Friday, May 28, 2010

The First Part of the Life and raigne of King Henrie the IIII

The First Part of the Life and raigne of King Henrie the IIII. Extending to the end of the first yeare of his raigne. Written by I. H. London: John Windet (?), 1599 (1610).

Brandeis Special Collections is fortunate to count among its Renaissance-era books this work of English history. Interestingly, this second edition carries with it a controversy that makes it more interesting to some scholars than the first edition.

When it was first published in 1599, this history of King Henry the Fourth, written by John Hayward, included a dedication to the Earl of Essex that smacked of treason in the eyes of many, including Elizabeth I. The Attorney General, Edward Coke, read the dedication as posing a parallel between Elizabeth and the deposed Richard II, and between Essex and Henry the Fourth. Essex himself, probably nervous, asked for the book to be taken out of circulation; instead, the dedication was ordered to be omitted from future copies (although it was not—more on that in a moment).

In 1600 tensions grew, and Hayward was put in prison in the Tower of London (the printer of the book, the examiner who approved its publication, and Essex himself were also under suspicion). The author weathered this tumultuous time and eventually ended up back in the good graces of the sovereign (by then James I).

Despite, or perhaps because of, this controversy, the book sold very well. A second edition was published, and instead of omitting the dedication that had caused so much consternation, it carried the same dedication as a nearly identical copy of the original. Some scholars have speculated that this was in order for the young author to have something to show for himself as he attempted to advance his academic career. Others suggest that it was a deliberate counterfeit of the first in order to sell more copies. This second edition, controversial in both its existence and its dedication, is the one in Brandeis’s collections. It was purchased with a gift from Ann Tanenbaum, class of 1966, in honor of her father, Charles J. Tanenbaum; Mr. Tanenbaum was a scholar and collector of rare books from this era.

This is precisely the type of historiography that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have read, and this particular work is one they would have been aware of. Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry IV Part I encompass much of the same material as that presented in Hayward’s work. Hayward was born around the same time as Shakespeare, and scholars have written on the connections between Hayward’s history and Shakespeare’s play. This work therefore forms a wonderful complement to the Baldwin Shakespeare Collection at Brandeis, which includes nearly three hundred early and critical editions of Shakespeare’s works; some of these have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive. Brandeis’s copy of the First Folio (1623) in the Baldwin collection has also been digitized and is available online via the Perseus Digital Library.

This volume was rebound by the Club Bindery in 1898.

The LOUIS record for the book is available here.

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