History of the Society

T woodcut imgThe Renaissance English Text Society was founded in 1965 by a group of distinguished textual editors in the United States who sought to publish scarce literary texts, chiefly nondramatic, of the period 1475-1660. The Society followed the example of The Malone Society in England which concentrated on Renaissance English plays and related documents. The founding RETS Council supervising the society was composed of G. Blakemore Evans, James G. McManaway, James M. Wells, Lloyd E. Berry, Gerald Eades Bentley, Hugh G. Dick, Louis L. Martz, W. A. Ringer, Jr., S. Schoenbaum, M. A. Shaaber, and Ernest Sirluck; T. S. Dorsch represented the Society in Britain and overseas. The first titles, published that year, were Merie Tales of Gotam, edited by Stanley J. Kahrl and The History of Tom Thumbe, edited by Curt F. Buhler. At first two volumes a year were published under the auspices of the Newberry Library, the Folger Library, and Associated University Presses. In 1984 the Society’s publications moved to the State University of New York at Binghamton where, under the supervision of Mario de Cesare, head of Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (MRTS), books were published annually.

When W. Speed Hill of the CUNY Graduate School became president, the Society sought readers from all over the world and membership doubled. When Professor Hill was succeeded by Arthur F. Kinney as President, Hill inaugurated a series of edited collections—New Ways of Looking at Old Texts—as a way of preserving and disseminating papers sponsored by the Society at such conferences as MLA, RSA, Kalamazoo, and Sixteenth Century Society. Speed Hill edited this series until his death in 2006 when he was succeeded by Michael Denbo and then Arthur F. Marotti. Meanwhile, in 1995 the Society’s publications moved to the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies housed at Arizona State University under the direction of Professor Robert Bjork. After Joseph Black became President, the Society’s publications moved to Iter, creating fresh possibilities for print, digital, and hybrid editions.

The annual Josephine A. Roberts Forum of papers on editing is named for Jo, whose completed edition of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania Book I, from the 1621 printed book, had been the largest RETS project to date. She was hard at work on Volume II of the Urania, from the Newberry Library manuscript, a foundational Renaissance English text rarely consulted, when she died in a car accident. Other recent losses include Professor Hill; Margaret-Therese Davies, a former Council member representing France; and Carolyn Cassady Kent, for twenty years Secretary of the Council and supervisor of the Roberts Forum at conferences. The Society has helped to establish memorials for all three.

Suggestions for publication by the Society are always welcome and membership, which includes a copy of the annual publications, is open to all.

Renaissance English Text Society's

Officers and Council Members

Council Members