May 24, 2012

The expectation that Shakespeare would edify as well as entertain arose only much later.  Even (or perhaps especially) in mid-eighteenth century America, Shakespeare was cobbled in the “many Valuable Books” in the 1742 Yale College Library catalog, but only at the very end, alongside Cervantes, Ben Jonson, and others of colorful repute.  The student was encouraged to intermix these “other less principal Studies” only with the most regular course of study.

And yet, intermix readers clearly did, as the copy of Rowe’s 1714 Shakespeare listed here does not survive in the Yale University Library collections.  The copy of Ben Jonson’s works does, however: much signed and annotated, much foxed, in library buckram, and bearing all the marks of a well-loved and diverting academical interlude.

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