University of Virginia Library


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Simmes' Compositor A and Five Shakespeare Quartos
Alan E. Craven

Although much has been learned in recent years about the First Folio compositors and the quality of their work, relatively little is known about the compositors who set the substantive Shakespeare quartos into type, and about the amount and kinds of corruption which these workmen introduced into the quarto editions. One such compositor in the shop of Valentine Simmes is of special interest. For five substantive Shakespeare quartos were printed by Simmes, and these five quartos, as well as substantive texts of quarto plays by other dramatists, were set either wholly or in part by one compositor, Simmes' Compositor A, as he was designated by W. Craig Ferguson:[1] all of Much Ado about Nothing (1600), all of Henry IV, Part 2 (1600), all of the bad quarto of Hamlet (1603), and most of Richard II (1597). In the fifth of these quartos, Richard II (1597), seven of the twelve sheets were printed by Simmes, and these sheets were also set by Compositor A.

The work of Simmes' Compositor A can be identified primarily by his highly unusual manner of treating speech-prefixes. After an unabbreviated prefix he characteristically does not use a period. Ferguson noted that of 335 unabbreviated speech-prefixes in Q 2 Henry IV 330 are unstopped; 487 of 489 unabbreviated speech-prefixes in Q Much Ado are similarly unstopped. In these two quartos the evidence from the speech-prefixes alone is virtually conclusive. In addition to the numerous unstopped prefixes, Ferguson observed little unnecessary mixing of roman and italic type (roman being used in the text proper and italic in stage directions), regularity in handling both non-exit


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stage directions (most being centered and these usually beginning with a capital) and exit directions (most being uncentered and most beginning with a lower-case letter), and consistency in spelling variants (that is, classes of variants pervading the entire text and not forming patterns which correspond to bibliographical units). Yet while these characteristics effectively supplement the evidence of the unstopped prefixes, they are not sufficiently distinctive to be used as conclusive evidence for compositor identification in other Simmes' quartos. For these quartos — substantive editions as well as reprints — in which determination of the compositor is not as clear-cut as in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado, additional characteristics of Compositor A must be adduced.

Such characteristics can be found in Q 2 Henry IV and Q Much Ado, which may conveniently be considered together. Although the work of Compositor A does not reveal habitual spellings for a large number of high-frequency words, a few clear ones do emerge, along with less-marked preferences.

2 Henry IV   Much Ado  
heart  29  heart  38 
hart  hart 
yong  23  yong 
young  young 
tongue  18  tongue  16 
tong  tong 
eie  10  eie  17 
eye  eye 
-nesse (suffix)  35  -nesse (suffix)  28 
-nes  11  -nes 
here  84  here  36 
heere  13  heere  15 
do  86  do  76 
doe  25  doe  28 
go  40  go  35 
goe  11  goe  19 
bloud  22  bloud 
blood  11  blood 

Habitual spellings are apparent for a few words: heart, yong,


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tongue. For most of the other words, moreover, one variant is preferred, although less strongly, by nearly the same proportion in both quartos—do, for instance, being favored over doe roughly 3 to 1. While a definite preference for heart should be apparent in other texts by Compositor A, one would not necessarily expect to find a 3:1 preference for do; a heavy preference for doe, however, would be surprising. The cumulative evidence of a number of such weaker preferences can often be useful in compositor identification, although for such words the compositor, lacking a clear preference, may be more affected by copy spellings.

On many occasions Compositor A chooses not to capitalize certain words that one might expect to be capitalized. He sets both ile and Ile: in 2 Henry IV, ile is preferred 18 times to 14; in Much Ado, ile is used on 21 occasions and Ile not at all. (Excluded from consideration here and below are all forms appearing at the beginning of a verse line or a sentence.) A similar indifference to capitalization of some words can be seen in the treatment of certain titles.

2 Henry IV   Much Ado  
King  57  King 
king  king 
Prince  Prince  25 
prince  43  prince  43 
Lord(ship)  61  Lord(ship)  37 
lord(ship)  79  lord(ship)  38 
Lady  Lady  36 
lady  lady  32 
Knight  14  Signior  12 
knight  signior  25 
Captain  Count(y)  24 
captain  12  count(y) 
other titles, upper case  19  other titles, upper case 
other titles, lower case  other titles, lower case 
Only for King, Knight, and Count(y) are the upper-case forms consistently preferred.

Another spelling trait evident in Compositor A's work is the occasional use of long, ee forms of certain pronouns: hee, shee, mee, wee.


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Although greatly preferring the shorter forms, he sets in 2 Henry IV ee forms 31 times (28 in prose passages) and in Much Ado 61 times (57 in prose); apparently the long forms are used to aid in justifying prose lines. He also habitually uses the ee spelling, without an apostrophe, in contractions such as weele and shees.

Although quite clear, the evidence of spelling preferences, like that of the stage directions, is only corroborative; the unstopped speech-prefixes alone are sufficient to identify the hand of Compositor A in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado. Similarly, the bad quarto of Hamlet (1603), clearly the work of a single workman, may also be assigned to Compositor A on the basis of the numerous unstopped speech-prefixes. Of the 163 unabbreviated speech-prefixes in the text, 145 are unstopped. At least one unstopped prefix appears on 42 of the 63 pages. The 18 stopped prefixes, on the other hand, are scattered through the quarto, occurring on 12 different pages, but 9 of these pages also contain at least one unstopped prefix. Non-exit stage directions in Q1 Hamlet are in general handled similarly to those in the two earlier quartos. However, exit directions, although usually set to the right just as they are in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado, sometimes begin with a capital. Only one exit in 2 Henry IV begins with an upper-case letter; only two exits in Much Ado so begin (although in four other cases in Much Ado a centered exit is capitalized). In Hamlet 5 of 40 uncentered exits are capitalized (along with 6 of the 7 exits centered and on a separate line). In Hamlet, however, a striking difference in typography can be noted: proper names (characters and places) in the dialogue are often set in contrasting italic type, a practice never used in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado (in these quartos only a few Latin words in the dialogue being set in italic). But the contrasting italic is not consistently used throughout Hamlet Q1, the ratio of italic to roman proper names being 4 to 1. On 25 pages (out of 63) both italic and roman names occur, and the italic does not form bibliographical patterns which would suggest the presence of an alternate compositor.

