London: J. Johnson, 1783
[Rare] YHS Rit
Criticism of Shakespearean editions was not limited to notes within subsequent editions, but could be published separately. This is the first of three such independent works by the antiquary and scholar Joseph Ritson (1752-1803). It is an attack on the ten-volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays edited by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens in 1778. In it Ritson consigns Johnson and Steevens to “the regions of oblivion or disgrace”, criticising Johnson for failure to collate the folios (“the chief and fundamental business of an editor”), and Steevens for failure even to compare them. Ritson showed a thorough knowledge of his subject and previous editions of Shakespeare, but his corrections were often trifling and his manner aggressively acerbic. Ritson himself intended to produce an edition based on the first two folios and taking the quartos into account, which would “with regard to the correctness of the text, be infinitely superior to any that has yet appeared”. This work was not realised, but Steevens added approximately 450 notes from Ritson’s various works to his next edition (1791-1802).