A Printer of Shakespeare

One of the (major) perks of being at the University of Iowa is access to a bigger library!

As I waited this summer for the move and for school to start, I compiled a list of the books I wanted to check out from the UIowa library. I was thrilled to find so many great items in the catalog, things I would have had to request through interlibrary loan at the University of South Dakota (although their early modern section is none too shabby, thanks to diligent attention from Dr. Darlene Farabee). However, when I got to campus, there was a good number I could not find on the shelves. And it wasn’t just the library construction; a re-check of the catalog showed that, indeed, several of the books were checked out.

As I’ve experienced the irritation of having a library book on my office shelf recalled, I’m reluctant to pull that move on someone else unless I really do need the volume. One book I just could not live any longer without seeing was A Printer of Shakespeare: The Books and Times of William Jaggard by Edwin Eliott Willoughby (1934). The title practically promised mention of Crooke, and I was not disappointed. (I have to admit, immediately checking the index of a volume for Crooke’s name has become such a habit I do it almost reflexively, even to non-early-modern books.)

In his first chapter, Willoughby explains that his primary motivation for writing the book is to shift the general opinion regarding Jaggard from “infamous pirate, liar and thief” (Swinburne’s label) to “the conclusion that he was an honest, prosperous, puritan printer who occasionally . . . made a slip” (Willoughby 3-4). Willoughby’s approach is blatantly biased and plainly dated, but I like the book all the more for just those reasons; the writing is lively, personal, and opinionated. In full disclosure, I haven’t finished the entire volume yet, but it’s been quite an enjoyable read. I’m pleased to come across anyone interested in this set of characters, but to find someone passionately concerned with one of them is a genuine delight.

Jaggard’s relationship to Crooke, of course, is an important one. They were involved both professionally and personally, and I wonder sometimes how much light their relationship might shed on such interactions in turn-of-the-seventeenth-century London. Although several later sources agree that Crooke and Jaggard initially met when the former treated the latter for syphilis, Willoughby is the first I’ve read that is distinctly derogatory regarding Crooke’s work on the case. Willoughby also provides some further insight regarding the source of this information, the Sloane manuscripts (which, as I’ve mentioned before, it seems I will have to travel to London to see). Willoughby writes:

In the Sloane Manuscripts, preserved at the British Museum, is recorded the history of Jaggard’s treatment [for syphilis] (MS. Sloane, 640 ff. 192 a, 266 b, 275 a). The physician who attended the case—we fear in none too skilful a manner—is not identified but he may have been Dr. Helkiah Crooke with whom Jaggard later, at least, seems to have been upon good terms. (103)

Amusingly, Willoughby quite handsomely avoids using the word “syphilis” directly, instead describing how Jaggard’s body

was racked by a disease which is terrible even to-day when all the forces of modern science are marshalled against it, and in the time of Jaggard, with the lack of knowledge of sanitation, was so common that its name was a by-word on the street and stage. . . . Finally, either the disease, or the mercury treatment for it, deprived William Jaggard of that sense which is so necessary to a printer, his sight. . . . In spite of his blindness, William Jaggard struggled on. (102-03)

Indeed, even if Crooke was to blame for the outcome of Jaggard’s tribulation, it seems to me that Jaggard himself would have been unlikely to recognize it, and the two men do seem to have struck up some sort of friendship, for their relationship continued. In his chapter on “The Books of William Jaggard,” Willoughby provides a breakdown of the sorts of books Jaggard printed.

History and Heraldry     –      –     33%

Religion   –      –      –      –      –     30%

Literature      –       –       –       –     18%

Science   –      –       –       –       –     11%

Other subjects  –      –       –       –     8%

Willoughby explains:

Jaggard’s fondness for large illustrated folios and his friendship for [Thomas] Milles and [Augustine] Vincent no doubt accounts largely for the expenditure of so large a proportion of his time and capital in the printing of books and heraldry, and his production of scientific books was no doubt stimulated by the same preferences and his friendship for Topsell and probably for Crooke. (186)

I don’t know enough about Jaggard’s contemporaries to know how this breakdown compares to what other printers were producing, nor am I certain how this compares to what we know about general reading preferences of the time. Elsewhere, Willoughby, like others, credits some of Jaggard’s interest in Crooke’s anatomy volume to Jaggard’s father’s membership in the Barber-Surgeons’ Company: “And no doubt Jaggard was proud to be the publisher of his learned work dedicated to his father’s guild” (106).

Of the two works Jaggard himself issued in 1615, Willoughby calls Mikrokosmographia the “much more important work” (the other was something by Thomas Adams titled The Blacke Devill, Lycanthropy and The Spirituall Navigator; 106). Willoughby helpfully explains that “Crooke’s Mikrokosmographia appeared in three issues, the first in 1615, a second in 1616, and a third in 1618. Besides the changes on the title-page various alterations were introduced in the preface” (106-07). Intriguingly, an image Willoughby includes in this section of his book reproduces the “TITLE-PAGE OF THE RARE SECOND ISSUE OF CROOKE’S MIKROKOSMOGRAPHIA, from the apparently unique copy in the University of Chicago libraries” (plate inserted between pp. 106-07). The title page certainly does look very similar to the majority of the 1615 copies I’ve seen, with the exception of the year in the final line at the bottom of the page; it does include the claim about the monarch I’ve discussed in previous posts. I’m going to have to do some more research, as at the moment I’m not sure exactly what Willoughby means by “issue,” and I’m curious whether 1616 copies are really as rare as he implies.