Michael J. Price Lab for Digital Humanities

The New Shakespeare Census

The New Shakespeare Census

Zachary Lesser

Professor of English, Undergraduate Chair

Funding Period: 
February, 2017

Research Assistant: Rishabh Tagore, Economics 

The "New Shakespeare Census" will be an online database that lists all known extant copies of all Shakespeare editions through 1700, excluding the four folios (given that there is a recent census of F1, and a digital census of F2-4 in progress). The need for this project is great, since the last such census is now more than 75 years old, and since a great deal of cutting-edge work in Shakespeare studies involves the examination of particular copies for the evidence they can provide of the printing, publishing, and early reception of Shakespeare. The New Shakespeare Census will include quarto and octavo editions of all of the plays attributed to Shakespeare in the early modern period, including those now considered part of his canon and those considered “apocryphal,” such as A Yorkshire Tragedy and The Birth of Merlin. The Census also includes all editions of Shakespeare’s poems: Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, The Passionate Pilgrim, and Love’s Martyr (which contains “The Phoenix and the Turtle”). Phase 1 of the project will involve listing all copies by holding library, including copy-specific notes (if any) from the library catalogue, and (when possible) a transcription or facsimile of the entry for the particular copy in Henrietta Bartlett’s 1939 Census of Shakespeare’s Plays in Quarto. Phase 2 of the project, a long-term goal, will involve physical examinations of each copy to highlight distinguishing features, as well as fresh investigations of the provenance of each copy. Since the project will be highly useful to scholars even without Phase 2, the site will go “live” once Phase 1 is complete (or mostly complete).