"The Printing of the Shakespeare First Folio" by Gabriel Egan
The only reason that we in the third millenium have any plays by Shakespeare to read, to perform, to learn about, to discuss, and to criticize is that when he wrote them, around 400 years ago, people at that time thought them worth printing. With one minor exception, we do not have any manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays in his own handwriting and with only a few minor exceptions we do not have any manuscripts of his plays in anyone else's handwriting from this time either. The history of the transmission of Shakespeare's plays from his own time to ours is a history of transmission in print.
The process of printing books using movable type was first developed in Europe in the middle of the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg. The process was virtually unchanged until in the early twentieth-century it was replaced, at least for the printing of most books, by offset-lithography. [SLIDE] For newspapers, letter-press printing remained the dominant technologies in London until the 1980s, although the first part of the process--the putting together of individual pieces of type to form a line to be printed--had been mechanized by the invention of the Monotype and Linotype machines in the late-nineteenth century. Before then, the bringing together of individual pieces of type to form a line to be printed was a manual process, so let us start with that process as it would have been performed in Shakespeare's time. It is a process that my students perform now, more or less as it was performed in Shakespeare's time and in ways that Gutenberg himself would instantly recognise; the only significant difference is that our hand-press is made of iron and dates from the late-nineteenth century, whereas earlier presses were made of wood.
[SLIDE] Men called compositors--they were always men--would look at the copy (either the author's manuscript or an existing book that is being reprinted) and work letter-by-letter, word-by-word, and line-by-line picking out of a typecase individual pieces of type, each containing one letter or piece of punctuation, and placing them in a small tray called a composing stick. The line of type in the stick reads from left to right (as does the copy) but each one is placed upside down so that a new line may sit upon its predecessor as the page is built up. After the compositor had set perhaps six lines of type, his composing stick was full and he moved the type, carefully held as one block by the fingers, from the stick into a tray called a galley [SLIDE]. The compositor repeated this process until the galley held all the type for one page of the book, and then he tied the page of type with cord to keep it together until it was ready to be imposed.
This last process, imposition, is the bringing together of two or more pages of type to make what is known as a forme, which consists of the type pages--topped and tailed by such things as running titles, page numbers and catchwords--held in a frame called a chase. The rectangle of loose pieces of type had to be pressed together within the chase in order for it to behave as one solid block of type and be ready to be moved to the printing press. [SLIDE] Once in the press, it was inked, paper was placed on top, and a heavy block called a platen was forced down onto the paper by the operator pulling this bar and so pushing the platen onto the paper and onto the inked type. Thus an impression was taken.
This is essentially the process by which books were made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A typical print run from such a process might produce 700 copies of a book, and the absolute limit in London in Shakespeare's time was 1500 copies. The limit came about because all printing in England was controlled by royal statute, and the only people allowed to own and operate printing presses were individual members of the Stationers' Company of London--a guild of small businessmen--and the universities at Oxford and Cambridge. The regulations of the Stationers' Company forbade printers from taking any more than 1500 impressions from a single setting of type. [SLIDE] Once a forme of type had been printed from, the furniture holding the type in place had to be removed and the individual pieces of type returned to their respective compartments in the typecase, a process known as distributing the type. The purpose of the regulation of 1500 impressions from one setting of type--and therefore a limit of 1500 books in one edition--was to keep the compositors who set the type in regular employment, since if printers were allowed to print any number of times from the same setting of type there might not been enough work for the compositors to do.
So, this gives us a first hard fact about the Shakespeare Folio. The men who printed and published the First Folio were the printers William Jaggard and his son Isaac and the publishers Edward Blount, Andrew Aspley, and John Smethwick. They were law-abiding members of the Company, so these men would not have printed more than 1500 copies of the Shakespeare Folio. But they may well have printed far fewer than 1500 copies. There is very little direct evidence for how many copies they did print. The survival of 224 complete copies, according to Anthony James West's recent census, gives us a minimum figure for how many were made, but just where between 224 and 1500 the final print run fell we cannot say. Peter W. M. Blayney's guess is 750 copies, based not least on the fact that 9 years after the book went on sale a second edition--made from entirely reset type--was manufactured (Blayney 1991, 2). The only reason to make a second edition is if all copies of the first edition have been sold, so this first print run was presumably fairly small.