Spelling preferences in Hamlet Q1 strongly support the ascription of the entire quarto to one workman, Compositor A.

  • heart 33
  • hart 13
  • yong 19
  • young 0
  • tongue 9
  • tong 1
  • eie 8
  • eye 19
  • -nesse 23
  • -nes 10
  • here 46
  • heere 12
  • do 39
  • doe 35
  • doo 3
  • go 17
  • goe 31
  • bloud 3
  • blood 11


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Some of the spelling preferences in the earlier quartos can be observed in the same proportions: yong, tongue, -nesse, here; the heart preference is lower but still strong. For three variant spellings (eie/eye, go/goe, bloud/blood) the preference is reversed. Although predominantly in verse, the quarto contains many ee forms of pronouns—102—although almost three times as many short forms occur. Again the use of both lower-and upper-case titles is evident.

  • King 30
  • king 24
  • Prince 17
  • prince 4
  • Lord 94
  • lord 58
  • Lady 7
  • lady 1
  • other titles, uc 1
  • other titles, lc 0

Similarly, both forms of the Ile/ile variant appear, 13 upper-case forms and 10 lower-case forms. But about half the total number of forms contain an apostrophe. (Included in this count are forms which begin a sentence or verse line.)

Ile  15  ile 
I'le  16  i'le 
Indeed, the use of the apostrophe is three times as heavy in Hamlet as in 2 Henry IV, five times as heavy as in Much Ado. But neither the increased use of the apostrophe nor the italic in the dialogue invalidates the evidence of the speech-prefixes and other compositorial habits. Nor are there groups of spellings that suggest either that Q1 Hamlet was set by two compositors or that the single compositor was not Compositor A. It is impossible to tell whether the unusual features of Q1 Hamlet reflect new compositorial habits developed in the three-year interval after the printing of 2 Henry IV and Much Ado or whether they simply derive from the copy.

The two Simmes' quartos of 1597, Richard II Q1 and Richard III Q1, unlike the three quartos just examined, present difficult problems of compositor identification. Richard II, the less difficult of the two, will be considered first. Unlike the three later quartos, Richard II is the work of two compositors, Compositor A and a co-worker who regularly stops unabbreviated speech-prefixes and has been designated Compositor S by Charlton Hinman.[2]


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Although many pages of Richard II can be assigned to one of the two compositors on the evidence of the unabbreviated speech-prefixes, a number of pages cannot be so assigned. Eight pages have no unabbreviated speech-prefixes at all, nine have at least one unstopped and at least one stopped prefix, and nine more have only one unabbreviated prefix. Fortunately, identification of the compositors of Richard II is greatly aided because evidence from distinctively damaged types can establish the identity of the type-cases from which any particular page was set and thus usually the identity of the compositor who set that page. The unstopped prefixes characteristic of Compositor A occur regularly on pages set from a case which may be designated case x, the stopped prefixes used by Compositor S from a second, case y.[3] When the evidence of speech-prefixes is used in conjunction with that provided by type-cases, it is possible to determine which of the two compositors set a given page. Thus 57½ pages can be assigned to Compositor A and 15½ pages to Compositor S. (Each compositor set part of C2.) In the quarto 234 unabbreviated prefixes are used: 171 unstopped and 16 stopped prefixes occur on A's pages, 2 unstopped and 45 stopped prefixes on S's pages.

The other characteristics of Compositor A observable in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado are not, however, useful in compositor determination in Richard II. Compositor S, like Compositor A, does not normally set off names and places in contrasting type. (Twice in Richard II, Compositor A does set a name in contrasting italic, once on each of the first two pages he set, B1 and 2v.)

As for Compositor A's other habits, there is some disparity in the evidence provided by Richard II Q1 and that of the two 1600 quartos. Exit directions in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado almost always begin with


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a lower-case letter, but in Richard II exit directions on A's pages are always capitalized, as they are on S's pages. It may be that Compositor A's preference for exit directions changed during the three-year interval, or possibly the use of upper-case exits in Richard II is a conscious attempt to imitate the upper-case exits preferred by Compositor S, who set the first sheet of the quarto. Compositor A's inconsistent treatment of exit directions in 1603 Hamlet should, however, be remembered: 11 are capitalized, 36 are not. Additionally, some non-exit stage directions on A's pages of Richard II Q1 are handled differently from those in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado. The practice in these plays is to center such directions. In Richard II five such directions on A's pages (as well as two on S's pages) are set to the right, at the ends of dialogue lines. But since the quarto was set by formes from cast-off copy, such placement of stage directions results from a need to compress material slightly to fit it to the limits of the type-page, and no significance can be attached to their occasional location at the ends of lines.

If several of Compositor A's normal characteristics do not appear in Q1 Richard II, many of his spelling preferences do. In addition to Compositor A's, Compositor S's spellings for the same words are listed.

Compositor A  Compositor S 
heart  29  heart 
hart  hart  10 
yong  yong 
young  young 
tongue  15  tongue 
tong  tong 
eie  18  eie 
eye  eye 
-nesse  11  -nesse 
-nes  20  -nes 
here  38  here 
heere  16  heere 
do  47  do  13 
doe  12  doe 
go  26  go 
goe  goe 
bloud  37  bloud  12 
blood  blood 


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A comparison of Compositor A's spellings in Q1 Richard II with those in the three quartos already considered reveals few significant differences. The preference for the longer -nesse form in the other quartos is reversed, and the yong/young variants are used equally. But heart and tongue are clearly preferred (although at lower ratios than in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado), and for several of the less-marked preferences (eie, here, do) the ratios correspond generally with those in 2 Henry IV and Much Ado. As might be expected, the greatest differences occur between Compositor A's spellings in Richard II and those in Hamlet Q1, the quarto furthest removed from Richard II in time. For four words the variant form favored in Richard II (eie, -nes, go, bloud) differs from that favored in Hamlet, but the ratios of preference in Hamlet are low, these not being words for which the compositor has habitual spellings. In spite of the six-year time lapse, there is a general uniformity of spelling preferences.

