From the Talbot to Duck Lane: The Early Publication History of Robert Wilson’s The Three Ladies of London

Kirk Melnikoff

This essay tracks the early fortunes of Robert Wilson’s Three Ladies of London in print, from its initial publication in 1584 to its reprinting in 1592. Along the way, it addresses three overlapping questions: First, what possibly inspired Roger Ward to finance, print and distribute a quarto of the play in 1584? Second, when and why did Ward transfer his right-to-copy to John Danter, the play's second publisher? And third, why was Danter interested in the play? In order to answer these questions, this essay closely follows the careers of both Ward and Danter, paying particular attention to the publishing penchants and practices of each.

The Three Ladies of London was first financed and printed by the London Stationer Roger Ward at his Talbot printing house in 1584.1 A six-edition-sheet quarto inked primarily in black letter, the play-text offers on its title page a quick gloss of its contents, assurances that it is a ‘worke right worthie to be marked’, and information about its background, namely that it was ‘Written by R.W.’ and ‘hath beene publiquely played’.2 Along with an eighteen-line ‘Prologue’, its last page is stamped with the tag ‘Paul Bucke’, this name most likely the signature of a scribe or compiler of what was Ward’s copy text.3 Eight years later in 1592, the play was again printed, this time by the London Stationer John Danter at his Duck-Lane printing house. Closely following the first quarto’s lineation and pagination, this second quarto edition replicates Ward’s title-page advertisements, is printed mostly in black letter, and ends with the ‘Paul Bucke’ signature. It also contains a large number of textual variants. Almost all of these have to do with spelling and punctuation, but a very small number involve style and meaning.4 Most commentators have taken these differences to be substantive, the product of a theatrical revival in the late 1580s.5

Recovering a story that has for the most part been untold, this short essay tracks the publication contexts of what would turn out to be the only early-modern editions of Wilson’s interlude. Along the way, it will address three overlapping questions: First, what conditions and practices underlay Ward’s decision to finance, print and distribute a quarto of the play in 1584? Second, when and why did Ward transfer his right-to-copy to Danter, the play’s second publisher? And third, what drew Danter to the play and from what copytext did Danter derive his second printing?

The son of a Shropshire husbandman, The Three Ladies of London’s first publisher Ward worked as a printer and a bookseller from 1577. He had begun his stationer career in 1566 as an apprentice in the London printing house of Thomas Marsh, likely gaining his freedom in 1575.6 By 1577, Ward had possibly set up a bookshop in the Shropshire town of Shrewsbury and had taken on his first apprentice, and over the next two years he financed two ballads on his own and collaborated with Richard Mundee to bring out the first edition of Thomas Lupton’s moral interlude All for Money.7 Like the first edition of The Three Ladies of London, All for Money is a quarto of around a half-dozen edition sheets printed mostly in black letter with approximately fifty lines per page.8 Up until the end of the 1570s, Ward appears not to have had a printing house of his own, but after 1580 his publications advertise that they may be acquired wholesale ‘by Holburne Conduit, at the signe of the Talbot’.9 Over the next five years, Ward would finance and print at least twenty-one titles at the Talbot.10 These publications were diverse in genre – from ballads, news pamphlets, and popular fiction to histories and moral ‘discourses’.11 Four were religious titles, the rights to which were owned by other company members.

Ward’s infringements upon the patents and copyrights of his Stationers’ Company peers began shortly after he moved into his Talbot printing house in 1580 and would become the definitive feature of his three-decade career as a stationer.12 In 1581, three years before he published The Three Ladies of London, Ward violated Yareth James’ copyright for the ballad The Entertainment of the Frenchmen.13 The following year, he was put on trial for printing ten thousand copies of The A.B.C with the Little Catechism, a title to which John Day and his son and Richard were awarded a patent in 1577.14 A year after that in 1583, he infringed upon John Harrison’s copyright for Dent’s A Sermon of Repentance and the William Seres’ patents for the Little Primer and for the Psalter.15 For these and other unrecorded violations, Ward not only paid significant fines, but he also spent a good amount of time in prison.16 On the face of it, this surreptitious publishing at the Talbot was undoubtedly motivated by promise of significant profit; The A.B.C., Little Primer, and Psalter were very lucrative titles, each with what essentially was a guaranteed readership. In justifying his practices, though, Ward fashioned himself a ‘poore printer’, one among ‘howshoulders so extreme[ly] poore, that by reason of pretended Priuiledges and restraynte that happenethe therby can scarce earne breade and Drinke by their trade towardes their lyuinge’.17 He made this argument even as he in his early career enjoyed enough resources to set up a printing house in London and a bookshop in Shrewsbury, and to flood the market with ten thousand copies of The A.B.C. with the Little Catechism.

