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The Stationers' Register on 19 November 1607 records the assignment to John Smethwick of sixteen copyrights "Whiche dyd belonge to Nichas Lynge."[1] Among these were three of the plays of Shakespeare: "a booke called Hamlett," "Romeo and Julett," and "Loves labour Lost," and a "possible Shakespeare play: "the taminge of A [not "the"] Shrew." Other items in the list are also easily recognized as important works of the period. For example, "Mr Draytons poemes," for which Smethwick paid a single title fee, actually comprised eleven titles, or almost all of Drayton's work to that date. There are three works by Robert Greene: "Arcadia" (or "Menaphon"), "neuer to Late", and "Tullies loue"; Lodge's "Euphues golden legacie" ("Rosalynde"); Nashe's "Piers Pennyles"; and Anthony Munday's "Englishe Roman Lyfe." Many of the titles in this list had gone through several editions prior to 1607, and they would generally continue to be popular, judging by the frequency with which Smethwick republished them. Other than significance and popularity, however, what is remarkable about these works is the manner in which Ling came to possess most of the copyrights. Only a few of the titles, "Wyttes common wealth," "figure of foure," and some of the Drayton poems, were originally entered in the Registers and published by Ling alone. Most of them were copies which he entered jointly or copies which he came to control through recorded or unrecorded assignment from other stationers.

Tracing the publication history of these titles reveals a habit or practice in Ling's work as a publisher which may be seen in the majority of his work. While he did enter and publish (or publish without entrance) a number of titles alone, he also benefited largely from other stationers who located copy and brought it to him for help in publishing the editions. Or, similarly, he bought or assumed copyrights that had been entered by and in some cases published by other stationers. Four of the titles in the assignment to Smethwick


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were assigned to Ling only some eleven months previously. On 22 January 1607, he entered Sir Thomas Smith's The Commonwealth of England "by Direccon of A Court, and by bergaine and assignement of master Seton vnder his hand wrytinge datum 16 octobris 1606" (Arber iii. 337). Seton had entered the English version of this title in 1584 (Arber ii. 429) and had published five editions prior to 1607 (STC 22857-61). Also on the same day, Ling entered the three Shakespeare plays by assignment from Cuthbert Burby "vnder his handwrytinge." In other instances no such assignment is recorded. Greene's "Arcadia" was originally entered by Sampson Clerke in 1589 (Arber ii. 529) and published by him in that year (STC 12272). Ten years later, however, Ling brought out an edition, and he republished the work again in 1605 (STC 12273 and 12273.5). Greene's "Tullies loue" had been assigned to John Busby in 1595 (Arber iii. 51). He published an edition in 1597 (STC 12225), and Ling published editions in 1601 and 1605. The other Greene title, "neuer to Late," which was not entered, was published by Ling and Busby in 1590 (STC 12253), after which Ling published editions in 1600, 1602, and 1607. These two also entered "Euphues golden legacie" in 1590 (Arber ii. 564). It was published in four editions for Busby and Thomas Gubbin, or for Ling and Gubbin, in 1590-1598 before Ling assumed control of the copyright in 1604 (STC 16668). Nashe's "Piers Pennyles" also came to Ling by Busby. This title had been entered in 1592 by Richard Jones (Arber ii. 619), who published the first edition. Busby then published three editions in 1592-1593, and Ling one in 1595 (STC 18375). "Three sermons of mr. Smyth" refers to the collection published by Ling in four editions 1599-1607 (STC 22735 et seq.); however Ling had entered only one of these, "The Affinitie of the Faithfull," in 1591 (Arber ii. 594). It was printed for him and Busby (STC 22656). Another of these sermons, "The Benefit of Contention," had not been entered but had been printed several times by Roger Ward and Abell Jeffes (STC 22693 et seq.). The third, "The Lost Sheep Is Found," had been entered by John Oxenbridge in 1598 (Arber iii. 103) but evidently not printed. Another title in the list, "Reformation of Couetousnesse," was entered to Thomas Bushell, a former apprentice of Ling's, on 23 November 1602 (Arber iii. 222). But it was printed for Ling and John Newbery in 1603 (STC 19735.6). Munday's "Englishe Roman Lyfe" was entered by John Charlewood and Ling in 1582 (Arber ii. 413) and printed by Charlewood for Ling in that year and again in 1590 (STC 18272 and 18273). Hamlet, of course, was entered to James Roberts on 26 July 1602, though Ling and John Trundle published the first edition in 1603, and Ling published the second, printed by Roberts, the following year (BEPD, p. 18 and #197).

