Thomas Thorpe

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Thorpe edition of the sonnets. Thorpe is identified by his initials, T.T. Sonnets1609titlepage.jpg
Thorpe edition of the sonnets. Thorpe is identified by his initials, T.T.

Thomas Thorpe (c. 1569 c. 1625) was an English publisher, most famous for publishing Shakespeare's sonnets and several works by Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson. His publication of the sonnets has long been controversial. Nineteenth-century critics thought that he might have published the poems without Shakespeare's consent; Sidney Lee called him "predatory and irresponsible." Conversely, modern scholars Wells and Taylor assert their verdict that "Thorpe was a reputable publisher, and there is nothing intrinsically irregular about his publication." [1]

Shakespeares sonnets poems by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's sonnets are poems that William Shakespeare wrote on a variety of themes. When discussing or referring to Shakespeare’s sonnets, it is almost always a reference to the 154 sonnets that were first published all together in a quarto in 1609; however there are six additional sonnets that Shakespeare wrote and included in the plays Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Love's Labour's Lost.

Christopher Marlowe 16th-century English dramatist, poet and translator

Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe, was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.

Ben Jonson Seventeenth Century English playwright, poet, and actor

Benjamin Jonson was an English playwright, poet, actor, and literary critic, whose artistry exerted a lasting impact upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours. He is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox, The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry. "He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I."



The son of an innkeeper in Barnet, Middlesex, Thorpe worked as an apprentice to Richard Watkins for nine years in a small shop. In 1594 Thorpe obtained his publishing rights, but was still without his printing rights. His first book published was The First Book of Lucan , Marlowe's translation of the Pharsalia, the copyright of which he received from Edward Blount, who would come to be a close friend of Thorpe's. He then returned the favour by dedicating the volume to Blount, which was quite unorthodox for the time: publications were generally dedicated to noblemen, local celebrities, aristocracy, royalty, and other men of distinction.

Chipping Barnet Area in the London Borough of Barnet, England, United Kingdom

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Middlesex historic county of England

Middlesex is an ancient county in southeast England. It is now entirely within the wider urbanised area of London. Its area is now also mostly within the ceremonial county of Greater London, with small sections in other neighbouring ceremonial counties. It was established in the Anglo-Saxon system from the territory of the Middle Saxons, and existed as an official unit until 1965. The historic county includes land stretching north of the River Thames from 17 miles (27 km) west to 3 miles (5 km) east of the City of London with the rivers Colne and Lea and a ridge of hills as the other boundaries. The largely low-lying county, dominated by clay in its north and alluvium on gravel in its south, was the second smallest county by area in 1831.

<i>Pharsalia</i> book by Marcus Annaeus Lucanus

De Bello Civili, more commonly referred to as the Pharsalia, is a Roman epic poem by the poet Lucan, detailing the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate led by Pompey the Great. The poem's title is a reference to the Battle of Pharsalus, which occurred in 48 BC, near Pharsalus, Thessaly, in northern Greece. Caesar decisively defeated Pompey in this battle, which occupies all of the epic's seventh book. In the early twentieth century, translator J. D. Duff, while arguing that "no reasonable judgment can rank Lucan among the world's great epic poets", notes that the work is notable for Lucan's decision to eschew divine intervention and downplay supernatural occurrences in the events of the story. Scholarly estimation of Lucan's poem and poetry has since changed, as explained by commentator Philip Hardie in 2013: "In recent decades, it has undergone a thorough critical re-evaluation, to re-emerge as a major expression of Neronian politics and aesthetics, a poem whose studied artifice enacts a complex relationship between poetic fantasy and historical reality."

In 1605 Thorpe's publishing career took off, as he published George Chapman's All Fools and Ben Jonson's Sejanus His Fall, the latter of which was also provided by Blount. It has even been speculated that Jonson himself may have even been involved in the printing, with critic Jonas Barish noting "The exactness of the marginal annotations, the closeness with which the typography conveyed Jonson's metrical intentions, and the corrections made in proof all suggest that Jonson oversaw the printing himself." [2]

George Chapman 16th/17th-century English dramatist, poet, and translator

George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar whose work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been speculated to be the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the metaphysical poets of the 17th century. Chapman is best remembered for his translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and the Homeric Batrachomyomachia.

All Fools is an early Jacobean era stage play, a comedy by George Chapman that was first published in 1605. The play has often been considered Chapman's highest achievement in comedy: "not only Chapman's most flawless, perfectly balanced play," but "also his most human and large-minded." "Chapman certainly wrote no comedy in which an ingenious and well-managed plot combined so harmoniously with personages so distinctly conceived and so cleverly and divertingly executed."