Ultimately, as a result of complaints by Ward, John Wolfe, and others, in early 1584 the patent holders baulked, yielding up dozen upon dozen of titles for use by ‘the poore of ye Company’.18 Of these, two were reprinted within the year at the Talbot: John Brende’s translation The History of Quintus Curtius Containing the Acts of the Great Alexander and Thomas Wilson’s A Discourse upon Usury.19 Each of these editions amounted to around thirty sheets, and as such they were easily – in terms of materials, time, and effort – the most costly of the six publication projects that Ward would finance in 1584.20 A work that strongly denounces usury in moral and scriptural terms, A Discourse upon Usury has much in common with The Three Ladies of London, and it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Ward was drawn to the two titles as companion pieces. It should be said, though, that The Three Ladies of London does not clearly highlight usury as a central concern on its title page; instead, it advertises ‘how by meanes of Lucar, Loue and Conscience is so corrupted, that the one is married to Dissimulation, the other fraught withall abhomination’.21

All told, Ward’s early career was nothing if not multifaceted and his practices cast a dim light on his decision to publish The Three Ladies of London in 1584. The extensive range of his financed titles suggests that his publishing strategy involved the casting of a relatively wide net, that he was not a publisher to specialize in a particular genre or author.22 When he pursued titles for publication, he preferred those that required little or no outlay to acquire, and when he was working with licitly obtained titles, he almost never took on the extra expense of entering them in the Stationers’ Register; he also never went to the extra effort of writing his own paratextual material or adding errata lists. When Ward financed shorter titles, they tended to be news pamphlets or work by neophyte print authors; his longer titles were generally those with established records of market success, and he rarely augmented these reprints with commendatory verse, tables, illustrations, or indexes.23 Working directly with Paul Bucke or not, Ward’s acquisition of The Three Ladies of London, then, likely had much to do with his economical practices at the Talbot. If the play was originally written for the repertory of Leicester’s Men as most commentators suppose, Ward most likely obtained his copy text sometime after the Queen’s Men acquired several of Leicester’s players in 1583.24 If the play was commissioned for a performance in Shrewsbury after April, 1581, though, it’s possible that Ward instead acquired his copy text at his Shrewsbury bookshop.25

Ward would not finance a reprint of The Three Ladies of London, most likely because his publishing priorities changed in the late 1580s and because he fell into serious financial difficulties in the early 1590s. He appears to have continued to work at the Talbot until 1586, even as his Shrewsbury bookshop was seized and liquidated the year before to pay off a 240-pound debt to a local draper.26 In October, though, the Talbot was searched and again found to hold pirated copies, among these were Albion’s England and Lyly’s Grammar. As a result of this illicit activity, Ward’s three presses and printing material were brought to Stationers’ Hall and ‘made vnservyceable defaced’.27 After 1586, Ward’s printing endeavors appear to have shifted to a secret press in Southwark. When this press was confiscated in 1588,28 Ward would consecutively occupy two printing houses: first on Lambert Hill near Fish Street between 1589 and 1590; and then at the sign of the Purse near the Little Old Baily between 1590 and 1591. This period was perhaps the busiest of above-board production for Ward who published around a dozen new titles and took on as many trade-printing jobs in less than two years. Unlike in his earlier career, though, most of these publications were religious titles: among them, two editions of a mid-century Protestant tract by the minister Richard Phinch; sermons by Protestant clergymen Henry Smith and John Beatniffe; and a translation of a 1570s Protestant treatise by the French theologian Theodore Beza. In July of 1590, pirated material was again discovered in one of Ward’s printing houses,29 and nine months after that, another secret press was found in Southwark.30 In both cases, the offending print materials and press were made unserviceable, and Ward himself ended up in prison, possibly for debt. It’s at this point that Ward’s finances appear to have collapsed; around September, 1591, not only is his wife given ten shillings by the Stationers’ Company ‘to relieve him’ in prison,31 but Ward also appears to have been forced to surrender one of his apprentices.32

