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Choice of copy-texts

Jonson’s activity as editor and reviser of his own texts has the effect of complicating the choice and treatment of copy-texts. Jonson was exceptionally innovative in his response to the opportunities for textual self-presentation provided by the print culture of his age, and was powerfully invested in the advantages of print. As a consequence, his shaping hand is unusually apparent in authorizing the early printed texts of his works.

The 1616 folio is a landmark volume in the early development of the printed book and the emergence of what Joseph Loewenstein (1985) calls the ‘bibliographic ego’. In it, Jonson’s texts are digested into monumental format. The typography is standardized and regularized. Capitals and small capitals are used for speech headings and character names, with technical terms, foreign words, or other kinds of emphasis picked out in italics and occasionally black-letter (used, for example, for ‘Ulen Spiegel’ in The Alchemist, and ‘landtschap’ in The Masque of Blackness). In the plays, the blank verse is consolidated into single columns, with split lines and abbreviated speech headings embedded in the dialogue. Stage directions are kept to a minimum, and new scenes are generally marked at the entry of each new character; each scene begins in continental style, with a massed header listing all the significant characters present on stage or about to appear. Rare or Latinate words are foregrounded, and are sometimes spelled so as to display evidence of etymology (‘porcpisces’, ‘solœcisme’, Volpone, 2.1.40, 5.9.4). An unusually complex punctuation system is adopted which emphasizes the language’s syntactic and rhetorical structures. Parentheses are used to signal asides or whole passages of dialogue spoken sotto voce, and marks of elision are frequent, indicating where pronunciation may be clipped for the sake of scansion. Sententiae are signalled with italics or quotation marks. Many texts have elaborate marginalia, often in Latin and Greek, and in extreme cases spilling into the main text compartment. The whole volume is prefaced with commendatory verses in Latin and English, and with a catalogue listing the contents and their individual dedicatees. At times, the inventive typography mimics symbolic effects within the dramatic or poetic language, as when in the Induction to Cynthia’s Revels dashes mark the taking of tobacco and a blank space signals the drawing of straws; or when double-column is used for characters speaking simultaneously in The Alchemist, 4.5. Set-piece passages are distinguished with typographical emphasis, as with Volpone’s mountebank speech, or Tiberius’s letter in Sejanus, or Wellbred’s letter in Every Man In His Humour (folio text).

The folio is thus the culmination of a history of typographical experiment which can be traced through Jonson’s early quartos, a process particularly evident in the progression through the 1600 quarto of Every Man Out of His Humour, the 1604 quarto of Part of the King’s Entertainment, and the 1607 quarto of Volpone. All of these show Jonson working towards a model of textual self-presentation of which the folio became the single most elaborate example. Although Jonson was not the first English poet to refer to his ‘Works’, the effect of the folio is to announce him as an instant classic who deserves to be considered alongside Latin and Greek authors and whose writings belong in the library rather than the theatre. The 1616 folio is emphatically a text for reading rather than for performance, at the furthest possible remove from the quartos in which the plays of his contemporaries were typically and carelessly printed. The provocative title ‘Works’ further asserts the author’s ownership of and identification with the texts printed in his name.

Jonson also further underlined the distinctiveness of the folio collection by printing several of its texts in substantially revised versions. He completely overhauled and relocated Every Man In His Humour from Italy to England, effectively creating a new play. He altered the ending of Every Man Out of His Humour and rethought the structure of its scene divisions. He inserted four new scenes into acts 4 and 5 of Cynthia’s Revels and elaborated some shorter passages of dialogue. He added a new scene and an Apologetical Dialogue to Poetaster. He removed the marginal notes to Sejanus and made some verbal changes to the text. Similarly, he made small but significant alterations to the texts of Volpone, The Alchemist, Catiline, and The Masque of Blackness. He prefaced all the major texts with dedicatory letters, many of them specially written for the volume. Whether Jonson made these changes when the folio was in preparation or at some point considerably earlier than 1616 cannot always be determined with certainty. Nonetheless, Jonson’s revising hand in the folio is strongly apparent.

