Abridgements are hardly considered suitable material for serious readers. e term conjures up images of books for children, of Reader’s Digest issues stacked by the toilet, of Cli ’s Notes for unprepared students, of bowdlerization. Aesthetically, abridgements – shortened, condensed or abstracted versions of longer texts – imply loss: something of the original author’s genius has been cut out and removed. As Adam Gopnik recently re ected on British publisher Orion’s new series of ‘compact’ editions of the classics: ‘Books can be snipped at, and made less melodically muddled, but they lose their overtones, their bass notes, their chesty resonance – the same thing that happens, come to think of it, to human castrati’.1 To abridge, here, is to mutilate, to remove a book’s cojones. Author Lawrence Block had a similar reaction a er the ‘embarrassing’ experience of narrating abridged audio versions of his own works: ‘What sort of book could be cut essentially in half without losing a certain something? e thing is, nobody really likes abridgements. e listeners who don’t mind them are generally unaware of how much they’re missing.’2 Given the stigma on abridgements as lacking ‘that certain something’ – and, indeed, on the ‘unaware’, lazy or immature readers who might like them – the title of this essay might already have given some of my readers reason to put it down before they have even nished its rst paragraph. Caveat lector: the following pages take abridgements seriously as objects of scholarly inquiry, by examining their status in eighteenth-century Britain.