Arts minister steps in to prevent rare Ben Jonson book leaving the UK

Ben Jonson's collection of writings is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found for the £48,000 publication
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Arts minister John Glen has temporarily barred the export of Renaissance playwright Ben Jonson’s annotated collection of writings.

The book, titled Workes, is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found for the £48,000 book.

The rare book is the only known document that shows how Jonson’s plays were staged in that period. It includes prop details, stage directions and textual corrections of plays such as Epicoene, or The Silent Woman, all considered valuable information by theatre scholars.

The decision to bar its export was taken upon recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Arts Council.

RCEWA member Peter Barber said: “The annotations in this volume shed uniquely detailed light on how one of the hit comedies of the 17th century might actually have been performed. Samuel Pepys thought The Silent Woman ‘the best comedy that ever was wrote’ and this book enables us to go the theatre with him. It must remain in this country.”

The export license for Workes will be deferred until February 2 and may be extended until May 2 if there is a serious intention to raise funds for its purchase.