Edited by Marta Straznicky, this seminal collection is the first to explore the multiple and intersecting forms of agency exercised by Shakespeare's stationers in the design, production, marketing, and distribution of his printed works.
2012 | 384 pages | Cloth $75.00
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Table of Contents
Introduction: What Is a Stationer?
Chapter 1. The Stationers' Shakespeare
Chapter 2. Thomas Creede, William Barley, and the Venture of Printing Plays
—Holger Schott Syme
Chapter 3. Wise Ventures: Shakespeare and Thomas Playfere at the Sign of the Angel
—Adam G. Hooks
Chapter 4. "Vnder the Handes of . . .": Zachariah Pasfield and the Licensing of Playbooks
—William Proctor Williams
Chapter 5. Nicholas Ling's Republican Hamlet (1603)
Chapter 6. Shakespeare the Stationer
Chapter 7. Edward Blount, the Herberts, and the First Folio
Chapter 8. John Norton and the Politics of Shakespeare's History Plays in Caroline England
—Alan B. Farmer
Chapter 9. Shakespeare's Flop: John Waterson and The Two Noble Kinsmen
Appendix A: Shakespearean Publications, 1591-1640
Appendix B: Selected Stationer Profiles
List of Contributors
What Is a Stationer?
it does behove us to honour the labours and risks of those men, who sought indeed a livelihood and even a fortune in their occupations; but who often did far worthier than that, even sometimes to the risking of all that they possessed, and without whose speculations all this would have been lost to us.
The phrase "all this," with respect to the present volume, refers to the imaginative writings of William Shakespeare. Preserved in print chiefly by the "labours," "risks," and "speculations" of dozens of printers, publishers, and booksellers, Shakespeare's poems and plays in their earliest editions are evidence of direct and historically meaningful encounters with the community of tradesmen to whom, as Arber reminds us, we owe much of the intellectual heritage of early modern England. The collective term for printers, publishers, and booksellers in the early modern period was "stationer," meaning a practitioner of any of the trades involved in book production, including binding, parchment making, and copying, and after 1557 referring more strictly to a member of the Stationers' Company, which was incorporated in that year. While not all stationers would have had the opportunity or even the inclination to engage in cultural or political movements through their business practices, it is clear that a large number did, and did so in ways we are only now beginning to understand. To construe such stationers as "readers" as well as tradesmen is to foreground their cultural agency in the production and dissemination of Shakespeare's works; more broadly it is to inquire how commerce intersected with culture to transform so many varieties of manuscript, emanating to different degrees from the pen of a single individual, into the material property of books. The underlying premise of this collection is that the stationers who invested in Shakespeare's writings had motives that were not exclusively financial, that in deciding to publish a poem or a play of Shakespeare's (whether authorial attribution concerned them or not) they performed an act of critical judgment that is discernible in the material text, not least in its very existence. Shakespeare's Stationers explores how the trade in books affected the interpretation of Shakespeare by early modern printers, publishers, and booksellers and how their interpretations in turn shaped Shakespeare into the "great Variety" of print commodities he would become in his first fifty years as a published author.
The critical and historical procedures underlying this volume build on Zachary Lesser's Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication, which argues that the intellectual facet of the stationers' trade is crucial to understanding what individual plays meant "in these editions, in these specific historical moments, to these people." These concerns resonate with the overlapping fields of cultural bibliography and the history of reading, specifically as they have been articulated in the seminal work of D. F. McKenzie, Robert Darnton, and Roger Chartier. Writing out of the fertile conjunction of poststructuralist and Marxist thought, these scholars established new objectives and protocols for a sociologically oriented study of books that takes the material form of a text as inseparable from the meanings produced by its readers. The claim, of course, is not that book design in any of its facets controls or determines the readings a text might generate, but, in Chartier's terms, more basically that "any comprehension of a writing, no matter what kind it is, depends on the forms in which it reaches its reader." Considering that book form itself is produced not only by technical skill and industry but also by social formations, ideologies, personal and intellectual disposition, and sheer creative energy, this is fundamentally a humanistic principle, returning, on the one hand, real readers and the artifacts of reading to reception history and, on the other, "human motive and intention" to bibliography.
