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The 1616 Folio (F1): Textual Essay

David Gants

The initial significant reaction to H&S came in the form of two brief but shrewd and extremely important pieces written by Johan Gerritsen and published in English Studies in the late 1950s. The first appeared as a review of Vols. 9-11, where Gerritsen observes that the last volume of H&S to containing plays and masques was issued in 1941, the last with poems and prose in 1947. Since then, ‘We have seen . . . much refinement in the methods available to an editor’ (Greg's groundbreaking ‘The Rationale of Copy-Text’ was published in 1951), and perhaps ‘It might therefore be worthwhile to examine the editors’ treatment of their text in the light of modern theory’ (Gerritsen, 1957, 121). He argues that proof of Jonson’s hand in textual corrections requires more than acknowledgement of differences between the quarto copy-texts and what appears in F1. Many hands contributed to the folio’s production, and ‘by neglecting to distinguish between the author’s corrections and the compositor’s expedients when translating it into type, [the editors] have preferred Stansby to Jonson’ (122). He also criticizes the all-too-brief printing history of F1 in Vol. 9, a lack he begins to address two years later in ‘Stansby and Jonson Produce a Folio: A Preliminary Account’. Based primarily on evidence of recurring headlines, he lays out a brief narrative of the folio’s production: that printing began with gathering G; that gatherings A-F were printed later in the sequence, and then at two distinctly different points; that Stansby printed the large-paper setting of gathering 2Y first, rather than the regular-paper sheets as assumed in H&S; and that what may have been a miscalculation in the number of printed copies of the final quires or perhaps the arrival of more pressing business led to a situation in which ‘all the undistributed type of these quires was collected, the missing portions were reset, and further copies printed to make up the numbers’ (Gerritsen, 1959, 55).

In the decades that followed, a number of essays attempted to work through the textual challenges posed by F1, its multiple primary sources, and the puzzle of its printing. At the same time there emerged a growing consensus that H&S bore numerous flaws calling its reliability into question. T. H. Howard-Hill assessed the basis for a new concordance of Jonson's works by asking, ‘is Herford and Simpson a definitive edition, or does it otherwise possess an authority amongst scholars that would justify is selection as the base text for a concordance’ (Howard-Hill, 1972, 21). He answered in the negative, a position underscored by Fredson Bowers six years later as part of a re-assessment of Greg’s ‘Rationale of Copy-Text’. Offering the examples of the complex mixed revision and correction in Every Man In His Humour and Sejanus as evidence that press variants alone failed to a provide sufficient basis for editorial decisions, Bowers pointed to a more revealing class of evidence: orthography. ‘Jonson did nothing in the press-corrections about the Folio departures from his ordinary spellings (and these were fairly numerous)’, which argues for using spelling preferences as ‘the main determinant’ in the choice of copy-text. He concludes that the earlier quarto editions make much better sources than F1, and that the ‘Herford-Simpson Jonson was ostensibly an edition of the works which by a mistaken choice of copy-text for many parts turned into an edition of the Folio’ (Bowers, 1978, 11-14).

In the 1980s and ’90s, investigations into the forces that shaped the texts found in the 1616 folio moved away from editorial questions of copy-text, turning instead to an examination of Stansby’s career and the workings of the printing house he operated. Kevin Bracken contributed a survey of Stansby’s biography and his printing projects during the second decade of the seventeenth century (see Bracken, 1988), while Kevin Donovan picked up a line of inquiry initiated by Gerritsen thirty years earlier. Testing and expanding on Gerritsen’s appraisal of re-used skeleton formes, Donovan charted the individual headlines as they occur throughout F1, establishing that Stansby frequently juggled his production schedule, identifying the places where printing was interrupted and out of order sheets machined, and detailing how the extremely complicated printing of the final quires proceeded. He also uncovered evidence that reveals instances of concurrent printing in the Stansby house by showing that damaged rules used toward the end of F1 also occur in the latter part of Aaron Rathborne’s treatise The Surveyor (1616; STC 20748). Since Rathborne includes a preface dated 6 November 1616 (typically the preliminaries are the last section printed), strong evidence exists that ‘late November or early December seems a likely date for completion of the Jonson 1616 Folio’ (Donovan, 1987, 183-84) – although subsequent additional information (discussed below) indicates the middle of November as the likely completion date. Complementing these efforts, James Riddell offered a series of shorter pieces looking at the evidence for establishing the order of F1’s three main title-pages, the printing of the plays, and the convoluted circumstances of the folio’s final pages (see Riddell, 1986, 1994, 1996b, 1997b).

Two efforts have so far appeared that attempt to relate a more detailed reconstruction of F1's printing. Mark Bland takes a sociological approach, combining documentary research into copyrights and financing, an extensive analysis of Jonson's literary approaches and network of friends and mentors, and an examination of Stansby's printing-house practices derived from a survey of his larger output (Bland, 1998b). Addressing F1 from a physical bibliography perspective, David Gants marshals evidence derived from composition and imposition habits, use of paper stocks, patterns of press correction, and concurrent printing, to illuminate the workings of Stansby’s establishment (Gants, 1999). The following reconstruction of the printing of F1's texts draws upon the work of Jonson scholars mentioned above as well as further evidence compiled by the author.

Bibliographically, the structure and contents of F1 are organized as follows: