University of Virginia Library

No student of Sir Walter Ralegh can fail to profit from the detailed researches of Dr. T. N. Brushfield (1828-1910), who published a series of biographical-bibliographical studies of Ralegh, the most important of which describe the circumstances of the writing and suppression of Ralegh's The History of the World and provide bibliographical data on its editions.[1] Unfortunately, Brushfield's work has led to a number of misconceptions which have been tenaciously long-lived. The purpose here is to examine the story of the printing, suppression, and reprinting of the History.

The "facts" of the story, established mainly by Brushfield and accepted by Sir Charles Firth[2] and a host of modern biographers, may be simply summarized. Ralegh, condemned to the Tower in 1603 under the sentence of death, began his universal history in about 1607.[3] The work was entered in the Stationers' Register April 15, 1611, but did not appear until March, 1614.[4] Its popularity was immediate. Having roused James's anger, however, it was suppressed by George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, December 22, 1614. James was especially incensed by the fact that Ralegh, a man "civilly dead," had the "impudence" (to use Firth's term) to have his portrait engraved on the title-page. However, a compromise was soon reached. The government rescinded the suppression order with the stipulation that the title-page be removed to render the work anonymous. The first edition (STC 20637), printed by William Stansby for Walter Burre, was then re-issued, possibly three times. The second edition (STC 20637a),


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also printed by Stansby for Burre, appeared in 1614 with all of the errata of the first edition corrected. In 1617 two more editions were printed (several modern biographers have claimed three), one by Stansby for Burre (STC 20638) and the other by William Jaggard for Burre (STC 20638a). Of these, according to Brushfield, the Jaggard contained the portrait title-page, which now reappeared for the first time since the initially suppressed Stansby 1614 edition. Brushfield also stated that the Jaggard 1617 was revised by Ralegh, a claim which has caused it to be regarded by some as the most authoritative text. Jaggard then re-issued the work in 1621 (STC 20639).

In its major details the story is untenable. It is based largely on conjecture and on questionable, even careless, bibliographical procedures. This study will consider the following points: (1) the suppression, (2) the "issues" of the Stansby 1614 and the "second" Stansby 1614, (3) the relations between the Stansby 1614 and 1617 editions, (4) the relations between the Stansby 1617 and the Jaggard 1617 and 1621 editions. It will be argued that no compromise with suppression took place, that the "issues" are actually variant states, that the "second" Stansby 1614 is a ghost, and that the "Jaggard 1617" is a ghost.