Prof Jason Scott-Warren, Gonville and Caius



Biographical Information

I studied English at Jesus College, Cambridge, and went on to become a graduate student and a Research Fellow there. From 1998-2004 I was a lecturer at the University of York, where I set up the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies; in 2004, I was appointed to a lectureship at Cambridge and a Fellowship of Gonville and Caius College. I did my PhD under the supervision of Warren Boutcher on books as gifts at the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts; this formed the basis of my first book. Since then, I have written numerous studies of early modern literature in circulation, as well as broader accounts of the relationship between writing and cultural history; for the latter, see my second book, Early Modern English Literature (2005). My most recent book, on the relationship between reading and material culture, entitled Shakespeare's First Reader: The Paper Trails of Richard Stonley was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019; I am also pursuing a project on distributions of self in early modern literature (provisionally entitled The Exuvial Renaissance). A collection of essays entitled Text, Food and the Early Modern Reader: Eating Words, co-edited with Andrew Zurcher, appeared in 2018; another collaborative Scott-Warren/Zurcher production, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern British Poetry, is in preparation. I'm also editing Strange Newes for the new Oxford Critical Edition of the Works of Thomas Nashe.

In September 2019, on the basis of research by Claire M. L. Bourne, I identified John Milton as the annotator of a copy of the Shakespeare First Folio in the Free Library of Philadelphia; you can find references to the media coverage here and you can listen to a Folger Library podcast about the discovery here. Claire and I have given numerous talks about the discovery, some of them archived on the web; our first publication about it has just appeared in Milton Quarterly.

I am Director of the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts, an initiative aimed at bringing people from across the University together to talk about the embodied forms of the sources they study. In this capacity I am one of the convenors of the 'History of Material Texts' seminar, and I've been co-organiser of several conferences, including one on the theme of 'Texts and Textiles' and another on 'Eating Words'. More recently, I ran a colloquium in Cambridge on the Academic Book of the Future, as part of the first Academic Book Week, and co-organised a conference on the writings of John Taylor, the Water-Poet. In 2018, with Orietta da Rold, I put together a conference entitled Paper-Stuff: Materiality, Technology and Invention; in 2019 I convened a CRASSH conference entitled Exuviae: Distributing the Self in Images and Objects, with Caroline van Eck of the Department of History of Art.

I am a climate activist who has been arrested on numerous occasions for taking part in environmental protest actions. I recently coordinated an Open Letter to the Royal Society, asking it to issue a statement condemning the fossil fuel industry, which garnered more than 2500 signatures from UK academics.

Research Interests

Early modern literary and cultural history; history of reading/of the book; writing and the self; literature and anthropology; materiality, embodiment, distributed personhood; literature, climate, colonialism.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

English and European Renaissance literature; early modern cultural history/cultural geography; history of reading; history of the book; early modern textual circulation; literature and anthropology; material texts and material culture; writing and the distributed self.

