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That Jonson was involved in the preparation of Biathanatos indicates that we need to adjust our understanding of textual production in two ways. First, Biathanatos is deeply instructive as to how the preparation of a manuscript might be influenced by the culture of print, for the layout of the page indicates a consciousness about structure and design down to the use of running-titles and the creation of the preliminary matter. In this, Jonson departs from the traditional manuscript practices of the medieval period—he had been influenced by the printed books with which he was familiar. Similarly, the depth of the script on the page and the width of the line is typical of a quarto printed in great primer on large paper. The care with which the manuscript was produced, then, suggests that Jonson wished to create a document with the physical elegance of a private manuscript and the formal structure of a printed book. It is a visual essay on the way in which the variety of textual forms affect each other, and it reinforces the point that is implicit in both The Masque of Queenes and the 1616 Workes about the importance that Jonson attached to the visual structure of the page. Given that this is so, the cumulative evidence of Biathanatos and The Masque of Queenes must also oblige us to reconsider the typographic and literary authority of the 1616 Workes from a perspective that is deeply influenced by the social and personal networks of manuscript culture. For Jonson to have recorded on the title-page of his Workes that he was 'Contentus paucis lectoribus' is only the most obvious manifestation of these connections.

Second, we need to adjust our understanding about the circulation of manuscripts in the early modern period away from the author and back to the scribe, for one of the problems behind editing Jonson and Donne is identify-


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ing the person responsible for the scribal transcriptions, and their relationship with the author or patron involved. Equally, we need to understand, as the first point also suggests, the complex social network behind the preparation of manuscripts and printed books. Sir Henry Spelman, for instance, was closely associated with Camden, Selden and Cotton, and the fact that a manuscript that belonged to him, now in Cape Town, contains poems by Jonson, Donne, Carew, Herrick and others, written in that part of the miscellany by a single hand, is a matter that must receive closer attention than it has in the past.[58]

The larger problem that the association with Donne and the redating of the letter present is biographical. As the approximately three hundred surviving books from his library also testify, Jonson was not quite the person that legend would have him be. It is not just his learning, friendships and character that have been mis-represented, or simply that his late plays are more thoughtful and finer works of literature than their reputation might have us believe. The fact that Simpson and Greg got Jonson's late handwriting wrong, for instance, means that it is quite possible that there are yet other autograph manuscripts by Jonson, written in the 1630s, that have not been identified. Equally, Jonson's intellectual biography needs to be rewritten from a perspective that also includes such associative manuscript activity as his marginalia. If a copy of Martial had been owned and as heavily annotated by Shakespeare as the 1615 and 1619 editions once owned by Jonson are, they would have long ago been photographically reproduced, edited and intensively studied.[59] Similarly, Jonson's marginalia in his copy of Francisco Modio's Pandectae Triumphales have only ever been briefly discussed, and it


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remains generally unknown as a witness to his work as a writer of masques.[60] The point could be expanded by further reference to the marginalia (both verbal and non-verbal markings) in such unrecorded books from Jonson's library as Viperano's De Obtenta Portugalia, Brisson's De Formulis et Sollemnibus (an important source for Sejanus ) or the De Re Culinaria of Apicius.[61] The importance of this material is not confined to the ways in which it might be incorporated into any future edition of Jonson but, also, the way in which it documents the history of Jonson's reading practices and the development of his ideas.[62]

This awareness of the connections between people and manuscripts, books and readers, must also, in the end, be the point behind the creation of an archive of digital images intended to complement the literary texts that we are now creating in electronic form. Editing in this way is both a fashionable and inevitable consequence of computerisation, and the implications that it will have for textual scholarship are only beginning to be appreciated.[63] As Jerome McGann has observed, the problems associated with the physical form of the codex 'grow more acute when readers want or need something beyond the semantic content of the primary textual materials'.[64] Indeed, as McGann recognised, the most primary images 'beyond' the semantic field of words are the historical documents, not only because 'the book's (heretofore distributed) semantic and visual features can be made present to each other' but also 'since all [the] separate books and documents can also be made simultaneously present to each other, as well as all the parts of the documents'.[65]

The dates and attributions that have been made in this study for the letter to Sir Robert Cotton, Herbert and the Ellesmere Manuscript illustrate in their respective ways the care that must be taken both in preserving access to the primary materials (in order to ensure that such research is possible) and in


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considering all the evidence before representing early modern texts in a visual medium. The real issue, however, is that any archive that is too narrowly conceived around a single author (particularly in the early modern period where the evidence is usual ly more diffuse) will, finally, be merely illustrative. This is not to deny the author, but to suggest that a sociology of texts requires that we recover, in far greater complexity, the communities of interest that link these documents together.

To some, this may seem deeply unfair, but the simple truth is that the textual problems created by collaboration and association will not go away. Whether it be in the association of writers, the typographic or calligraphic design of the page, the physical materials that are used, the activities of those involved in the production of textual material, or the history of the preliminary documents (personal papers, printer's copy, typescript) prior to a completed version, the composition of the elements, the choices involved, the adaptions and alterations made, will all reveal the history of the use of the intellect. To read the surface of a text without recognising its historical significance as a document is to reduce language to a historical abstraction that is separated from the socio-cultural and physical constructions of its meaning.

Indeed, simply to assume that the reproduction of an original document in codex or digital form is satisfactory as a representation of historical understanding and that it absolves an editor from further responsibility in that regard is a fallacy that the work of McKenzie, McGann and others long ago exposed. As Hugh Amory observed: 'The issues are not merely theoretical: every question about the author's intention involves a question about the intentions of the editors, correctors, compositors and printers, who are also his or her earliest readers' and, one must also add, the same is true of scribal copyists.[66] The facsimile serves a useful purpose, but its representation is not the same as an appreciation of the processes that create such a document, the compromises that may have been involved, or the uses to which it was put. The facsimile (at one remove) makes rare documents accessible. The editorial problem, however, is not only to understand what those documents represent and what they mean, but what they do not record. This is, ultimately, the justification for historically edited texts. It is not only that modern spelling is a historically constructed concept that is both anachronistic and under pressure from popular culture, though that is undoubtedly true. Old spelling registers, in all and in the most simple of ways, the difference (difference and diffÉrance) of early modern texts, and the fact that they are not of this historical moment—with all that implies about marriage, gender, cultural materialism, power, privilege and the other multitudinous interests that we wish to explore. 'The no longer for their truth as one might seek to define that by authorial intention, but for their testimony, as defined by their historical use'.[67]

Further, we need to appreciate that the study of the associations and contexts involved in the production, transmission and reception of texts does not,


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in the end, lead to greater confusion of information but to a greater clarity as connections are made and historical issues resolved. It may be, for instance, a laborious and difficult task to recognise the same hand and common sources of paper in the documents of different authors, but the results of such work have profoundly enriched our understanding of the social and personal networks that link the circulation of texts in early modern England. As contemporaries, as friends, as the finest verse poets of their generation, Jonson and Donne are linked in manuscript after manuscript, and it is only by drawing the thread through this material that we will ever supersede the Herford and Simpson edition. Just as Donne and Jonson collaborated on a manuscript of Biathanatos, so too must Jonson and Donne scholars collaborate both in the creation of new scholarly resources and in the resolution of common textual problems. Rare poems ask rare friends.[68]