All posts filed under “Old Catalog

Aphra Behn’s The Forc’d Marriage

Behn, Aphra. The forc’d marriage, or The jealous bridegroom. A tragi-comedy. As it is acted at His Highnesse the Duke of York’s theatre. London: James Magnus, 1671. Quarto. Wing B1734.

The Forc’d Marriage was likely the first piece of drama written by Aphra Behn, who is well-known to modern readers as the author of another play, The Rover, and the prose slave narrative, Oroonoko. And it was certainly the play that began her career on the professional stage. As the title page prominently indicates, it was first performed at the Duke of York’s theater. It was the season opener on September 20th, 1670, and made it to print quite early in 1671. It originally sold for one shilling, “stitcht.” Later standalone editions appeared in 1688 and 1690. Along with another early play, The Amorous Prince—also staged in 1671—The Forc’d Marriage demonstrates “an early interest in state politics and the interaction of power and sex. [It] suggests the power of legitimacy over brute force and the appropriateness of marrying for love” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). The remarkable prologue makes reference both to its author’s gender and, perhaps, the career as a spy that she may have had at the end of the interregnum: “The Poetess too, they say, has spyes abroad, Which have dispos’d themselves in every road.”

The present copy is imperfect: it lacks leaves B1 and F1.* The work as a whole appears to have been extracted, at some point, from a sammelband, as the numeral “5” has been written on the upper-right corner of the title page, suggesting that it appeared fifth in a volume, and the top- and fore-edges of the text block have been colored red. It is currently in a brown paper wrapper. The margins are generally ample, though the trimming to the top edge has in a few instances obliterated page numbers. There are small closed tears to the bottom edge of a handful of leaves near the gutter; most are less than 1cm, and none exceeds 2cm. The final leaf has had small areas reinforced with patches on the blank verso. A small portion of the outer forme of sheet M was insufficiently inked by the pressman, making words in the final four lines of M1r and M2v quite faint, though they do remain decipherable. Two sets of reader annotations appear in addition to the “5” written on the title page: on B1r, a reader has written in numbers next to names in the list of Dramatis Personae, which may indicate the number of lines spoken by each. And, on E3r, an annotator has underlined the word “honour” in a speech by Alcander and written “humour” in the margin as a correction.

Despite its imperfections, this is nevertheless a good copy of a noteworthy and fairly scarce play, the play the began the career of the Restoration’s most famous female dramatist and author, Aphra Behn. UNAVAILABLE

*I can provide the buyer with high quality, high-resolution images of both of the missing leaves—all four pages—that are ready to be printed and tipped-in as facsimiles.

Unrecorded Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter

Bible, Old Testament. The Whole booke of Psalmes, Collected into English meter by T. Sternh. I. Hopk. and others: conferred with the Hebrew, with apt notes to sing them withal. London: John Wolfe for the assigns of Richard Day, 1589. Octavo. Unrecorded.

The Sternhold and Hopkins metrical Psalter is so well known that no introduction to the work seems necessary here, beyond stating the basic fact that it was arguably the best selling book of verse and music in Early Modern England from its introduction in the mid-16th century through at least the end of the 17th. Sold alone as well as bound in with Bibles and New Testaments, its various editions edified generations of readers, those both well-to-do and quite otherwise.

The chart of Sternhold and Hopkins editions included in the 2nd edition of the STC indicates that this single-column black-letter copy in octavo belongs to series 8/47: as called for, Psalm CI begins on Q1v, p.208, and the last numbered leaf is p.316 on Y7v. The earliest edition of this series recorded in the STC dates from three years later in 1592 (STC 2481.5), and claims to come from the press of a different printer, John Windet. He also printed all subsequent editions in the series. Each contains the same elaborate title page border (McKerrow 204) present in this 1589 copy, a border that had also been used by John Wolfe for some other earlier publications. It depicts the Royal Arms and the Arms of the Stationers’ Company, four cherubs, and the figures of David and John the Baptist(?). This book, however, was printed from a substantially different setting of type than others in series 8/47 (including STC 2481.5), and, thus, constitutes a distinct earlier edition.* No other copies are recorded.

The seven editions belonging to series 8/47 that are recorded in the STC were published between 1592 and 1603 and printed by Windet. The existence of an earlier copy by Wolfe indicates that Windet did not originate the series, but instead inherited it when he took over Wolfe’s other Psalter printing in 1591. This new edition also begins to narrow the gap between series 8/47 and the earlier series, 8/45, which John Day stopped printing after his edition of 1583 (STC 2466.7). It is now quite possible to imagine that Wolfe printed others between 1585, when he began printing Psalters under Richard Day, and 1591, when Windet took over.

The present copy, in a recent pigskin binding with new endpapers and a ribbon bookmark, collates A-Y8. Psalm 150 ends on Y7v, and the text cuts off at the end of Y8v following a song on the Ten Commandments and the beginning of “A Prayer.” Although no other copy of this edition exists for comparison, the collation of the 1592 edition suggests that a total of twelve leaves are likely lacking, quires 2A8 and 2B4. (Later editions extend 2B4 to a full eight leaf quire. In the 1592 edition, though, the text ends on 2B3, and 2B4 is a blank.) The title page and all leaves are remarkably clean, squarely trimmed, and evenly toned. “THE” on the title page and three initial capitals (on A2r, A5v, and C2r) have been colored red at some point, possibly quite early.