What people most want to hear about concerning the Shakespeare First Folio is, of course, its contents. [SLIDE] The book itself contains a table of contents that it calls a catalogue, but it is not entirely accurate so let us make our own list. [SLIDE] The First Folio contains 36 plays by Shakespeare, 18 of which had been previously published individually in single-play editions called quartos.[SLIDE] The plays listed in black on this slide were previously published in quarto form and the ones in grey were those published for the first time in the First Folio. So, we have this book to thank for the survival of half of the plays listed here. [SLIDE] At first glance it looks as if the Folio gives us a collection of all the plays of Shakespeare, but in fact--and this was discovered only quite recently--it does not. About one in six of Shakespeare's plays are missing from the First Folio.
[SLIDE] Everyone agrees that the play Pericles published as a quarto in 1609 as "By William Shakespeare" was indeed by him and by the playwright George Wilkins. We do not know why it was omitted from the Folio and its co-authorship might have something to do with it. [SLIDE] The play The Two Noble Kinsmen was published in quarto 1634--18 years after Shakespeare's death--and it says on its title-page that it was written by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, and that seems to be true. So far, then, the plays missing from the Folio are ones printed elsewhere with Shakespeare's name on them..
[SLIDE] The play of Edward 3 was published in 1596 with no-one's name on the title-page, but that was not unusual: until the end of the 1590s, most plays were printed without their author's names on the title-page. Most scholars agree that Edward 3 was at least in part by Shakespeare, especially the part depicting the attempted wooing of the Countess of Salisbury. [SLIDE] Likewise, most scholars believe that the play Sir Thomas More, which was not published until the twentieth-century, is by Shakespeare. This play is the single exception I mentioned earlier when I said that no manuscripts of Shakespeare plays in his own handwriting survive: there are three pages of the surviving manuscript of this play, now at the British Library, that appear to be Shakespeare's own dramatic composition in his own handwriting.
Just recently three more plays that we already knew about have been convincingly attributed to Shakespeare. [SLIDE] The first is Arden of Faversham published anonymously in 1592. [SLIDE] The second is Thomas Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy which went through three editions in the 1590s before appearing in a fourth edition in 1602 that contains 320 lines not present in the previous editions. These 320 lines, the so-called Additions to the play, seem to be at least in part by Shakespeare. [SLIDE] The third play was called Cardenio and we have reliable external evidence that Shakespeare co-wrote it with John Fletcher in 1612. Unfortunately, no copy of the original play survives, but it does survive in a version put together by Lewis Theobald for performance in 1727 under the title Double Falsehood. Scholars are right now trying to disentangle Double Falsehood and figure out which parts are Shakespeare's, which Fletcher's, and which Theobald's.
It might be occurring to you as I described these plays omitted from the First Folio that the reason for omission might be that they were co-authored rather than being wholly by Shakespeare. [SLIDE] The Folio certainly does give the appearance of monumentalizing the work of one man, not least it its engraving of Shakespeare specially commissioned for the book from the artist Martin Droeshout. But in fact many of the plays in the First Folio are co-authored works and not Shakespeare's alone. [SLIDE] Titus Andronicus was co-written with George Peele, who contributed all of Act One and maybe other scenes too. Likewise The First Part of Henry 6 was co-written with Thomas Nashe and others, although just which parts are not Shakespeare's is hard to say. Timon of Athens was co-authored with Thomas Middleton whose expertise in city comedy enabled him to provide the scenes of worldly over-indulgence. Henry 8 was co-written with John Fletcher, a Protestant whose grandfather assisted John Foxe in the creation of his Book of Martyrs. These were active collaborations in the sense that the two men intended to work together.