The status of the 1616 folio as a revised and authorized collection gives it a claim to be considered as the authoritative text for the works that it contains, and as the prime exemplar of Jonson’s developed textual preferences. This argument weighed decisively with Herford and Simpson, who felt that the folio’s authority was so great that it took precedence over almost all other witnesses in the choice of copy-text (the main exception being The Masque of Queens, which Percy Simpson printed from the holograph manuscript, on the perhaps inconsistent principle that this manuscript derived more directly from Jonson). Simpson further held that Jonson’s intentions in the 1616 folio were evident in the volume’s large number of typographical corrections made during the course of printing. In Simpson’s view, Jonson was directly involved in the minutiae of production, personally supervising the shaping of the text and bombarding the printer with scores of fiddling changes, some substantive, many pedantically cosmetic. ‘Most of the corrections are the author’s’, he wrote, ‘made at the printing-house where he would present himself for this purpose every morning’ (H&S, 9.72). Given this scenario, the Oxford edition privileged the folio’s authority, assuming that its readings must almost always represent the author’s final thoughts. In some respects, the edition even mimicked accidental details of the folio page, reproducing furniture and typographical variations that are textually insignificant (such as swash italic capitals, and marking omissions to the running titles with square brackets), and whimsically retaining the occasional technical error: notably, the running title Cynthias Reuells is printed over the first verso of Poetaster, in imitation of a slip by the folio compositors (F1, 276; H&S, 4.204).

The Oxford edition has been foundational to the modern recovery of Jonson, and a model and inspiration in the development of twentieth-century critical editing. However, advancements in practical knowledge and changes to editorial theory now permit a differently conceptualized, less hieratic view of the text. Simpson’s account of the 1616 folio is open to the criticism that it exaggerates the extent of Jonson’s direct involvement in its production, and overlooks the extent to which the printing was shaped by customary printing-house practices, as well as by accidents and happenstance. Recent work by David Gants (1999) and Mark Bland (1998b) has considerably complicated the picture. It now seems clear that the 1616 folio was in William Stansby’s shop for much less than the four-year period that Simpson assumed (H&S, 9.14–15) and loomed lower in Stansby’s priorities than Simpson postulated. Although many of the corrections were Jonson’s, many others would have been made by the in-house staff as part of the daily activity of production. The degree of correction tails off moreover towards the end of the volume. Whatever person or persons were responsible for making corrections evidently allowed their attention to wane once the earlier texts had been set.

Further, Simpson tended to apply an at times rigid assumption that textual variation could be explained in terms of a simple binary choice between uncorrected states deriving from the compositors and corrected states deriving from the author. This led him to simplify the process of composition, underestimating the frequency and variety of correction, and to assume that changes made in the course of production could generally be attributed to Jonson, even when they were errors or corrections made by the printers for reasons of expediency. Thus, for example, the extensive alterations to gathering 2Y of Epicene, which Simpson took as authorial, can be traced back to practical necessities forced on the printers by a shortage of type (Gants, 1999, 46–9). Similarly, Simpson printed the concluding songs of The Golden Age Restored in reverse order, as they appear in a handful of copies. Because this reversal occurs on the final page of the 1616 folio, Simpson took it to be a deliberate authorial rearrangement intended to give extra weight to the end of the volume. Yet more careful inspection proves it to be a technical slip in the printing (see the Textual Essay to The Golden Age). In fact more stages of correction took place, and with greater variety in the kinds of correction made, than Simpson realized. Remarkably, his respect for the folio was sometimes so intense that he was occasionally reluctant to correct obvious errors which Jonson himself had overlooked. One striking example is at Every Man Out of His Humour, 2.3.68, where Simpson allowed the character-name ‘GVEVENER’ to stand in place of ‘GVENEVER’ (= Guinevere) on the basis that Jonson had passed this spelling both in the quartos and the folio. A more judicious assumption is that such anomalies were evidence of authorial inattention rather than deliberate contrivance. Apart from the 1616 folio, the same tendency is apparent in Simpson’s handling of the quartos. For example, in analysing the 1601 quarto of Cynthia’s Revels, Simpson assumed that the dozens of variants in quire F had been introduced by the author. Instead, they seem to have produced by the bookseller when he discovered, some time after the book had been printed, that he had a shortfall in quire F and needed to make up the difference with reset sheets (see the Textual Essay to Cynthia’s Revels).