Unfortunately, spelling preferences are of little value in compositor determination in Richard II Q1 because Compositor A's preferences are almost all shared by his co-worker, Compositor S. For only one word do the compositors clearly prefer different variants (Compositor A favoring heart, a form for which he shows consistent preference in all four quartos, and Compositor S less strongly favoring hart), although for two other words, tongue and here, A prefers one of the variant forms to the other while S for each of the words uses both variants equally.

Capitalization is rather more useful in identifying the compositors of Q1 Richard II. The ile form found frequently in the three later quartos never appears on A's pages in Richard II, Ile always being used by both compositors. But the use of lower-case forms for certain titles can frequently be seen in A's work in Richard II, rarely in S's work.

Compositor A  Compositor S 
King  85  King  18 
king  30  king 
Prince  Prince 
prince  prince 
Lord  78  Lord  10 
lord  lord 
other titles, uc  36  other titles, uc 
other titles, lc  other titles, lc 
The two appearances of lower-case king by S are, perhaps, occasioned by special uses, appearing in Richard's sardonic reference to king


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Bullingbroke and in the phrase king of beasts. Additionally, three stage directions on A's pages also contain lower-case titles.

Although one would expect few, if any, ee pronoun forms in the entirely verse Richard II, two do occur, both on A's pages.

Before proceeding to the fifth of Simmes' quartos, Richard III Q1, it is desirable to examine additional compositorial features of Richard II, not because there can be any doubt about the identity of the compositor who set four fifths of the quarto, but rather to assemble a fuller body of evidence about Compositor A's characteristics in order to aid identification in Richard III, where unstopped prefixes, the salient feature of Compositor A's work, rarely occur. Because they are shared by Compositor S, no use can be made of many of Compositor A's practices in Richard II: sparing use of the apostrophe, heavy use of colons, round brackets to set off many parenthetical expressions, brief catchwords, as well as a number of spellings for words not listed above.

Of some usefulness, however, are several peculiarities in handling stage directions. In four instances on A's pages, non-exit stage directions which appear on a separate line are not centered but rather set to the right; Compositor S always centers stage directions which stand on a separate line. A second difference occurs in the handling of stage directions set to the right, at the end of a dialogue line. Compositor S places a round bracket before the only two stage directions so positioned; Compositor A never follows the practice of bracketing a direction in Richard II or the three quartos previously considered. Of more potential usefulness than this negative evidence for Compositor A is his practice of usually setting both exit and non-exit stage directions in from the outer margin of the type-page, not flush right. In the quarto, 14 exit directions occur at the ends of lines; in Compositor S's work one is set flush right, another only slightly in from the margin, but of the 12 on Compositor A's pages, 10 are set in from the margin (most of them some distance) and the remaining two set flush because there is insufficient space to do otherwise. Also set in from the margin in Compositor A's work are the two exit directions placed on separate lines. (Three long exit directions which contain several proper names also are set on separate lines but are handled variously.) Additionally, of the five non-exit stage directions placed at the ends of lines in Compositor A's work, three are set flush with the margin, owing to lack of space, and two are set in. Thus it would appear that whenever possible Compositor A preferred to set both exits and non-exit directions in from the margin of the type-page.

The handling of stage directions in the three later quartos is in general agreement. Excluding from consideration all stage directions


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set flush right when there is insufficient space to do otherwise, in 2 Henry IV 11 exits (both those appearing at the ends of lines and those on separate lines) are set in from the margin, 5 are set flush right; 6 non-exit stage directions are set in, and 2 are set flush right. In Much Ado, 18 exits are set in from the margin, 3 are set flush right; 2 non-exit stage directions are set in, and 1 is set flush right. In Hamlet, 31 exits are set in from the margin, 1 is set flush right; 9 non-exit stage directions are set in, and 2 are set flush right.

One final peculiarity of Compositor A can be observed in Richard II Q1 — the use of abbreviated names and titles. Although abbreviations in the dialogue are rare in the three later quartos, Compositor A in Richard II frequently abbreviates names or titles (Ric: for Richard, B. for Bishop, etc.), even when there is no need to save space; in his 15½ pages of Richard II, Compositor S abbreviates only twice (Lo. in the dialogue, Ric. in a stage direction), both times in crowded lines. The word most frequently abbreviated by A is Lord (or Lordship) — 15 times, 12 as Lo: — but only once to save space in a crowded line.

Richard III Q1, the fifth of the substantive Shakespeare quartos associated with Simmes, appeared in the same year as Richard II, 1597. Only seven of the twelve sheets (sigs. A-G) came from Simmes' press. These sheets are clearly the work of a single compositor. Not only were they set from a single type-case, as demonstrated by the evidence of distinctively damaged types, but they also exhibit a uniformity of compositorial practices, especially heavy spelling preferences. Identification of the compositor is, unfortunately, rendered difficult by the scarcity of unabbreviated speech-prefixes — only 18 in the 7 sheets. Although no completely satisfactory reason can be found for the small number of unabbreviated prefixes, the scarcity may in part result from the crowding apparent throughout all seven sheets.

But whatever the reason, the 18 unabbreviated prefixes (including one prefix as a catch-word) are not consistently treated; 13 are stopped and 5 are unstopped. These data may be interpreted variously. On the one hand, since the use of unstopped prefixes in the printed drama of the period is rare,[4] even a small number of prefixes so treated would suggest the work of Compositor A. Additionally, Compositor S almost never used unstopped prefixes in Q1 Richard II, while Compositor A occasionally did use stopped prefixes. But on the other hand, since Compositor A so often used unstopped prefixes in the four other


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quartos, the predominance of stopped prefixes seems inexplicable. The evidence of the unstopped prefixes, then, seems inconclusive for identification of the compositor of Q1 Richard III. (Here and hereafter, I mean by Richard III Q1 only the seven Simmes' sheets, not the entire quarto.)

