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."
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.
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."
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. 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.
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.
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.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.
The earliest texts of William Shakespeare's works were published during the 16th and 17th centuries in quarto or folio format. Folios are large, tall volumes; quartos are smaller, roughly half the size. The publications of the latter are usually abbreviated to Q1, Q2, etc., where the letter stands for "quarto" and the number for the first, second, or third edition published.
Benjamin Jonson was an English playwright and poet, 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."
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. There is a partial sonnet found in the play Edward III.
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.
John Marston was an English poet, playwright and satirist during the late Elizabethan and early 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.
Eastward Hoe or Eastward Ho! is an early Jacobean-era stage play written by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston. The play was first performed at the Blackfriars Theatre by a company of boy actors known as the Children of the Queen's Revels in early August 1605, and it was printed in September the same year.
Hero and Leander is a poem by Christopher Marlowe that retells the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. After Marlowe's untimely death it was completed by George Chapman. The minor poet Henry Petowe published an alternative completion to the poem. The poem was first published posthumously, five years after Marlowe's demise.
Edward Blount (1562–1632) was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras, noted for his publication, in conjunction with William and Isaac Jaggard, of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1623.
Sejanus His Fall, a 1603 play by Ben Jonson, is a tragedy about Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the favourite of the Roman emperor Tiberius.
Every Man out of His Humour is a satirical comedy written by English playwright Ben Jonson, acted in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It is a conceptual sequel to his 1598 comedy Every Man in His Humour. It was much less successful on stage than its predecessor, though it was published in quarto three times in 1600 alone; it was also performed at Court on 8 January 1605.
John Benson was a London publisher of the middle seventeenth century, best remembered for a historically important publication of the Sonnets and miscellaneous poems of William Shakespeare in 1640.
The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron, Marshall of France is a Jacobean tragedy by George Chapman, a two-part play or double play first performed and published in 1608. It tells the story of Charles de Gontaut, duc de Biron, executed for treason in 1602.
Ben Jonson collected his plays and other writings into a book he titled The Workes of Benjamin Jonson. In 1616 it was printed in London in the form of a folio. Second and third editions of his works were published posthumously in 1640 and 1692.
The Coronation Triumph is a Jacobean era literary work, usually classed as an "entertainment," written by Ben Jonson for the coronation of King James I and performed on 15 March 1604. Jonson's work was half of a total performance, the other half written by Thomas Dekker. The work was especially significant in the developing literary career of Jonson, in that it marked the commencement of his role as a writer of masques and entertainments for the Stuart Court, a role he would fill for the next three decades.
Valentine Simmes was an Elizabethan era and Jacobean era printer; he did business in London, "on Adling Hill near Bainard's Castle at the sign of the White Swan." Simmes has a reputation as one of the better printers of his generation, and was responsible for several quartos of Shakespeare's plays. [See: Early texts of Shakespeare's works.]
The Rival Poet is one of several characters, either fictional or real persons, featured in William Shakespeare's sonnets. The sonnets most commonly identified as the Rival Poet group exist within the Fair Youth group in sonnets 78–86. Several theories about these characters, the Rival Poet included, have been expounded, and scholarly debate continues to put forward both conflicting and compelling arguments. In the context of these theories, the speaker of the poem sees the Rival Poet as a competitor for fame, wealth and patronage.
Robert Allot was a London bookseller and publisher of the early Caroline era; his shop was at the sign of the black bear in St. Paul's Churchyard. Though he was in business for a relatively short time — the decade from 1625 to 1635 — Allot had significant connections with the dramatic canons of the two greatest figures of English Renaissance theatre, William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.
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.
John Smethwick was a London publisher of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline eras. Along with colleague William Aspley, Smethwick was one of the "junior partners" in the publishing syndicate that issued the First Folio collection of Shakespeare's plays in 1623. As his title pages specify, his shop was "in St. Dunstan's Churchyard in Fleet Street, under the Dial."
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.