Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Jennifer Forsyth
Peer Reviewed

Cymbeline: Textual Introduction

Printing-Shop Work: What Do We Know about the Printing of the First Folio?

Identifying the Compositors

19Charlton Hinman's The Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) uses bibliographic data to determine, to the extent possible, the date and conditions of the publication of the First Folio. His identification of five compositors who set portions of F1 has been modified slightly in the intervening years but not overturned. Of the five, only B and E are of primary importance to Cymbeline: Compositor A, who also set type in the tragedies, was apparently working on another project since he stopped setting type for the tragedies about halfway through, while Compositor D worked only in the comedies, and C worked little in the tragedies. Hinman argues that Cymbeline was set entirely by B, supported by his conclusion that Compositor E, generally supposed to have been an apprentice, was only allowed to work on texts for which print copy was available after inept attempts at setting copy from manuscripts. Trevor Howard Howard-Hill corrects Hinman's assessment to suggest that Compositor E set pages zz4v, zz5v, zz6v, aaa3, and aaa1v, or 633 lines ("New Light" 159). As we have no record in the Stationer's Register of Cymbeline having been licensed for printing before this time and no previous printed text is extant, it appears Compositor E was probably allowed to set Cymbeline from a scribal copy prepared by Ralph Crane (see "Source Text" for more on Crane's work).

20A new test, not proposed by Howard-Hill, confirms his ascertainment of E's presence. E invariably sets the semicolon immediately after the preceding word, whereas B prefers to set an intermediate space. On the pages accorded to E, nearly forty occasions confirm his preference (with the exception of a semicolon in a prose line at 966 where the space probably marks his attempt to justify the line). Unfortunately, this test may not be as useful in other texts as in Cymbeline; the frequency of semicolons in E's stint here is markedly higher than elsewhere in the text and in other plays set by E. The ratio for B is not quite as dramatic, but it is significant: B sets around 110 semicolons with a preceding space compared to only around 23 without, some of which are in tightly justified lines. Perhaps E is reproducing semicolons in a frequency found in the text, as one occurs nearly every sixteen lines, on average, in his stint, in contrast to one every twenty-four lines in B's stint.

The Ralph Crane Comedies and Cymbeline

21Of the six plays thought to have been copied by Crane, four are the first four comedies printed, one is The Winter's Tale, which was not printed with the first four and also was out of order for the comedies, being set after work on the histories had begun, arguing that the text was not ready to be set when expected. The sixth is Cymbeline, which, like The Winter's Tale, is printed last in its section among the tragedies; there is no indication, however, that work was delayed in order to wait for Cymbeline. The superficial correspondence might suggest that Cymbeline was reserved for the final play because the text once again arrived late, but there is no foundation for this argument.

The Order of Printing the Folio Plays

22Cymbeline is the last play in the Folio, but it was not the last of the text to be set: the preliminaries -- the title page, note to the reader, epistle dedicatory, tributory poems, list of the principal actors, catalogue of plays, and so on -- came after, as, Hinman argues, did post-cancellation Troilus and Cressida. In addition to the bibliographic information Hinman adduces, including type recurrence studies, some evidence supports the conclusion that Cymbeline was set prior to Nov. 4, 1623: on the last page of Cymbeline, a colophon lists William Jaggard as a publisher, while on the title page's list of printers, he is replaced by Isaac Jaggard. William Jaggard died sometime before Nov. 4, setting the final date before which Cymbeline must have been printed. On the earlier side, Hinman points to August, when type recurrence studies indicate that the Jaggard shop printed the "Heralds' Visitation Summons" partway through quire vv, after which most of Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline must have been set (quires xx-bbb) (Hinman vol. 2, 25). As Compositor B was mostly working alone or with the aid of the slow Compositor E in setting the text at this time, a slower rate of production must be allowed for, but even so, it would have been possible to print those plays in the time allotted (vol. 1, 360-62). Thus, the majority of Cymbeline was probably set in October 1623.

The Order of Printing Cymbeline's Pages

23The order of composition follows norms for the Folio: 3v and 4, 3 and 4v, 2v and 5, 2 and 5v, 1v and 6, and 1 and 6v for quires zz (shared with Antony and Cleopatra) and aaa. In quire bbb, however, the last in the Folio, Compositor B switches the final two pairings (following the order 1 and 6v, then 1v and 6). Work then began on the preliminaries and Troilus & Cressida (Hinman vol. 2, 517).


24In terms of the proofreading, Hinman cites Cymbeline as one of a few plays which received a relatively great amount of attention from the proofreader, judging from the number of press variants. That is, given Compositor E's lack of skill in setting type, it is not surprising that much of the proofreader's attention would go to correcting E's errors, occasionally glancing at the work of the skilled compositors but primarily allowing their work to go unchecked. For instance, in Timon of Athens, set entirely by Compositor B, the proofreader corrected two pages, demanding only six changes. In Macbeth, set nearly equally by A and B, three pages were corrected, again producing six variants. In the pages set by E, a predictably greater number of variants occurs, and a greater number of pages are checked. Over a third of the pages of Titus Andronicus, set almost entirely by E, were corrected, with 63 variants; twelve of twenty-five pages of Romeo and Juliet, again set predominantly by E, were checked, producing 47 variants. The anomaly appears in the final work by B, in Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline, where the pages which were proofread produced more corrections and more variants. Of the six proof-corrected pages in Cymbeline (zz4v, zz5v, zz6, zz6v, aaa3, and aaa6v), four were set by E. With Howard-Hill's correction to Hinman's work, the high number of variants in Cymbeline no longer seems irregular.

25The kinds of corrections are, with a few exceptions, representative of common Folio errors: turned letters, printed spaces, spelling alterations (some changed due to preference, others having been mis-spelled or mis-set), and a number of punctuation changes. Of the changes to spelling, a few are notable, especially as possible evidence of transcription by Ralph Crane: "Continwes" was corrected to "Continues," "Tallents" to "Talents," "dampn'd" to "damn'd," and "Incke" to "Inke" -- all four of which are typical of Crane's well-known idiosyncratic style. This is where using a "best page" facsimile can be problematic, as these clues can easily be missed if not correlated with Hinman's careful work in collating those variants here.

Textual Provenance

26The fact that two compositors worked on setting the text might be taken to complicate the matter of determining the provenance of the text. As it stands, we have at least one author, Shakespeare, and the hand of Ralph Crane seems evident, and then Compositors B and E. In fact, having a second compositor's contribution has strengthened the argument that the text from which Cymbeline was set contains a break between TLN 1336 and 1337 (see "Source Text" for further discussion). Also, E is known for his tendency to reproduce his copy more exactly; several typical Crane spellings are found in E's stints, and the proof variations reveal that the accepted policy would be to alter Crane's most unusual spellings. The four spelling changes listed in the previous paragraph are all on pages set by E; presumably, the experienced B conformed voluntarily to the proof-reader's preference for less uncommon spellings.

27Since Compositor E did in fact set 633 lines in Cymbeline, or somewhat less than five full pages, (Taylor and Jowett 254, citing Howard-Hill "New Light"), some in both halves of the text, this raises an interesting point. As demonstrated by Hinman, Compositor E had been barred from setting any copy not based upon earlier printed text. It is unknown why E set part of Cymbeline's text when it had not been printed before, but it is likely that the professionally transcribed copy was deemed clear enough to allow even an unskilled compositor to set with fair success.