If Ward’s work as a printer and publisher was waning in September 1591, Danter’s book-trade activities were just beginning to ramp up.33 The son of an Oxford weaver,34 Danter was apprenticed to John Day in July 1582; he gained his freedom on the last day of September 1589.35 Danter’s first few months as a stationer were likely spent as a London journeyman printer, but in August 1591, he joined into a limited partnership with William Hoskins and Henry Chettle at a printing house in Fetter lane.36 That month, Danter paid his first entry fee in the Stationers’ Register for a ballad entitled ‘The Maiden’s Choice’;37 after that for the next few months, he worked as a trade printer on six projects, two of which on his own. Sometime during the next year, however, this partnership with Hoskins and Chettle dissolved when Danter set up his own printing house ‘in Duck Lane’. At this location, Danter, before moving to a second printing house later that year in Hosier Lane, financed and printed two titles: The Mirror of Mirth and The Three Ladies of London.38 Both of these were second editions and Ward had previously owned both.39

Just as Ward would have been in need of capital, printing materials, and good will at the end of 1591, Danter was in the market for movable copy. As fate would have it, Danter’s printing house in Duck Lane was only a few short blocks from Ward’s Purse location. If the two stationers’ first and only business arrangement was the immediate product of their being Newgate neighbors, though, Danter would certainly have already long known of Ward; in 1582, his master Day had completed litigation over Ward’s illicit printing of the The A.B.C. at precisely the same time he took on Danter as an apprentice. Whatever its roots and early course, though, Danter’s relationship with Ward was fortified in late 1591 or early 1592 when Danter almost certainly acquired rights to The Three Ladies of London.40

While proximity and desperation might have drawn Ward to Danter, Danter’s interest in Ward’s titles seems to have been only partially driven by opportunity. From 1591, Danter derived much of his income from trade printing, edition jobs – some shared, some not – that publishing booksellers like Cuthbert Burby, William Barley, and Thomas Gosson brought to him. As his publishing penchants slowly developed, though, Danter would be consistently attracted to the popular print culture of 1590s. Over seven years, he would not only publish over forty ballads, but he also financed at least eight works of popular fiction, three works of poetry, and six professional plays.41 In pursuing these projects, Danter even appears to have developed an especially close relationship with the ubiquitous popular satirist Thomas Nashe. Between 1592 and 1596, three of Nashe’s works – Strange News (1592), The Terrors of the Night (1594), and Have with You to Saffron-Walden (1596) – were published at Hosier Lane.42 In the latter work, Nashe says that he had been lodging with Danter for some time, probably working in the printing house as a press corrector. Possibly, the arrangement went as far back as 1592 at Danter’s Duck-Lane printing house; in the 1593 pamphlet Pierce's Supererogation, Gabriel Harvey called Nashe ‘Danters gentleman’43 and ‘Danters Maulkin, ... the onely hagge of the Presse’ (T2v).44

The Mirror of Mirth and The Three Ladies of London were both very much the kinds of titles that would come to define Danter’s work as a publisher between 1592 and 1597, whether Nashe worked as a corrector on them or no. A translation possibly by Thomas Deloney of Bonaventure des Périers’s Nouvelles Récréations et Joyeux Devis (1558), Danter’s second edition of The Mirror of Mirth consists of thirty-one tales, book ended by ‘Of a Querister that sange the Countertenour ...’ and ‘Of a Monke that answered altogether by Syllables’. Though not centred around the exploits of a celebrity performer like Skelton’s Jests and Tarlton’s Jests (‘jest biographies’, as F.P. Wilson called them), The Mirror of Mirth belongs to the popular tradition of the jestbook or collection of merry tales, and first Ward and then Danter broadly marketed it ‘for the recreation and delight of many, and to the hurt and hinderance of none’.45 It seems likely that Danter’s interest in the collection was piqued by the publication of two collections of merry tales in 1590: The Cobbler of Canterbury and Tarlton’s News Out of Purgatory.