From early on, the Oxford editors’ privileging of the folio was criticized. W. W. Greg argued strongly for a more flexible attitude towards copy-text, urging particularly that where a choice exists between folio and quarto copy the quartos should be preferred in cases where the folio revisions are relatively slight or where the folio text shows little sign of oversight by the author (Greg, 1942; see also Howard-Hill, 1972b, and Donovan, 1991). This argument applies powerfully to the masques printed before 1610. The early quarto texts of the masques were closely overseen by Jonson but passed into the folio with comparatively little change and with scarcely any sign of authorial attention to the printing. In such cases the Oxford preference for the folio was a serious shortcoming, for it elevated markedly inferior copy-texts over copy which had been carefully prepared by the author. And even in texts which Jonson did overhaul for the 1616 folio, the authority of the quartos is not negligible. As Fredson Bowers (1978) pointed out, the amount of revision Jonson performed varied from text to text, and in some places was comparatively limited. For many of its component texts the 1616 folio is technically not a substantive edition but a revised reprint of quarto copy. This distinction should prompt an editor to ask whether Jonson’s oversight of these texts was sufficiently thoroughgoing to elevate the folio to the status of copy-text. Considerations of this sort weighed heavily with Bowers, who came to believe that the Oxford Jonson was ‘ostensibly an edition of the works which by a mistaken choice of copy-text for many parts turned itself into an edition of the folio’ (Bowers, 1978, 114). Greg further objected that Simpson’s tendency to treat typographical variations as if they were textually substantive blurred the distinction between critical editing and the procedures of facsimile reprinting (Greg, 1942, 163).

Another factor bearing on the transmission of texts is the growing realization today that the emergence of distinctive forms of print culture in the early modern period went hand in hand with the survival and continuing vigour of older forms of manuscript circulation, and that Jonson was as strongly committed to this enduring scribal culture as he was to the world of print. Peter Beal’s census of English literary manuscripts has found well in excess of 700 scribal and holograph copies of texts by Jonson written down to 1700. By far the bulk of these are copies of the poems (about which more is said below). The masques too were often read in manuscript. Only twelve were printed as quartos; others must have been copied for spectators wishing to explore the words or design at greater leisure than the performances had allowed. Several copies of Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue are known to have existed besides the surviving manuscript written by Ralph Crane – indeed, John Milton, whose Masque at Ludlow (1634) was influenced by it, must have read it in a scribal copy. Important presentation manuscripts survive of The Theobalds Entertainment, The Masque of Blackness, and The Masque of Queens. Songs in the plays and masques also circulated independently, of which the outstanding instance is the ‘Cock Lorell’ song from The Gypsies Metamorphosed, extant in twenty-nine manuscripts.

Choice of copy-text is further complicated by the gap that Jonson created between the plays as performed and as printed. One effect of the layout of the 1616 folio is to turn the plays into texts primarily for reading and to exaggerate the distance between playhouse and printing house. The process is intensified by the literary character of some of Jonson’s revisions, and has led to some curious anomalies. For example, whenever Cynthia’s Revels has been reprinted it has always been based on the extended adapted version published in the 1616 folio, even though that text is manifestly inferior to the tauter, more dramatic, and more aesthetically focused version printed in the 1601 quarto. Even though Cynthia’s Revels has probably never been staged in the 1616 adaptation, the dominance of the folio means that this is the text which is always read. So too for other plays: the folio’s literary emphases are often in tension with what we know of the circumstances of their performance. Sometimes that literary emphasis is already manifest in the quarto and is then carried over into the 1616 folio. For example, Every Man Out of His Humour and Sejanus have come down to us in quarto as well as folio versions which, as Jonson’s statements in the prefatory material make clear, are different in both instances from the forms in which those plays were mounted in the theatre. Whatever we print for them cannot correspond to what Jonson’s audiences originally saw. Several of the masques, too, were given emphatically literary treatments in the 1616 folio or the individual quartos which preceded it, with their evidence of performance either shorn away or adjusted in the direction of reportage. For example, the manuscript and printed versions of The Masque of Blackness adopt competing formats. The presentation copy (which carries the imprimatur of Jonson’s own signature) is a pre-performance text, whereas the quarto and folio texts are both literary versions that were not finalized until three years after the masque’s single performance had taken place. In a situation like this, the manuscript source offers a viable alternative for choice of copy-text.

