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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Status of Printed Playbooks in Early Modern England
by Pratt, Aaron T., Ph.D., Yale University, 2016, 292; 10160873
Abstract (Summary)

In early modern England, readers almost always encountered plays in copies that sold for around six pence. This was true even after publishers issued the famous folio editions of Jonson and Shakespeare in 1616 and 1623. Single-text playbooks were usually printed and sold in a quarto format; their uncut leaves measured roughly 6" x 8", and their quires were held together by the sewn equivalent of staples, which bibliographers call stab-stitching. To compare: in 1623, two copies of the First Folio cost one owner £2, which made for a price that was, per copy, a full forty times more than the price of a thin copy of Hamlet. For more than a century, scholars have called these flimsy playbooks "cheap quartos," and this term has increasingly become a loaded one. By the end of the 1980s, scholars almost always used "cheap quarto" and the related word "pamphlet" in contexts suggesting that playbooks were essentially ephemeral publications, read and appreciated in distinct ways from other kinds of literature, especially poetry. "The Status of Printed Playbooks in Early Modern England" develops a new literary history of quarto playbooks. It recovers the important role of these publications in efforts to imagine a literary field in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and argues that a vogue for playbook collecting among readers made the canonization of dramatic authors possible.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kastan, David Scott
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 78/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: British and Irish literature
Keywords: Bibliography, Book History, Drama, Early Modern England, Literature, Shakespeare
Publication Number: 10160873
ISBN: 978-1-369-15768-0
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