The evidence provided by stage directions, however, strongly suggests the hand of Compositor A. Owing to the crowded pages, many non-exit stage directions are set to the right but never enclosed within a round bracket (the practice of Compositor S), unless the stage direction is turned over or under. Although 19 stage directions are set flush right, on every occasion there is insufficient space for the compositor to do otherwise, but on the 7 occasions when there is sufficient room, the stage direction each time is set in from the margin. Omitting from consideration the one long exit direction with proper names, standing on a separate line, 18 exits are also set in from the margin and only one is set flush right. Another peculiarity can be noted in Richard III Q1. Two non-exit stage directions standing on separate lines are set to the right instead of being centered. Four times in Richard II Compositor A set stage directions standing on a separate line in such a position.

Spelling preferences are remarkably clear in Richard III, as the following list indicates.

  • heart 28
  • hart 3
  • yong 2
  • young 7
  • tongue 8
  • tong 1
  • eie 17
  • eye 4
  • -nesse 8
  • -nes 17
  • here 30
  • heere 3
  • do 2
  • doe 60
  • go 32
  • goe 0
  • bloud 30
  • blood 0
Since Richard II and Richard III were presumably printed within several months of each other in late 1597, one would expect spellings in Richard III, if the compositor who set the quarto is Compositor A, to correspond more closely to Compositor A's spellings in Richard II than to those in the other three quartos — and such is the case. Richard III exhibits strong preferences for heart (not Compositor S's usual spelling, hart), tongue and here (the latter words ones for which Compositor S used both variant forms equally). Indeed, only with doe is there a reversal of a form preferred by A in Richard II (S also preferring the do variant).

In addition to the strong spelling evidence, the tolerance of abbreviations in the dialogue also suggests the hand of Compositor A. The


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word most often abbreviated in Richard III, as in Richard II, is Lord (or Lordship); 15 times the abbreviated form appeared on Compositor A's pages in Richard II (12 as Lo:), and it appears 80 times (76 as Lo:) in Richard III, rarely to avoid an excessively long line. Compositor S in Richard II never abbreviated except to save space, and Lo. was his single abbreviation in the dialogue.

Although several kinds of evidence support the attribution of Richard III Q1 to Compositor A, one kind points instead to Compositor S — capitalization. Both compositors, it will be remembered, always used Ile in Richard II (although Compositor A frequently used ile in the three later quartos), and Ile invariably appears in Richard III. But in Richard II Compositor A often used lower-case forms of certain titles, while Compositor S almost always capitalized them. In Richard III lower-case forms of these titles never appear; capitalized titles are used for King (60 occurrences), Queene (26), Prince (16), Lord or Lordship (151), Lady (7), and for other titles such as Duke (41). It should be remembered, however, that Compositor A in Richard II, although frequently using lower-case titles, did strongly prefer upper-case ones.

A number of other compositorial features in Richard III could be examined. Most of these (for example, the use of numbers, unstopped, as speech-prefixes on 72 occasions) throw no light on the identity of the compositor, but none of them would suggest that the Simmes' compositor who worked on Richard III is not Compositor A. Despite the scarcity of unstopped prefixes and the total absence of lower-case titles, all other evidence strongly supports the attribution of the seven sheets to Compositor A. It should be remembered that in Richard II Q3, 1598, the work of a third Simmes' compositor can be identified,[5] but there is no evidence to suggest that he was the compositor who set Richard III. Since it seems certain that neither this compositor nor Compositor S produced the seven sheets of Q1 Richard III, we must suppose, if the compositor of Richard III was not Compositor A, the existence of yet a fourth workman, one who possessed almost all the traits of Compositor A. Such a supposition seems so unwarranted that, despite evidence less conclusive than that in the other four quartos, we can conclude that Compositor A almost certainly set the seven sheets of Q1 Richard III.

It is clear that Simmes' Compositor A must be regarded as a compositor of unusual importance, having set wholly or in part substantive texts of five Shakespeare plays, three of these being texts of highest


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authority. In addition, the work of this compositor can be found in other substantive texts — A Warning for Fair Women (1599), Dekker's The Shoemakers' Holiday (1600), Marston's The Malcontent (Q1 and Q3, both 1604), Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1604), and other substantive editions.[6] How accurate a workman, we may ask, was Compositor A? How many corruptions did he introduce into a given text? What kinds of alterations did he make? And in what specific ways did he corrupt his text? Of course, some manifestly corrupt readings can be observed in these quartos, but, given the often superficial proofreading practices of the Elizabethan printing house, to assume that because a passage makes sense it is necessarily sound is to make a dangerous assumption. In what specific ways, then, was the textual integrity of these plays violated?

A careful collation of a printed text with the copy from which it was set, whenever such comparison is possible, can provide a fairly reliable gauge of a compositor's fidelity to that copy. Since the hand of Compositor A can be identified in reprints for which we possess the copy, it is possible to determine with some confidence the corruptions, both in number and in kinds, which he introduced into a substantive text. One such reprint appeared in 1598, a second edition of Richard II, set wholly by Compositor A. By collating this reprint with the copy from which it was set — the first quarto of Richard II — we can discover the relative accuracy of Compositor A.

There can be little doubt that Richard II Q2 was set throughout by Compositor A. To be sure, there is a lack of consistency in the use of unabbreviated speech-prefixes. In the early sheets of the second quarto, which were set from material that contained many pages regularly showing S's stopped prefixes, Compositor A seems greatly influenced by copy.[7] But when working on pages of Q2 for which he had set the corresponding pages in the copy, he usually retains the unstopped prefixes, additionally expanding abbreviated prefixes to full names on fifteen occasions, a dozen of which are unstopped. When setting a prefix as a catch-word (and since Q2 is not a page-for-page reprint, the catch-words almost never are the same as those in the copy), he generally does not use a stop.


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In fact, all of the characteristics which were found to be useful in identifying Compositor A in the other quartos are observable in Q2. Of these, spelling evidence deserves brief comment. Compositor A's habitual spellings are strongly present in Q2. For the three words useful in distinguishing the work of A from that of S, the variant spellings preferred in Q2 are A's (the figure in parentheses indicating the number of changes to that particular spelling).

  • heart 45 (12)
  • hart 8
  • tongue 23 ( 3)
  • tong 7
  • here 51 (11)
  • heere 12 ( 2)
Capitalization also follows the pattern previously encountered in the work of Compositor A. Additionally, the ee spellings of certain pronouns occur often in Q2 — 50 times — as they did in 2 Henry IV, Much Ado, and Hamlet. In short, there is abundant evidence that Compositor A set all of Q2 Richard II.