Modern editorial theory continues to respect the idea that Jonson’s printed volumes, and the 1616 folio in particular, were textual performances. Jonson’s exploitation of the mechanisms of print to forge an authorial identity for himself was both original and profound. Yet the 1616 folio represents only one version of Jonsonian authorship at a particular moment in his career, and it is bracketed by a prehistory and afterlife of textual experiment which Jonson unceasingly pursued, both in print and manuscript. The apparent stability to which the 1616 folio aspires is in tension with the actual instability evident from the publication history of its component texts. Hence the assumption that the 1616 folio always represents the most correct text cannot be sustained. Rather, the 1616 folio embodies the authorized canon of Jonson’s works as the author conceived of his writings in 1616, with all which that entails in terms of the management of his texts and the decisions over inclusion and exclusion specific to that moment in his career. John Jowett’s remark about the 1616 folio handling of Sejanus can be extended to other constituent parts of the volume. Each component, he says, ‘is subordinated to the needs of the volume as a whole; [it] loses its specificity and becomes part of the orderly master-narrative of Jonson’s progress as a dramatist’ (Jowett, 1998, 285).

Any edition has to be sensitive to authorial intention as a developing and contingent process rather than end-product. Authorial intention cannot be separated from the social, political, and cultural circumstances in which the text was prepared. When the author is as prone to self-revision as Jonson was, the problem of deciding how his various texts should be stabilized is particularly acute. Jonson’s texts are unusually resistant to the Greg–Bowers tradition of editing, in which the rationale of copy-text originally developed as a means of recreating lost but authoritative originals which were attested to only imperfectly by the surviving textual witnesses. The inconsistencies in Jonson’s 1616 folio, and the fact that successive versions of the same texts come accompanied with a significant but changing authorial imprimatur, mean that his texts do not respond readily to such an approach. More helpful in this context is Thomas Tanselle’s distinction between an author’s ‘final intentions’ and his ‘new intentions’, in which ‘new intentions’ are signified by changes or revisions that involve authorial second thoughts which do not necessarily constitute an entirely new version of the text but nonetheless lead away from the artistic integrity of the text as originally conceived (Tanselle, 1976; and cf. Greetham, 1994, 335–46). Although the doctrine of final authorial intention might seem to require that Jonson’s latest revised texts should be taken as copy, careful analysis can also highlight the distinctive interest of an earlier printed version which could legitimately be preferred as copy-text on the grounds that it represents his ‘final intentions’ at the original time of writing. In the context of an edition that is organized chronologically, this consideration inevitably carries great weight.

In its choice of copy-texts, then, the Cambridge Edition aims to present Jonson’s texts in a form as close as possible to that in which they were first staged or published, while acknowledging the processes of revision to which many were subsequently subject. In extreme cases, where significantly different versions exist of single works, editors have prepared two texts. Both the quarto and folio versions of Every Man In His Humour, representing the play as printed in 1601 and 1616, are included in this edition in their chronological places (and are in separate volumes, so that they can easily be read side by side). So too The Gypsies Metamorphosed appears in two versions, one representing the masque as first staged at Burley-on-the-Hill, the other in the substantially revised form repeated a month later at Windsor; the minor revisions made for the intervening performance at Belvoir are printed as an appendix to the Burley version. Several poems which Jonson significantly reworked will be found in their variant form in appendices, and an earlier translation by Jonson of Horace’s Ars Poetica appears in the Electronic Edition. Cynthia’s Revels poses a particularly difficult problem, for here Jonson made a partial but nonetheless extensive revision. Although he introduced only scattered changes into acts 1–3, he radically added to acts 4 and 5, altering thereby the structural balance of the play’s second half though without turning the revised version into a completely rewritten text. For this play, we have edited the quarto version in full and have then supplied a separate edition of acts 4–5, with the extensive revisions, at the relevant point in the chronology. Two scenes from act 3 which are substantially recast in the 1616 folio version, and the folio dedication, are also separately edited.

