Shakespeare’s Narrative Sources: Italian Novellas and Their European Dissemination


Witnesses Description

Arthur Brooke’s poem (The tragicall historye of Romeus and Iuliet written first in Italian by Bandell, and nowe in Englishe by Ar. Br ) was entered into the Stationers’ Register in 1562-1563 as a publication of “master Tottle” (Richard Tottell or Richardi Tottelli, as the frontispiece reads): “Recevyd of master Tottle for his lycense for pryntinge of the Tragicall history of the Romeus and Juliett with sonettes iiijd”. We have three extant copies of this edition: a perfect copy kept in the Malone collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford; another perfect copy, once belonging to Mr Huth, now in the British Library; and an imperfect copy missing the “first three leaves (*1-3?)” (see the Library’s STC) at the Trinity College Library, Cambridge. A reprint issued in 1567 is today kept at the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery in S. Marino, Calif., and is also available as a reproduction in EEBO (STC [2nd ed.] / 1356.8). The EEBO facsimile of the 1562 edition (STC [2nd ed.] / 1356.7.) is fairly defective: it lacks two pages of the prefatory material (iii.v and iiii.r ), presumably because of erroneous microfilming and/or digitization, and the neatly contrasted black-and-white images make the marginalia hardly legible. According to the Stationers’ Register, Tottell also obtained a licence to reprint the book on 18 February 1583, but no copy of it survived. This copy has neither frontispiece nor prefatory material and presents accidental variants. A third edition was printed by Ralph Robinson in 1587, and is now kept at the Trinity College Library, Cambridge. An imperfect reproduction is available in EEBO (STC [2nd ed.] / 1356.9). This edition presents a few orthographic and lexical variants in respect to the 1562 one, and also lacks the verse address “To the Reader” as well as 10 lines (371-80).

1562 edition (A): This diplomatic edition (A) is based on the 1562 edition kept at the British library (USTC 505943,Shelfmark: Huth 34; the first 7 leaves are visible on the British Library website). This octavo edition presents the prefatory addresses in a first four-page gathering, followed by 84 numbered leaves (A. to L.iiij.v). The back of the cover has Mr Huth’s monogram with the motto “animus non res” encircled by “EX MVSAEO HATHII”. The initial and the end flyleaves are covered with handwritten notes. The first gathering contains the frontispiece and a prose address “To the Reader”. The frontispiece (“The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet, written first in Italian by Bandell, and nowe in Englishe by Ar. Br. In aedibus Richardi Tottelli. Cum Privilegio”) has manuscript notes. The prose address “To the Reader” occupies ¶ii.r – ¶iii.r. The A.-L. numbered gatherings contain the whole poem. Erroneous numbering occurs on 37r (“a7”) and 44r (“45”). Manuscript commonplace marks (“flos”) are on pp. 2v, 18r and 20v andmanuscript notes are on ¶ii.r, ¶iiii.r, ¶iiii.v, 1r, 11r, 15r, 18r , 19r, 20v. The prefatory material is cast in Roman type, except for the “Argument”, which is in black letter like the following text. At the end of the poem, after the printing details, there is a small terminal ornament.

1587 edition (B): This diplomatic edition (B) is based on the copy kept at Trinity College, Cambridge (Wren Library, USTC 510703, Shelfmark: Capell *.8[2]). It is in octavo format and the first two pages of the first 8-page gathering, including the frontispiece and the verse address “To the Reader”, are un-numbered. Contrary to USTC details, this copy, like the one kept at the British Library, does not consist of ff [2], 112, but of ff [2], 101. The pagination of the poem stretches from A4 to F8, and from L1 to N8, for a total of 101 leaves (103 including the blank flyleaf, the frontispiece and the prefatory material). Pages are misnumbered from 86r to 88v (87r-89r), and from 89r to the end, i.e. 101r (100r-112r). The frontispiece reads: the Tragicall historie of Romeus and Iuliet, Contayining in it a rare example of true constancie: with the subtill counsels and practices of an old Fryer, and their ill event. Res est solliciti plena timoris amor. At London. Imprinted by R. Robinson, 1587. Ornaments are on the frontispiece, at the end of “To the Reader”, of the “Argument” and after the word “FINIS” (p. 112). This copy lacks Arthur Brooke’s prose. The verse address “To the Reader” is in Roman type, the “Argument” in Roman italics, and the poem is in black letter.


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Munro, John James. 1908. Brooke’s ‘Romeus and Juliet’ Being the Original of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Newly Edited by J.J. Munro. New York: Duffield and Company; London: Chatto & Windus.

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