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The structure of the Cambridge Edition

The PRINT EDITION of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson contains the author’s seventeen completed plays, his surviving dramatic fragments, his more than thirty court masques and entertainments, his three major collections of poems (Epigrams, The Forest, The Underwood) along with other occasional and miscellaneous verses, his revised translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica, The English Grammar, his commonplace book, Discoveries, his letters, and the Informations to William Drummond of Hawthornden, together with brief accounts of lost plays and entertainments. The texts are edited in modern spelling, and are sequenced in an order corresponding to the chronology of Jonson’s career. Each text is accompanied by an introduction (or headnote, in the case of the non-collected poems and letters) which supplies essential information about its date, sources, and interpretation, and gives a brief account of the textual witnesses from which our edition derives. Each is supported by commentary and collation; in rare cases, where the commentary is too dense for on-page presentation, some extra material is placed in appendices at the end of the work in question. The Print Edition aims to present Jonson’s texts in a form which combines thoroughness of explanation with readability. It explicates his works fully in the light of modern scholarship, and endeavours to make them accessible to readers for whom Jonson has sometimes appeared a formidably difficult author.

The ELECTRONIC EDITION of the Cambridge Edition, which will appear in staged instalments, includes the entire contents of the Print Edition, together with its introductions, collations, and commentaries, in fully searchable format. To this it adds a series of satellite archives and databases which supplement and extend the material in the Print Edition. These will be revised and updated to take in future developments in knowledge about Jonson. While the Print Edition is designed to be fully usable and intelligible in itself, readers in need of more detailed information – seeking to check (say) a textual reading, or a theatrical record, or a musical setting, or a legal transcript, or an eye-witness account of a court masque – might wish to consult one or more of the various databases in the Electronic Edition:

Textual archive. This, the most extensive database, contains digital images of many of the major manuscripts and all of the early printed books from which the edited text is derived, down to the second folio of 1640–1. It presents transcripts of all the old-spelling texts in fully searchable format, linked and cross-referenced to the modern-spelling Print Edition, allowing the modernized text to be directly compared with its sources. All of the holographs and most of the textually significant scribal manuscripts are included here, along with a selection of Jonson’s autograph inscriptions. Additionally, each text has a textual essay which records its variants in full, and analyses the relationship between the various print and (where available) manuscript witnesses. There are also essays analysing the collected editions from the second folio to Herford and Simpson.

Dubia. This contains an edition of the few texts which have been attributed to Jonson’s authorship but without conclusive proof either way, and brief discussion of the texts to which Jonson’s name has been spuriously attached. For a fuller description, see ‘The canon’, below.

Life records. This contains most of the surviving documents relating to Jonson’s biography, freshly transcribed and edited in old spelling. It also has a selection of early lives of Jonson written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Performance database. This has four components: a calendar listing all known performances of Jonson’s plays and masques to 2010, to be updated periodically; individual essays on the stage history of all of the plays for which a significant performance tradition exists, and a consolidated essay on revivals of the masques; an essay on films and adaptations of the plays; and a selection of images of the plays in performance.

Masque records. This contains transcripts of all the contextual documentation relating to performances of the masques, such as extracts from the court’s financial accounts, eyewitness testimony, ambassadors’ reports, and other miscellaneous commentary. The extracts are edited in old spelling, with fresh translations of the French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch documents.

Music edition. This comprises a complete critical edition of the music associated with Jonson, and an introductory essay. It contains nearly fifty songs from the plays, poems, and masques, and two dozen dance tunes that can with reasonable confidence be linked to the masques. Most are seventeenth-century settings, though in a few significant cases (such as ‘Drink to me only’, or music which survives only in later sources) some post-1700 examples are included. The music has all been freshly re-edited from the original sources, and each item has a separate collation and commentary. Alternative versions have been supplied for some items, since several of the songs acquired multiple settings, and many of the dances survive in variant arrangements for different combinations of instruments.

Jonson’s library. This section provides a complete list of the books that are known to have been in Jonson’s library or to have been given by him to patrons and friends. It includes a summary account of the often extensive marginalia contained in the surviving examples and of Jonson’s handwriting, along with some images of representative marginalia.

Literary record. This database collects a selective body of allusions to Jonson during his life and afterwards, down to 1700. It consists of tributary verse, early criticism of the works, and references to Jonson the man, exemplifying the ways that Jonson was spoken of in his lifetime and subsequently remembered.

Bibliography. This includes a full list of books and essays relating to Jonson down to 2009, to be updated periodically, and all works cited in the edition commentary. Individual items are electronically linked to those parts of the commentary in which they are cited.

The Guidelines for the edition, based on the document originally prepared by the General Editors at the commencement of work on the edition. These provide a detailed account of conventions and procedures followed throughout the edition.