Roma Gill (ed.), The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Vol. 1: All Ovids Elegies, Lucans First Booke, Dido Queene of Carthage, Hero and Leander

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Textual Introduction

There is only one early edition of Marlowe's translation of Lucans First Booke, and this (STC 17415) was published in 1600 by Thomas Thorpe:

lvcans | first booke | translated line | for line, by chr. | marlovv. | [device: McKerrow, no. 119] | at london, | Printed by P. Short, and are to be sold by Walter | Burre at the Signe of the Flower de Luce in | Paules Churchyard, 1600.

This edition, described by Fredson Bowers as 'a quarto-form octavo' (i.e. it was printed as a quarto, but from cut double sheets) collates A2 B-D4 E2 (E2 is missing and presumed blank). It survives in four copies, which give evidence of minor proof correction. The British Library, Huntington, and Folger texts have a corrected inner forme of B; and in the Bodleian and British Library copies a turned n on D2 (inner D) has been corrected. Outer B is corrected in the Bodleian, British Library, and Folger copies. All but one of these alterations are of obvious details (such as turned letters), but on BIv the Bodleian text reads 'plume bearing' where the other three have 'flame bearing' (line 48), the correct translation of Lucan's flammigeros.

The earliest reference to the work is the entry in the Stationers' Register, on 28 September 1593 John Wolf claimed his right to 'a pg 91booke intituled lucans firste booke of the famous Civill warr betwixt POMPEY and CESAR Englished by CHRISTOPHER MARLOW'This is immediately followed by Wolf's entry for Hero and Leander,but he appears to have published neither poem. Edward Blount obtained possession of Hero and Leander,which he published in 1598 before transferring his right in the copy to Paul Linley,who in turn (on 26 June 1600) transferred the rights of both Hero and Leander and Lucans First Booke to John Flasket. That year Flasket reprinted Linley's 1598 edition of Hero and Leander,and on the title-page advertised that this work would be accompanied by 'the first book of Lucan translated line for line by the same Author'. It has proved impossible to verify this claim. Of the four surviving copies, two (British Library and Folger) appear as books in their own right; the other two (Bodleian and Huntington) are indeed bound with Hero and Leander,but the binding is modern, and there is no evidence from watermarks or the remains of stabbing that the works were originally joined.

A possible explanation for this confusion is that Flasket originally intended to print only Marlowe's 818 lines of Hero and Leander, and thought by the addition of the Lucan to make a more substantial volume, comparable to Linley's 1598 Quarto, whose title-page boasts that it was 'finished by George Chapman', and which contains the latter's 1300 lines, to which Flasket could not at first perhaps obtain the rights. But when these became available, he may have decided to discard the Lucan. The manuscript somehow (without record of the transactions involved) reached the hands of Thomas Thorpe, the publisher (some years later) of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

In the dedicatory epistle to Lucans First Booke Thorpe addresses Edward Blount in something of the ambiguous manner with which, in 1609, he speaks to 'Mr W. H.'. His reference to Blount's 'old right' in the poem suggests that Blount may have acquired the Lucan along with Hero and Leander. The tone of the epistle might be one of jocular friendliness or, as Greg was inclined to think, of 'bitter sarcasm'.5 If Greg is correct, it is difficult to explain Thorpe's possession of Lucans First Booke,and perhaps a little surprising to find Blount amicably transferring to Thorpe the copyright of Sejanus in 1605, surely one of the 'manie more pg 92succeeding offices' that Thorpe anticipates in the epistle. It seems to me more satisfactory to accept the initial impression of friendly banter and to think that Blount, perhaps with the intention of helping a younger colleague in the publishing business, had given him Lucans First Booke in some unregistered transaction.

Fredson Bowers has analyzed the printing of the 'quarto-form octavo'6 which was published by Thorpe, who seems not to have owned a printing-house himself, but to have jobbed out his work to different printers—in this case, to P. Short. Variations in spelling (especially of the word Rome) suggest that two compositors were engaged on the job. Bowers also believes that their copy might have been holograph, and that the printed text may, consequently, reflect some of Marlowe's own spelling and punctuation.

Copy-text for the present edition is Thorpe's 1600 quarto: the four surviving copies have been collated, together with all available modern editions. Editorial intervention is minimal, although I have been consistent in italicizing geographical names (including the different spellings of Rome, which the Q compositors are consistent in printing in roman type).


5 W. W. Greg, 'The Copyright of Hero and Leander' The Library, xxiv (1934), 170.

6 In The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe (Cambridge, 1973), ii. 275–8.

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