The Records of Early English Drama project is an interdisciplinary research and editorial project based at the University of Toronto. REED was founded in 1976, its primary purpose being to find, transcribe and edit for publication surviving records of drama, music and popular mimetic entertainment before 1642, when the Puritans closed the public theatres in London. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated staff and determined editors in Canada, the US and UK, the project is still going after all these years, a hardy veteran of collaborative humanities scholarship. The list of print publications now totals twenty-seven collections in thirty-three volumes, with a landmark collection for the Inns of Court published in 2011, the second of several for the historic city of London and its neighbouring counties (see Map of REED Collections).
Early Modern London Theatres aspires to provide its users with a major encyclopedic resource on the early London stage, as well as a comprehensive historiographical survey of the field. In compiling EMLoT, we aim to identify, record and assess transcriptions from primary-source materials relating to the early London stage, as found in secondary- source print and manuscript documents. Our main criterion in distinguishing between a primary- and secondary-source document is chronological: EMLoT’s purview stops with the REED volumes (and the closing of the theatres) at 1642. Under this rubric, a primary source is a document produced before 1642, and a secondary source is one produced after 1642. There are, of course, some exceptions here. We make allowances for works known to have existed in some form before 1642, but for which the earliest surviving witness is a post-1642 document. This applies primarily to play texts: many of Thomas Middleton’s and James Shirley’s works, for example, did not see publication for the first time until the 1650s. There are also a few instances in which later manuscript sources provide us with valuable contemporary evidence concerning the pre-1642 stage. A petition by Elizabeth Heton, William Wintersall, and Mary Young to the Earl of Dorset, filed c 1657-8, speaks of a lease entered into some thirty years ago with the Earl’s father for an old barn standing in Salisbury Court (Wickham, Ingram, and Berry 2007, 654). In such an instance, where the substance of the record clearly relates to an event that took place before 1642 (e.g., the construction of the Salisbury Court theatre) and provides evidence of major import to the history of the early London stage, we have chosen to relax our chronological parameters.