While, generally speaking, Sternhold and Hopkins Psalters are legion, copies from series 8/47 are incredibly scarce. Of the seven editions recorded in the STC, only the edition from 1601 (STC 2503.3) is present in the US, with copies at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the University of North Carolina (according to the more recent ESTC). The 1599 edition (STC 2497.7) is only known from a copy in private hands, and others (STC 2490.7, dated 1596, and probably STC 2481.5) exist, like this 1589 copy, only in imperfect examples. In total, the ESTC records only ten (maybe eleven) copies in the series that were printed over a twelve-year period.

All said, this is a unique copy of an otherwise unattainable edition of the Sternhold and Hopkins metrical Psalter, one that alters, albeit slightly, some narratives about the Elizabethan book trade. It deserves a home at a major research library and inclusion in the ESTC and other relevant bibliographies. SOLD

*By the standards used by the STC, in which fifty-percent of the sheets need to have been reset, this easily qualifies as a distinct edition. There are, however, anomalies. For example, the outer forme of the sheet that makes up S8 appears (by several measures) to have been printed from the same setting that appears in the only available copy of the 1592 edition, but the inner formes of the two copies are clearly distinct, complete with spelling differences. There may be other instances of this throughout the volume; further analysis is needed. This oddity is quite remarkable, not least because the formes are from editions at least nominally printed by different printers; it may even suggest that Wolfe passed standing formes or half-printed sheets to Windet when he also handed over the block for the title page border—assuming, of course, that Windet printed the distinct inner forme himself. It is hard to say: mass-produced books like the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter tend to defy the tidy criteria of traditional bibliography. Not only is there the likelihood of copies with mixed sheets, but there is also, as we apparently see here, the possibility of sheets that mix formes.

Susanna Centlivre’s The Perjur’d Husband

Centlivre, Susanna. The perjur’d husband: or the adventures of Venice. A tragedy. As ’twas acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, by His Majesty’s servants. London: Bennet Banbury, 1700. Quarto. Wing C1671.

The perjur’d husband, first performed and printed in 1700 (a second standalone edition followed in 1737), was Susanna Centlivre’s debut play. The ODNB describes it most succinctly, as “a strange play with a tragic main plot set in Venice at carnival time and a bawdy comic sub-plot.” And it is indeed strange, but not without moments of genuine humor and wit. Although the play did not quite make it to a sixth night during its run on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Centlivre claims in her preface to the reader that it nevertheless “went off with general Applause.” Notably, the prologue delivered by Mrs. Oldfield (who played Aurelia) and written by a “Gentleman” confidently introduces the play as one authored by a woman:

And here’s to night what doubly makes it sweet,
A private Table, and a Ladys treat:
At her reflections none can be uneasy,
When the kind Creature does her best to please ye.
. . .
Whate’re’s her fate, she’s sure to gain the Field,
For Women always Conquer when they yeild.

As a writer of more straightforward comedies, Susanna Centlivre became the most popular female playwright in the generation after Aphra Behn. She died in 1723, but her reputation remained such that publishers collaborated to issue the collected works of “the celebrated Mrs. Centlivre” in a three-volume duodecimo collection in 1761, almost forty years later. Editions of individual plays were still being published well into the 19th century; in performance, they stayed in repertory for at least 150 years. Her most popular play, The Busybody, saw the stage more than 450 times before 1800 and was even counted among David Garrick’s favorites.

Centlivre’s second husband, Mr. Carroll, died before she became involved in the theater, but it was his surname that she used during the early phase of her career: it is with “Susanna Carroll” that she signs her dedication to the Duke of Bedford in The perjur’d husband. And although she was a successful playwright overall, Centlivre surely had her detractors, especially because as the politics of her plays became more transparent. In later plays, “[Tory] party fervour forms another obstacle to the happiness of the young lovers—always whiggishly inclined.” An unsympathetic annotator of a first edition copy of The perjur’d husband at the Huntington Library even felt it necessary to add to the dedication that Centlivre was not only “Your Grace’s most Obedient and Devoted Humble Servant,” but that she was also a “Whore.”

The present copy of The perjur’d husband collates complete, with its title page trimmed and mounted on newer stock. For whatever reason, a small section of the title page that includes the attribution to “S. Carroll” has been removed from the title page. As mounted, there is a seam below the horizontal rule and above the imprint. Margins throughout the playbook are quite ample, with only one exception: trimming and small chips to the upper margin encroach into the headlines “To His Grace” and “The Epistle Dedicatory” on sigs. A2r and A2v (see photo). The paper is also quite bright, with only occasional light stains and toning. The play is currently bound in what appears to be an old quarter binding from a library; both boards are cleanly detached.

Although it is doubtful that any of her plays will ever achieve the status of Behn’s The Rover, scholarly interest in Centlivre is nevertheless on the rise. The Modern Language Association’s International Bibliography records some fourteen studies (articles, book chapters, and dissertations) on Centlivre in the past dozen years, and her plays are increasingly taught at the graduate and even undergraduate levels. Assuming that Centlivre continues to gain popularity, her early quartos will become more and more of an asset in collections—institutional as well as private—of early modern and Restoration drama. UNAVAILABLE