University of Virginia Library

The Stansby 1614 and 1617 Editions

After Ralegh's release from the Tower in March, 1616, the Stansby 1617 (the true second edition) appeared — a page for page reprint of 1614 except for an inserted leaf in the preliminaries and some altered catchwords.

The Folger copy of the Stansby 1617 contains a printed title-page


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(nothing suggests it was not part of the volume as it was first bound). This fact deserves notice because Brushfield lapsed into self-contradictions in his discussion of the title-page. In 1894 he stated that the "sole appreciable difference" between the two editions is that the 1617 contains a title-page (N. & Q., 8th S., V, 441-442). Yet in his 1908 Bibliography (p. 90), without any explanation, he reversed himself. He then stated that the title-page is absent from the Stansby 1617 and that it first appeared in what he termed the "1617 (2) edition," the edition printed by Jaggard (STC 20638a). Despite Brushfield's conflicting descriptions, the Stansby 1617 was the first to contain the portrait title-page. Its appearance at this time, doubtless with Ralegh's permission, indicates that Ralegh had risen from his "civill death," at least nominally; a development which underlines the irony of his execution in 1618.

Since the Stansby 1617 was the last to appear in Ralegh's lifetime, the vital question concerns the possibility of authorial revision. No such revisions took place, a fact which is not surprising. In the interval between Ralegh's release from the Tower and his departure from London in March, 1617, he was preparing for his voyage to Orinoco, a gamble upon which his fortune and very life were to depend. Permission for the voyage had been wrung from the reluctant James, "no frend to the journey," and almost immediately Ralegh left London in haste fearing a royal countermand.[15] It is inconceivable that Ralegh took time to see the work through the press, a work, it should be remembered, which had proved a major disappointment to Ralegh's hopes of pleasing James. If Ralegh could not gratify James's "love of learning," he now would take all risks to gratify James's need of gold.

The differences between the two Stansby editions resulted from the printer's fairly diligent efforts to improve on the first edition. He was able to include a printed title-page. The nine errata in the Preface were corrected. Of the 131 errata listed in the Errata, 107 were corrected, twenty-one were not (no Errata warns of this), and three new readings were introduced (two errors and one minor improvement). Two of the five pagination errors were corrected in Bks. I-II, but two new ones were made in Bks. III-V. The three signature errors were corrected. Two running-title errors in "The Contents" were corrected, but four in the text were not. In a side by side comparison of the Folger copies of the editions, except for minor alterations in spelling and punctuation, no other differences were detected. Thus the 1617 is a reprint. The substantive edition is the 1614.