With other partially revised texts, a choice has to be made between Jonson’s ‘final intentions’ and ‘new intentions’ as seen in the 1616 folio. In the case of Every Man Out of His Humour, Sejanus, and Volpone, we have based our editions on the texts as first printed. Every Man Out of His Humour was Jonson’s earliest published play, and appeared before he had fully devised the system of scene division that subsequently became standard in his printed texts. This means that the quarto’s internal structural relationships are quite different from those of the folio version (the folio has 37 scenes, to the quarto’s 16), while the alternative endings to the play which the quarto prints separately are not preserved in the folio in separate form but are conflated. A strong case can be made, then, for taking Q as copy, on the basis that it represents Jonson’s considered first text, despite the ‘new intentions’ that were subsequently introduced into F1. (Two appendices to this play provide Jonson’s own defence of the original 1599 ending and the text of the revised folio version.) Similarly, Sejanus and Volpone were each first printed with elaborate and carefully crafted paratextual frameworks: Sejanus has copious and intrusive marginalia, and Volpone appears with a formidable battery of commendatory verses. These were removed from F1, in effect lifting the plays clear from the original moments of their publication. Other verbal changes were introduced, to be sure, and admittedly would seem to represent Jonson’s ‘final intentions’ in these instances, but are treated in this present edition as ‘new intentions’ (and are of course recorded in the textual notes). Our edition prefers the quarto texts because they attest to the two plays’ intricate and immediate embedment in their historical moments, and to their author’s self-consciously shaping and contextualizing hand. (These choices are fully discussed in the relevant textual essays.)

With the remaining texts revised for F1, the situation is less clear-cut. Poetaster appeared in quarto in 1602, to which the 1616 folio version then added a new scene and the Apologetical Dialogue, while making many incidental verbal changes which suggest that Jonson had worked over the text quite thoroughly. A note at the end of the quarto indicates that he originally wished to print the Apologetical Dialogue here, but was prevented from doing so by higher authority. Taken together, these circumstances suggest that the folio text is to be preferred. For The Alchemist and Catiline, the folio texts make minimal but systematic revisions to the quartos, tidying up stage directions, marking sententiae, and refining a few verbal details. Since little would seem to be gained by excluding these largely cosmetic refinements, we have based our editions of these two plays on the 1616 folio in order to incorporate those authorial changes in a consistent way.

The other group of texts which can present a significant choice of copy is the masques, many of which survive in variant manuscript or quarto forms (including those printed in the second folio). As a general rule, we print texts that come closest to the masques as performed, though the task of determining which is which is not easy. Thus, Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue is based on the Chatsworth manuscript, which is closer to the performance than the F2 text, but The Masque of Augurs we print in the F2 version, which contains the ballad omitted from the quarto and perhaps represents the masque as revised for its second performance in May 1622. Several of the entertainments survive in variant versions, reflecting the show as performed and as subsequently prepared for printing or presentation as a manuscript. The Entertainment at Theobalds survives in two distinct versions; here our choice is to print the performance version while editing the presentation text in full in the Electronic Edition. We base our text of The Bolsover Entertainment on the Newcastle manuscript, even though we acknowledge that the F2 text shows signs of post-performance authorial revision. The Welbeck Entertainment presents difficulties, since neither the Newcastle manuscript nor the F2 text is problem-free; in this case, uniquely, we have preferred an eclectic text that is compiled selectively from these two inconsistent witnesses. In general, though, our texts endeavour to reflect clearly the author’s intentions as determined at the moment of first publication or performance.

