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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: December ::
Re: Knight's Imperial Edition
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0970.  Monday, 23 December 1996.

(1)     From:   Matthew Bibb <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Dec 96 16:52:40 PST
        Subj:   Re: Book Ages

(2)     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 21 Dec 1996 00:39:31 +0200
        Subj:   Knight's Imperial Edn.


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Bibb <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Dec 96 16:52:40 PST
Subject:        Re: Book Ages

Thanks to everyone for the help in solving the mystery of Knight's Imperial
Shakespeare! I can now sleep easy....

     Matt Bibb
     UCLA Shakespeare Reading and Performance Group

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Saturday, 21 Dec 1996 00:39:31 +0200
Subject:        Knight's Imperial Edn.

In light of the recent replies to Matthew Bibb's query, esp. the one from my
old friend and collaborator, Fran Teague, I am forwarding to all of you my
letter to Mr. Bibb of a few days ago.  I have made one minor correction in it
and revised one sentence to avoid ambiguity.  He has written me back that he
found the imprint Virtue and Yorston in the book, so his copy is one of the
100,000 I speak of.  JWV

Dear Matthew Bibb:

The edn. you describe is a reprint after mid nineteenth-century of the 1838-43
Imperial Edition pubd. by Charles Knight, the father of the paperback edn. of
Shakespeare and a socialist who believed that reading Shakespeare would assist
the lower illiterate classes toward literacy.  I say "paperback" because the
Imperial Edition was published in fascicles, one play per fascicle, and one
bought them for small amounts as they came out and then bound them if desired
when all 36 fascicles + Introductory material were in hand.  The edition led to
a revolution in Shakespeare publishing.  In the late 1960s, at the request of
J.C. Maxwell then editor of *Notes & Queries*, I carefully counted and
identified an impressive number of separate editions of KNT1 (as editors call
the Imperial Edn.) in the Folger Library collection between 1838 and 1875.  It
was in the 30s, I think.  If it matters to you I can look up the number.
Knight produced two other editions after KNT1  that were less elaborate and
cheaper; one of these is dated 1844.  Later, as he grew too old to do
aggressive publishing he eventually sold his copyrights in all his editions to
Virtue & Co. of Ln. a distinguished publisher.  What you have in hand is either
one of Virtue's many reprints of the Imperial or possibly an American piracy of
such a reprint.  I think the former, but the absence of date might tempt us to
think the latter.  Virtue eventually linked up with an American publisher, John
Yorston of New York. Yorston published a very handsome reprint of the Imperial
Edn. in 1875.  They projected a sale in the U.S. of some 100,000 copies, a
staggering number when you think that America was still a young country with a
small population. Your copy would not be from that edn. because the Virtue edn.
distributed by Yorston was designated "Virtue and Yorston" to beat the pirates.
 Copyright was sound in England and in America but not transatlantic.  So if
the book appeared in N.Y. and London simultaneously, it was copyright in both
places, and pirates could be prosecuted.  I think the chances are that your
rpt. if not a piracy, dates from the 1860s.

Hope this helps.

John Velz
 

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