This shift in book history has had a profound impact on Shakespeare studies, generating major reappraisals of the textual history of Shakespeare's plays, a new tradition of editorial theory and methodology, and widespread critical attention to bibliographic format, typography, binding, book collecting, and the practices and technologies of early modern reading. Far from being the preserve of an elite corps of bibliographers and textual scholars, the study of the "materiality of the text" has become integral to historicist criticism, implicating as it does the physical form of print in every act of interpretation, past and present, whether this engages with the minutiae of orthography and punctuation, ideological work performed at the level of discourse, or the formation of the Shakespearean canon. Where earlier generations of scholars conceived of print as a veil, in Fredson Bowers's evocative metaphor a sullied if not solid medium through which Shakespeare is unhappily but necessarily apprehended, today print is a semantic field, its materials and dispositions carrying a multitude of meanings that invite both analytical and critical interpretation: the placement of page breaks, for instance, can facilitate a particular reading protocol; title pages display marketing strategies that position Shakespeare's works in shifting aesthetic and social hierarchies; the typographic arrangement of alternating speakers' verse lines can signal a play text's roots in different and differently valued literary traditions; and the orthographic variability of early modern books means that even a single printed word may be invested with local, historical resonance. Above all, a Shakespeare play in print is quite other than, if not entirely distinct from, Shakespeare on the stage, a (re)discovery that has completely transformed the field in the past twenty-five years.
Shakespeare's earliest printers, publishers, and booksellers are clearly of great importance to this reassessment of the material text, but until recently our conception of their roles and functions has been dominated by Alfred Pollard's colorful depiction of the entire early modern book trade as "a pirates' game." In two groundbreaking books in which he set out to explain the puzzling variety of filial relations between the quartos of Shakespeare's plays and the 1623 folio, Pollard cemented the view of Shakespeare's stationers as thieving, small-time capitalists intent on practicing "casual depradations" in order to turn a quick coin. Although he was contesting the prevailing nineteenth-century view of all the quartos as textually corrupt, a view Pollard dismissed as "piracy on the brain," his own book on the subject, Shakespeare's Fight with the Pirates, ironically did far more than any bibliographer before or since to entrench the view of early modern stationers as unscrupulous stealers of England's most revered textual property. Pollard insisted that his narrative was told "without prejudice" and "in a reasonable and human manner," but his binary classification of the Shakespeare quartos into "good" and "bad" and his cavalier references to certain stationers as traitors, blackmailers, and "impecunious copy-snatcher[s]" betray a grand moral judgment at work. That judgment hinged on a misinformed understanding of the early modern copyright system: Pollard believed that entrance in the Stationers' Register constituted evidence of legitimate ownership, by which he meant sanctioned both by the author and by the Stationers' Company. By this logic the absence of entrance prior to publication was proof of illegally acquired copy, and the resulting book was a "bad" text produced implicitly by a bad stationer, a pirate.
As with Milton's Satan, it was the criminal and not the law-abiding stationer who captured the scholarly imagination. Pollard's use of the term "pirate" for the publisher of a bad quarto was understood as both a semantic confusion and a historical fallacy by some major scholars of the time. E. K. Chambers noted simply that it "is not a very happy term, since no piracy of copyright is involved," and W. W. Greg, while never fully rejecting Pollard's thesis, cast doubt on the categorical link between entrance in the Stationers' Register and legitimate ownership. But the myth of piracy persisted, even through decades of textual and bibliographic scholarship on the organization, regulation, and trade practices of stationers showing that bad as well as good quartos were published, as Leo Kirschbaum argued in Shakespeare and the Stationers, by "respectable, law-abiding, more or less affluent merchants," and that the guild as a whole was no more disorderly or prone to dishonest dealing than any other in the city of London.
Kirschbaum's depiction of Shakespeare's publishers as reputable tradesmen, an approach championed again in the 1980s and early 1990s in a series of superb articles by Gerald D. Johnson, failed to take hold in Shakespeare studies until the appearance in 1997 of Peter Blayney's chapter on "The Publication of Playbooks" in A New History of Early English Drama. Blayney did not so much present a new history of his topic as present it to a new audience, or one newly interested in bibliography and the history of the book. It was Blayney's emphasis on publication rather than printing and his detailed account of the conditions of the book trade and the many decisions, speculations, and negotiations a publisher engaged in before a play appeared on the book stalls that finally altered the paradigm for thinking about stationers as agents in the production of dramatic texts. Although his essay does not take special notice of Shakespeare, except ceremoniously to knock him down on the best-seller list, Blayney's dual analysis of profit margins and publication rates for commercial plays concluded that, for straightforward financial reasons, this sector of the trade was unlikely to make a profit for stationers and was, therefore, quantitatively insignificant. The premise of generations of bibliographers that Shakespeare's plays were subject to piracy because of insatiable demand on the book market was summarily overturned.