The second edition of The Mirror of Mirth not only attests to Danter’s early pursuit of popular reading material as a publisher, but it also provides a telling example of the Duck-Lane printing-house practices that would bring off the 1592 edition of The Three Ladies of London. As J. Woodrow Hassel has traced, Danter relied heavily upon The Mirror of Mirth’s first edition as copytext for his second, reproducing its title page and chapters line by line, word by word.46 This printing-house procedure is most evident in the second edition’s first chapter, a section that offers what is essentially a mirror image of Wards’ first edition – including catchwords. But as similar as these two editions are, the second edition’s chapters contain hundreds upon hundreds of variant readings having to do with capitalization, italicization, spelling, and punctuation. Some of these variants also could be considered improvements in terms of both style and sense.47 All told, these variants are exactly the kinds of differences that distinguish The Three Ladies of London’s 1592 edition from its first.48 What this information strongly suggests, then, is that Danter’s Duck-Lane compositor (possibly with some assistance from a corrector) was the source of variants in both titles.49 In other words, it was he – not Wilson or someone working for the Queen’s Men – that was responsible for the differences between The Three Ladies of London’s first and second editions.

While Danter’s second edition of The Three Ladies of London was most likely not the remnant of a theatrical revival, then, it still might have come into being as a consequence of one. Throughout his short career as a publishing printer, Danter showed himself to be very interested in professional drama. Not only did he finance The Three Ladies of London, The Life and Death of Jack Straw (1593), Thomas Lodge’s The Wounds of Civil War (1594), George Peele’s The Old Wives Tale (1595), and the first editions of both Titus Andronicus (1594) and Romeo and Juliet (1597), but he entered four plays in the Stationers’ Register: Robert Greene’s Orlando Furioso50 along with the now lost Godfrey of Boulogne, Parts 1 & 2 and The Life and Death of Heliogabalus.51 As early as 1592 but especially between late 1593 and early 1595, Danter also brought out as many as eight ballads drawn from the plays of the adult playing companies. These plays include ‘the honors achi[e]ved in Ffraunce and Spaine by iiii prentises of London [Godfrey of Boulogne]’;52 ‘a ballad wherein is shewed a knacke howe to knowe an honest man from a knaue’,53 and ‘the murtherous life and terrible death of the riche Jew of Malta’.54

In the case of every one of these titles, it has been either established or is at least possible that the play was concurrently running in the repertory of one of the professional adult theatre companies when Danter published a play-text or ballad version of it.55 Some of Danter’s play publications even advertise this fact on their title pages: The Wounds of Civil War is offered ‘As it hath beene publiquely plaide in London, by the ... Lord high Admirall his Seruants’; Titus Andronicus is marketed ‘As it was plaide by the ... Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Sussex their seruants’; The Old Wives Tale is ‘A pleasant conceited comedie, played by the Queenes Maiesties players’; and Romeo and Juliet is sold ‘As it hath been often (with great applause) plaid publiquely, by ... L. of Hunsdon his Seruants’. Telling too is the fact that even while his printing house was active Danter published no theatre material in 1593 when London’s playhouses were closed by a virulent outbreak of the plague.56 Together, all of these details outline a publishing strategy first in Duck Lane and then in Hosier Lane oriented around the offerings of London’s professional theatre, around their cultural currency and public favour. Indeed, Danter appears to have been one of the first book-trade publishers to make a sustained effort to capitalize on this arena of popular culture by financing associated merchandise. That Danter’s publishing-house was fueled by the products and energy of the contemporary London theatre scene increases the likelihood that, as has been suggested since the nineteenth century, the Queen’s Men revived The Three Ladies of London around 1589.57 Critics have assumed that such a revival was driven by the play’s sequel The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London which Robert Wilson wrote in the immediate aftermath of England’s defeat of the Armada in August and the death of Tarlton in September, 1588.58 Just as Titus Andronicus drew him at the very same time that it was being performed at the Rose, Danter very well may have first taken notice of The Three Ladies of London as it was being reprised at the inn-yards and professional theatres around London.