The Drayton copyrights are a bit more difficult to sort out. "Mr Draytons poemes" in the assignment was probably meant to refer to the collection of six titles published by Ling in 1605 (STC 7216). This included "The Barrons Wars," a revised version of "Mortimeriados," which Matthew Lownes entered in 1596 (Arber iii. 63). It was published by him and his brother Humphrey in two issues in that year (STC 7207 and 7208). The Lownes's then assigned the title to Ling in 1602 (Arber iii. 218). Ling had entered and published


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three of the other titles: "Englands Heroicall Epistles," registered in 1597 (Arber iii. 92), and published in five editions prior to 1607 (STC 7193 et seq.); "Idea," entered in 1594 (Arber ii. 651), with one edition that year (STC 7203); and "Robert Duke of Normandy," entered in 1596 (Arber iii. 74), and published once in that year (STC 7332). The other two titles, "Matilda" and "Peirs Gaveston," were originally published by Ling and Busby. They entered "Peirs" in 1593 (Arber ii. 641) and published it probably in the next year (STC 7214). "Matilda," not entered, was printed for them in 1594 (STC 7205 and 7206). (These two works were also reprinted in the 1596 Robert Duke of Normandy.) Smethwick republished this collection four times in the decade following the assignment. His 1619 edition, however, added five titles to the above. Three of these formed the collection Poemes Lyrick and Pastorall, entered by John Flasket in 1606 (Arber iii. 320) and published by him and Ling probably in that year (STC 7217). These works were "Odes" and "Eglogues" and "The Man in the Moon," a revised version of Endimion and Phoebe which John Busby had entered and published in 1595 (Arber ii. 296, STC 7192). Another title added to the 1619 collection was "The Owle," entered by Edward White and Ling in 1604 (Arber iii. 252) and published by them in several editions in that year (STC 7211 et seq.). Ling had had no obvious connection with the other added title, "Great Cromwell." It was entered by John Flasket in 1607 (Arber iii. 360), printed by Felix Kingston to be sold by Flasket in that year (STC 7204) and re-issued with a cancel title-page (Kingston for William Welby) in 1609 (STC 7201).[2]

Thus Ling had acquired most of the copyrights in the list assigned to Smethwick through indirect, though probably not surreptitious, means. For example, Ling's claim to the Busby titles probably was based on the business arrangement between the two during their collaboration (see below). Nor, as this essay will show, does this practice appear only in the titles represented in this assignment. Of sixty-six titles with which he was involved in his career (including "figure of four," "a spiders webbe," and the "Iewe of Malta," for which no copies are extant), he entered and published only sixteen alone; another nine were published by him without entrance. On the other hand, he entered seven titles with other stationers, published editions of eighteen titles which had been entered to another stationer, and was assigned five copyrights. Thus the majority of the titles in which Ling was concerned throughout his career shows that he favored this way of working.

A sound capital base was obviously necessary in order to conduct Ling's type of business. The successive reprints of a number of the titles described


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above shows that he invested wisely. But it also appears that he had money behind him from near the beginning of his career. He was the son of a well-to-do Norwich parchment maker, John Ling, who owned property in several parishes of that city.[3] Nicholas, the third son of the family, was baptised there in the Parish of St. Simon and Jude on 4 April 1553 (Norwich Central Library). At the age of seventeen, he went to London to learn the book-trade, being indentured to Henry Bynneman, a well-known printer, on 29 September 1570 (Arber i. 434). He was admitted to the freedom of the Company some nine years later, on 19 January 1579 (Arber ii. 679). After publishing a few books in London to 1585, Ling returned to Norwich, where on 7 August 1585 he was admitted per patrimonium to the freedom of that city as a stationer.[4] On 6 December of that year he set over his two London apprentices to other stationers (Arber ii. 137). Like his fellow citizens and stationers, Robert Scott and Nicholas Colman, Ling probably ordered his wares from London wholesalers.[5] Unlike Colman, however, there is no record that Ling published any titles in Norwich (for Colman's publications in Norwich, see the imprints in STC 6564 and 23259). Ling evidently remained in Norwich for the next five years. His name reappears in the London Registers on 6 October 1590 when he and John Busby entered Lodge's Rosalynde. John Ling's will, recorded on 29 November 1590, leaves to him a "tenement in Pockthorpe . . . now in the possession of the saide Nicholas." (608, Flack, Norwich Central Library). Thus Ling may not have re-established his London business until a few months later. On 1 February 1591, however, he registered the indenture of an apprentice, Thomas Bushell, a Norwich native whom Ling may have brought with him from there (Arber ii. 173).

