…let’s get to the point. Mark Rylance cryptically throws this nugget of information into his plea for a more open-minded approach to the authorship question. (See Shakespearean Stage post for the video).
Obviously we needed to scan this inconclusive tidbit. What is Mark suggesting with this information? So we returned to Paul Collins ‘The Book of William, How Sh’s Folio conquered the world’.
John Bill, a London bookseller and personal buyer for King Charles produced the first English version of this catalogue in 1622. It included this curious entry:
Playes written by Mr. William Shakespeare, all in one volume, printed by Isaack Jaggard, in fol.
Curious because it was a folio of plays;
curiouser because the printer listed was Isaac and not his ailing father, William;
and curiouser still because, despite the catalog’s title, Jaggard hadn’t actually finished printing the book.
Announcing yet-unfinished books as “published’ was a favourite trick of German publishers in the Mess Katalog, a way of testing the market, and it seems Jaggard had learned a thing or two from his Teutonic counterparts.
Oxfordian’s point out that after 1604 the Sh publishing industry comes to an end. Citing from Mark Anderson’s ‘Sh by another Name’
‘excepting a brief spate noted below, no new Shake-speare plays would appear in print between 1604 and the months leading up to the 1623 First Folio’.
Now that’s not entirely true. The brief spate contains only plays which literary scholars always place as being conceived and written post-1604. Namely a ‘leaked’ King Lear in 1608, then a ‘pilfered’ copy of Pericles, and a ‘controversial’ version of Troilus and Cressida in 1609. The same year as the publication of the Sonnets.
But of course Sh still has some 20 plays already in circulation pre-1604. And several of these are re-printed between the years 1604-1623. Namely,
Titus Andronicus in 1611;
Richard 3rd in 1605, 1612, 1622;
Romeo and Juliet in 1609;
Richard 2nd in 1608, 1615;
Henry 4th pt 1 in 1604, 1608, 1613, 1622;
Merry Wives of WIndsor in 1619;
Hamlet in 1611;
Othello in 1622;
Taming of the Shrew in 1607.
Most of these are 2nd, 3rd, of 4th Quarto versions of obviously popular titles. But indeed they are not new.
And lest we forget there was a collection of 10 plays published in one book in 1619. The Pavier Quarto collection aka the False Folio. Let’s hear what Sonia Massai of King’s College, London has to say:
The correct dating of the Pavier Quartos was one of the most spectacular achievements associated with the rise of the New Bibliography.
In a seminal article published in 1909, Greg demonstrated that the set of Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean quartos sometimes found bound together in a single volume were all printed on the same mixed stock of paper, and that they were therefore printed at the same time, despite the different dates recorded on their title pages.
Other typographical features led Greg to conclude that all ten plays had been printed by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier in 1619 and that the fake imprints were the result of Pavier’s failure to pacify ‘those who conceived their rights to have been invaded’ (Greg 1909: 128).
According to Greg, the injured parties were other stationers, and the fact that ‘no trouble of a public nature ensued’ must mean that Pavier’s stratagem was successful.
In 1934, E. E. Willoughby offered a slightly different explanation for Pavier’s seemingly bizarre use of genuine and fake imprints by arguing that the injured party was Shakespeare’s company, as suggested by a Stationers’ Court order dated May 1619.
This order was prompted by a letter sent by the Lord Chamberlain. Although the letter is lost, the wording of the order indicates that the Lord Chamberlain invoked the Stationers’ collaboration to prevent the publication of ‘playes that his Matyes players do play’ (Jackson 1957: 110).
Willoughby’s theory that this order was directed at Pavier has hardly ever been challenged since the 1930s.
According to this popular narrative, the King’s Men invoked the Lord Chamberlain’s intercession against Pavier because they were already planning, or were inspired to plan, the First Folio of 1623 and thought that Pavier’s projected collection represented potentially damaging competition.
My paper offers an alternative reconstruction of the circumstances that led to the publication of the Pavier Quartos.
