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Knight editions

Knight editions

Charles Knight (1791–1873) was a Victorian publisher and editor. His editions of Shakespeare were some of the most popular and widely distributed throughout the nineteenth century in England and the United States. There are many Knight editions of Shakespeare; the following is a brief version of a complicated publishing history.

The first one, Knight’s “Pictorial” edition, was published in parts from 1838 to 1841. In the introduction to the second revised edition of this edition in 1867, Knight wrote, "My own labours upon other editions, such as 'The Library,' 'The National,' and 'The Stratford,' had been devoted to the examination of new readings and recent views of the value of original copies. When, therefore, the publishers desired to confide to me the complete revision of 'the Pictorial Shakspere,' I did not come unprepared to the task." The “Popular,” the “Cabinet,” and the “Medium” editions were also based on Knight’s work.

Knight died at the age of 81 in 1873, the year the “Imperial” edition was launched. It was called "Imperial" because it was printed on large, imperial size paper. The “Imperial” edition was first published in parts with elaborate illustration plates by Virtue in London from 1873 to 1876. Virtue and Yorston came out with an “Imperial” New York edition in two volumes, dated variously 1873–76 and 1875–76. It is a nice edition to own but not particularly rare; at least 124 libraries are listed on WorldCat as having copies of the 1875–76 printing.


Shakespeare. The Pictorial Edition. Ed. Knight. New York, 1893. Title page of vol. 1. Folger Shakespeare Library.