EXCEPTIONAL COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, WITH IMPORTANT LIST OF PLAYERS’ NAMES IN MANUSCRIPT
The Antipodes: a Comedie. Acted in the Yeare 1638, by the Queenes Majesties Servants, at Salisbury Court in Fleet-street.
London, I. Okes, for Francis Constable, 1640.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. 44 unnumbered leaves. A-L⁴. Roman letter, some Italic. Typographical headpieces, woodcut initials, Selbourne library stamp on verso of title and F4, ‘1687’ and ‘1658’ manuscript on F4, “Charles Hunees (?) His Booke” in early hand on verso of D3, extensive inscription in mid-seventeenth hand entirely inked over on margin of A2 verso, alongside the printed character list, on A4v, names of 14 actors in contemporary manuscript; “Scenæ / Antipodes = London” in the same hand below; Series of page numbers, on the upper left or upper right corners, small tear to lower margin of first four leaves. “Similar numbering in a comparable hand appears in a British Library copy of The Sparagus Garden (London, 1640) owned formerly by W. W. Greg.” Joshua J. McEvilla. Light age yellowing, cut a little short in lower margin, a few signatures and catchwords fractionally shaved, the occasional ink splash mark or spot. A very good copy in red crushed morocco ‘Jansenist’ by Riviere, circa 1900, title, author and date gilt on upper cover, edges gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers.
First edition, exceptionally rare, of Richard Brome’s best work, his comic masterpiece, with a most important, recently discovered, cast list in manuscript which “helps to illuminate the state of the Salisbury Court players in 1638, directly following the reopening of the theatres after several months of closures due to outbreaks of plague.” Joshua J. McEvilla, p. 171. ‘The Antipodes’ was first acted at Salisbury Court, in Fleet Street, in 1638. The main character, Peregrine, becomes obsessed with the travels of Mandeville to the point that it makes him ill. The Doctor, who undertakes to cure him, proposes that they should travel together to the Antipodes, telling him that the Antipodes under England are English “To the exterior show; but in their manners, Their carriage, and condition of life, Extremely contrary,” a place of inversions and reversals. He then gives his patient a strong sleeping potion, and conveys him to the house of a lord.
When Peregrine wakes, a play is acted before him to represent the manners of the Antipodes. Everything is performed in a contrary fashion to what is normal; two sergeants with drawn swords run from a gentleman who wishes them to arrest him; a lawyer refuses all fees; a citizen makes a complaint of a gentleman who will not cuckold him, etc., etc. At the conclusion of the play, Peregrine recovers his senses. The title page of this first edition states that the play was acted in 1638 by Queen Henrietta’s Men at the Salisbury Court Theatre, the regular troupe and venue for Brome’s dramas from 1637. Critics typically situate Richard Brome’s ‘The Antipodes’ in a satiric tradition of travel writing in the vein of Joseph Hall’s ‘Mundus Alter et Idem’ (1605), arguing that the play is allegorical and a travel drama which, in being a play, goes nowhere and everywhere.
“The Antipodes is a veritable tour de force. It is not surprising that the company at the Salisbury Court Theatre were prepared to go to court to wrest the play away from the Beestons at the Cockpit, claiming a prior right to stage it on account of a contract that they had allowed virtually to lapse during the plague months, when the theatres were closed. Brome claimed that the profits accruing to Queen Henrietta Maria’s Men, Richard Heton’s company at the Salisbury Court, were considerable, which suggests they had a popular success on their hands. That the play was available in print as a quarto two years after the initial performances again attests to its popularity. No other play by Brome has such an intricately woven dramatic fabric or is so layered in its satirical strategies and ways of creating meaning. A consequence of this is that The Antipodes has attracted more critical commentary than Brome’s other plays, where the sheer range of approaches intimates how dense the dramatic fabric is.” R. Cave, ‘The Antipodes, Critical Introduction.’
The early provenance of this copy is most intriguing. There is no direct evidence as to who wrote the list of players, though the manuscript on A2 might disclose this, however there is no doubt of the authenticity and the importance of the list. “These aspects of the book’s provenance, although noteworthy, are perhaps rendered immaterial by the self-validating nature of the cast list. As noted above, the Brome contract proceedings record the composition of the players at Salisbury Court at two historical instances. … The membership of the company as specified by the Selboune list seems to correspond to the membership as suggested by the contract documents and the book’s title page. According to the title page, ‘The Antipodes’ was ‘Acted in the yeare 1638 by the Queenes Majesties Servants, at Salisbury Court in Fleet-street.’ Since nine of the players of the list were plaintiffs in the suit against Brome and since the players of the merger are on the list, the list appears to convey genuine information. … One aspect of the list which serves both to authenticate its fidelity as a piece of evidence and to expand scholarly knowledge of period drama is the way that it falls in line with an important dialogue from the late seventeenth century.
James Wright’s ‘Historia Histrionica: An Historical Account of the English-Stage’ (London, 1699) remains a cornerstone to scholars’ accounts of the playhouses of the Shakespearian stage. The cast list in Selbourne’s copy of ‘The Antipodes’ serves to authenticate one claim made in this oddly nostalgic piece. Trueman, when discoursing with another character, Lovewit, casts a glance back at the conditions of public playing in England before the outbreak of war. He notes that ‘Cartwright, and Wintershal belong’d to the private House in Salisbury-Court’ (B2r). Although Kathman has used this allusion as evidence, no solid piece of evidence has drawn William Wintershall and Cartwright, the younger, to the same playhouse at the same time. Where scholars have had to rely on Wright’s memory in order to argue that these players were colleagues, the Selbourne list establishes that they played together at Salisbury Court.”
Joshua J. McEvilla suggests that the numbering of the pages is in the hand of the great Shakespeare scholar W. W. Greg, and was perhaps bound in a collection of other works in his library. His greatest achievement, among many, was ‘A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration,’ published in four volumes between 1939 and 1959. This work is exceptionally rare on the market with only one other copy in auction records. An exceptionally important copy.
STC 3818. ESTC S106712. Pforzheimer 106. Not in Lowndes or Grolier. For an in depth discussion of the list of players names see Joshua J. McEvilla, ‘The Original Salisbury Court Players of Richard Brome’s The Antipodes’, Notes and Queries, 2012.