Two more plays, Measure for Measure and Macbeth, are what we might call passive collaborations in the sense that the Folio text shows the play not as it was first written by Shakespeare but how the play looked after it was adapted by Thomas Middleton after Shakespeare's death in 1616. Most recently, it has emerged that The Second Part of Henry 6 and The Third Part of Henry 6 were also co-authored with others, including Christopher Marlowe. If we take those eight plays out of our list of Folio plays, we see that nearly a quarter of the book is not what it claims to be. [SLIDES]. That is, it is not Master William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.
I am not suggesting that the First Folio is a fraudulent work, but it is certainly not exactly what it claims to be. It is not a definitive record of all the plays of Shakespeare, since it misses some that he co-wrote while including others that he co-wrote without identifying the other writers. What, then, was the intention of the publishers behind the printing of the First Folio? Those who made it claimed that it was a tribute to Shakespeare's artistic achievement. The poem printed opposite the engraving of Shakespeare is by "B. I." (presumably Ben Jonson) and it somewhat diminishes the picture: no engraver could "have drawen his wit", says the poem, so to understand the man "looke | Not on his Picture, but his Booke". [SLIDE] Shakespeare's fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell contributed two prefatory pieces to the book: a dedication to the aristocrats William Herbert and his brother Philip Herbert and an address "To the great Variety of Readers". As historians we know not to take at face value anybody's account of why they did something, but let us see what Heminges and Condell have to say.
[SLIDE] In their dedication to the aristocratic patrons, Heminges and Condell write "We have but collected them [that is, the plays], and done an office to the dead to procure his orphans guardians, without ambition either of self-profit or fame, only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive as was our Shakespeare". Some of this we know is true: Shakespeare was a fellow actor with Heminges and Condell and they were close personal friends: Shakespeare made specific provision in his will for 26 shillings and 8 pence to each of them to buy rings to remember him by (Honigmann & Brock 1993, 107). Heminges and Condell say they were not motivated by self-profit, and we can take that as literally true since we have no reason to suppose they would have shared in any profits the book might have made. (In the event, the First Folio did not make its investors rich: Edward Blount was very nearly bankrupted by it, as was co-investor Andrew Aspley.)
[SLIDE] In the address to the reader Heminges and Condell repeat their claim to be Shakespeare's friends who merely collected together his plays, and then they make an important claim about the preceding quarto editions of Shakespeare's plays: "before, you were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of injurious impostors that exposed them, even those are now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them". The previous quarto editions, they claim, were not only textually imperfect, but they were actively dishonest: "stolen and surreptitious" made by "frauds and stealths". Now, with the First Folio, readers are promised these same plays "cured and perfect of their limbs" and "all the rest", meaning the plays printed for the first time in the Folio, "absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them", meaning that Shakespeare would agree that the versions here in the First Folio reflect what he had in mind. These are grand claims, but then Heminges and Condell are trying to help sell a rather expensive book so we should expect a certain grandiloquence.
Unfortunately, however, Heminges and Condell appear also to be lying. They draw a sharp distinction between the previous quarto editions, the "stolen and surreptitious" one made by "frauds and stealths", and the versions of those same plays offered here in the First Folio. But, when scholars in the late nineteenth century started closely to compare the quarto versions of plays with the First Folio versions of the same plays, they found definite evidence that in most cases the Folio was itself printed directly from the quarto. That is, when the compositors were setting the type for the First Folio, they had in their hands and were using as their source not a manuscript of the play but one of those earlier printed quartos. We can tell this because the Folio repeats some errors in those quartos, errors that it could not have made independently of them.
