Posted by Rachel Lynch, Managing Director, Ashgate Publishing Group
The recent publication of Sarah Fyge Egerton marks the culmination of the series The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works. Congratulations and thanks to General Editors Betty S. Travitsky and Anne Lake Prescott, and all the many individuals who have brought to fruition this ambitious project, which has been twenty years in the making. This comprehensive collection comprises 88 individual volumes of the published writings of women authors in England from 1500-1750 and it has surely fulfilled its purpose to remedy one of the major obstacles to the advancement of feminist criticism of the early modern period, namely the unavailability of the very texts upon which the field is based.
In addition to this, the series is also a case-study in the trajectory of scholarly publishing over the last couple of decades and impact of the digital revolution on print culture. Sales of the volumes published in the first few years were encouraging by academic publishing standards, with library suppliers such as Blackwell enthusiastically supporting the series. And then Early English Books Online was launched which, as its website states, was and is an innovative collaboration between ProQuest LLC, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University to convert 25,000 books from EEBO into fully-searchable, TEI-compliant SGML/XML texts.
The availability of the material digitally has been naturally highly attractive to libraries and to researchers. If we were considering starting up this kind of series now, it would be unlikely to be commercially viable as a print only series.
The debate over the likely long-term co-existence of printed and digital books will continue for a good while yet. Whatever the upshot, we are extremely grateful for the on-going support of The Early Modern Englishwoman series editors: Betty S. Travitsky, Anne Lake Prescott, Patrick Cullen, and all the many volume editors and series advisory board members who have contributed to bringing the project to its fulfilment.