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The year 2020–2021 witnessed the publication of important titles that invite us to reflect on the history of editing and textual studies, their specific relationship to earlier approaches such as New Bibliography, the responsibilities we bear when presenting new or revisionist narratives, and ways in which the field can do more to embrace diversity. A landmark resource was released in the form of the two-volume New Variorum Edition of King Lear, with Richard Knowles’s breath-taking textual notes recording all variants in seventy-seven editions from the period 1619 to 2000. The Arden Shakespeare Third Series Complete Works was released, as was the much anticipated second edition of Andrew Murphy’s Shakespeare in Print, complete with an updated chronological appendix that now takes us to the year 2017. The first scholarly edition of the commonplace book Bel-vedére or the Garden of the Muses was also published, and exciting new monographs by Faith Acker, Zachary Lesser and Molly G. Yarn were joined by edited collections entitled Shakespeare / Text and the Arden Research Handbook of Shakespeare and Textual Studies.
The years 2019–20 saw the publication of editions and monographs that offer new insight into the afterlives of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and their reception and circulation, especially in continental Europe. The final edition in the Arden Third Series was released, as was an Arden Early Modern German Shakespeare edition containing two re-translations of early modern German versions into English, as well as an updated New Cambridge King Lear and an edition of the First Quarto of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was also a very exciting year for textual studies, with a new generation of scholars returning to the work of New Bibliographers with renewed energy and new methodologies, and an open-access database reshaping our knowledge of and access to extant copies of the Shakespeare folios and pre-1700 quartos.
Shakespeare's rise to prominence was by no means inevitable. While he was popular in his lifetime, the number of new editions and revivals of his plays declined over the following decades. Emma Depledge uses the methodologies of book and theatre history to provide a re-assessment of the reputation and dissemination of Shakespeare during the Interregnum and Restoration. She demonstrates the crucial role of the Exclusion Crisis (1678–1682), a political crisis over the royal succession, as a foundational moment in Shakespeare's canonisation. The period saw a sudden surge of theatrical alterations and a significantly increased rate of new editions and stage revivals. In the wake of the Exclusion Crisis, Shakespeare's plays were made available on a scale not witnessed since the early seventeenth century, thus reversing what might otherwise have been a permanent disappearance of his drama from canonical familiarity and firmly establishing Shakespeare's work in the national cultural imagination.