Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notes on Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor - Chapter 4

Most of us know the story that the Lord Chamberlain forced the Stationers Company to forbid their members from printing the King's Men's plays without their permission, and that this injunction was specifically focussed against Thomas Pavier. Pavier printed several of Shakespeare's quartos, and most scholars would agree that Heminge and Condell wanted to shut him down in anticipation of their Folio project. Lukas Erne has suggested that the 'surreptitious copies' that Heminge and Condell attack in the preface were the Pavier Quartos, as opposed to the "bad quartos" as Pollard suggested. Scholars will commonly cite the forged imprints that appear on six of Pavier's eight quartos as proof of his attempts to get around this order (106).

Massai believes that Pavier was motivated by business considerations and not the Stationer's Co order when he forged the imprints. She further proposes that it was Isaac Jaggard and not the King's Men that conceived of the idea for the Folio, based on his experience printing the Pavier collection; the King's Men used the Stationer's Co order to dissuade other Stationers from buying Shakespeare's plays, and persuaded Pavier to print the quartos he had individually as a means to whet consumer appetite for the Folio (106 - 107).

Among the irregularities that Massai's proposed narrative of events accounts for is the fact that annotated copies of Paviers Midsummer and possibly King Lear were used for the Folio, which seems to suggest that Heminge and Condell did not view these as 'maimed and deformed' copies. Also, there seems to be a complete lack of retaliation against Pavier, and maybe most tellingly, the Jaggard's were called upon to lead the syndicate that printed the Folio (108).

All three Lords Chamberlain who held that office before the closing of the theatres in 1642 wrote letters to forbid the printing of plays produced by court-patronized companies. William Herbert's 1619 letter does not survive, but Philip Herbert's 10 June 1637 and Robert Devereux's 7 August 1641 letter both do, and both invoke William Herbert's letter as precedent (109).

Philip Herbert's letter specifies that King's Men actors must authorize the printing of any already or yet to be registered play in writing, but does not allow for the already printed editions of the plays to be re-issued, and does not prevent their sale (109).

Neither Philip Herbert's 1637 letter, nor Devereux's 1641 letter supports Greg's assumption that playing companies considered the reprinting of old plays to be a financial liability or an infringement of their proprietary rights (110).

"A conservative analysis of the pattern of dramatic publication during the five-year periods preceding and following the Lord Chamberains' letters of 1619 and 1637 confirms that the order issued by the Court of the Stationers' Company in 1619 was a precautionary rather than a cautionary measure" (110).

Philip Herbert's 1637 injunction can be viewed as a cautionary measure, as the printing of plays increased during this time; Thomas Heywood, in his preface to The English Traveller, accuses the actors of "think[ing] it against their peculiar profit to have [his plays] come into Print," but appears to have found a printer anyway. The 1619 and 1641 letters, by contrast, followed a period of noticeable decline in the printing of play texts (111).

By the time of the Lord Chamberlain's injunction in 1619, Pavier was an established member of the Stationer's Company, and it is unlikely he would have defied their order and printed contraband books (113).

Pavier's Merry Wives, though attributed to Arthur Johnson, is correctly dated (Johnson's edition was printed in 1602), and Johnson was still active in 1619. It is unlikely that this represents an attempt to pass off the new printing as an old one, and Johnson could have taken action against Pavier within the Stationer's Company if he felt his rights were being infringed (113).

Pavier is unlikely to have pirated the quartos he printed because he owned the rights to five of them, probably worked with the stationers who owned the rights to three, and the remaining two had not been reclaimed by their stationers since 1600 (114).

Perhaps more significant are the errors on the printed dates for Pavier's Henry V and Sir John Oldcastle, which establish their print dates as 1608 and 1600 respectively; Pavier personally owned the rights to both of these plays (1614).

Since all of the quartos that Pavier printed had been printed before, the King's Men actors had no legal recourse to stop Pavier from printing them (114).

Other nonce collections of plays printed in the period demonstrate similar false impressions on their title pages; this had the effect of presenting the collection as a new collection of older works previously printed elsewhere (115 - 116).

Jaggard may have persuaded Pavier to print his collection of quartos as a nonce collection of a recently deceased playwright rather than as an incomplete collection of works because collections of plays printed for the public stage were notoriously bad sellers. The appearance of a nonce collection might have catered to new market appeal, while at the same time whetting the market appetite for the Folio. Selling the quartos in this manner would have minimized Pavier's financial risk, but he stood to profit from the Folio because he did own the copyright to five of the plays, and would have been able to make money by letting that to other stationers. It is also possible that Pavier planned on being a member of the Folio syndicate, and was thinking of long term Folio profits as well; there are many reasons why he might have agreed to Jaggard's plan (118 - 119).

Twentieth century editors of the plays Pavier printed will tend to agree that Pavier consulted no new sources, but that his quartos were nevertheless heavily edited; these edits tend to correct errors from previous printings, especially in terms of speech prefixes, and to add stage directions to increase dramatic action for a reader, while removing stage directions that would be more useful for an actor (121-123).

Stage directions in the Pavier quartos tend to be set in such a way as to make them more easily readable. They are frequently surrounded by a newline to help make them more visually distinct from surrounding text, as opposed to being set flush right after one or more lines of text, as in the case of the printings from which Pavier's quartos were set (125).

The dialogue in Pavier's quartos is similarly well-tended. Lines are often re-written to correct factual errors, "to introduce or record changes in the dramatic structure of the play," or to correct passages that were corrupt in the source text (125).

Massai says of the Pavier quartos: "The more problematic the source text, the greater the frequency with which either a careful annotating reader or an alert compositor turned their attention to local errors" (129).

Pavier was undertaking a new venture in printing a collection of plays for the public stage, and it is worth considering that he may have invested his time in perfecting the texts for print just as he invested his capital in the print process. Pavier himself may have been the annotating reader responsible for corrections to the texts that appear in his quartos, and while it is impossible to establish his identity solely from internal evidence, his previous output would suggest that Pavier is a likely candidate (132 - 133).


While some modern scholars have regarded Pavier and his publishing venture as an expansion of the piracy of the "bad" quartos, just as we have re-evaluated both the piracy and the badness of those earlier quartos, we ought to at least re-evaluate Pavier. He was an established member of his company, and an analysis of his output over the course of his career shows that he was attentive to details and interested in the quality of the works that he printed. While he may not have consulted authoritative sources, he was interested in translating the action of a playscript into a format more conducive to be read as an end in itself. Far from being the originator of maimed, deformed, and surreptitious, copy, Pavier may have been one of the originators of an editorial tradition that continue to this day.

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