John Hughes's landmark edition of the Works was the first attempt at a critical edition, one that makes use of the earlier printings as opposed to later ones. Nonetheless, Hughes (somewhat haphazardly) attempts to regularize the spelling and pointing, surely the appropriate thing to do at the time though later editors have rejected such modernization and in various ways have attempted to return to earlier practices. Hughes does not attempt to decipher the historical allegory, at task undertaken by John Upton a generation later. What makes this edition particularly valuable is the prefatory essays, which became the basis for all later criticism.
Ralph Church: "As that Gentleman certainly saw the Editions published in our Poet's Life time, what must we impute it to, that he made no other use of them than that of transcribing, from the Edition of 1590, the five original Stanzas, at the Close of the Third Book, which had been dropt by all the Folio Editions. His Advertisement, upon that occasion, is taken notice of in it's proper place; and his Edition is distinguished, in our Notes, by H. 1. I shall only add, that, as E. in general copied from L. 2. Mr. Hughes (allowing for the alteration of spelling) has, in general, given us a Transcript of L. 1" Faerie Queene (1758) 1:viii.
Jewel Wurtsbaugh: "Edited by John Hughes, a minor poet of note, this edition was printed for Jacob Tonson in 1715. Its six duodecimo volumes include the poems and prose given in the last folio, but with A Pastoral Aeglogue, An Elegie or Friends Passion, and the two epitaphs on Sidney ascribed to different hands. It also expresses doubt as to the authenticity of Brittain's Ida. As Essay on Allegorical Poetry, Remarks on the Fairy Queen, Remarks on the Shepherd's Calendar and other Writings of Spenser, a biography of the poet, a glossary, and a few words concerning the edition enrich the first volume. The treatment of the text and the criticism in the prefatory volume are of chief interest" Two Centuries of Spenserian Scholarship (1936) 33.
See Ray Heffner, "The Printing of John Hughes' Edition of Spenser" (1935) 151-53. For eighteenth-century comments on Hughes as editor, see the index in Todd, Works of Spenser (1805). James Thomson read Spenser in this edition; copies owned by William Duncombe and Joseph Spence appear in a sale catalogue of 1769; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 1:57, 2:228.
I shall only add a few Words concerning the Edition, in which these several Pieces now appear. It is hoped the Reader will find it much more correct than some former Editions. The Shepherd's Calendar had been so extremely corrupted, that it is now in a manner wholly restor'd. Care has been taken not only to collect every thing of this Author which has appear'd before, and to preserve the Text entire, but to follow likewise, for the most part, the old Spelling. This may be thought by some too strict and precise; yet there was a Necessity for it, not only to shew the true State of our Language, as Spenser wrote it, but to keep the exact Sense, which wou'd sometimes be chang'd by the Variation of a Syllable or a Letter. It must be own'd however that Spenser himself is irregular in this, and often writes the same Word differently, especially at the end of a Line; where, according to the Practice of that Age, he frequently alters the Spelling for the sake of the Rhime, and even sometimes only to make the Rhime appear more exact to the Eye of the Reader. In this, the old Editions are not every where follow'd; but when the Sense is render'd obscure by such Alterations, the Words are restor'd to their proper Orthography.