Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2010
THE lectures here reprinted were delivered in November, 1915, in the University of Cambridge, under the terms of the Sandars Readership in Bibliography. They were printed in successive numbers of The Library in 1916, and published in book-form the following year. Thanks largely to a friendly controversy which followed a generous review in the Literary Supplement of The Times, the small first edition was speedily exhausted, and the book has been for some time out of print. That a new edition of it is offered here as the first volume of the series of monographs on Shakespeare Problems projected by Mr Dover Wilson and myself is due partly to my desire that the lectures should reappear under the auspices of the Press of the University which honoured me with the invitation to deliver them, partly to their forming the starting point from which most of the Problems with which this series is concerned will be approached. The central idea of the lectures is that the early editions upon which a text of Shakespeare's plays must be built, are a good deal closer to the original manuscripts from his pen than most of the text-builders have allowed. In the subsequent volumes of this series Mr Dover Wilson and I hope to show that because the text-builders have underrated their sources they have neglected many of the clues which these offer, and that the clues lead to very interesting results, also that the futility of many of the ‘conjectural emendations’ which overload the Variorum editions is amply accounted for by the neglect of their venturesome authors to take any account of the character of the hand in which the plays were written.