Ling probably used the legacy from his father as the financial basis of his London business. By 1594 he had bought a share in the Day and Seres privileges, the foundation of the English Stock. On 15 May 1598 he was elected to the livery,[6] and in 1603 he served as Renter Warden. However, Ling was evidently not interested in rising to a position of importance in the governance of the Company. He declined to serve out his term as Renter Warden, for which refusal he was fined ten pounds and ordered to prison on 3 September 1604.[7] As Cyprian Blagden establishes, the normal route, or "narrow defile," through which a stationer rose to an influential position in the Company was early election to the livery, service in the rentership, and thence


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election to the wardenship and Court of Assistants (The Stationers' Company, pp. 85-86). For some reason, perhaps because he found the task onerous and his own business sufficiently lucrative and satisfying or because of his age (he was fifty in 1603), Ling backed away from the possibility of advancement into the governing body of the Company. In fact, he lived for only four more years. The Parish Register of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West records the burial of "Nicholas Lynge Stationer" on 9 April 1607 (Guildhall Library, Ms. 10,342). He was accorded a burial place inside the church (Guildhall Library, Ms. 2968/1, fol. 530r). He evidently left no will[8] and may have died suddenly. His widow had to present an apprentice, John Helme, the following month (Jackson, Records of the Court, p. 440). And Ling had been dead some seven months when the assignment to Smethwick was recorded.

Ling's career was evidently boosted at the start by his master, Henry Bynneman. On 8 April 1580 (Arber ii. 368), Bynneman entered Thomas Churchyard's A Warning for the Wise, a report on the earthquake on 6 April of that year with a monitory poem by Richard Tarlton at the end. The colophon indicates that it was printed by John Allde to be sold by Ling "at the West doore of Paules Church" (STC 5259). This may refer to the shop that Bynneman had leased from Richard Smith in 1574. And, two years later, the imprint of the first edition of Munday's The English Romayne Lyfe (STC 18272), which John Charlewood and Ling had entered on 21 June 1582 (Arber ii. 413) indicates that Ling is "dwelling in Paules Church-yarde, at the signe of the Maremaide. Anno. 1582." This address may refer to yet another shop leased by Bynneman, which Ling was occupying in 1583.[9] The Mermaid, which also appears on Bynneman's devices (McKerrow #149 and #155), was the shop sign used by Bynneman in Knightrider Street (see imprints of STC 11985, 205, and 11986). Ling maintained a shop or shops in the vicinity of the west end of Paul's into 1600 (see below).

Ling's publications during 1580-85, before his return to Norwich, were oriented towards religious subjects. These included a translation of one of Calvin's commentaries on the Bible, a book of advice on the raising of children, three collections of sermons by the Puritan minister John Udall, and a single sheet folio of visitation articles.[10] In the Udall sermons, Ling worked


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with Thomas Man and William Broome. Since none of the reprints of the Udall sermons includes Ling's name in the imprints, he may have sold or granted his share in these copyrights to his associates when he left London.

It was not until he re-established his London business that Ling began to publish the literary titles that characterize the rest of his career. During 1590-95, he worked closely with John Busby, whose habits as a publisher suggest that he was mainly a procurer of copy.[11] As described above, Ling and Busby produced several popular works during these years. Lodge's Rosalynde, Greenes Never Too Late, Nashe's Pierce Pennilesse, Henry Smith's Affinitie of the Faithfull, and the early Drayton works were all reprinted several times.[12] Two other Lodge works, The . . . Life of Robert Second Duke of Normandy (not entered, published 1591 [STC 16657]) and Euphues Shadow (entered by them in 1592 and published that year [Arber ii. 604, STC 16656]) were evidently not reprinted. The edition of a third work probably by Lodge, "a spiders webbe," has not survived. The anonymous sonnet sequence Zepheria, which they published without entrance in 1594 (STC 26124), was also apparently not reprinted. Another exception to this run of popular books was Thomas Kyd's translation of the Robert Garnier play Cornelie (BEPD #116). It was entered by Ling and Busby in 1594 (BEPD, p. 10) and published by them in that year. Ling, however, re-issued the sheets the following year with a more elaborate title-page, probably in the hope of quickening sales.[13] It is obvious, however, that the collaboration between Ling and Busby resulted in a number of lucrative copyrights. How they shared the profits of these ventures is impossible to know, but the fact that all of the imprints which denote a place of sale give Ling's address at the West Door or West


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End of St. Paul's (see imprints in STC 7214, 16656, and 16657) and that Ling eventually controlled the titles that were reprinted, strongly suggests that he was the dominant partner. He probably financed the printing and sales of the editions with Busby providing most of the copy. The successive reprintings of these titles must have helped to keep Ling's business solvent until the end of his career.

