Britain bars export of rare copy of Shakespeare rival Ben Jonson's play

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British Arts Minister John Glen Monday put a temporary export bar on a rare annotated copy of a book by Shakespeare's venerable rival Ben Jonson to provide an opportunity to keep it in the country.

The rare copy of "The Silent Woman", a comedy first performed in 1609, faces the risk of going overseas unless a buyer can be found in the next few months to match the recommended price of 63,000 U.S. dollars.

Samuel Pepys, a famous English diarist, described "The Silent Woman" as "the best comedy that ever was wrote".

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) is hailed as the most important writer of the English Renaissance after William Shakespeare, having lived and worked in an age of great social change that produced some of the finest works of English literature.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the extraordinarily rare volume is the only known example of a document showing how a play by Ben Jonson was prepared for performance.

"This volume occupies a unique place among surviving materials because of the nature and range of its annotations, including stage directions,details of props, and textual corrections, which collectively do not fall into any category previously known to scholars of seventeenth-century theater," she said.

"The volume is of outstanding interest to the study of English theatrical history," she added.

Glen hoped that the book could be kept in Britain to enrich the study of English theatrical history and learn more about the performances of Jonson's work.

DCMS advisors recommended the export bar.

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