Treasured volume saved for nation

Annotated plays by influential English dramatist Ben Jonson – earmarked for sale in North America – have been acquired by the University.

Experts say no other editions of Jonson’s works show how they were actually performed in this significant age of English theatre. 

Unique text

The rare book was printed in 1640 and features manuscript annotations from the time, such as stage directions, details of props and textual corrections. 

An export bar was imposed on the book by the UK Government to give British libraries the chance to acquire it on the condition that they met the purchase price of £48,000.

With support from Friends of Edinburgh University Library, Friends of the National Libraries and John R Murray Trust, the University of Edinburgh was able to purchase the volume. 

Celebrated playwright

Ben Jonson, who lived from 1572 until 1637, is arguably the most important writer of the English Renaissance after Shakespeare.

He lived and worked in an age of great social change that produced some of the finest works of English literature. 

Leading Ben Jonson scholar Professor James Loxley, of the University of Edinburgh, has described the acquisition as potentially "the most extraordinary addition” to the University’s collections.

We are delighted to purchase this landmark collection of works, and are grateful to our supporters for helping us save this volume of recognised cultural importance. The arrival of this book in Edinburgh 2018 is a great moment for our collections, our students and researchers who will now have access to it through our Centre for Research Collections.

Joseph MarshallHead of the University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections

Epic journey

In July 1618, Jonson walked from London to Edinburgh meeting Scottish poets such as William Drummond on his travels.

Professsor Loxley and scholars from Edinburgh and Nottingham used Twitter, Facebook and a blog in 2016 to recreate the adventure.

The posts featured extracts from the account of Jonson's journey from London to Edinburgh.

Related links

Blog - Ben Jonson's Walk

Twitter page - Ben Jonson's Walk

Facebook page - Ben Jonson's Walk

Centre for Research Collections