In the years following his collaboration with Busby, Ling continued his interests in literary and religious publications, and he became involved in the publishing (and probably editing) of a group of anthologies of verse and collections of "wise sayings." In these, outside of the titles that he entered alone, he worked with several other stationers, with no apparent favorite (though Cuthbert Burby's name does appear in several instances). Some of the literary publications are still of interest. In 1596, Ling entered and published Sir John Davies' Orchestra, Or a Poeme of Dauncing (Arber iii. 74, STC 6360); this title, however, had also been entered by John Harrison in 1594 (Arber ii. 655). Ling's entry does not state that his claim was based upon an assignment. In 1599, Ling and Burby brought out a work by Nashe, Nashes Lenten Stuff, which was entered by Burby in that year (Arber iii. 134, STC 18370). Ling published two works by Nicholas Breton: Wits Trenchmour, not entered, in 1597 (STC 3713); and The Strange Fortune of Two Excellent Princes, entered by him in 1600 and printed that year (Arber iii. 160, STC 3702). He entered and published Edward Guilpin's satire Skialetheria (Arber iii. 126, STC 12504) in 1598, one of the satirical works "burnte in the hall" in June 1599 (Arber iii. 677-8). He published Thomas Moffett's verse The Silkewormes, and Their Flies without entrance in 1599 (STC 17994). In 1600 he registered and published Christopher Middleton's verse Legend of Humphrey Duke of Glocester (Arber iii. 160, STC 17868). Also in 1600, he published an edition of Jonson's Every Man Out of His Humour, which William Holme had entered and published in two editions of the same year.[14] In 1603 Ling was evidently involved in publishing several editions of Thomas Dekker's The Wonderfull Yeare despite being fined along with Smethwick and John Brown for printing the work "without Aucthoritie or entrance" and


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ordered to bring the books into the Hall.[15] Also in 1603, Ling and Edward White published without registration Lodge's A Treatise of the Plague (STC 16676). In 1606, Ling sold Peele's The Tale of Troy (STC 19546.5) for Arnold Hatfield, according to the imprint. The title was not entered. In 1600 and 1606 he published works associated with his hometown. He entered William Kemp's Kemps Nine Daies Wonder, a report of Kemp's morris dance from London to Norwich, in 1600 (Arber iii. 160, STC 14923). In 1606 he published without entrance a translation from Erasmus by William Burton, who had preached in Norwich in the 1580's (STC 10457, two issues; reprinted by Smethwick in 1624).

The religious works show a similar pattern of publication. In 1596, he and Simon Waterson brought out the fifth edition of Henry Bull's Christian Prayers and Holy Meditations (STC 4032). This work had been assigned to Robert Robinson, who printed the edition, in 1588. (Arber ii. 510) Ling also published three titles by Samuel Gardiner: Portraiture of the Prodigal Sonne (STC 11579) he entered himself in 1598 (Arber iii. 132); The Cognizance of a True Christian (STC 11573) was entered to Thomas Creede in 1597 upon the condition that Creede would print the copy for Ling (Arber iii. 92); and Domesday Booke (STC 11576) was registered by Edward White in 1605 (Arber iii. 280). Similarly, in 1606 Ling published an edition of a sermon by William Smyth, The Black-Smith (STC 22881.5), which Martin Clerke had entered in that year (Arber iii. 320) and published in two editions. In that year as well, Ling entered and published another work by William Burton, An Abstract of the Doctrine of the Sabbaoth (Arber iii. 312, STC 4165a.5). Finally, in 1607 he published a translation from Phillippe des Portes, Rodomonths Infernall, or the Diuell Conquered (STC 6785). He had entered this title some nine years earlier, in 1598 (Arber iii. 126).

