This paper presents a case study of the launch of the first Arden Shakespeare series in 1899 with particular reference to Bourdieu’s concept of ‘consecration’. The analysis considers how the roles and collaboration of the publisher, Algernon Methuen, and the first general editor, Edward Dowden, reflect the intellectual culture of that period, at the outset of what would become the academic field of English literature. Drawing on primary and secondary sources including contemporary correspondence and archive material, the paper also considers the cultural and economic context of the Arden series’ launch and illustrates how copyright was defined in the first series of this critical edition of Shakespeare. Subsequent series were published throughout the 20th century, and the third Arden series is now nearing completion under the auspices of Bloomsbury Publishing and Drama Online. The paper concludes by assessing the potential analytical benefits to publishing research of Bourdieu’s concept of consecration, and by reviewing how the findings of this study might inform debates about the establishment of the field of academic publishing.