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Advertisement for the Yale Shakespeare, 1922.
Yale University Press Records (1910-1979). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University.

Carmen Lee 09, On the Yale University Press

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The Yale Shakespeare series was the only publication to be issued in the name of both the Press and Yale University itself. Each of the plays was published in a pocket-sized hardcover volume stamped in gold, annotated at the foot of each page with vocabulary and glosses accessible to an audience less familiar with Shakespeare. The price of the “Library Edition,” $1.50 per volume, and its advertisement in a subscription periodical, point to the Press’s early attempts to disseminate works of traditionally highbrow literature to a broader reading public emerging in the United States. In the early 1920s, St. Thomas More, Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, and Benjamin Franklin were also given their own series of complete works or correspondence by the Press (though none bore the stamp of the University). The emphasis on the Yale name, and the stamp of approval of the Department of English, were branding tools aimed at the aspiring intellectualism of the middle class. Apparently, American readers were eager to be engaged: sales of the Yale Shakespeare were largely responsible for carrying the Press through the Great Depression and continued to be fairly lucrative throughout the twentieth century.