Since Q2 was reprinted directly from Q1, a careful collation of the two will reveal the fidelity of Compositor A to copy-readings — the principle involved being that the alterations he made in setting Q2 from printed copy provide at least a rough index to both the number and kinds of changes (misreadings apart) he was likely to make when setting from the no longer extant manuscript (almost certainly Shakespeare's "foul papers") which served as the copy for the first quarto. Disregarding obvious typographical errors and variants in accidentals (spelling, punctuation, and capitalization), we can examine the substantive changes which Compositor A introduced into the second quarto. For a change to be considered substantive, it usually must affect meaning. But variant forms of some few words, semantically identical, are substantive when they affect the tone of a passage (and often, when in verse, the meter): my/mine or against/ gainst. Although most substantive variants indicate a textual corruption, a compositor's correction of an obvious error in his copy must be regarded as substantive, whether the reading produced is right or wrong.

In the following table of variant readings between Q1 and Q2 of Richard II, the first column shows the page and line number in Q1 and the second and third columns give the readings in the two editions. The changes are classified as follows: those affecting a whole word or words (substitutions, omissions, interpolations, transpositions, and corrections of obvious errors); those affecting the letters in a word, a single


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letter omitted or added or two letters transposed (literals); those affecting the form of a word, usually for metrical or other "literary" considerations, whether designed to render more formal or more colloquial (sophistications). An asterisk denotes a change which produced a manifestly corrupt reading. (See the table of variants compiled by A. W. Pollard, "King Richard II": A New Quarto (1916), pp. 42-46. The present table differs from Pollard's in almost forty instances, the vast majority of these being readings which Pollard neglects to record.)

Page/Line   Q1   Q2  
A3.12  of the King,  of a King, 
A3.29  what I speake, my  what I sayd my 
A4.14  downe my gage  downe the gage, 
A4v.22  beggar-feare  begger-face 
A4v.31  your lives shall  your life shall 
A4v.35  you, we shall  you, you shall 
B1v.28  thy brother  my brother 
B3v.1  defend the right  defend thy right 
B3v.17  set forward Combatants:  set forth Combatants 
B4.9  beames to you  beames unto you 
C1.22  banisht upon good  banisht with good 
C1.29  I should have  I would have 
C2.18  when he bites  when it bites 
C3.12  (God) in the  (God) into the 
C3.32*  the close,  the glose, 
C3v.36  Renowned for theyr  Renowned in ther 
C4.35*  I mocke  O mocke 
C4v.3  breathe, and see  breathe, I see 
C4v.6  than thy land,  then the land, 
D4.16  midwife to my  midwife of my 
D4v.12  by I called  by and called 
D4v.21*  there no Posts  there two posts 
E1.18  all to pieces:  all in pieces: 
E1v.7  benefit which I  benefit that I 
E2.34  most gratious  most ghorious [i.e., glorious] 
E2v.31  against thy soveraigne.  against my soveraigne, 
E3.5  King in England,  King of England, 
E3v.3  knowen unto you,  knowne to you, 
E4.22  eies by your  eies with your 
E4.25  Till you did  Til they did 
E4.29  Whilst you  While you 
E4v.17  call they this  call you this 
F2v.12  I all  Ye al 
F4.34  thundring shocke  thundering smoke, 
G1v.35  As thus  And thus 
G2v.35  here come the  here commeth the 
G3.12  weedes which without  weedes that without 


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G3.25  weedes which his  weedes that his 
G3.35  prowd in sap  -proud with sappe 
G3v.21  breathe this newes,  breathe these newes, 
G4.6  she fall a  she drop a 
G4.34  give them chasticement?  give my chasticement? 
G4v.10  Sunne which shews  Sunne that shewes 
G4v.16  see that day.  see the day. 
H1.20  Duke at Callice.  Duke of Callice. 
H1.36  to that pleasant  to a pleasant 
H1v.2  As surely as  As sure as 
H1v.38  for this foule  for his foule 
H2v.28  Take the correction,  Take thy correction, 
H2v.30  and the king  and a King 
H2v.35  bed thy last  -bed my last 
H3.4*  will simpathize  will simpathie 
H3v.16  and dumbly part,  and doubly part 
H3v.36  Whilst all  While all 
H4.9  where rode he  where rides he 
I1v.19  would unto the  would to the 
I3v.21  how I may compare  how to compare 
I3v.21  Against the word,  Against thy word, 
I4.13  one person many  one prison many 
K2.1  of slaunder with  of slaughter with 
A3.2  and I spit at him,  and spit at him, 
A3.19  canst worse devise.  canst devise. 
A3v.32  Disburst I duely to  Disburst I to 
C4.36  flatter with those  flatter those 
D1.2  tapt out and  tapt and 
D1.22  and all be  and be 
D4.12  and al the  and the 
D4v.12  To day as I  To day I 
E1.33  stranger here in  straunger in 
E2.34*  gratious regent of  ghorious of 
E2v.37  then my father,  then father, 
E3v.33  the death or fall of Kings.  the death of Kings. 
E3v.36  with the eies  with eyes 
F4.6  him are the  him the 
G2v.1  be my heire,  be heyre, 
G3.16  Shewing as in  Shewing in 
G4.9  In the remembrance  In remembrance 
G4v.1  hell, I say thou  hell, thou 
H1v.17  God that any  God any 
H3v.8  Weepe thou for  Weepe for 
H4v.19  triumph day.  triumph. 
H4v.32  honour, by my  honour, my 
H4v.32  life, by my  life, my 
I1.31  like to me  like mee 


