When Cenage (which was spun off from Thomson which had acquired Routledge) bought Houghton-Mifflin, there was great fear in the Shakespeare book-lover community that it would spell doom for the Arden Shakespeare – volumes that contained deep commentary and annotations on Shakespeare editions. Houghton-Mifflin already had its own set of preferred Shakespeare textbooks – works that were far more pedestrian than the Arden editions.
And, that prognostication turned out to be partly correct – Cenage dumped Arden as quickly as it could – selling it back to Metheun (its publisher through from 1899 through 1980). And back in its rightful home, the Arden Shakespeare is doing exciting things.
One of the most exciting is the release of a new Early Modern Drama series, with Arden-style commentary and annotations of Everyman and Mankind, Philaster, and The Duchess of Malfi on the way in less than two weeks and (reportedly) The Renegado coming out next year.
So hooray. Unable to handle a unit of true quality, the mega-publishers actually spun off the Arden Shakespeare to a small publisher – its original home – that seems to take some pride in its publications.
(By the way, while I strongly recommend the Arden for their critical commentary, I cannot recommend them as a reading edition of Shakespeare. You should take Kevin Edgecomb’s advice and buy a nicely printed multi-volume edition.)