Far from the First Folio now offering readers these same plays "cured and perfect of their limbs", it was in fact just reprinting those quartos that Heminges and Condell called "stolen and surreptitious" and made by "frauds and stealths". When they discovered this, late-nineteenth century editors of Shakespeare were thrown into despair, since if Heminges and Condell were lying this cast suspicion on the accuracy of the entire First Folio. And if the early quartos too were unreliable, then we simply do not have any well printed early editions of Shakespeare to rely upon. From our point of view, the twentieth century started off with a distinct turn for the better when in 1909 the scholar A. W. Pollard saw a way out of this despair.
What if Heminges and Condell's disparaging remarks about earlier quartos was not meant to apply to all the preceding quartos, but only the ones that were particularly inaccurate for whatever reason (Pollard 1909)? Pollard split the preceding quartos into the good quartos printed from reliable manuscripts, perhaps even from Shakespeare's own manuscripts, and the bad quartos. The bad ones had been illicitly put together by unscrupulous publishers--pirates he later called them (Pollard 1917)--using unreliable scripts of the play, perhaps sold to them by minor actors who somehow managed to put together (perhaps from memory) some corrupted versions of the plays in which they had performed.
This theory dominated ideas about the First Folio and the quartos throughout the twentieth century, and it raised hopes that rather than the surviving print editions being in general rather poor representations of what Shakespeare wrote, they might in many cases be highly accurate versions of the plays. With the pre-Folio quartos split into the bad and goods ones, the good ones--based on authorial papers or copies of them--would be the modern editors' choice for making editions of those plays published before the First Folio. For the plays first published in the First Folio, the fact the Heminges and Condell's had turned out not to be a lying gave hope these plays too were printed from reasonably good manuscripts. If Heminges and Condell could be trusted about the one half of the First Folio containing plays they reprinted from existing quartos, then they could probably be trusted about the other half printed from manuscripts.
This new way of thinking about the Shakespeare canon had important consequences for how we approach the First Folio. Most importantly, the First Folio is not the best version of each play in every case. Where the Folio merely reprints an existing quarto, there are good reasons to prefer the original, the quarto, over the reprint. Which plays does that apply to? Let us return to our list of plays in the First Folio [SLIDE] and then remove the ones for which the First Folio was the first edition [SLIDE] to leave, in black ink here, just those that had appeared in previous quartos. Let me get rid of the others [SLIDE]. For two of these plays, there is no evidence that the First Folio text was influenced by the preceding quarto. [SLIDE] The Merry Wives of Windsor and Othello were both published before the First Folio but these previous editions were not used to print the First Folio text, which was in each case set from an authoritative manuscript.
[SLIDE] The Second Part of Henry 4, Henry 5, The Second Part of Henry 6, The Third Part of Henry 6, and Hamlet were all published before the Folio, but in each case the First Folio text was primarily set from an authoritative manuscript However, in each case it appears that the compositors setting the Folio had, as well as their manuscript, a copy of one of the earlier quarto editions and that they consulted it when they could not read what was in their manuscript. The remaining First Folio plays that had already been published before--[SLIDE] Much Ado About, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Richard 2, The First Part of Henry 4, Richard 3, Troilus and Cressida, Titus and Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear were in every case printed from a copy of one of those preceding quarto editions. But in every case, before that preceding quarto was used as printer's copy to make the First Folio text it was first annotated by reference to an authoritative manuscript. Sometimes a lot of annotations were made on the quarto copy in order to improve it by reference to the authoritative manuscript, and sometimes only a few such annotations were made.
[SLIDE] On no occasion, then, did the publishers of the First Folio simply reprint an existing quarto unchanged. Where the play had not been printed before, the First Folio by definition had to be printed from a manuscript. Where the play had been printed before, the publishers of the Folio in every case used a theatrical manuscript either as the sole authority for what the First Folio printed, or as the main authority for what the First Folio printed, or at the very least to help improve the existing quarto that the First Folio was going to reprint. We know that these additional manuscripts were authoritative--they supplied good readings where the quartos had bad ones--because that is the only way that we can detect there use in the first place. The additional manuscripts must have come from the actors John Heminges and Henry Condell on behalf of Shakespeare's former acting company, the King's men. Heminges and Condell did more than just sign the prefatory material to the First Folio: they assisted in its creation.
