The Reading of Books and the Reading of Literature

Imagining the Author in Print > Jonson Folio

Ben Jonson's 1616 folio has long been heralded a landmark volume in the history of authorship. A self-crowned laureate, to use Richard Helgerson's term, Jonson was highly involved in the publication of the 1616 folio. Thomas Dekker and John Marston parody Jonson as self-important, proud, affected, and interested in the classics (in Satiromastix and Histriomastix respectively). Whether or not Dekker's and Marston's plays accurately portray Jonson's personality, they correctly identify his interest in the classics. The title page of this volume, which Jonson likely had a hand in, highlights the printed drama's classical background and Jonson's status as a Horatian author, whose work warrants a lavish volume.

Each of the plays is set off by its own title page. Volpone's title page indicates the date of its performance.

One of the remarkable features of this book is that it has extremely generous margins. This space makes the text easy to read, while inviting the reader to engage with it in the margins.

While the size of the margins and the folio’s beautiful title page suggest that the plays are literary and designed to be read, the volume preserves each play's performance history. The names of the actors who played in Volpone are reproduced after the play.

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