Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 38. Editions of Shakespeare

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXV. Scholars

§ 38. Editions of Shakespeare

American editions of Shakespeare, from 1795, when the first one, edited anonymously, was published in Philadelphia, down to 1836, have considerable bibliographical interest, but bibliographical interest almost exclusively. They are all derived, with a minimum of editorial work, from contemporary English editions. The possible exception is the Philadelphia edition of 1805–9, anonymous but pretty surely edited by Joseph Dennie, who, adopting Reed’s text of 1803, made a few changes after the text of Ayscough (Dublin, 1791), suggested some conjectural emendations of his own, generally needless, and added a large number of original notes, mostly verbal. The Boston edition of 1836, edited anonymously by Oliver William Bourn Peabody (1799–1848), at that time an editor of The North American Review, is the first American Shakespeare which at least professes to base its text independently upon the Folio of 1623. In point of fact, Peabody’s text is mainly that of Singer; there are very few avowed textual emendations; and of these about one-third “do not follow the Folio, although they would better have done so.” Peabody’s few notes deal with the text as such. It is his distinction to have been the first American textual critic of Shakespeare, and to have set before himself at least as an ideal the constitution of a text upon the early authorities.