Why would they do that? Why bother to improve the existing quarto text by correcting it from an authoritative manuscript before reprinting it in the First Folio? We should note that the amount of correcting of a quarto that was done varied from play to play. The quartos of Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet were not much annotated before being used as Folio copy (Wells et al. 1987, 51). For the other five quartos the correction from an authoritative manuscript prior to being used to print the First Folio was extensive.
There are practical, legal reasons why improving the existing quartos would have been a good idea for the First Folio publishers, aside from simply making a better book for their readers. The First Folio publishing syndicate owners--Blount, Aspley, Smethwick and the Jaggards--did not own the rights to all the plays they wanted to put in the First Folio. Richard 2, The First Part of Henry 4, Richard 3 were the property of publisher Matthew Law, King Lear was the property of publisher Nathaniel Butter, and Troilus and Cressida was, they thought, the property of publishers Richard Bonian and Henry Walley. In order to avoid legal intervention by the owners of the rights to these five Shakespeare plays, it would be best if the First Folio versions were as different as possible from the existing quarto editions. And for just these five the annotation of the quarto copy before it was used to make the First Folio had exactly that effect, for in those the annotation was most extensive and the Folio edition, although printed from the quarto, differs extensively from it (Wells et al. 1987, 52).
How different? Let us take a concrete example. [SLIDE] In the Act 2 Scene 1 of Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick is on his own on the stage, reflecting upon the latest insult served to him by Beatrice, when he is joined by a group of characters. [SLIDE] At least, so he is here in the 1600 quarto of the play, which has the stage direction "Enter the Prince, Hero, Leonato, Iohn and Borachio, and Condrade" (Shakespeare 1600, C1v). Yet this cannot be right, since the ensuing speeches lasting about 60 lines--three minutes of stage time--are solely between Benedick and the Prince, Don Pedro [SLIDE]. The other characters are not used and it is dramatically implausible that they simply stood around the stage waiting silently. What seems to have happened is that Shakespeare brought these characters on stage expecting to use them but as he composed the scene he found it were better to confine the interaction to just Benedick and Don Pedro. Shakespeare ought to have gone back and altered the entrance direction to delete all the names except the Prince, Don Pedro, but he did not. This suggests that the manuscript used to print this 1600 quarto of the play reflected Shakespeare's play as he first composed it rather than what happened on the stage when it was first performed.
[SLIDE] Let us see what the First Folio has at this point. The stage direction has been improved so that it reads simply "Enter the Prince", meaning Don Pedro (Shakespeare 1623, I5r). The Folio text on the right reflects what must have happened in performance and the quarto stage direction on the left is unperformable. You might be wondering, then, how we know that the Folio was for the most part simply reprinting the quarto, since in such things as this stage direction it differs significantly. The answer is those agreements in error that I mentioned. A very clear one occurs in the opening stage direction of the play, and again it involves a phantom entrance direction.
[SLIDE] In both the 1600 quarto and the First Folio, the play begins with "Enter Leonato gouernour of Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his neece, with a messenger" (Shakespeare 1600, A2; Shakespeare 1623, I3r). If you know the play and are wondering why you cannot recall Leonato having a wife, then the answer is that he does not have a wife. At least, he has no wife who ever says anything in the play, not even while her daughter Hero is wrongly accused of inchastity and rejected at the altar. Some critics have wondered if there might be a silent wife for Leonato, a mute and ineffectual character whose silent presence symbolizes the disempowerment of women in this culture, against which Beatrice's linguistic prowess constitutes a protest and rebellion. In fact, early-modern theatre economics make such a symbolic role impossible: we have ample evidence from doubling charts that scripts were streamlined for efficiency of doubling. In particular, this play needs four boys to act as Beatrice, Hero, Margaret and Ursula who appear together in Act Two Scene One (Shakespeare 2006, 320) and to employ a fifth boy as a mute would be an extravagance that the company would not permit. Since such an apprentice would have to be paid for--the money going to his master--the economics of performance, witnessed in countless plays, would have demanded that he be given lines to speak (to earn his keep) or else his part would be cut entirely.
