bindings. Is there a coat-of-arms stamp on the binding anywhere?


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