Blayney's claim that playbooks were not popular reading material has in turn been challenged, but his foregrounding of market logic dominates current thinking about Shakespeare's stationers. The early publication history of Shakespeare is now framed in terms of commercial practices (procurement of manuscripts, protection of investments by copyright, market development, advertising, specialization, networking, shared-risk publication, bundling of related properties, wholesale and retail distribution), practices that turn ultimately and inescapably on the imperative of profit. Profit was most certainly made through the publication of Shakespeare's plays and poems. Blayney calculated that a publisher would have to sell 60 percent of a first edition of a quarto in a print run of eight hundred in order to break even; the appearance of second and subsequent editions would thus indicate a successful return on investment. As Zachary Lesser and Alan Farmer have shown, during the period 1576-1625 nearly 30 percent of professional plays were reprinted within ten years; in the same period thirteen out of twenty-two of Shakespeare's separately published plays were reprinted at least once within ten years, a rate of almost 60 percent, nearly double that for Shakespeare's contemporaries. If one includes the reprinting of previously published plays in the 1623 folio and that volume's own reprinting in 1632, then the only plays of Shakespeare's that were not reprinted within ten years of first publication were 2 Henry IV and Much Ado about Nothing, both of which appeared in 1600 but not again until 1623. If we include the 1634 edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen, which was not reprinted until 1679, then just three plays of the thirty-eight normally attributed to Shakespeare may not have made profits for their publishers. Add to this the phenomenal publication success of Shakespeare's two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis in ten editions and Lucrece in five during his lifetime alone, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that a text by Shakespeare was an unusually good investment.
Attending in a rigorous way to the economics of the book trade has usefully reoriented Shakespearean bibliography, but there remain many aspects of this business history that are not satisfactorily explained by profit-making alone. If we are fully to understand the position of playbooks in the marketplace of print, we need to investigate the agency of stationers in the publication and dissemination of Shakespeare's works: given that the market for printed playbooks was variable, who invested in Shakespeare when and why? What degree of convergence is there between the publishers of Shakespeare's poems and plays? How were Shakespearean texts distributed and managed within the stationers' property regime? What preferences or specializations can be identified among publishers for particular kinds of texts, and what intertextual readings become available when Shakespeare's works are set in relation to these profiles? What value did the various kinds of Shakespearean writing acquire in print, and how did this differ from other cultural arenas such as manuscript circulation and theatrical performance?
Books are not, after all, merely material commodities: as carriers of ideas, of language, of cultural memory, they pulse with the very life force of a society—its beliefs, values, and anxieties; as real objects circulating with very little restraint across structures of social, religious, and political organization, they are, in Elizabeth Eisenstein's iconic phrase, agents of change. This is, of course, no less true of imaginative writing than of books that engage explicitly in political or theological debate, and there is ample evidence that the government well knew it: as early as 1559, long before commercial playhouses were operating in London, Elizabeth I issued the first of her ordinances against unlicensed printing, explicitly singling out heretical and seditious "playes [that] be often times printed"; a 1599 proclamation against the publication of satires commanded that "noe playes be printed excepte they bee allowed by suche as have aucthorytie"; on a smaller scale, throughout the period dozens of individual playbooks were subject to state censorship. It is inconceivable that stationers were unaware that certain of their publications were politically hazardous. They also had more narrowly literary or intellectual agendas that are discernible in the books they produced, in their career profiles and business networks, and in documentary records surviving in government, parish, and guild archives. As long as a title had not been entered in the Stationers' Register or protected by patent, publishers were free to choose what they wished to invest in; they bought and sold copyrights and in this way could build up special interests or divest themselves of titles they no longer wished to control; they commissioned authors to write specific kinds of texts and on occasion secured copyright in them before they went to press; they hired printers, and some established long-term partnerships with particular shops; to the chagrin of at least one author, publishers formulated titles and decided at least some facets of book design; they used their publications as platforms for expressions of kinship, patronage, and other loyalties; they supplied books with prefaces and dedications, and when they composed these themselves, they could assume the role of discerning critics; they compiled and edited collections of verse or published series that were designed to be bound together; they developed the earliest editorial practices geared to textual improvement; and they constructed literary canons long before anyone was practicing criticism professionally.