It seems that the manuscript used to print the 1600 quarto reflected Shakespeare's process of composition and that the practicalities of performance had not caused anyone to strike out the unnecessary and unaffordable Innogen in it. The error persists in the Folio text of Much Ado About Nothing too, indicating that the First Folio version was printed from the quarto. Yet the quarto/Folio difference we saw a moment ago--the cutting down of the entrance direction part-way through Act 2 Scene 1--looks distinctly like a practical consideration. Hence the hypothesis is that before a copy of the quarto was used to print the First Folio text of this play, that quarto was corrected by reference to an authoritative manuscript that reflected what actually got performed. The process of annotation cannot have been consistently and exhaustively carried out, else it would have got rid of the unnecessary Innogen too.
[SLIDE] Let us take another such practical example where the First Folio text is especially important because it reflects alterations to the plays that were made in rehearsal and performance, correcting an error in Shakespeare's original composition. [SLIDE] Richard 2 was amongst Shakespeare's most popular plays in his lifetime and was published five times in quarto format before the First Folio appeared. The First Folio text reprints a copy the third quarto that was first annotated from a theatrical manuscript, and the improvements include fixing an accidental violation of the so-called Law of Re-Entry. In general, early modern dramatic practice prohibited a character from exiting at the end of one scene and then re-entering at the beginning of the next scene. Because scene breaks were intended to indicate a change of location or the passing of time, a character who returned to the stage almost immediately was likely to confuse the audience, hence the prohibition on Re-Entry. [SLIDE] In the quartos of Richard 2, John of Gaunt breaks this rule at the end of the first scene and the start of the second [SLIDE]. John of Gaunt exits with everyone else at the end of the first scene after King Richard has ordered the trial by combat at Coventry and yet he enters again at the start of the next scene with the Duchess of Gloucester, Thomas of Woodstock's widow. [SLIDE] In the Folio, by contrast, John of Gaunt alone leaves the first scene 10 lines before it ends for no apparent reason: he says nothing, he just leaves [SLIDE]. This means that he is not part of the collective exit that takes everyone off at the end of the scene, and hence he is free to enter with the Duchess of Gloucester at the start of the second scene.
This alteration can only have come from an authoritative manuscript that reflected what actually got performed. Interestingly, we can tell that this manuscript reflected how the play was performed after 1606, because in that year was passed a law called the Act to Restrain the Abuses of Players. [SLIDE] The abuses it referred to were swearing and oath-making involving the names of Christ and God. Plays written before 1606 that were revived after 1606 had these swear-words altered to make them inoffensive. There is a clear example of such censorship in Richard 2. [SLIDE] Where in the quarto Bolingbroke says "O God defend my soule from such deepe sinne", using the banned word "God", the First Folio has "Oh heauen defend my soule from such foule sin".
I think most of us would prefer to read or hear Richard 2 in the uncensored version he originally wrote. But many of us would also like to read or hear the play in the form it took after being perfected in rehearsal and performance, rather than the imperfect form in which Shakespeare first wrote it. If so, we have a dilemma. The quarto will show us the play as Shakespeare wrote it, including the original swearing, but it has errors that Shakespeare cannot have meant to retain in the play. The Folio shows us the play after it was refined during rehearsal and performance, but also shows the consequences of state censorship that we would like to undo. If we want to read the play as Shakespeare intended it, neither early edition on its own is sufficient: we have to combine the best features of both.
