Workes (1640) by Benjamin Jonson is the subject of a temporary export bar.

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Workes, an annotated collection of writings by Ben Jonson, had been offered for sale by its owner for £48,000 to an overseas buyer. An export licence has temporarily been stopped to allow for fundraising in the hope a UK-based buyer can match the price.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was a contemporary of Shakespeare and regarded as one of the most important writers of the English Renaissance.

This book has been blocked from export after it was referred to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).

Outstanding significance

The expert adviser objected to the export of the book under the third Waverley criterion on the grounds that its departure from the UK would “be a misfortune because it was of outstanding significance for the study of English theatre in the 17th century and, in particular, for the study of Jonson’s plays in performance”.

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 decision on the export licence application for the book will be deferred until February 5, 2018.

This may be extended until May 5 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £48,000.