All of these activities are documented for early modern literary publishing; as far as drama is concerned, not all were commercially successful, and some seem not to have been even commercially motivated. Humphrey Moseley's huge investment in dramatic publication in the 1650s, as David Scott Kastan concludes, "was clearly driven by concerns beyond market logic." One could also cite the ten Shakespeare quartos published by Thomas Pavier in 1619, seemingly a nonce collection meant to stimulate the market ahead of the publication of the complete works, which do not fit the pattern of his later publications and investments and are especially incongruous in that he appears to have stopped selling plays altogether by 1608. The publication of the Shakespeare folio entailed an enormous commitment of resources with no assurance of turning a quick profit, "an unattractive venture for any but the most ambitious publishers," writes Kastan. And yet the Jaggards took it on, albeit as part of a consortium headed by Edward Blount, an enterprising stationer with a strong record in literary publication. Their copyright in previously unpublished titles was carefully registered just days before the volume appeared, and some stark irregularities in the edition reveal that negotiations with earlier copyright holders were under way even as the book was being printed. In their preface to the First Folio's "great Variety of Readers," a text that may have been commissioned by the book's lead publisher Edward Blount, Shakespeare's fellow actors Heming and Condell practically grovel as they urge the bookshop browser to purchase the volume in hand: "what euer you do, Buy. Censure will not driue a Trade, or make the Iacke go" (A3). However successful the First Folio may eventually have been, at the time of its compilation it seems to have produced considerable anxiety for its publishers.
Yet in spite of the real risks posed by an emergent, unstable market for playbooks, this was clearly a sector that many publishers were willing to develop, possibly because of preexisting relationships with theatrical companies. The textual basis of theater would always have necessitated some business with stationers—for the supply of writing materials, the hiring of copyists, the printing of playbills, and the sale of manuscripts, to name just the obvious points of contact between the two professions. Bookshops also offered a kind of sociability that had much in common with the theater, as Gary Taylor has shown, and insofar as they dealt in textiles and haberdashery and sold ale, as well as being a place where people talked about books, they may have been natural haunts for actors and playwrights. Certainly we know that some stationers were well connected with the theatrical community: Thomas Creede registered and printed ten of the Queen's Men's plays between 1594 and 1599; James Roberts held the patent for printing playbills from 1594 and may have been acting as an agent for the Lord Chamberlain's Men when he conditionally registered a set of their plays in 1600; William Jaggard bought a license from Roberts to print playbills exclusively for Worcester's Men; Thomas Thorpe had connections with the Children of the Chapel through publications by Ben Jonson, John Marston, and George Chapman; and it is widely accepted that Edward Blount and other members of the Folio syndicate could not have published Shakespeare's collected plays without the collaboration of the King's Men. For their part, acting companies exploited the book trade in various ways: to supplement their income by selling manuscripts; to advertise current and recent productions on playbills and posted title pages; and/or to promote their repertories and prestige as licensed players under aristocratic patronage. Far from the narrative of antagonism between the theater and book trade imagined by Pollard, here we find communication, collaboration, even camaraderie, a diverse set of engagements in which the drive to realize both cultural and financial capital was at work.
