Venerable UK academic publisher Cambridge University Press is debuting its website for “The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online,” complementing, as the site says, “the seven-volume print edition of Jonson’s works published in 2012.”
The online version offers “a fully searchable version of the Print Edition, including all the original introductions, collations, and commentary, but it complements, develops, and vastly extends the Print Edition with a large and flexible array of textual and contextual materials.” There is also the prospect of more to come. “Further archival materials are still undergoing preparation” include ” a catalogue of the surviving books from Jonson’s library, prepared by Henry Woudhuysen; Foot Voyage into Scotland, a recently-discovered diary of Jonson’s walk to Edinburgh in 1617,” letters to Jonson, and other scholarly materials and documents.
The site doesn’t just include text. As well as documentary material – registers of births and deaths, etc. – the site also includes an archive for Jonson’s court masques – “a collection of records – financial accounts, eyewitness testimony, ambassadors’ letters – relating to Jonson’s masques.” And some at least of the materials are to be made available for free.
According to CUP, there are also important technical milestones embodied in the Online Edition. “The major ground breaking accomplishment of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (CEWBJ) has been the development of reusable digital infrastructure for future scholarly publication, involving the handling of highly disparate source materials, and producing an end product of saleable quality whilst ensuring academic credibility.” The details are really for electronic/online publishing specialists, but several Open Source projects have apparently been advanced in the course of the Online Edition’s preparation.
Needless to say, the works of Ben Jonson are extensively available at Project Gutenberg and elsewhere online. However, for those who do need to see what the best of modern scholarship – and textual modernization – can add to the story, the Online Edition is up there for your perusal. At first glance, it does look like a considerable value add.