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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0330  Thursday, 5 February 2004

[1]     From:   Katherine Duncan-Jones
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Feb 2004 15:38:42 -0000
        Subj:   A Lover's Complaint etc.

[2]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Feb 2004 16:27:26 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford

[3]     From:   Gerald E. Downs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Feb 2004 01:58:12 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Katherine Duncan-Jones
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Feb 2004 15:38:42 -0000
Subject:        A Lover's Complaint etc.

Unwisely, I was commenting from memory on late Elizabethan print-runs,
which had greatly shrunk in my recollection! What I was recalling from
the course on Bibliography that I did in Oxford back in 1963 was a
passage in R.B.McKerrow's Introduction to Bibliography  (1927) pp.
130-3: 'A regulation of the Stationers' Company about 1587 forbade the
printing of more than 1,250 or 1,500 copies of any book (with the
exception of certain school-books)'. He goes on to say that 'we may
therefore probably take this as the maximum edition for the closing
years of the sixteenth century, but we have no certain knowledge of how
long, or how carefully, the rule was observed'.

So I was correct in recalling that late Elizabethan print-runs were
officially restricted, but wrong by a factor of at least 1000 in my
claim about the permitted size! Many apologies.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Feb 2004 16:27:26 -0500
Subject: 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford

I find this an interesting thread and am learning from it.  A sort of
answer to my question as to why someone would add a non-Shakespeare poem
to a set of Shakespeare poems sufficient to fill a book--to wit, to make
his collection like other collections of sonnets.  This leads to a
second question: how many sonnet sequences of the time did not have a
longish poem like "A Lover's Complaint" at the end?

My point is that if the sonnets were published with Shakespeare's
permission, it seems unlikely he'd go along with some other poet's piece
being attached and ascribed to him.  If they were published without his
permission, what would be the commercial or any other point of including
a lesser work by someone else and ascribing it to him?

--Bob G.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Feb 2004 01:58:12 EST
Subject: 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0305 A Lover's Complaint & John Davies of Hereford

Katherine Duncan-Jones replied to my post on Lover's Complaint:

 >First: on bibliographical evidence for a book's popularity.
 >Print-runs were restricted by law, to 200 or 250- hence the
 >re-publication of very popular works, such as Shakespeare's
 >Venus and Adonis, sometimes as often as three or four times
 >in a single year.

I can only appeal to some of my sources at hand. Mckerrow (Shakespeare's
England) refers to the Stationers' Company order ca. 1586 "that no more
than 1,250 copies of an ordinary book should be printed." This order
seems not to have been a law, but a reflection of the Stationers' desire
to increase artificially the printhouse work, as sort of a trickle-down
hedge against lopsided profits.

Evelyn May Albright (Dramatic Publication in England, 1927) refers
apparently to the same rule: "On Dec. 11, 1587, the standard number of
books . . . in an edition was 1250."

A more modern authority is an often-cited "The Publication of
Playbooks," by Peter Blayney in _A New History of Early English Drama_
(1997). "If he [a hypothetical stationer] is prepared to risk an edition
of 1,200 copies or more . . . . In this case, however, the stationer
decides that his confidence extends no further than a single edition of
800 copies." (396) "If it had sold quickly . . . he might risk a larger
edition -- say 1,200 or even 1,500 copies." (412)

On that point Blayney cites William Ingram on a 1623 lawsuit "concerning
two books printed by Nicholas Okes . . . . Only 800 copies were printed
of the first (and only) edition of STC 10599, but the second edition of
_Philaster_ (after the first had sold out in two years) consisted of
1,500 copies." (422)

Correction of this error doesn't address the issue of survival rates
unless Duncan-Jones formulated her theories using a mistaken figure,
where somehow the survival of one copy from 200 would be different
statistically from one in 1,200.  Belaboring the point (perhaps to note
that 240 copies of F survive) doesn't do any good.

Venus and Adonis was reprinted about once a year in the '90's.

 >Low survival rates are generally held by bibliographers as sound
 >evidence of heavy 'thumbing'.

But low survival rates simply cannot alone indicate that condition.
What Duncan-Jones seems to be saying is that if a few surviving copies
of a book are 'well-thumbed,' then the others must have disappeared for
that reason (overuse) alone. Whereas copies remaining which show less
wear indicate the others were thrown away in good condition.

Low survival rates would depend on many other factors. Further, when we
refer to numbers as low as 13, 4, or 0, from editions of 1200,
statistical significance is lost utterly. But edition size was variable,
depending on many factors, mostly money, as Blayney notes; an author may
back his own work, an edition may be make-work for printers, etc. One
simply loses connection with reality by assuming equal runs and one
reason for disappearance, when the vast majority of copies of all books
from the era have ceased to exist. Her point is invalid, whatever
contribution was intended.

 >Secondly: on my literary arguments for the complementarity-
 >that is, contrasting treatment of common material - of ALC
 >to Sonnets. I directed readers to John Kerrigan, but it doesn't
 >sound as if Gerald Downs has followed this up. I deliberately
 >kept my arguments brief in the Arden Introduction [snip]

I will quote Duncan-Jones again, with ellipsis:

 >I'm a bit surprised that no-one so far has mentioned the strong
 >evidence offered . . . by myself in my 1997 Arden that 'A Lover's
 >Complaint' is a designed component of the Shakespeare's
 >Sonnets volume as published in 1609.

I have not read Kerrigan on this subject and cannot comment on his
material. I responded to Duncan-Jones's specific reference to her own
addition to the "strong case." Editorial space limitations
notwithstanding, she says her argument is strong, and I say it isn't.

 >Thirdly: on the case for the Sonnets as an authorized publication.
 >I first argued for this, with a good deal of evidence, in a longish
 >article in The Review of English Studies as long ago as 1983.
 >I also gave evidence for the inclusion of ALC as a designed part
 >of the whole. At that time the claim was radical and unusual.
 >But since then many other scholars have come to the same
 >conclusion. One very distinguished one who now accepts it-after
 >some years of resistance-is the distinguished bibliographer
 >Macdonald P. Jackson. His verdict should command great
 >respect, even if mine, it seems, doesn't.

The very distinguished, including the distinguished Macdonald P.
Jackson, get all due respect from me, depending on whether I accept
their arguments and the definition of 'due.' But appeal to authority is
not very appealing.

I fully expect Professor Jackson to respond to the challenge to LC's
authority, and I will be interested. His original article on LC struck
me as a lot of good, hard work. Too much hard work to be convincing. A
better case plays itself, and in this respect the attribution of LC to
Davies is off to a running start.

Readers turn to the Arden series not for information only, but for
justification of opinion that stands for information.  Taken by itself,
the argument for the authenticity of LC made by Duncan-Jones is
inadequate. Not everyone is able to follow up every footnote (tho I
can). For that reason, every argument should be as complete and rational
as possible.

Clifford Stetner says:

 >I think Gerald Downs picks the weakest examples from what
 >are much stronger arguments than he pretends.

Those were the only examples Duncan-Jones gave. I guess he didn't spring
for the book. I'll pretend not to notice the "pretends" pre-tension. The
picks were not mine. I do appreciate Clifford Stetner's agreement that
the examples are "the weakest."

Jim Carroll notes:

 >Since Downes accepts the initials "W.S." as referring to
 >Shakespeare so easily in the stationer's registry entry of
 >"Amours",

This misrepresents my opinion.

Clifford Stetner said:

 >I don't see how Shakespeare could have written the
 >anacreontic sonnets 173 and 174,

After looking this up, I'm so relieved. I thought he meant "froze," like
Ted Williams. I don't have an opinion on # 's 153 - 4.

Gerald E. Downs

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