The essays in this collection seek an understanding of these engagements precisely in their diversity. Their authors attempt to identify and trace the various kinds of agency exercised by stationers and one press licenser as Shakespeare's texts passed through their hands. Alexandra Halasz leads off with an overview of capitalist venture in the early modern book trade, specifically the development of a market where stationers could "stimulate, develop, and shape" consumer demand for specific kinds of literary products by buying, selling, or renting intellectual property. She outlines several of these marketing strategies, none of which relies exclusively or even primarily on the vendibility of the authorial name but instead collects, gathers, and clusters texts according to other authorizing logics such as genre, theme, or social prestige. Notably it is stationers rather than authors who have the capacity to produce the "synergy between titles" by means of which "multiple texts became desirable together." Within this system, Halasz argues, the publication of Shakespeare's works was business as usual: in its timing, in choice of format, in the preference for certain titles over others, and even in the use of the authorial name as a marketing device Shakespeare entered print through the regular trade practices of the Stationers' Company. The essay challenges us to move beyond the Shakespearean exceptionalism that produced the narratives of origin, crisis, and violation rehearsed in histories of Shakespearean publication for more than a century. In crediting stationers with the creative agency that gave Shakespeare's writing bibliographic form and placed it within discursive fields that continue to shape its reception, Halasz reveals how marginal the author could be to the intellectual property that carried his name in print.
Working broadly within this same framework, Holger Schott Syme takes us down to the level of costing paper and labor as a factor in the success of Thomas Creede, one of the foremost printers of Shakespeare's plays and a major figure in the development of the market for them. Comparing Creede's business with that of the unsuccessful publisher William Barley, for whom Creede registered and printed a large number of Queen's Men's plays in 1594, Syme demonstrates that economies of scale in the book trade were more important than the popularity of playwrights or theatrical repertories in determining a stationer's success. By all accounts Barley was exceptionally well positioned to profit from the trade in printed plays: his shop was in Gracechurch Street, the thoroughfare that connected London Bridge to Bishopsgate and thus Southwark and Shoreditch. This was, as Syme emphasizes, "in the very heart of the network of the capital's playhouses," with a nearly captive market of theater patrons passing the shop on performance days. And yet the plays he published, among which were some of the decade's greatest stage successes, turned out not to be profitable as books. Rather than assume a disjunction between the play-going and play-reading audiences, Syme suggests that Barley's failure was due to an overly narrow portfolio of quarto pamphlets, a format with a profit margin too small to sustain a publishing business. Unlike Barley, Creede and other successful stationers not only varied the length of books in which they invested but also based their business on long publications, where the profit margin was greater. In this context, as Halasz too demonstrates, Thomas Pavier's plan to reprint ten of Shakespeare's play quartos for a collected volume makes good business sense, as does his moving on to publish the massive Works of Joseph Hall after the Shakespeare collection failed to materialize (1624, STC 12635).
As Adam Hooks argues, however, Shakespeare's claim to the status of literary dramatist did not depend on the appearance of a collected volume: it had already been consolidated by a succession of single quarto editions published by Andrew Wise in the late 1590s. Wise's extremely popular quartos of three of Shakespeare's history plays—Richard II and Richard III in 1597 and 1598, respectively, and 1 Henry IV in 1598 and 1599—were sold at the sign of the Angel in Paul's Churchyard alongside Wise's other specialty, the sermons of Thomas Playfere. Although playbooks and sermons are not intuitively compatible literary properties, and were not as long ago as 1633, when William Prynne ranted that plays were printed on finer paper and "more vendible than the choycest Sermons," in the bookshop of Andrew Wise the two genres were not only found together but, as Hooks shows, found there to have "connections within the literary field that have since been lost." The particular connection Hooks uncovers is a vernacular literary style signified by the epithet "mellifluous," familiar to us as Francis Meres's endearing term for Shakespeare's poems but also used at the time for Playfere's sermons. Tracing in the texts to which the epithet is applied a common aesthetic and a patronage network centered around Sir George Carey, Lord Chamberlain and patron of Shakespeare's company until 1596, Hooks reveals that the playbooks in Wise's inventory, which are in fact exclusively Shakespearean, belong to the same literary field that already included the enormously popular Venus and Adonis and Lucrece being sold under the authorial name—at John Harrison's White Greyhound, just steps away from Wise's shop. Notably, Wise's quartos are the first to feature on their title pages both the Lord Chamberlain's auspices and, in his second editions of Richard II and Richard III, the name of William Shakespeare. Although he was perhaps not in a position to promote or even recognize his own achievement, twenty-five years ahead of Edward Blount and William and Isaac Jaggard, Andrew Wise conceived of Shakespeare as both a company man and a writer of plays worth reading again and again.