All told, the publishing practices of both Ward and Danter help illuminate the early textual transmission of The Three Ladies of London. Ward’s initial acquisition of the title around 1584 appears to have had much to do with economy and a marketing strategy driven by variety. By late 1591, imprisonment and heavy debt pushed Ward into desperate straits, an event that occurred just as Danter was looking to establish his first publishing house. It was during these months that rights to The Three Ladies of London most probably passed from Ward to Danter. Unlike Ward, in his short career Danter would direct almost all of his capital and energy towards London’s popular ephemera. He would be particularly focused on the repertories of the professional playing companies, financing a number of play texts and ballads of their latest offerings. This merchandising strategy likely drove Danter’s interest in The Three Ladies of London in 1591 or 1592 as the play had likely been in revival since 1589. In his new printing house at Duck Lane, Danter printed The Three Ladies of London directly from what was in all probability a clean copy of Ward’s first quarto.59


[1] The play was not entered in the Stationers’ Register.

[2] The ‘edition sheets’ of an edition equal the number of sheets of paper used to print one copy. ‘R.W.’ has been identified as the actor and playwright Robert Wilson. The imprint advertises Ward’s printing house ‘neere Holburne Conduit, at the signe of the Talbot’ as its wholesaling location.

[3] Commentators have long suggested that Bucke was an actor. Mark Eccles, though, in ‘Elizabethan Actors I: A-D’, Notes and Queries n.s. 38 (1991), has convincingly countered that Bucke was most likely a citizen goldsmith and a writer (42-3). Along with The Three Ladies of London, two other of Ward’s early publications contain similar stamps, together suggesting that Bucke produced the play’s copy text. All for Money (1577) ends with ‘T.Lupton’; Lupton is described as the play’s compiler on the title page. A True Relation of all Such English Captains and Lieutenants (1584) ends with ‘Iohn Lingham’; the title page describes Lingham as the pamphlet’s collector.

[4] Irene Mann, in 'The Copy for the 1592 Quarto of The Three Ladies of London, Philological Quarterly 23.1 (1944), 86-89, has concluded ‘that there can be no doubt that the later quarto was printed from a copy of the earlier one’ (86). As H.S.D. Mithal has shown, in An Edition of R(obert) W(ilson)’s The Three Ladies of London and The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London (New York, 1988), the major structural changes made in 1592 were the limiting of lines per page to forty-seven and the placing of all speech headings in the inner margin.

[5] From his collation of the first and second editions of The Three Ladies of London, Mithal concluded that the second edition represents Wilson’s revision of the first edition for a theatrical revival in 1588 or 1589. Lloyd Edward Kermode, in his Three Renaissance Usury Plays (Manchester, 2009), has qualified Mithal’s conclusion, suggesting instead that the second edition ‘might’ represent a revision for revival by Wilson or by the Queen’s Men Company (62-3).

[6] For overviews of Ward’s career, see R.B. McKerrow (ed.), A Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of Foreign Printers of English Books 1557-1640 (London, 1910), 282-3; Cyril Bathurst Judge, Elizabethan Book-Pirates (Cambridge, MA, 1934), 44-60; and Alexander Rodger, ‘Roger Ward’s Shrewsbury Stock: An Inventory of 1585’, The Library, Fifth Series, 13.4 (1958), 247-68.

[7] While the Stationers’ Register does not contain a record of his freedom, Ward was initially bound to Marsh for nine years. See Edward Arber (ed.), A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640 A.D., 5 vols (London, 1875-94), 1.291. According to Arber, Ward’s first apprentice was George Shaw (2.82). Neither of Ward’s first ballad publications survives.

[8] The texts of the two quartos also contain very different title-page information; position their recto speech prefixes on opposite margins; and use different font for their stage directions.

