Digital Renaissance Editions

Historical Overview

This page summarizes the overall vision of Digital Renaissance Editions (DRE), and provides a historical summary of its development since its founding in 2006 through to the present. An historical overview of Internet Shakespeare Editions is is also available.


In 1996, Professor Michael Best founded Internet Shakespeare Editions (ISE) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Ten years later, Brett D. Hirsch (now Greatley-Hirsch), then a PhD student at the University of Western Australia, recognized that a kindred project was needed to extend the ISEʼs mandate: to publish scholarly editions of non-Shakespearean Renaissance drama and make them freely available online. After initial discussions, it was agreed that the best way forward for the DRE was to adopt the publication platform developed by the ISE, since this would ensure cross-compatibility between the two projects and avoid having to design independent infrastructure.


A group of experts in scholarly editing, Renaissance drama, and digital literary studies, variously located in Australia and Canada, were contacted to form an editorial board charged with overseeing the projectʼs scholarly development. All of those invited agreed to support the project, and continue to serve as the editorial board to this day. Eminent editors and critics from around the world were also invited to form an advisory board, whose duties would include overseeing peer review, ensuring scholarly quality, and advising on issues of governance.

With research cluster seed funding from the Australian Research Council Network for Early European Research, established in 2004 to encourage and support international collaborative research, the editorial board met in Perth to conduct its first editorial planning meeting. The meeting took place in the Reid Library at the University of Western Australia, and the group considered issues of audience, scope and type of content, governance, copyright, open-access, and funding. The ultimate goal of future integration with the ISE, supported by applications for matching grant funding from bodies in Australia and Canada to ensure long-term sustainability of both projects, was set in motion.


After submitting his doctoral thesis in 2008, Dr Hirsch successfully secured a one-year position as Postdoctoral Fellow in Early Modern Textual Studies and Digital Humanities, with an adjunct appointment as Assistant Professor of English. The appointment gave Dr Hirsch an invaluable opportunity to work closely with Professor Best on the DRE and its integration with the ISE, to meet with ISE developers and stakeholders, and to better understand the workings of the project “on the ground”.


Dr Hirsch returned to Australia in July 2010 to take up a three-year postdoctoral position at the University of Western Australia. A UWA Research Development Award funded some initial programming work to expand the ISE's infrastructure to accommodate the tagging of elements not otherwise found in Shakespeare's texts, such as marginalia and dumbshows, and to obtain high-resolution colour photo-facsimiles of early quartos of The Whore of Babylon, A Humorous Dayʼs Mirth, and Fair Em.

By 2011 it became clear that the project required a dedicated expert to oversee and advise on textual issues. Given the immense scope of the project, the task would be too big for a single scholar. The Editorial and Advisory Boards were asked to propose and consider candidates, and three exceptional early career scholars with proven editorial experience were offered the positions of General Textual Editor: Dr Eleanor Lowe, Dr Sarah Neville, and Dr Will Sharpe. All three were keen to be involved and to work as a team.


Between 2012 and 2014, scholars, theatre practitioners, and filmmakers were be invited to join the DRE Editorial Board (Performance) to oversee the academic development of the Performance Database and to assist in outreach activities to secure content. Dr Aaron Pratt was also invited to become our fourth General Textual Editor.

Official Launch, 2015

In April 2015, following a series of upgrades, DRE launched at the Shakespeare Association of America annual meeting in Vancouver, with critical editions of An Humorous Day's Mirth and Parts One and Two of The Honest Whore completed. For more information about the launch, including photographs and a transcript of the opening remarks, see the launch page.

Future Plans

The long-term vision of Digital Renaissance Editions is to produce a comprehensive, open-access portal for the study and appreciation of early English drama, with scholarly editions of plays at its centre accompanied by critical essays by leading scholars and an ever-increasing database of multimedia performance materials. All of these materials will be of the highest scholarly quality, subject to rigorous peer review, and completely free to access. The project ambitiously aims to expand the canon of early English drama as taught, studied, and performed, one play at a time.

In order to achieve this vision, the project will require innovative collaborations with research libraries and special collections, museums and other heritage institutions, and theatre companies both professional and amateur, to provide access to their rich and varied materials. The project will also require dedicated and coordinated work by editors, scholars, theatre practitioners, educators, programmers, and web developers to oversee its academic development and to ensure its long-term sustainability.

All of this requires substantial investments of time, expertise, funding, and good will. Every contribution, however small, is significant. Every donation to Internet Shakespeare Editions supports Digital Renaissance Editions, which it generously hosts. Every donation counts.