While a publisher and bookseller such as Wise could create synergies among books from distinct literary fields, in the arena of press censorship plays appear to have had a different relationship to the public sphere than did other kinds of publications. Thus while Wise was twice fined by the wardens of the Stationers' Company for failing to obtain ecclesiastical allowance for the publication of Playfere's A most excellent and heauenly sermon (1595, STC 20014), the "authority" legally required prior to printing, his Shakespeare quartos were all duly registered without attracting any notice for not having been licensed. William Proctor Williams's essay surveys the practice of ecclesiastical licensing in the early modern period and sheds new light on the one licenser, Zachariah Pasfield, who can be said to have specialized in licensing plays for print before 1607, when that function was transferred to the office of Master of the Revels. Unlike other licensers who typically authorized only one or two plays, Pasfield licensed sixteen, far more than any of the fifteen others providing ecclesiastical authorization between 1586 and 1607. He is best known to Shakespeareans as the licenser of the first quarto of Hamlet, entered in the Stationers' Register on 26 July 1602, but he also authorized Every Man in His Humour, Love's Metamorphosis, Poetaster, The Malcontent, The Honest Whore, and Sejanus, among others. During Pasfield's most active years as a licenser, some 60 percent of all plays published were formally authorized, a proportion that suggests exceptional vigilance in the years around the transition from Elizabethan to Jacobean rule. And yet, as Williams notes, Pasfield allowed a number of satires whose publication was officially forbidden by his own superiors, the most notorious of which was Samuel Rowlands's The letting of humours blood in the head-vaine (1600, STC 21393), editions of which were subsequently burned in the kitchen of Stationers' Hall by order of the Court of Assistants. Although the "whole Impressions" were ordered destroyed, twenty-seven stationers, including Andrew Wise, were fined just four months later for buying newly printed copies of the offending pamphlet. This incident is one of many that reveal the inconsistency of press censorship in the period. Attending to the work of individual licensers, as Williams does, highlights the human drama behind the irregularities, lapses, and breaches of government censorship, and the shifting presence of individual plays, even individual editions of plays, within the public sphere where this drama played out.
Kirk Melnikoff's essay on republican discourse in the 1603 edition of Hamlet licensed by Pasfield introduces a second stationer who, like Andrew Wise, was a perceptive early reader of Shakespeare and a canny bookseller. Nicholas Ling, son of a successful parchment maker from Norwich, financed both the first and second editions of Hamlet and appears to have done so as part of a publishing enterprise that featured books promoting nonconformist ideas on counsel and office holding. Beginning in 1597 Ling published more than half a dozen collections of aphorisms, many of which he had some hand in organizing, editing, titling, or introducing to readers. Within this specialty, which Zachary Lesser and Peter Stallybrass have identified as part of a sustained attempt by a number of publishers to valorize vernacular poetry, Ling was particularly concerned to highlight "graue sentences" for the moral and political edification of his readers. In the decade after 1597, Ling published at least five literary compilations that are similarly rich in aphorisms and feature the special typographic device inverted commas, conventionally used to give them emphasis. As anyone who has read Hamlet knows, such sayings are delivered mainly by Polonius, a slightly ridiculous figure in the more familiar second edition of the play but as Corambis in the first quarto a statesman of considerable authority. Melnikoff's reading of inverted commas around certain of Corambis's lines shows that Q1 Hamlet was a serious and sensible investment in the context of Ling's developing specialty in republican books. Orienting his study to the stationer rather than the author or theatrical company, and thus avoiding the persistent tendency to compare Q1 and Q2 in terms of textual authority, Melnikoff restores the first edition of Hamlet to its earliest readership as a serious play in its own right, attracting the attention and financial investment of one of the period's leading publishers of political writing and belonging to a larger republican discourse that would underpin the revolution of the mid-seventeenth century.
Lukas Erne's landmark Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist (2003) has demonstrated that Shakespeare wrote plays that were initially better suited to reading than performance, but the question of whether he took an active interest in their success as books remains largely unaddressed. Douglas Bruster's essay shifts our focus from stationers per se to Shakespeare's own engagement with the marketplace of print. Working from the assumption that Shakespeare bought as well as read books and that he must therefore have browsed the stalls in St. Paul's Churchyard and elsewhere, seen copies of his plays, and taken some notice of how they were selling, Bruster attempts to isolate a shift in Shakespeare's printed works that is attributable to the playwright and that may therefore indicate his awareness of and response to the market for playbooks. Such a shift may be found in the noticeable but unexplained decline after 1602 in Shakespeare's use of dramatic prose, a medium he had used heavily from about 1598 and that was highly popular with theatergoers.