[9] See Christopher Carlile, A discourse of Peters life, peregrination and death (London, [1580]), Q2v. George Talbot was the Earl of Shrewsbury, and it may be that Ward erected the Talbot sign in honour of him and his home shire.

[10] During this time, Ward also worked as trade printer, taking on seven different projects for publishers like Toby Cooke and Thomas Man. For the difference between trade printing and publishing, see Peter W.W. Blayney, ‘The Publication of Playbooks’, John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (eds), A New History of Early English Drama (New York, 1997), 389-92.

[11] The most successful of these publications were A Discourse of Peter’s Life by Church-of-England clergyman Christopher Carlile; William Lambard’s The Duties of Constables, Householders, Tithingmen; and Simon Robson’s The Choice of Change. Ward published and printed editions of the first in 1580 and 1582; and the second in 1582 and 1583. He published six editions of the third in 1585.

[12] Ward is described in McKerrow’s Dictionary as ‘the most persistent and violent of those who agitated against the privileged printers’ (McKerrow, Dictionary of Printers, 282). Rodger calls him a ‘figure of some consequence’, even dubbing him a ‘leader of the insurgents’ in their battle against printing privileges (Rodger, ‘Shrewsbury Stock’, 247). Judge also describes Ward as a ringleader in this uprising (Judge, Book Pirates, 32).

[13] W.W. Greg and E. Boswell (eds), Records of the Court of the Stationers’ Company 1576 to 1602 (London, 1930), 12.

[14] The proceedings of this Star Chamber trial are transcribed in Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.753-69.

[15] See Ibid, 2.854 and 2.785-6.

[16] His first prison terms were apparently in 1581-2 and in 1582-3. Ward mentions in his February 1582 Star Chamber deposition that he was earlier in ‘the Compter in Wo[o]destrete London’ when he first caused his servant to print The A.B.C. See Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.756. In December, 1582, Ward is singled out by Christopher Barker as one who actively disregards printing privileges, continuing to do so even while in Ludgate Prison (1.116).

[17] Ibid, 2.756.

[18] Ibid, 2.787.

[19] Both of these titles were previously owned by Richard Tottel. See Ibid, 2.787.

[20] Along with publishing these two reprints and The Three Ladies of London in 1584, Ward also brought out Robert Greene’s The Mirror of Modesty (octavo, 3 edition sheets); A True Relation of all such English Captains and Lieutenants as Have Been Slain in the Low Countries of Flanders (octavo, 1.25 edition sheets); and A Brief Discourse of Those Puissant Princes Called the Nine Worthies (quarto, 6.5 edition sheets). He also may have published a pirated, two-part edition of The Psalter of Psalms of David.

[21] For usury in The Three Ladies of London, see Mithal, Three Ladies; Kermode, Usury Plays; and Claire Jowitt, ‘Robert Wilson's The Three Ladies of London and its Theatrical and Cultural Contexts’, Thomas Betteridge and Greg Walker (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama (Oxford, 2012), 309-21.

[22] Ward did publish two titles by Christopher Carlile; there is evidence to suggest that two had a working relationship between 1580 and 1582.

[23] The exception to this trend is his reprint of Carlile’s A Discourse of Peter’s Life (1580). Between 1577 and 1585, Ward published eight editions that consisted of fifteen or more edition sheets. Of these, only three were new titles; one was another title by Carlile; the other two were titles by new authors.

[24] Most likely written by company member Robert Wilson in 1581 (Mithal, Three Ladies, xx-xxi), The Three Ladies of London was almost certainly in the repertory of Leicester’s Men in the early 1580s. Between 1583 and 1584, however, Leicester’s Men appears to have ‘virtually ceased to operate as a separate unit’ (Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean, The Queen’s Men and their Plays [Cambridge, 1998], 12) in the immediate aftermath of losing three of its leading actors to the newly formed Queen’s Men. It was during these uncertain months that the property of Leicester’s Men might have been circulating in London, very possibly in the hands of its author Robert Wilson.