Jonson is often regarded as a writer who was unusually alert to the new opportunities presented by the rapid expansion of the publishing trade in the early years of the seventeenth century, and unusually attached in other ways to the culture of print (see in particular Newton, 1977 and 1982, and Loewenstein, 2002). Yet the early textual history of Jonson’s poetry gives further support to another, perhaps surprising, fact already noted in relation to his masques: his continuing partial adherence also to a culture of manuscript circulation and presentation. Jonson’s readiness to publish two major collections of poetry during his own lifetime (Epigrams and The Forest, both appearing in the 1616 folio) was certainly at odds with the practice of an aristocratic predecessor such as Sir Philip Sidney, or of a devout contemporary such as John Donne. The poems of both these men had a limited circulation during part of their lifetimes, and did not appear fully in print until after their deaths. Yet even within his 1616 collection of Epigrams, Jonson’s ambivalence about his chosen manner of parading his verses before a larger public is clearly evident. One of the earliest poems in that collection speaks caustically of the bookseller who is hawking these very verses in the marketplace ( Epigr. 3). Others in the collection were clearly first designed to accompany gifts of poems in manuscript, offered with due deference to discerning friends or patrons, a practice with which the poet seems distinctly more at ease ( Epigr. 94, 96). Jonson’s already qualified enthusiasm for publishing his verses may have cooled even further after 1616. Though the Epigrams are announced in the 1616 folio as a ‘first book’, no second book was to appear in his lifetime. While he evidently contemplated the eventual publication of a third collection of his poems, Jonson hastened slowly with its preparation, and had seemingly not completed the final organization of The Underwood by the time of his death in 1637. Poems within that collection refer with evident pleasure to copies of his verses circulating among influential patrons, and of transcripts begged; others were originally designed as presentation pieces, written on paper or vellum or engraved on a plate of gold, or cut into a memorial tablet ( Und. 78, 12, 30, 35). The existence of certain manuscript collections (e.g. in the Rawlinson, Harley, and Newcastle MSS) appears moreover to suggest that copies of small batches of poems were dispatched from time to time as gifts to particular friends.

Jonson’s Oxford editors were not much interested in the manuscript or other material versions of his poems, which they tended chiefly to regard as early drafts of poems that achieved their final destiny in print. Nor were they fully aware of the astonishing number of surviving scribal and autograph copies of Jonson’s poems to be found in libraries throughout the world, which the researches of Peter Beal have now identified. In preparing his edition of the poetry for the Cambridge Edition, Colin Burrow has examined not merely a wide range of printed materials, but well in excess of 600 manuscripts in which versions of Jonson’s poems survive. His consequent analyses and extensive collations to the poems provide evidence, never before assembled, for an entirely new assessment of Jonson’s habits as a poet and of the manner in which his poems were read throughout the seventeenth century. Despite this large body of manuscript evidence, copy-text for poems in the Epigrams and The Forest is generally that of the 1616 folio. With the altogether more problematical text of The Underwood, however, the 1640–1 folio has a rather less sure authority. In editing this collection, Burrow has occasionally found manuscript readings with superior claim to those of the published texts in The Underwood, for reasons argued more fully in the Textual Essay to the poems and in the local commentary.

The complex circumstances surrounding the printing of the second folio of 1640–1 are explained at length in the Textual Introduction to this edition, and in the Textual Essays relating in particular to those texts to which Jonson had not given his final imprimatur at the time of his death, including The Underwood, The Sad Shepherd, Discoveries, and The English Grammar. Among these not-quite-completed texts, Jonson’s commonplace book, Discoveries, presents a particular editorial challenge. Jonson probably intended eventually to publish this work, which may nevertheless have begun life as a private miscellany of reflections and quotations. In its surviving form, it shifts disconcertingly back and forth between private and public utterance, mixing personal and borrowed opinion without clear indication of origin or category, often consequently demanding fuller explication than other Jonsonian texts. A related editorial challenge is presented by the laconic and at times cryptic notes assembled, seemingly without any ultimate intention of publication, by the Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden during Jonson’s visit to Scotland in 1618–19: the Informations to William Drummond of Hawthornden (as we have chosen to call the text in this edition, restoring its original title in preference to the less accurate Conversations with Drummond found in some earlier editions). Though Drummond’s original manuscript has vanished without trace, a seemingly reliable transcript made by the Edinburgh antiquary Sir Robert Sibbald in the early years of the eighteenth century, discovered more than a century later by David Laing, forms the copy-text for this edition. A digitized version and transcription of the Sibbald manuscript and other related documents are located in the Electronic Edition. Here as elsewhere in the Cambridge Edition, readers may find it helpful to study not only the modernized text, but also the earlier textual witnesses from which the modernization has been prepared.