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I4.28  in a disordered  in disordered 
I4.32  made me his  made his 
K1v.7  Salisbury, Blunt and  Salisbury, and 
B2.21  and what thy  and what's thy 
D1v.11  of noble  of the noble 
D3.19  our slavish  our countries slavish 
D4.12  the rest revolted  the rest of the revolted 
F2.20  maiesty: boies  maiestie: and boyes 
G1v.15  of King?  of a King? 
G4v.16  live to  live I to 
H1v.22  sits here  sits not here 
H2.10  it, let  it, and let 
I2v.33  words come  words do come 
I4.14  I King,  I a King, 
K2.9  through shades  through the shade 
A3.23  Or chivalrous  O chivalrous 
B4.4  our fields,  our field 
C1.26  You urgde me  You urge me 
C1v.18  Esteeme as foyle  Esteeme a foyle 
C2v.1  said our cousin  said your cousin 
C2v.12  kinsman come to  kinsman comes to 
C3v.1  whose taste the  whose state the 
D2.3  Herefords rightes,  Herfords right, 
D2v.37  I spie  I espie 
D3v.19  Sorrowes eye,  Sorrowes eyes, 
D4.34  crosses, cares and griefe:  crosses, care, and griefe. 
E2v.21  thousand french,  thousands French, 
E4.14  Your deaths:  Your death; 
E4v.27  thee favours with  thee favour with 
F1.20  under this terrestriall  under his terrestriall 
F1.32  affrighted tremble at  affrighted, trembled at 
F2v.8  With heads and  With head, and 
F3.2  Castle wall, and  Castle walls, and 
G3.3  up yong dangling  up yon dangling 
G4v.27  I taske the  I take the 
H2.30  Your harts of  Your hart of 
H3.1  their griefes,  their griefe, 
I1v.24  some sparkes of  some sparkles of 
I4.18  I kingd againe,  I king againe, 
K2.9  through shades of  the shade of 
D4.8  his son yong H. Percie,  his yong sonne H. Percie, 
E2v.11  But then more why?  But more than why? 
E3v.26  country are al witherd,  countrey all are witherd, 
F3v.37  Castle royally is  Castle is royally 


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G3.32  pitie is it that  pittie it is that 
H1v.15  presence may I speake.  presence I may speake. 
I1.9  Wilt thou not hide  Wilt not thou hide 
I4.9  That many have, and  That have many, and 
A4.1  to my owne  to mine owne 
B1v.1  thine owne  thy own 
D2v.9  hate gainst any  hate against any 
D2v.11  Gainst us,  Against us 
D4.14  Hath broken  Hath broke 
H1.8  is my honours  is mine honours 
H3.30  marriage twixt my  marriage, betwixt my 
H3.32  oathe twixt thee  oath betwixt thee 
H4v.19  apparell gainst the  apparrell against the 
D3v.24  As thought  As though 
F1.19  outrage bouldy here,  outrage bloudy here, 
G3v.19  Canst thou  Camst thou 
H3v.26  storie of  story 
I2.2  that May  that I may 

The following substantive variants between Q1 and Q2 occur in the stage directions.

C2.27  at another at the other
D2v.18  North. Wars  Willo. Wars 
H2.19  Manent West.   Manet West.  
B3v.10  Herald 2   Herald
B4v.33  Exit.   (absent) 
H3.27  North. My  My 
C4.18  Enter king   Enter the King  
D3.30  Bushie, Bagot.   Bushie, and Bagot.  
I3.5  Yorke Good  King Good 

The collation of the two editions of Richard II yields the following results: 146 substantive variants in the dialogue and 9 in the stage directions for a total of 155 throughout the text. Thus in the 2592 lines of the play — 2756 lines in the Globe edition less the 164-line abdication scene, which did not appear in either of the first two editions — Compositor A made 155 substantive changes of which but 6 are corrections of obvious errors in Q1 (and these, having no authority, are not necessarily right) — an average of one in every 17 lines. More striking than the number of changes, however, is the fact that only 5


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changes of the total 155 produced readings that are patently unsatisfactory.

Certainly the incidence of error — one change in every 17 lines — is quite high, but not surprisingly so, since it has been evident for some time that Compositor A was especially prone to alter copy-readings. There are extant two issues of the printing of 2 Henry IV in 1600, Qa and Qb, the second of which contains a reissued sheet, necessitated because a scene was omitted by Compositor A in the original setting. When the scene was added, also by A, parts of the text which made up the original sheet (164 lines) had to be reset, the cancelled material serving as copy for the reset passages in Qb. Collation of the original sheet with the corresponding parts of the reissued sheet shows that in the 164 lines Compositor A made 10 substantive changes — 8 in the dialogue and 2 in the stage directions. The 10 substantive variants in 164 lines produce an average of one in every 16½ lines, corresponding closely to the frequency of variants in Q2 of Richard II.[8] We have some reason, then, to believe that the performance in the second quarto is typical of this compositor's work.

Since Compositor A made such a large number of substantive changes in Richard II Q2, it is all the more necessary that we know in what specific ways he violated the integrity of his text. Such information will enable us to know, then, not only the amount but also the kinds of corruption that we may expect to find in the substantive editions that he set. Again, the reprint of Richard II can provide a rough index. The 155 substantive changes in the quarto may be classified as follows:

  • Substitutions 63
  • Omissions 30
  • Interpolations 14
  • Literals 25
  • Transpositions 8
  • Sophistications 9
  • Corrections 6
This classification of the substantive variants introduced into Richard II Q2 reveals, first of all, a surprisingly high proportion of verbal substitutions — over one-third of the changes made in the reprint. There are, moreover, fewer changes in literals (changes involving the addition or omission of a single letter or the transposition of two letters in a word) than omissions of a whole word or several words. Such corruptions cannot have resulted generally from misreadings of the


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copy-text but rather reflect errors of a memorial nature. Compositor A seems characteristically to have taken more material into his head than he could deal with accurately. Thus he frequently substituted one word for another, interpolated or omitted a word. The words thus affected are not usually nouns and verbs, but instead are connectives and qualifiers (conjunctions, prepositions, articles, pronouns, and, less frequently, adjectives and adverbs): that for which, with for in, my for thy, the for my, in for for: all omitted, as omitted, my omitted, the omitted; the interpolated, and interpolated, a interpolated.

