Tragedies and comedies collected into one volume. Viz. 1. Antonio and Mellida. 2. Antonio’s Revenge. 3. The tragedie of Sophonisba. 4. What you will. 5. The Fawne. 6. The Dutch Courtezan.

London, A[ugustine] M[athewes] for William Sheares, 1633.


FIRST EDITION thus (mixed first and second issues). 8vo. 207 unnumbered leaves. (A)¹, B-2C⁸, 2D6, (without last two blanks). Roman letter, some Italic. Grotesque woodcut ornaments on part titles, floriated woodcut initials, typographical headpieces, a manuscript list of the plays in early hand on pastedown, small library stamp on front fly. Light age yellowing, minor dust soiling in places, the odd marginal mark or spot. A very good copy in contemporary calf, covers bordered with double blind rule, later morocco label gilt, expert restoration to head and tail of spine and corners, all edges red. In red morocco box by H. Zucker.

Extremely rare first collected edition of the major plays of John Marston, the first issue with the original title pages to each play and one of two signed dramatists addresses to the reader, with the second issue cancel of the general title page, and with the preliminary epistle left out. “One other edition of Antonio’s revenge appeared during Marston’s lifetime. William Shears printed a collected edition of six of Marston’s plays. This edition exists in two issues. The imprint of the first calls the book ʻ‘The works of Mr. John Marstonʼ’: the imprint of the second reads ʻ‘Tragedies and Comedies collected into one volumeʼ’. Brettle comments: ʻ‘It would appear that in this second issue any mention of Marston’s name was omitted. A new general title-page was supplied. The publishers preliminary epistle was left out; anonymous title-pages were given to the several plays; and the two signed dramatists addresses to the reader were left unsigned.ʼ’

The Stationer’s register contains no reference to Sheares having any rights in Marston’s plays at all. Sheares then pirated these plays and perhaps took the risk of publication on the assumption that the owners of the copies might not be very anxious to claim their rights in a period when the attack on plays and players was approaching its apogee. In this year the master of the Revels ordered the re-licensing of old plays, and it also saw the publication of Prynne’s Histrio-Mastix, in a sense the summation of the Puritan attack on the stage.

Marston had left the stage and entered the Church in 1609. In 1633, in view of the prevailing climate of opinion, he was probably anxious to conceal his earlier association with drama. He may well have been in the city when he heard of Sheares’ edition or, indeed, seen a copy of the first issue, for we know he died in London in 1634. (…) The probable explanation for the cancels in the second issue of the 1633 edition is thus that Marston personally objected to its printing. (…) In the second issue of the 1633 edition the intention was to remove all traces of authorship: in fact few extant copies contain a complete set of cancels.” W. Reaveley Gair. “Antonio’s Revenge: John Marston”.

John Marston (1576 – 1634) was an English poet, playwright and satirist during the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. His career as a writer lasted a decade, and his work is remembered for its energetic and often obscure style, its contributions to the development of a distinctively Jacobean style in poetry, and its idiosyncratic vocabulary. A successful working playwright, he was associated with many different London acting companies, he exemplifies both the best and the worst traits of Elizabethan drama.

Although his works were consigned to obscurity for centuries after his death, critical interest in Marston’s works revived in the nineteenth century and during the 1930s; they are now acknowledged as an important part of Elizabethan literary history. “We are aware, in short, with this as with Marstonʼs other plays, that we have to do with a positive, powerful and unique personality. His is an original variation of that deep discontent and rebelliousness so frequent among the Elizabethan dramatists. He is, like the greatest of them, occupied in saying something else than appears in the literal actions and characters whom he manipulates (…) It is not by writing quotable ʻ‘poeticʼ’ passages, but by giving us the sense of something behind, more real than any of his personages and their action, that Marston established himself among the writers of Genius” T.S. Eliot. A very good copy of this important and rare edition.

STC 17472. Greg, III, p.1090. ESTC S123209. Lowndes 1487. Not in Pforzheimer.


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