Towards the end of the century, Ling played a major part in the publication of the series of collections of "wise sayings" or "sentences" known as "Wits Commonwealth." In 1597 he entered and published the first of these, Politeuphuia (Arber iii. 93, STC 15685). Another issue of the first edition and two further editions appeared in 1598. The work continued to be popular in the seventeenth century: Smethwick published an additional nine editions through circa 1640, and the text resurfaced under a new title in 1770.[16] Other


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works in this series were Palladis Tamia (STC 17834), published by Burby in 1598; Wits Theater (STC 381), published by Ling in 1599;[17] and Palladis Palatium (STC 26014), published by Francis Burton in 1604. In recent years Ling has been credited with editing some of these collections, including the anthology of verse England's Helicon.[18] It is obvious that he found such collections attractive. In 1600 he, Burby, and Thomas Hayes (or Heyes) entered and published several issues of Englands Parnasus (Arber iii. 173, STC 378 et seq.). Also in that year, Ling registered and brought out The Harmonie of the Holy Scriptures. With the seuerall sentences of sundry learned writers (Arber iii. 156, STC 1891.5), a collection by James Bentley. Another related title is Leonard Wright's A Display of Dutie, dect with sage sayings, pythie sentences, and proper similies. This title, however, was entered by John Wolfe in 1589 (Arber ii. 531) and printed by him in that year (STC 26025). On 7 December 1601 the title was assigned to Edward Aggas from "John wolf deceased" (Arber iii. 196). But Ling published an edition in 1602 (STC 26026). All of the collections of sayings are similarly arranged. The quotations from classical authors, church fathers, the Bible, and, in some, from contemporary authors, are placed under subject headings such as "Of God," "Of Heauen," "Peace," "Truth," etc. There is a table of subjects at the end, keyed to page numbers. The result, as The Pforzheimer Library Catalogue (pp. 826-827) points out, is something like a Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and was probably ably useful in the same way.

Establishing that Ling often in his career financed the publication of copy that had been procured by other stationers is interesting for the light that this practice throws on the publication of Hamlet. Thus it becomes more likely than a mere guess that John Trundle provided the copy for the first quarto.[19] And the fact that Trundle had no further interest in the title probably reflects the agreement between the two that Ling, as usual, would claim the copyright. It is still not clear why Ling's publication of the first quarto evidently did not conflict with the entry to James Roberts. However,


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as has often been noticed, Roberts was Ling's favorite printer. Twenty-three editions published by Ling came from Roberts' press. Thus the two of them may have reached a private agreement in the case of Hamlet. If Roberts had a better manuscript in hand or had access to one, both could hope to profit from the publication of a new edition that could correctly be advertised as "enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie." That Ling made such arrangements with printers seems likely in at least one instance. He probably financed the printing of Gardiner's Cognizance of a True Christian, which Thomas Creede entered with the proviso: "This copie to be alwaies printed for Nicholas Linge by the seid Thomas Creede as often as it shalbe printed" (Arber iii. 92). And there may have been unrecorded agreements between Ling and other printers. John Weever's An Agnus Dei, for example, was not registered but was printed three times by Valentine Simmes for Ling (1601, 1603, and 1606; STC 25220 et seq.). Though it was not among the titles assigned to Smethwick, he republished it in 1610. In the following year, however, the Registers record an assignment of the title from Simmes to Smethwick as "A copy of the sayd Valentynes" (Arber iii. 452). Simmes may have based his claim upon the fact that he had printed the earlier editions, but he may also have been able to show, Ling being dead, that he had some rights to the copy due to the terms of the original publication.

While Ling, for one reason or another, declined his chance to advance into the governing body of the Stationers' Company, his practices indicate that he profited from the advantages of the position of capitalist publisher. During his career, the economic control of the book-trade was shifting from the printer-publishers to men like Ling who had money to invest and who used the skills of the printers and manuscript procurers to advance their own economic welfare (Blagden, pp. 89-90). It is impossible to know whether Ling recognized the advantages that such a position might offer and made a decision at the outset to become a publisher though he served his apprenticeship with a printer. His father's trade may have influenced his choice. But it is interesting to contrast Ling's career with those of his fellow apprentices Abel Jeffes and Valentine Simmes, both of whom struggled as printer-publishers. Ling was of course lucky to have money behind him, but he also had the ability to recognize potential best-sellers and invest in them. While it would be going too far to say that he was a publisher in the modern sense of the term, his career does point in the direction in which the book-trade was to evolve.