Selected Publications

  • 'A Refusal to Celebrate the First Folio’s Last Centenary', Shakespeare Quarterly 74 (2023), 428-33
  • 'Monuments and Trifles: Which Books Do We Use to Tell the History of the Book?', in Adam Smyth, ed, The Oxford History of the Book in Early Modern England (2023), 140-53
  • and Claire M. L. Bourne, '"thy unvalued Booke": John Milton's Copy of the Shakespeare First Folio', Milton Quarterly 56 (2022), 1-85
  • ‘The Exuvial Book’, in Alexandra Gillespie and Deidre Lynch, eds, The Unfinished Book (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), 94-107
  • 'The Writing Implements' in Michael Fleming and Christopher Page, eds, Music and Instruments of the Elizabethan Age: The Eglantine Table (2021), 57-66
  • 'Tantalizing Traces in the History of Reading', in Kate Barnes et al., Private Lives of Old Books: Recovering Personal Histories from Early Books of Latin (Bryn Mawr College exhibition catalogue, 2021), 25-32
  • Shakespeare's First Reader: The Paper Trails of Richard Stonley (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019)
  • ‘Cut-and-Paste Bookmaking: The Private/Public Agency of Robert Nicolson’, in Katherine Acheson, ed., Early Modern Marginalia (London: Routledge, 2019), 35-50
  • and Andrew Zurcher, eds, Text, Food and the Early Modern Reader: Eating Words (London: Routledge, 2018)
  • 'Ligatures of the Early Modern Book', in Matthew Day and Caroline Archer, eds, Resurrecting the Book, in Book 2.0 7 (2017), 33-44
  • 'Commonplacing and Originality: Reading Francis Meres', in Review of English Studies (2017)
  • and Dunstan Roberts, eds, library catalogue of Armagill Waad, in Private Libraries in Renaissance England [list is live at]
  • 'Bookkeeping and Life-Writing Revisited: Accounting for Richard Stonley'Past and Present 230, suppl. 11 (2016), 151-70
  • 'Meet the Chillesters: The Printed Counterfeit in Early Modern London'English Literary Renaissance 46 (2016), 225-52
  • 'How Letters Matter' [review essay], Huntington Library Quarterly 79 (2016), 525-32
  • 'Status Anxiety: Arguing about Plays and Print in Early Modern London', in Tian Yuan Tan, Paul Edmondson and Shih-pe Wang, eds, 1616: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu's China (London: Bloomsbury Arden, 2015), 135-47
  • ‘Centre for Material Texts, Cambridge’, The New Bookbinder 34 (2014), 46-50
  • ‘Six Ages in Two Volumes’, in Ed Potten and Emily Dourish, eds, Emprynted in thys manere: Early Printed Treasures from Cambridge University Library (2014), 110-13
  • 'Nashe's Stuff', in Andrew Hadfield, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Prose, c. 1500-1640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 204-18
  • 'Was Elizabeth I Richard II?: The Authenticity of Lambarde's "Conversation"', in Review of English Studies 64 (2013), 208-30
  • 'What Can We Learn from Early Modern Drama?', Historical Journal 55/2 (2012), 553-62
  • 'Reading on the Threshold', in Subha Mukherji, ed., Thinking on Thresholds: The Poetics of Transitive Spaces (London: Anthem Press, 2011), 57-72
  • 'Unannotating Spenser', in Helen Smith and Louise Wilson, eds, Renaissance Paratexts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 153-64, 250-4
  • 'Books in the Bedchamber: Religion, Accounting and the Library of Richard Stonley', in John N. King, ed., Tudor Books and Readers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 232-52
  • 'Reading Graffiti in the Early Modern Book', in Huntington Library Quarterly 73 (2010), 363-81
  • Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005)
  • Tudor Drama Before Shakespeare, multi-author essay collection co-edited with Lloyd Kermode and Martine van Elk (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, articles on John Harington of Stepney, Sir John Harington and Gabriel Harvey (2004)
  • 'When Theaters Were Bear-Gardens; or, What's at Stake in the Comedy of Humors', Shakespeare Quarterly 54.1 (2003), 63-82
  • 'Harington's Gossip', in Tom Freeman and Susan Doran, eds, The Myth of Elizabeth (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 221-41
  • Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift, Oxford University Press (2001)
  • 'News, Sociability and Bookbuying in Early Modern England: The Letters of Sir Thomas Cornwallis', The Library, 7th ser., 1 (2000), 377-98
  • 'Reconstructing Manuscript Networks: The Textual Transactions of Sir Stephen Powle', in Alexandra Shepard and Philip Withington, eds, Communities in Early Modern England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 18-37
  • 'Sir John Harington's Life of Ariosto and the Textual Economy of the Elizabethan Court', Reformation 3 (1998), 259-301
  • 'The Privy Politics of Sir John Harington's New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax', Studies in Philology 93 (1996), 412-42