Laura Estill

Estill portrait

The world’s concept of early modern drama would differ greatly without scholarly access to the libraries of early nineteenth century bibliophiles, says Laura Estill, an assistant professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts. Collectors—notably English actor John Philip Kemble, British government play inspector John Larpent, Irish Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone, and English theater historian John Genest—purposefully accumulated and passed along the playbooks that were used as editorial copy texts, performance scripts, historical documents, and cultural artifacts.

Estill conducts research in Renaissance drama, the works of William Shakespeare, early modern print and manuscript culture, digital humanities, and book history. She is a co-editor of the World Shakespeare Bibliography, found online at www.worldshakesbib.org.

With support from her Arts & Humanities Fellowship, Estill plans to develop a traditional scholarly monograph and a complementary database she has titled, Collecting Plays, Creating Canon. Estill intends to publish at least one chapter of the monograph as a journal article and to present her results at international conferences. 

“I focus on notable personal libraries of early modern plays from the turn of the nineteenth century,” Estill says, “when notions of an English dramatic canon that privileges Renaissance and Restoration plays began to crystallize.” 

Her research will take her to the Kemble and Larpent collections at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.; Malone’s collection at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, England; and Genest’s collection at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

Estill earned her doctoral degree in English Literature and Culture before 1700 at Wayne State University in 2010 and joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2013.