Title HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK. A TRAGEDY BOUND WITH A LATER EDITION OF COMEDY OF ERRORS.
Publisher Printed in the Year 1709.
Seller ID 468
Sm. 8vo. 4 3/4" x 7 3/4". Fragile, age-toned wraps. This copy of HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK was most likely excised from the Nicholas Rowe's seven-volume, 1709 edition of THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. It is bound with coarse brown string along with a later version of COMEDY OF ERRORS. The cover of the production, most likely the title page of the play from Rowe's HAMLET is loose, and has multiple tears, and a 1/2" hole in the middle of the word "Denmark". Additionally, an early owner of the book who I presume thought he had a sense of humor, has inked the words, "Mr. Thompson" under "Hamlet" and has also written, "By N. Smith, Esq. He composed it himself." The verso of the title page lists Dramatis Personae and the play begins on page 2367. Hamlet continues in its entirety to page 2466. The play is immediately followed by what, in the 1709 Rowe edition is its illustrated frontispiece, page 2365. When the book was rebound, the frontispiece, paginated to be the frontispiece was moved to the end of the play. Additionally, the previous owner has added his own flourishes to the copper engraving that is the first known illustration of HAMLET, drawing breasts in ink on the body of Gertrude, making closed cuts around the portrait of Old Hamlet, and sketching a dog next to the ghost of Claudius. COMEDY OF ERRORS follows the appearance of HAMLET, though its pagination is entirely out of sequence from HAMLET which precedes it. COMEDY OF ERRORS begins on page 120 and ends on page 181. It is printed on a different paper and in a different font than HAMLET.Despite the many flaws in this copy, the 1709 Rowe edition of HAMLET is central to all illustrated editions of Shakespeare, as it was the first illustrated edition. The image's mode of production -- copper engraving -- added to the way that a person encountering Shakespeare on the page rather than the stage perceived the story. The ghost appears as an ethereal figure through the very sparing use of engraved lines, giving a translucent effect quite impossible in the contemporary theatre. As well as being achievable only in this medium, the approach is essential to the image's referential meaning, since without it there would be no direct indication of the ghost's identity as a spirit. The upturned chair assumes a compositional, not a dynamic meaning, when moved from stage to page, since now it points upward to the portrait of Old Hamlet hanging directly above Gertrude. The effect is to convey meaning through a device specific to a static visual design, the geometric arrangement of forms to convey a relationship central to the play. Bate does not, however, complete the point by making clear its significance when the print is considered as the frontispiece, the first element of the play encountered by the reader. For someone who knows the play, the difference between Old Hamlet and Claudius; for one approaching it afresh, it hints at some relation between the ghost and the portrait. Focus on the composition reveals another important level of implication, contained in the placing of Gertrude. Located in the centre of the design, framed between the three male figures - live, spectral, and painted - she is visually enmeshed in their relationship. A reader familiar with the text will recognize her complicity, and one encountering it afresh will be offered a suggestion as yet imprecise, and perhaps not consciously assimilated, but giving impetus to the play's larger movement.A most unusual presentation of the important first illustrated edition of this play.