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The Masque of Queens: Textual Essay

David Lindley

There are two principal textual witnesses for The Masque of Queens. The first is the holograph manuscript, British Library, Royal MS 18 A 45 (JnB 685) which Gabriel Heaton describes:

[Jonson] wrote the manuscript on the high quality Venetian paper that he used for many presentations around this time and left such extensive margins that although it is a folio gathered in single sheets each leaf has been so extensively cropped (from a page area of 255×180mm to one of 210×170mm) that it looks like a quarto. The remaining page has wide margins and overall Jonson seems to have used little more than a third of the original page. The writing space was constructed with great care; he scored the page to guide the left and right margins and to space the main text against the marginalia, he also pricked the page to provide guidance for line-spacing. All this work was done on the rectos and the show-through was used to guide the layout on the verso. (Heaton, 46 ).

It is likely that the manuscript was cropped by the eighteenth-century binder. It occupies twenty leaves.

The second witness is the quarto, printed by Nicholas Okes for Richard Bonion and Henry Walley, and entered in the Stationers’ Register very promptly after the masque’s performance, on 22 February 1609. The entry reads:

Richard Bonion Henry Walley

Entred for their Copy under thandes of master Segar and Th’wardens a booke called, The maske of Queenes Celebrated, done by Beniamin Iohnson         vjd

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