These changes made in Q2 suggest what a careful examination of all the variant readings in Q2 substantiates — that Compositor A corrupted his text in an especially damaging way. For the corrupted lines almost always make tolerably good sense and seldom, of themselves, reveal that a reading has suffered corruption. Rarely too does self-evident corruption occur in Q2 when nouns and verbs were substituted, omitted, or interpolated: said for speak, drop for fall, sparkles for sparks, smoke for shock, slaughter for slander; I say omitted, or fall omitted in the phrase the death or fall of Kings; country's interpolated before slavish yoke, do interpolated before come. Indeed, as the substantive variants between Q1 and Q2 show, only five changes in the total 155 produced readings immediately recognizable as corruptions.

Considering the kinds of subtle corruption introduced into the reprint, it is not surprising that editors have been able to discover in the substantive first quarto of Richard II, for example, only a small proportion of the corruptions that undoubtedly lie in seemingly satisfactory passages, and, finding few manifest errors, have generally regarded the first quarto as well printed and providing in the main an unusually reliable text. Yet the many verbal alterations in the second quarto of Richard II suggest that any substantive text set by Compositor A must be regarded as providing a far less satisfactory reproduction of its copy — whatever the nature of that copy may be — than has hitherto been supposed. For if Compositor A were no more accurate in setting from manuscript copy than from printed copy — if, that is, he averaged one verbal change every 17 lines — he would have introduced into his part of Richard II — 4/5 of Q1 — over 125 corruptions of the kind evident in the reprint and into the substantive texts of plays like Much Ado and 2 Henry IV over 165 and 200 such corruptions, respectively, as well as a good many other errors resulting from misreading the autograph copy.[9]


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Yet information about the number of corruptions which may have been introduced into substantive texts is of little value to editors of Shakespeare unless it can be determined in what specific ways a given text was misrepresented in the printing house. How at least some errors in a substantive text set by Compositor A can be identified and perhaps corrected will be made clear by examining a few passages in one substantive quarto — Q1 of Richard II.

Peter Ure, the New Arden editor of Richard II, argues that it is "no longer possible to overlook the evidence for memorial elements in the Quarto and hence the probability that a transcript intervened between it and the foul papers."[10] The evidence advanced to support the theory of the intermediate transcript consists of anticipatory errors which Ure attributes to a transcriber. A compositor — so the argument goes — is unlikely to anticipate a word found ahead of the line he is setting, but a scribe familiar with the text he is copying might do so. But Charlton Hinman, rejecting the intermediate-transcript hypothesis, has recently shown that supposed anticipatory errors in Richard II Q1 may in fact be only recollections by the compositor of lines he has previously read over in pointing his copy.[11] If the copy for Q1 was, then, the foul papers themselves (as both Pollard and Greg believed), many of the memorial errors could well be of printing-house origin. In Q2 of Richard II Compositor A was especially prone to errors of the very kind that Ure attributes to the putative scribe. The majority of the changes Compositor A introduced into the second quarto were memorial in nature, not misreadings of the (printed) copy-text. Although many corruptions were due to recollections of a similar passage elsewhere in the text, others resulted simply from the compositor's inability to keep in his memory the exact wording of a passage as he set it. Harold F. Brooks has suggested that the putative Richard II transcriber's "errors are occasionally comparable with the errors apparently made by the transcriber of Q1 Richard III, and that the two transcribers may in fact have been the same person, perhaps the book-holder."[12] Since Compositor A set 4/5 of Q1 Richard II and over half of Q1 Richard III, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that many


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of the errors in the two quartos are similar, not because the texts were transcribed by the same person, but because large parts of both were set into type by a compositor who inexactly remembered and inaccurately reproduced the words in his copy.

Most of the alterations made by Compositor A are of a kind that substitutes sensible but non-Shakespearian readings for what stood in the copy. Lacking that copy we shall be unable to identify many of the corruptions that he introduced. Yet, as Ure notes, "in such a play as Richard II . . . disturbance of metre is often a sign that something has gone wrong with the text, since there is good reason to believe that Shakespeare was generally content at this period to write fairly regular verse."[13] In verse an omitted or interpolated word almost always affects meter, as do some verbal substitutions and some other kinds of changes. Thus Compositor A betrays himself with surprising frequency. For if an ear can be said to be tin, then Compositor A had one of lead; in Q2 Richard II a large number of changes resulted in broken meter — 1/3 of the dialogue variants — a fact with important implications for the editor of any play in which Compositor A had a hand. Especially in Richard II, which is entirely in verse, broken meter or a hypermetrical line may provide a clue to a possible corruption of the text. For in Compositor A's work, as we have seen, even a reading that makes tolerably good sense is not necessarily a correct one.

An editor provided with specific information about the work of Compositor A will be better able to determine where the substantive text has suffered corruption. He would, presumably, emend at least some of the passages in which the Arden editor suspects memorial contamination by the supposed transcriber.[14] Moreover, a knowledge of the kinds of errors to which Compositor A was prone may also provide a means of recognizing where a seemingly satisfactory passage has been corrupted. Let the three following examples in Q1 Richard II be used to illustrate.

Compositor A was especially given to omitting and interpolating words. In setting Q2 he 30 times omitted and 14 times interpolated a word or phrase. An instance of probable interpolation occurs at V.iii. 54-56, where Q1 reads:

Fear, and not love, begets his penitence.
Forget to pity him, lest thy pity prove
A serpent that will sting thee to the heart.
The reading has never been emended, apparently because the sense is satisfactory — but then so was the sense of 150 of the 155 corrupted


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passages in Q2. The meter in the second line is faulty, and we have seen how Compositor A's bad ear often betrays his corruptions. The metrical irregularity here effects no useful purpose: lest thy pity prove is curiously flat. Pity (unqualified) seems decidedly more emphatic and better develops the metaphor. In the context of the speech, pity (the quality itself) corresponds better to the emotions (fear, love) mentioned in the preceding lines. In each case an abstract cause (fear, pity) produces metaphorically a specific effect (his penitence, a serpent). On the quarto page, moreover, the word thy occurs eleven times — in such phrases as thy desire, thy presence, thy promise, and thy abundant goodness. The pronoun thy may have intruded into the compositor's memory because of the mistaken assumption that a phrase parallel to his penitence was required. Thus the following emendation may be worth consideration:
Forget to pity him, lest pity prove
A serpent that will sting thee to the heart.
We have seen, however, that in Q2 the total number of omissions and interpolations falls far short of the number of verbal substitutions — 63. We should therefore expect that a great many substitutions corrupted readings in the first quarto. One such substitution we may have at V.iii.29-30, where Q1 reads:
For ever may my knees grow to the earth,
My tongue cleave to my roof within my mouth. . . .