By focusing on the Stationers’ Court order of 1619 and on the Pavier Quartos themselves, my paper argues that the actors did not oppose Pavier’s publishing venture, that Pavier tried to deceive neither the King’s Men nor his fellow stationers, and that the Quartos of 1619 represent in fact a daring marketing venture which led to the publication of the First Folio in 1623.
We now end our tale deep in a world of Jacobethan publishers and printers. But the Oxfordians would have us believe that world was being manipulated and controlled by Court intrigues and cover ups.
Remember no playwright had rights to his plays. They were the property of the playhouse and its shareholders and the many different printers, who owned the copy after they had stayed it in the Stationer’s register. Even more so when they made their first quarto edition of the play and were selling it on the bookstalls around St Pauls.
William Jaggard the printer behind the Pavier and the First Folio did not own the rights to all the plays. Even if the executors of Oxford’s estates had wanted to publish his complete tragedies histories and comedies, they couldn’t without negotiating the rights to works already published first.
Why did Oxford leak these plays onto the market with Shakespeare’s name on them from 1597?
Why did he allow the best-selling narrative poems to continue to be printed in octavo?
With Shakespeare of Stratford we don’t have these questions. We think this to be the way that an author publishes.
Fortunately for us these 17 plays were published in the First Folio, and finally published in totality in 1623:
The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Measure for Measure.
A Comedy of Errors.
As You like it.
All’s Well That Ends Well.
A Winter’s Tale.
Henry the Sixth Part one.
Henry the Eighth.
Timon of Athens.
Anthony and Cleopatra.
Though never published, they had been performed. Excepting Two Gents, King John, AYLI, Comedy of Errors, 12th Night, and Henry 6th pt 1, we would place the other 11 plays as being in Sh’s Jacobean writing period. So the rule of not publishing plays until played out applies right?
Sh (whoever he was) obviously never cared much for seeing his works in print. The profit margin of 2 pounds for a manuscript versus 3,000 spectators paying at least a penny up to sixpence makes simple sense to any businessman, whether he be shareholder, or playwright with a share. As was WIlliam Shakespeare of Stratford.
Also not to be forgotten is the continuous re-printing of his poems:
Venus and Adonis was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 18 April 1593; the poem appeared later that year in a quarto edition, published and printed by Richard Field, a Stratford-upon-Avon man and a close contemporary of Shakespeare.
Field released a second quarto in 1594, then transferred his copyright to John Harrison (“the Elder”), the stationer who published the first edition of The Rape of Lucrece, also in 1594.
Subsequent editions of Venus and Adonis were in octavo format rather than quarto; Harrison issued the third edition (O1) probably in 1595, and the fourth (O2) in 1596 (both of Harrison’s editions were printed by Field). The poem’s copyright then passed to William Leake, who published two editions (O3, O4) in 1599 alone, with perhaps four (O5, O6, O7, and O8) in 1602. The copyright passed to William Barrett in 1617; Barrett issued O9 that same year. Five more editions appeared by 1640 — making the poem, with 16 editions in 47 years, one of the great popular successes of its era.
The Rape of Lucrece was entered into the Stationers’ Register on May 9, 1594, and published later that year, in a quarto printed by Richard Field for the bookseller John Harrison (“the Elder”); Harrison sold the book from his shop at the sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul’s Churchyard.
The title given on the title page was simply Lucrece, though the running title throughout the volume, as well as the heading at the beginning of the text, is The Rape of Lucrece. (The Arden edition of Shakespeare’s [The] Poems, ed F.T.Prince, London and New York, Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1960), from which this information is taken, calls the poem Lucrece.)
Harrison’s copyright was transferred to Roger Jackson in 1614; Jackson issued a sixth edition (O5) in 1616. Other octavo editions followed in 1624, 1632, 1655.
Paul Collins book on the First Folio makes explicitly clear how the world of printers, publishers and booksellers worked. But then again the dead man’s authority and the influence of his all powerful family must be weighed too.
On one side a feather floating by chance and by seeming capability, on the other a casket of coins being cashed in by real life booksellers.
BTW William Jaggard the man chosen to fulfill the task of printing the First Folio was sightless. Good choice for having to turn a blind eye to the real author.
You decide who’s right.