I have been speaking of the First Folio as if it were one thing, as if all the copies in the world offered us the same text. In fact, they do not: the copies have small but detectable differences between them. I am not referring to what happens to copies of the Folio after it is printed, including such fascinating topics as the annotations studied by Prof Sumimoto here at Meisei University. I am thinking instead of the small differences in the wording that we find between copies of the First Folio because the printers altered the type while they were printing it. Rather than perfecting their typesetting before starting the press, printers in Shakespeare's time would make corrections during the print-run if they spotted mistakes in their typesetting. And rather than discarding the sheets that they had already printed, containing the errors, they would keep them and use them in the books that were sold. (They did this because paper was the most expensive element in the printing process, and it was too valuable to throw away on account of a few errors.) Thus when we compare how a particular page looks into two copies from the same edition, they frequently differ in the small differences caused by this stop-press correction. One copy might show how the type looked before the correction and another how it looked after the correction.
That is what my students and I are looking for in the Meisei First Folios: small differences in the setting of type between copies. These differences are the reason that it matters so much that Meisei has 12 copies of the First Folio, collected together in one Rare Books room, rather than just a single copy. Here is a simple example of a correction from the First Folio text of Antony and Cleopatra. See if you can spot the change to the type as I flip back and forth between two copies of the Folio, Meisei #1 and the copy from Brandeis University [SLIDE x 12]? The error was that in one copy of the Folio the word "serue" is correctly spelt, and in the other the "r" and the "u" have been put into the press in the wrong order. Watch again, and notice too that reversing the "r" and the "u" did not require the disturbance of any other pieces of type in the line [SLIDE x 12].
Not having to disturb the rest of the line made a stop-press correction easy to perform. But sometimes disturbance was unavoidable. Let us look at an example from the First Folio text of Titus Andronicus. Again, the first time I will not reveal where the change occurs so you can see if you are able to spot it [SLIDE x 12]. In one copy of the First Folio, Titus says "Give signes sweet girle, for here are none but friends", but in another the "u' in "but" has been put into the printing press upside down and the "s" has been omitted from the end of "friends". To fix this error, not only had the "u" to be lifted out of the press and reinserted the right way up, but also the whole line had to be shifted to the left to made room for the inserted extra letter "s". I will show that again, and watch how the whole line moves leftwards to make room for the inserted "s" [SLIDE x 12].
Earlier I argued that an editor of a Shakespeare play needs to combine the First Folio text with the evidence from earlier quarto editions, if they exist, in order to see what Shakespeare wrote, since neither version on its own tells the whole story. In a sense, because of stop-press correction that principle of gathering in all the evidence applies also to the First Folio itself, since no one copy of the book tells the whole story. You might be thinking that with the two examples of stop-press correction that I have shown you, an intelligent editor could probably have figured out the correct reading even if she had only the uncorrected state. So let me end with a complex example in which neither of the two Folio readings, before and after stop-press correction, tells the whole story. Neither, in fact, contains what Shakespeare wrote, so we have to combine them to figure out the true reading.
Our moment comes from The First Part of Henry the Fourth when Sir John Falstaff is complaining about the robbery at Gadshill in which he was abandoned by his fellow thieves. In modern editions, the line of interest is printed as Falstaff saying "a coward is worse than a cup of sack with line in't". Sack was a sweet wine from Spain, and inferior quality sack would be adulterated with lime juice to improve its taste. Here is the uncorrected reading [SLIDE]: "a Coward is worse then a Cup of Sacke with in't". This phrase "a Cup of Sacke with in't" makes no sense. Here is the corrected reading [SLIDE]: "a Coward is worse then a Cup of Sacke with lime". This at least makes sense, but what has happened to the words "in't"? Looking at the two readings, the obvious inference is that Shakespeare wrote "a cup of sack with lime in't" and that in the first setting of the line [SLIDE] the compositor accidentally omitted the word "lime". The compositor was told by whoever spotted the error to add the word "lime" [SLIDE], but the compositor either misunderstood the request or did not quite do what he was told [SLIDE]. Instead of just adding "lime" to make "with lime in't" he replaced "in't" with "lime.