Modern editions retain the first quarto reading. Although the meter does not here give us a clue to a possibly corrupt line, the phrase my roof is weak and unidiomatic. There is small reason to believe that Shakespeare would so clumsily adapt Psalms cxxxvii. 6: "Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."[15] Moreover, we can observe in Q2 a number of substitutions of a pronoun for the or the reverse: thy right for the right, thy word for the word, thy correction for the correction, the gage for my gage, and the land for thy land. And it is easy enough to see how the repetition of my in the passage could have caused the substitution. It seems, therefore, that the second line should perhaps be emended to read:
My tongue cleave to the roof within my mouth. . . .
Another reading which seems to have been corrupted by a verbal substitution occurs at V.ii.41, where Q1 reads:
Here comes my son Aumerle.


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The line has never been emended, and yet it is not really satisfactory. The Duchess is certainly not at this point implying to her husband that Aumerle is her son but not York's. (Historically, the Duchess of York was Aumerle's stepmother, but Shakespeare treats her as his mother.) What seems to be wanted here is surely our son. This very kind of substitution can be observed in Compositor A's work in Q2: my brother for thy brother, your cousin for our cousin, my sovereign for thy sovereign, my last for thy last, thy own for thine own, mine honor's for my honor's, and others of the same sort. For one of this compositor's most characteristic failings was the substitution of a pronoun for another word. It is easy to understand why the substitution occurred. The next speech by the Duchess begins, Welcome, my son. . . . We can be reasonably confident, therefore, that in the earlier line Compositor A has committed an anticipatory error which caused him to substitute my for our and that the line should accordingly read:
Here comes our son Aumerle.

A number of other readings in Richard II that are suspect in much the same way might also be offered to suggest how an intimate knowledge of the characteristic practices of Compositor A can reveal where the substantive text has suffered corruption. Such a knowledge can also provide means of recognizing compositorial corruption in other substantive texts in which Compositor A had a hand. For the textual integrity of the quarto plays set wholly or in part by this compositor was unquestionably affected by his errors — errors especially of careless omission and verbal substitution which resulted in an almost invariably plausible but far from meticulously accurate reproduction of the plays of Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists.



"The Compositors of Henry IV, Part 2, Much Ado About Nothing, The Shoemakers' Holiday, and The First Part of the Contention," Studies in Bibliography, 13 (1960), 19-29. Charlton Hinman subsequently identified the work of Simmes' Compositor A in Richard II; see Richard II (Shakespeare Quarto Facsimiles No. 13), 1966, p. xiv.


Richard II (Shakespeare Quarto Facsimiles No. 13), 1966. Hinman's Compositor S is not the same workman Ferguson designates Compositor B, whose work he identifies in Q2 The First Part of the Contention (1600) and perhaps Q1 The Shoemakers' Holiday (1600). I feel certain, however, that The Contention is entirely the work of Compositor A, those features (such as some stopped speech-prefixes and occasional contrasting italic type in the body) which lead Ferguson to suspect a second compositor being the result of the influence of his (printed) copy. Spelling preferences and capitalization practices in the section in question are very similar to those in the rest of the quarto and in the other quartos produced by Compositor A. An alternate compositor is involved in The Shoemakers' Holiday, and he may be designated Compositor B, following Ferguson. This compositor was probably the alternate workman who helped Compositor S set type for Q3 Richard II, 1598. A discussion of the shares of the compositors of Q3 can be found in my unpublished dissertation (University of Kansas, 1965), "The Printing of Shakespeare's Richard II, 1597," pp. 67-68.


Compositor A almost always worked at case x; Compositor S always worked at case y. Four unstopped prefixes on C3 strongly suggest that Compositor A there set from case y; otherwise each worked only from his own case. A detailed analysis of the composition of the quarto is given in my dissertation, pp. 27-47.


Exactly how rare is difficult to say. Ferguson observes that in the three years 1599 to 1601, the 22 plays printed from manuscript by other printers almost never contain unabbreviated prefixes, p. 19. But in the sheets of Q1 Richard III printed by Peter Short (sigs. H-M) a large number of unstopped prefixes do appear.


This workman is probably Compositor B; see note 2, above.


A compositor study of Doctor Faustus Q1 appears in the unpublished dissertation (Duke, 1964) by Robert Ford Welsh, "The Printing of the Early Editions of Marlowe's Plays," pp. 85-126. Welsh identifies two compositors, X and Y [= Compositor A]. In identifying Compositor Y Welsh relies heavily on single-"l" spellings of words like will and shall. This characteristic can also be seen in Richard II Q2, set entirely by Compositor A, but is rare elsewhere in his work.


In Q2 The Contention Compositor A is similarly influenced by the stopped prefixes in his copy, especially in the early sheets. In the entire quarto he stopped 96 of the 372 unabbreviated prefixes.


See Charlton Hinman, "Shakespeare's Text—Then, Now and Tomorrow," Shakespeare Survey, 18 (1965), 26-27. Hinman records one less verbal change than I do, apparently because he does not consider an interpolated exit direction in Qb to be a substantive matter.


In editing Richard II it appears that different editorial policies must be adopted for a given page, depending upon which compositor set it. Judging from the evidence offered by Q3 Richard II, Compositor S was much more accurate than A — three times as accurate — making on the average one substantive change every 48 lines. Thus Compositor S was much less prone to error than A and to errors, often, of a very different kind. Compositor A, for example, omitted words 15 times as often as Compositor S did.


Arden King Richard II (1956), p. xix.


"Shakespeare's Text," pp. 31-33.


King Richard II, p. xix, n. 3.


King Richard II, pp. xvii-xviii.


King Richard II, pp. xviii-xix.


Richmond Noble, Shakespeare's Biblical Knowledge (1935), p. 158. Cf. also Job xxix. 10: "and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth."