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date: 21 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The period 1709–16 saw heavy investment in the printing of Ben Jonson, motivated by the House of Tonson’s need to assert their copyright in the face of outright piracy. In anticipation of a new copyright law ‘The Statute of Anne’ (1710), Jonson’s works were at the centre of a vicious battle between Tonson and the famous pirate printer Henry Hills Jnr. Tonson was also threatened by the Hague printer Thomas Johnson’s good quality octavo series Best English Plays, which was to include six Jonson plays (though only Volpone ever materialized). To meet this challenge, in 1712 Tonson changed his Works format from octavo to duodecimo. These early eighteenth-century editions of Jonson demonstrate a very significant moment in publishing – the final move away from prestigious large-format Works into ‘small volumes fit for the pocket’. Tonson’s octavo 1716 Jonson bears the physical evidence of this transition, arrested mid-print run and fundamentally outdated even before it went on sale.

Keywords: early, eighteenth century, editions, Ben Jonson

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