In 1600, a year in which new books in literature and the arts accounted for a record 31 percent of all new publications, Shakespeare was the best-published writer in London with ten books out that year, five of which were first editions, and several thousand lines of poetry in anthologies such as those published by Ling. Bruster emphasizes that in 1600 and subsequent years the competition among literary titles, even among Shakespearean titles, was unprecedented. Interestingly not one of the five plays newly published in 1600 was reprinted in Shakespeare's lifetime. Given that some of the earlier titles continued to be reprinted—Richard II in its fifth edition the year before Shakespeare died—the 1600 plays seem to have been less attractive to readers, a phenomenon that Bruster surmises had to do with their proportionately higher concentration of prose. Except for the anomalous 1 Henry IV, which makes heavy use of prose and was also a notable success in print, Shakespeare's other prose-rich plays, the products of a stylistic shift he made in the late 1590s, never did well as books. Critics have remarked on Shakespeare's return to verse at this point in his career but have been unable to explain why he did so when prose seemed to be increasingly popular in the theater. Bruster speculates about whether this very shift, registering above all the writer's agency, might give us a sense of how alert Shakespeare was to the publication of his plays in his later career.
Shakespeare, of course, did not live to see his collected plays in print, and it may have been his very absence from the Folio project that produced the fascinating interplay of authorizing strategies characteristic of that monumental volume. Sonia Massai's essay reconstructs the network of connections between Edward Blount, the lead publisher in the Folio syndicate, and William and Philip Herbert, the volume's illustrious patrons, to show that the invention of the particular literary field claimed for Shakespeare in this book is not achieved by print alone but by a mutually reinforcing alignment of print and a much older and more venerable form of authorization, patronage. The son of a merchant tailor and himself a published author and translator, Blount brought both financial and cultural capital to the Folio project. Apprenticed to William Ponsonby from 1578 to 1588, he learned the trade under that renowned Elizabethan publisher and in many respects fashioned his own business in the same vein. Ponsonby is best known as the publisher of the Sidney-Herbert coterie and would certainly have been a factor in Blount's gaining favor with the Herbert brothers. The Herberts were the biological and intellectual heirs to the brilliant literary estate of their uncle Sir Philip Sidney and, crucially, the leading patrons of the literary arts in the early seventeenth century. Reading the Folio's dedication to the Herbert brothers in relation to authorizing strategies displayed in other Sidney-Herbert publications, Massai demonstrates that the Blount-Herbert alliance legitimizes the First Folio in a way that no other combination of publisher and patron could have done. The effect is immediately evident by looking at the genealogy of the First Folio in relation not to Ben Jonson's folio Works of 1616, its oft-cited forebear, but rather to Blount's and Ponsonby's publications. These publications included an uninterrupted run of the period's top literary titles, including the two authorized editions of The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, The Faerie Queene, five editions of Hero and Leander, Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays, Thomas Shelton's translation of Don Quixote, and closet dramas by Mary Sidney, William Alexander, and Samuel Daniel—a reading list unlikely to include Shakespeare's plays in 1623 but one whose literary, if not social, authority strikes us today as perfectly apt. As Massai argues, this authority was engineered by Edward Blount and is not something the folio format, Droeshout's engraving, any number of commendatory poems, and perhaps especially not the plays themselves could have achieved.
