The Records of Early English Drama (REED) project is delighted to announce the launch of REED Online (ereed.library.utoronto.ca), its new open-access website. The site features REED’s first digital edition of dramatic records for the county of Staffordshire, encoded in TEI. Easily searched with a number of useful filters, online records appear conveniently on the same page as their translations, document descriptions, and any glosses or related endnotes. GIS mapping based on the Patrons and Performances map of historic county boundaries and main roads illuminates significant details further. For students and those new to records research, search tips, an introduction to the research process, and an anatomy of a sample record provide a welcoming guide.

The Staffordshire records, edited by J.A.B. Somerset, are found in scattered collections, but they yield fascinating glimpses of early social and economic history through accounts of public performances, social occasions, royal welcomes, folk customs, and professional entertainments. A few examples highlight the richness of the collection, which includes two royal visits – by Queen Elizabeth in 1576 and, more extensively, King James I in 1615. The records of Tutbury, whose castle was a major administrative centre for the household of John of Gaunt, show us from 1380 a flourishing Minstrel Court while the accounts of Burton Manor, home to Thomas, Lord Paget reveal an Elizabethan household filled with music, playing, and revels. By contrast, Newcastle under Lyme sources record evidence of implacable hatred of players, levying large fines upon persons who allowed playing, and firing the town constable for turning a blind eye. For those interested in tracking the itineraries of professional troupes across the kingdom, new details of performance troupes visiting Stafford and Walsall as well as the private residences of Beaudesert, Blithfield, and Burton will be important.

Staffordshire is REED’s pilot digital publication, with more collections forthcoming on the same website to enable easy cross-collection searching. As REED begins planning for the production of the next collection for the county of Berkshire, the integration of Patrons and Performances data, and the further development of REED Online, it welcomes all comments and suggestions from users. Please send any feedback to REED’s project manager, Carolyn Black, at ca.black@utoronto.ca.

REED gives special thanks to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a Connection grant that has made possible development of our digital publishing framework for REED Online.

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