[25] As Mithal has traced, The Three Ladies of London might also have been commissioned in April 1581 for a performance by Shrewbury’s Men (Mithal, Three Ladies, lxxiv-lxxvi). See also S.O. Addy, ‘Stage Plays in Sheffield in 1581’, Transactions of the Hunter Archeology Society 3.3. (1927), 243-6. That Stephen Gosson refers to a performance of The Three Ladies of London in his 1582 Plays Confuted in Five Actions (D1v-D2), though, makes it more likely that the play was written for the more ubiquitous Leicester’s Men.

[26] This legal action required that a long detailed inventory be produced of Ward’s Shrewsbury stock. This inventory still exists. Among the hundreds of books listed are entries for eighteen copies of The Three Ladies of London and six copies of A Discourse upon Usury (Rodger, ‘Shrewsbury Stock’, 252, 255). Ward may have again been imprisoned because of this debt, again in the Counter in Wodestreet.

[27] Greg and Boswell, Records of the Court, 20.

[28] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 1.526.

[29] Greg and Boswell, Records of the Court, 34.

[30] Ibid, 36-7.

[31] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 1.555.

[32] Greg and Boswell, Records of the Court, 39. Between 1592 an 1594, Ward would finance only two more legitimate publications amounting to around six edition sheets. After another run-in with company authorities in 1596 that resulted in the destruction of yet another secret press and materials (53), Ward would die in early 1598 (Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.224).

[33] For the most complete overview of Danter’s short career as a Stationer, see Judith K. Rogers, ‘John Danter’, James K. Bracken and Joel Silver (eds), Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 170, The British Literary Book Trade, 1475-1700 (Detroit, 1996), 71-77. See also McKerrow, Dictionary of Printers, 83-4; and Leo Kirschbaum, Shakespeare and the Stationers (Columbus, 1955), 296-9. Rogers is certainly right that Danter has wrongly been ‘the victim of very negative critical commentary’ (77). Her overview, though, is on the whole misleading because she doesn’t distinguish between Danter’s publishing and trade printing.

[34] Rogers, ‘John Danter’, 71.

[35] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.118, 706. John Day died in 1584; after four years in the household of Day’s widow, Danter’s apprenticeship was assigned over to Robert Robinson (2.140).

[36] Greg and Boswell, Records of the Court, 38. Because of his involvement with the printing of a number of pirated texts in 1586, the Stationers’ Company barred Danter from running a printing house of his own (21). This ban seems to explain why to Hoskins partnership with Danter and Chettle the Stationers’ Court dictated that ‘that there shalbe not alienacon or transportinge made by hym to them or either of them or to any other of his Rowm or place of A mayster printer’ (38).

[37] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.593.

[38] At some point in 1592, Danter moved his printing house a few hundred feet from Duck Lane to a location in Hosier Lane near the Holborn Conduit. He would work out of this location until he died sometime in late 1597.

[39] Ward had originally published The Mirror of Mirth in 1583. Danter may have acquired the ballad The Mad Merry Pranks of Long Meg of Westminster from Ward as well; Danter entered it in the Stationers’ Register in March, 1595 (Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.293). Ward entered a ballad Long Meg of Westminster in August 1590 (2.561).

[40] No record of transfer between Ward and Danter exists in the Stationers’ Register. This consignation appears to have been an informal arrangement of some kind.

[41] Almost all of these ballads are no longer extant. The exact number of Danter’s publication projects is not exactly clear as he appears to have collaborated on a number of them, especially with William Barley. In some instances, Danter seems to have acquired, entered, and printed copy, while Barley took responsibility for wholesaling.

[42] The Terrors of the Night appears to have been a shared title between Danter and William Jones.

[43] Harvey, Gabriel, Pierces supererogation or A new prayse of the old asse[.] A Preparative to certaine larger discourses, intituled Nashes s. fame. Gabriel Haruey (London, 1593; STC 12903), Early English Books Online (EEBO), B2.

[44] Ibid, T2v.

[45] For overviews of the early modern jestbook and collection of merry tales, see F.P. Wilson, ‘The English Jestbooks of the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries’, Huntington Library Quarterly 2.2 (1939), 121-58; and Linda Woodbridge, Vagrancy, Homelessness, and English Renaissance Literature (Urbana, 2001), 285-93. See also, James Woodrow Hassell (ed.), Bonaventure des Periers The Mirrour of Mirth and Pleasant Conceits (Columbia, SC, 1959).

