I gained my undergraduate degree and my DPhil at Pembroke College, Oxford, and was then a Junior Research Fellow at Lincoln for three years. Having joined University College London's English Department in 1982, I was Head of it from 2002 to 2007 and then served for four years as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2010 and Rector of Lincoln in 2012.
My research has mainly been in two areas that I have tried to bring together: Renaissance English literature (especially Shakespeare and Sidney) and the history of the book. Much of my work has been concerned with English manuscripts and book collectors of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries (Gabriel Harvey, Ben Jonson, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson). For nearly twenty-five years I have been involved in editing volumes relating to English Renaissance drama published by the Malone Society. I have been one of the General Editors of the third series of the Arden Shakespeare, for which I edited Love's Labour's Lost and co-edited Shakespeare's poems with Katherine Duncan-Jones. An earlier collaboration, with David Norbrook, resulted in The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, 1509-1659.
For a number of years, I have been closely involved in running the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700, an AHRC-funded project, which is a freely accessible online record of surviving manuscript sources for over 200 major British authors of the period 1450-1700. This has led to my involvement in other Digital Humanities projects, including the Electronic Enlightenment, an online resource containing tens of thousands of letters from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
My interest in bibliography and palaeography led me to serve in 2014–16 as President of the Bibliographical Society and currently as President of the Oxford Bibliographical Society, to work with Michael Suarez, S.J. as co-general editor of The Oxford Companion to the Book and of The Book: A Global History, and to contribute articles about sales of books and about libraries to the TLS since 1985. More particularly, I have written on the relationship between the material forms works take and their meanings. From this has developed an interest in areas such as the lay-out of letters, the history of paper and English names for different types of it, the use of the dash and of onomatopoeic words in English Renaissance literature, especially in the drama, and more generally, the use of punctuation, including in the writings of Virginia Woolf and Evelyn Waugh. In addition to the work of these more modern authors, I have a particular interest in A.E. Housman and Edward Thomas.
I gave the Lyell Lectures in Bibliography in Oxford during Hilary Term 2014 - these were about the history of facsimiles and of copying in England from the sixteenth century to modern times - and have nearly completed an edition of Waugh's A Handful of Dust for the collected edition of his writings that OUP is publishing. Further projects involve editorial work for the OUP editions of Thomas Nashe and Alexander Pope.
ed. Samuel Johnson on Shakespeare (Penguin, 1989)
ed. with David Norbrook, The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, 1509-1659 (1992)
Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640 (OUP, 1996)
ed. Love's Labour's Lost, (The Arden Shakespeare, third series, 1998)
ed., AEH AWP: A Classical Friendship (The Foundling Press, 2006)
ed. with Katherine Duncan-Jones, Shakespeare's Poems (The Arden Shakespeare, third series, 2007)
ed. with Michael F. Suarez, S.J., The Oxford Companion to the Book, 2 vols (OUP, 2010)