Monday, December 20, 2010

Notes on Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor - Chapter 5

And speaking of the Folio, Massai's 5th chapter treats on "The making of the First Folio (1623)," which Dr. Menzer convincingly argues in Textual Culture was the first modern English book. I like the way Massai's arguments are grounded in data, and her narrative of Pavier's quartos is quite convincing.

Heminge and Condell's preface that the Folio is set from the "true and original copies" of Shakespeare's plays has been a source of contention, as several of the plays are demonstrably set from the quarto copies they would seem to denigrate. This distinction was one of the principles behind Pollard's labeling of quartos as variously good and bad; this preserved the idea that Heminge and Condell were faithful executors of Shakespeare's artistic legacy. Yet it is worth considering that "original," in the early modern sense, did not necessarily mean "rough draft penned by the writer." (136  - 137).

Previous generations of editors have sought to see through "the veil of print" to Shakespeare's hand, and modern editors may be pursuing a similarly elusive phantom in their attempts to link the Folio text to the allowed book of the King's Men's repertory. Writers who saw their works go into print usually tried to separate them from the playhouse performance scripts, and the size and format of the Folio indicates it is designed for a more upscale market than quarto play books. In terms of simple economics, it is unlikely that either the playhouse or the print house would have been able to provide an individual to collate two texts that were already similar in search of minute variations (137 - 139). Despite Wells' assertion that Heminge and Condell attempted to represent the plays as performed, there is little evidence to support that.

Changes to texts for the Folio where the majority of changes affect stage directions also include changes to dialogue that are outside the prevue of the typical early modern annotator. It is more likely that variants in the Folio derive from emendations added by annotating readers than from theatrical annotations or sporadic consultation with performance texts (140).

Treating on the Folio text of Romeo and Juliet, Massai argues that the emendations made for the Folio would not require any specific familiarity with either a performance of the play or the text of the play governing performance; they supply no information that is not given in the immediate context, and are not beyond the ability of an "alert reader" to note (141).

While Folio Romeo and Juliet does remove some confusing or inaccurate stage directions, it sometimes does so in such a way that creates other points of confusion in the text, making consultation with a performance script to be unlikely (142).

Certain changes in speech prefixes from F Romeo and Juliet and Q3 that are not necessary for sense, and which are sometimes incorrect, indicate that neither a playhouse agent nor a print house agent was responsible for the emendation (142 - 143).

"Like recent scholars, including Reid, I believe that the annotator cannot have been a printing house agent intent on reproducing his copy as closely as possible. However, unlike the majority of scholars since Reid, I find no evidence in the Folio text of Romeo and Juliet to support the theory according to which the annotator sporadically consulted a theatrical manuscript or relied on personal memories of the play as staged (144).

Certain annotations in the Folio text of Love's Labour's Lost clarify confusing words and passages, but are unlikely to be authorial in nature, nor are they likely to have arisen from print house practice or consultation with theatrical text. Both Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's only partially succeed at correcting speech prefixes, and at providing "viable, if not satisfactory" alternative readings to obscure words and phrases. As both plays belonged to the same stationer, John Smethwick, these changes possible originated with him (149).

Bibliographic scholars tend to assume that the collection of individuals who prepared Shakespeare's texts for print in the Folio (known as the "Folio Editors") were of a single mind and objective. While the presentational uniformity of the Folio may speak volumes to the control that William and Isaac Jaggard exerted over the syndicate, the range of variants in Folio texts set from printed copy speaks more to the differences than the similarities in preparations for print (150 - 151).

"The Folio variants in plays set from printed copy show that their preparation for the press was not informed by a uniform set of principles or general rationale" (151).

"Generally speaking, variants in the speech prefixes used in the Folio text of Much Ado About Nothing suggest inaccurate recollection of the play as staged and a fussy literary sensitivity on the annotator's part" (157).

"Overall, the Folio variants in Much Ado About Nothing are more likely to have originated from the annotator's patchy recollection of the play in performance then from the annotator's sporadic consultation of a theatrical manuscript" (157).

One oath "O Iesu" is systematically removed from the Folio text of 1 Henry IV, but is allowed to stand in Romeo and Juliet. Again, this clearly demonstrates that a different emending rationale was at play in the different texts (158).

The New Bibliographic concept of "good" and "bad" quartos derives in significant part from Thomas Heywood's address to the reader in The Rape of Lucrece, and the prologue to the 1639 quarto of If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, Part 1. Despite Heywood's claim that he never wanted to see his works in print, he had a long standing and successful relationship with the press. Early printed quartos of Heywood's plays show that unusual efforts were taken to guide their transmission into print (165 - 166). Heywood's claim about surreptitious copies of his plays making their way into print may have been a baseless marketing ploy.

Prefaces to printed works often included an apology that blamed the author's friends for insisting a work should be printed and shared, or that an unauthorized copy had mad its way to print already, and that the author only published as a corrective to a maimed edition. Some writers, however, notably committed their work to print because they believed print to be a more accurate and reliable method of conveying their texts than oral or manuscript means: notable among these instances are Gray's Inn preacher Roger Fenton and Thomas More more than a century earlier. The reliability of print transmission was dependent upon an author being able to rely on their printer's work, and for this task Fenton chose William Aspley, who also printed Much Ado About Nothing and 2 Henry IV (171 - 172).

William Burton's translation of Erasmus' Seven Dialogues contains a preface from "The Printer to the Reader," where the printer begs pardon for errors arising from an un-perfected copy text, and the unavailability of the author [translator]. This edition was, however, set from printed copy, and as the 'printer' cites the circumstances of publication and the whereabouts of the author, including his lack of involvement, it is likely that 'printer' should be taken to mean the stationer: John Smethwick (173 - 174).

Printers did not retain annotated copies for subsequent printings: these would be held by the stationers, who ultimately had the right to decide if and when to reprint the material, and which printer to hire (178 - 179).

"While consultation of theatrical manuscripts for plays which had not been altered in the theatre and were already available in print must have been costly and impractical, annotation of copy was a common and welcome practice (179).

Rather than attempting to print texts that were as close as possible to either the author's original draft or the theatrical text, publishers in early modern London valued progressive improvements to the works they printed, and relied on collaboration with annotating readers to improve the quality of their texts (179).


Just as the editors of the New Bibliography attempted to see through the "veil of print" to the hand of the author, modern editors have a tendency to over-value the theatrical text as a standard for early modern publication. Stationers in the period viewed their printed works as texts to be read, and to this end sought as often as possible the assistance of readers who could correct and improve the copy they would send to the printer. Authors who brought their works into print needed to be able to rely on stationers and printers to faithfully transmit their works into that medium, and as such printers would have valued the accuracy of their work because their professional reputations depended on it. While errors were inevitable, publishers and printers of the period took pains to avoid them, which could mean normalizing a theatrical text and making it into a more literary object than its earlier incarnations.

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