[46] The only substantial difference is that eight tales are cut from the second edition. As Hassell concludes, in ‘An Elizabethan Translation of the Tales of Des Périers: The Mirror of Mirth, 1583 and 1592’, Studies in Philology 52 (1955), 172-85, ‘The Mirror of Mirth (1592) may properly be described as an abbreviated and slightly edited republication of the first edition’ (174).

[47] For a full collation of variants, see Hassell, Bonaventure, 127-72. Also working closely with its previous edition, Danter reprinted Vives’s The Instruction of a Christian Woman in 1592. This reprint has the same number and kinds of variants found in his The Mirror of Mirth and The Three Ladies of London.

[48] For a list of these variants, see Mithal, Three Ladies, 189-213. The most substantial variant that Mithal identifies is a change to the number of years since the Act of Peter’s Pence in 1554/1555, from ‘26’ in the first edition to ‘33’ in the second. Mithal concludes that this must reflect the seven-year difference between the play’s first production in 1581 and a revival in 1588. It is just as likely, however, that the compositor made the change to reflect the seven years that had elapsed between the play’s first edition in 1584 and what may very well have been the date that he was setting type, 1591 (which in early modern England would have ended on 24 March).

[49] Given that most of its pages are densely packed with lines of small type, it is certainly questionable whether Danter’s compositor was working from a marked-up copy of the 1584 edition of The Three Ladies of London. If this fact were true, each page would have to have had on average fifty corrections.

[50] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.641.

[51] Ibid, 2.654. Danter then was a significant contributor to what has been called the first boom in professional play publication in 1594. The Old Wives Tale’s imprint suggests that Danter was an investor in this publication project. Possibly twice referred to in the private papers of Sir John Newdigate, Heliogabalus may have been printed by Danter but is now lost. For information about Danter’s lost plays, visit the Lost Play Database, Eds Roslyn L. Knutson and David McInnis (

[52] Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.623.

[53] Ibid, 2.664.

[54] Ibid, 2.649. Danter also printed offshoot ballads of The Maiden’s Holiday (2.593); Titus Andronicus (2.644); Bellendon (2.656); Tamburlaine (2.644); and Long Meg of Westminster (2.293). He printed as well four plays for other publishers during this period.

[55] Henslowe’s Diary (Neil Carson, A Companion to Henslowe’s Diary [Cambridge, 1988]) lists concurrent performances of Bellendon, The Jew of Malta, A Knack to Know an Honest Man, Long Meg of Westminster, Orlando Furioso, Tamburlaine, and Titus Andronicus. E.K. Chambers, suggests that Godfrey of Boulogne may have been performed in March and April, 1592, six months before Danter entered his offshoot ballad. E.K. Chambers, in The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols (Oxford, 1923), 3.340-1, suggests that Romeo and Juliet may have been in revival in 1597-98. See Roslyn L. Knutson, The Repertory of Shakespeare’s Company 1594-1613 (Fayetteville, 1991), 202. We have no record of the repertory history of Heliogabalus, Jack Straw, The Maiden’s Holiday, The Old Wives Tale, or The Wounds of Civil War.

[56] Danter entered Jack Straw (Arber, Transcript of the Registers, 2.639) and Orlando Furioso (2.641) for publication in the last months of 1593, but he brought out the former in the early months of 1594 and transferred the latter to Cuthbert Burby in May 1594 (2.650). None of the seven ballads that Danter entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1593 were play ballads.

[57] See Mithal, Three Ladies, cxi; and Kermode, Three Usury Plays, 62.

[58] Richard Jones published The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London in 1590. The play was part of the Queen’s Men repertory from the late 1580s (McMillin and MacLean, The Queen’s Men, 89).

[59] I owe a debt of gratitude to Sonya Brockman, Helen Hull, Roslyn L. Knutson, and Jennifer Munroe for reading an early version of this essay.