The final two essays in the collection look to the 1630s when certain of Shakespeare's plays continued to be published separately even though editions of the Folio were widely available. This is a little-studied phenomenon in the history of Shakespearean publishing, most narratives ending neatly but prematurely in 1623 or focusing thereafter only on the succession of folio publications. But just as Shakespeare continued writing for the stage after he retired to Stratford, so his printed corpus did not simply end with the fanfare of the Folio. Nor were the post-1623 plays guaranteed to succeed, as was the case with the five editions of Andrew Wise's formerly best-selling Shakespearean history plays reprinted by John Norton between 1629 and 1639 (Richard III, Richard II, and 1 Henry IV). As Alan Farmer shows, Norton struggled in business for most of his career, and the 1630s were particularly difficult. During that decade Norton saw an acrimonious end to his partnership with Nicholas Okes, exclusion from the list of master printers, and the need to mortgage his share in the English Stock on two separate occasions. Norton's publication of five previously successful play quartos makes sense from a commercial perspective, but Farmer argues that his selection of Shakespearean history plays was at least as much a political as a financial investment, that he was gaming on the hostile religious climate of the 1630s by reprinting works he knew would resonate with the government's concern to depict rebellion as England's greatest threat. Read in the context of Norton's publications of the 1630s, which included visitation articles for Arminian divines as well as new editions of older polemical works by Richard Bancroft and William Barlow defending the episcopacy, the Shakespearean plays are clearly being repurposed for a new debate on the meaning of England's pre-Reformation history. A larger claim can be drawn from Farmer's essay: the publication history of Shakespeare's plays after 1623 is, crucially, a history of reprints, that is, of rereading and reimagining texts whose meanings are both revised and renewed with each successive edition.
The only Shakespearean playbook not to have been reprinted until the Restoration was The Two Noble Kinsmen, published by John Waterson in 1634 in its first and last quarto and reprinted only in 1679 as part of the collected works of Beaumont and Fletcher. The failure of The Two Noble Kinsmen in print can, as Zachary Lesser shows, illuminate an aspect of the stationers' trade that is rarely considered: the social meaning of the bookshop. Waterson inherited a successful business from his father, Simon, who had over five decades developed a specialty in upmarket literary publications including classics and educational titles, many emanating from Oxford and Cambridge, that catered to an urban clientele with intellectual ambitions. When he took over the Crown in Paul's Churchyard, John reoriented its specialization to courtly literature, a shift that is reflected in his publication of a large number of stage plays from the indoor theaters. While his father had published drama that was distinctly of academic or noncommercial provenance, John became one of the more prolific publishers of stage plays in the period, bringing out ten new professional plays between 1623 and 1639, both before and after he had possession of the Crown. Although some of these share typographic features with his father's classicized drama, for the most part they sport a different kind of literary insignia, one commonly found on other purportedly "private" plays staged at Blackfriars or Drury Lane. Lesser argues that this shift is consistent with John Waterson's attempt to appeal to a clientele distinguished more by social than intellectual ambitions and suggests that the spectacular failure of his attempt, a failure in which a late play of Shakespeare's was collateral damage, is at least partly attributable to the Crown's long-standing reputation as an academic bookshop.
Lesser's focus on the bookshop as a factor in commercial success imbues the question of agency with its rightful social and institutional meanings. Throughout this collection, even where the emphasis is on individual stationers, the publication of Shakespeare brings into view the dynamics of economic, political, and personal association that constitute a key vector of the trade in books. Copyrights, printing materials, and shops pass between family members or business partners; booksellers trading in adjacent areas produce synergies between titles, genres, or topics and develop markets for them; patrons foster coteries around specific institutions and intellectual interests that stationers can shape into coherent literary fields; printers and publishers form both limited and long-term contractual relations with one another; and the Stationers' Company functions as a complex communal organization, providing not only professional regulation but also mediation, shared-risk investments, welfare support, credit services, and many kinds of sociability.
Equally compelling are the powerful structures of constraint that intersect with the communal ethos. Censorship, trade regulation, copyright practices, professional hierarchies, market forces, and even an individual's competing loyalties and affiliations to family, church, parish, or state exercise some degree of control over the work of a stationer. If the stationer is a function, as Michel Foucault argued so astutely concerning the post-Enlightenment author, then it is more than a description or designation having the effect of classifying, defining, or differentiating texts from one another. Early modern stationers operated within domains—legal, professional, commercial—that necessitated some degree of continuity between person and name. Trade identities were undoubtedly fluid in this period, and the production and sale of books were inherently collaborative, but the organization and regulation of the book trades could not have functioned without the possibility of ascribing, and indeed claiming, agency in causing a book to be printed. That agency was both a sociological construct and a force—entrepreneurial and intellectual alike—of historically specific individuals. Nearly seventy stationers are known to have been invested in the manufacture and sale of Shakespeare's books between 1590 and 1640; about a dozen are considered in some detail in the following essays, but many more remain to be explored.