Assuming that this was a deliberate act rather than a mistake, can anyone guess why he might have declined to insert a whole new word at this point and instead chose to replace one word with another? [SLIDE] It is because this whole speech is in prose, so that every printed line runs fully out to the right-hand edge. To squeeze a whole new word in at this point would probably have required moving "vil-" to the next line, which has little space to spare so this would require moving "thou" to the next line, which also has almost no room to spare so that "the" would have to be moved, and so in turn would "liues", "them", "world I" and "of". Not until he reached the final line of the prose paragraph, which has space at the end, would the compositor finally be finished making the correction required by his omission of the word "lime". Instead of all that, the compositor simply dropped one of Shakespeare's words [SLIDE]. Because we have multiple copies of the Folio to look at, we can pick it up again and put it back in its rightful place.
I have suggested that this compositor was careless, which is a little unfair. These men were working to a strict timetable and resetting this entire paragraph was just too big a task to complete. Remember that while the compositor is changing the type the press, and the two men who operated it, were standing idle and costing the printer money. We should give this compositor credit for taking the trouble to make another small correction at the same time as he was inserting the word "lime". Watch how he corrects the spelling of "Cowords" to "Cowards" [SLIDE x 12]. So, he redeems himself in our eyes by this attention to detail. But then we notice that he failed to correct an error in the very next line, since both the 'before' and 'after' state of the type show the word "mutter" with an inverted "u" that the compositor did not correct [SLIDE x 12].
My conclusions, then, are these. Close attention to just how the early editions of Shakespeare were printed is essential if editors are to recover what Shakespeare actually wrote. No single early edition is the most authoritative throughout: each has the most authority in some aspects but is less authoritative in others. We have to combine the various authorities in order to recover what Shakespeare wrote. As we saw with Richard 2, the First Folio gives us access to the theatricalizing improvements made to the play during rehearsal and first performance, which the quarto lacks, but if we want to recover the swear-words that Shakespeare wrote for his characters then we must get those from the quarto because the First Folio shows the play after it was censored. Moreover, the First Folio copies have to be considered collectively, for they do no agree on every reading. The work of detecting the differences between copies of the First Folio is far from complete, and the next generation of scholars needs to be trained in just how this meticulous work is carried out. Meisei University is crucial to this work. Not only because you have 12 copies of the Folio that can be compared one with another. But also because of the generosity you show in allowing today's students--who are tomorrow's scholars--to actively use these books as they learn about how they were made. This, I conclude, is exactly how international collaboration in education and scholarship should proceed. On behalf of myself, university and my students, I thank you for it and for listening to me give some reasons for believing that it matters to all who love Shakespeare.
Blayney, Peter W. M. 1991. The First Folio of Shakespeare. Washington. Folger Library Publications.
Honigmann, E. A. J. and Susan Brock. 1993. Playhouse Wills 1558-1642: An Edition of Wills By Shakespeare and His Contemporaries in the London Theatre. Revels Plays Companion Library. Manchester. Manchester University Press.
Pollard, A. W. 1909. Shakespeare Folios and Quartos: A Study in the Bibliography of Shakespeare's Plays. London. Methuen.
Pollard, A. W. 1917. Shakespeare's Fight with the Pirates and the Problems of the Transmission of His Text. London. Moring.
Shakespeare, William. 1600. [Much Ado About Nothing] Much Adoe About Nothing. STC 22304 BEPD 168a (Q). London. V[alentine] S[immes] for Andrew Wise and William Aspley.
Shakespeare, William. 1623. Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. STC 22273 (F1). London. Isaac and William Jaggard for Edward Blount, John Smethwick, Isaac Jaggard and William Aspley.
Shakespeare, William. 2006. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. Claire McEachern. The Arden Shakespeare. London. Thomson Learning.
Wells, Stanley, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery. 1987. William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion. Oxford. Oxford University Press.