Engaging with histories of the book and of reading, as well as with studies of material culture, this volume explores ’popularity’ in early modern English writings. Is ’popular’ best described as a theoretical or an empirical category in this period? How can we account for the gap between modern canonicity and early modern print popularity? How might we weight the evidence of popularity from citations, serial editions, print runs, reworkings, or extant copies? Is something that sells a lot always popular, even where the readership for print is only a small proportion of the population, or does popular need to carry something of its etymological sense of the public, the people? Four initial chapters sketch out the conceptual and evidential issues, while the second part of the book consists of ten short chapters-a ’hit parade’- in which eminent scholars take a genre or a single exemplar - play, romance, sermon, or almanac, among other categories-as a means to articulate more general issues. Throughout, the aim is to unpack and interrogate assumptions about the popular, and to decentre canonical narratives about, for example, the sermons of Donne or Andrewes over Smith, or the plays of Shakespeare over Mucedorus. Revisiting Elizabethan literary culture through the lenses of popularity, this collection allows us to view the subject from an unfamiliar angle-in which almanacs are more popular than sonnets and proclamations more numerous than plays, and in which authors familiar to us are displaced by names now often forgotten.

chapter |15 pages


Towards a Definition of Print Popularity
ByAndy Kesson, Emma Smith

part 1|106 pages


chapter 1|36 pages

What Is Print Popularity? A Map of the Elizabethan Book Trade1

ByAlan B. Farmer, Zachary Lesser

chapter 4|22 pages

Shakespeare's Popularity and the Origins of the Canon

ByNeil Rhodes

part 2|112 pages

The Elizabethan Top Ten

chapter 5|9 pages

Almanacs and Ideas of Popularity

ByAdam Smyth

chapter 6|10 pages

Print, Popularity, and the Book of Common Prayer

ByBrian Cummings

chapter 7|11 pages

International News Pamphlets

ByS. K. Barker

chapter 8|11 pages

Spenser's Popular Intertexts

ByAbigail Shinn

chapter 9|10 pages

Household Manuals

ByCatherine Richardson

chapter 10|13 pages

Damask Papers

ByJuliet Fleming

chapter 11|9 pages


ByLori Anne Ferrell

chapter 12|9 pages

The Psalm Book

ByBeth Quitslund

chapter 13|9 pages

Serial Publication and Romance

ByLouise Wilson

chapter 14|12 pages


ByPeter Kirwan