<i>Sejanus His Fall</i> play written by Ben Jonson

Sejanus His Fall, a 1603 play by Ben Jonson, is a tragedy about Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the favourite of the Roman emperor Tiberius.

Thorpe was a mysterious anomaly among the stationers of his generation: there is no evidence that he ever maintained either a print shop or a bookshop and without such a facility it is hard to comprehend how he stayed in business. Yet he managed: he commissioned printers to do his printing and arranged for booksellers to sell his books. For one example, his 1609 edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets (see below) was printed by George Eld, and sold by William Aspley and William Wright. Thorpe had a cryptic relationship with Aspley; together the two men entered plays into the Stationers' Register The Malcontent on 5 July 1604, and Eastward Ho on 4 September 1605 – yet when the plays were published soon after, they were issued by Aspley alone. [3] Thorpe remained in business until at least 1624, when he and Blount transferred the copyright of Marlowe's Hero and Leander to fellow stationer Simon Vicars. [4]

Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers London livery company

The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, usually known as the Stationers' Company, is one of the livery companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was formed in 1403; it received a royal charter in 1557. It held a monopoly over the publishing industry and was officially responsible for setting and enforcing regulations until the enactment of the Statute of Anne, also known as the Copyright Act of 1710. Once the company received its charter, “the company’s role was to regulate and discipline the industry, define proper conduct and maintain its own corporate privileges.”

George Eld was a London printer of the Jacobean era, who produced important works of English Renaissance drama and literature, including key texts by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and Thomas Middleton.

William Aspley was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras. He was a member of the publishing syndicates that issued the First Folio and Second Folio collections of Shakespeare's plays, in 1623 and 1632.

Thomas Thorpe stopped publishing in 1625, the probable year of his death. Dorcas Thorpe of St. Olave Southwark was granted administration of the estate of her late husband Thomas Thorpe on 30 July. Thorpe also stopped receiving his pension from the Stationers' Company that year, which strengthens the evidence for his death that year. [5]

The Sonnets

In 1609, Thorpe published the most important work of his career, Shakespeare's Sonnets. His apparent disregard for Shakespeare's permission earned him a poor reputation, although modern author Katherine Duncan-Jones has argued that he was not such a "scoundrel" as he was portrayed, and the amiable and admirable Blount would certainly not associate with him if he were a scoundrel. It has even been suggested that Shakespeare did sell his manuscript to Thorpe, because of his acquaintance with Jonson as an actor in Sejanus, who may have recommended Thorpe to him as a good publisher. The dedication, which is addressed to a mysterious Mr. W.H., may have been written either by Shakespeare himself or by Thorpe. Thorpe was probably responsible for the arrangement of the sonnets, with 1-17 being the "procreation sonnets", 18-126 being love sonnets to the Fair Youth (for the most part), and 127-154 being written on a variety of subjects, including politics, sex, and the Dark Lady. Critics have failed to agree whether or not his arrangement was the most apt, but most detect a logical coherence in the order, which is generally retained today. [6] [7] The possibility that the manuscript was provided to Thomas Thorpe by a needy "MR. W. H.," the dedicatee of the volume and the poems’ possible recipient, seems seldom to have been explored. [8]

Katherine Dorothea Duncan-Jones, is an English literature and Shakespeare scholar. She was a Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge (1965–1966) and then Somerville College, Oxford (1966–2001). She was also Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford from 1998 to 2001.

Sonnet 1 poem by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 1 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is a procreation sonnet within the Fair Youth sequence.

Sonnet 17 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is the final poem of what are referred to by scholars as the procreation sonnets with which the Fair Youth sequence opens.

Notable published works


  1. Wells and Taylor, p. 444.
  2. Barish, Jonas A (1965). Sejanus. New Haven CT: Yale University Press. p. 205. ISBN   0-300-09469-8.
  3. Chambers, Vol. 3, pp. 254, 431.
  4. Halliday, p. 494.
  5. Kathman, David. "Thomas Thorpe", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  6. Hecht, Anthony (2005). Melodies Unheard: Essays on the Mysteries of Poetry. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 36. ISBN   0-8018-8266-4.
  7. Raymond, Adrian (1995). Shakespeare's Sonnets. London: Heinemann. pp. 160–162. ISBN   0-435-15079-0.
  8. Larsen, Kenneth J. "Printing and Distribution". Essays on Shakespeare's Sonnets. Retrieved 24 November 2014.

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