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Welcome to Episode #122 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

When William Shakespeare first began his career, we see evidence in his plays as well as life decisions that he was an ambitious man, almost constantly trying to secure connections with the right people in the right places to move his reputation upwards in society. One very key way we see Shakespeare intentionally seek out forward motion for his career is by his connection to Richard Field. Field is a printer who grew up in Stratford Upon Avon, likely going to the same school as William Shakespeare, and at the same time. The men both grew up to establish professional careers in London, and it seems William Shakespeare sought out Richard Field to publish Venus & Adonis as well as Rape of Lucrece which under Field’s direction, connections, and influence would go on to become the most popular poetry in all of Renaissance Europe.

Today our guest Adam Hooks, the foremost expert on Richard Field, and author of the book Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade, and he joins us to introduce us to Richard Field, John Harrison, and their bookshop, The White Greyhound in London that would form the foundation for William Shakespeare’s success as a poet.

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Adam G. Hooks is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. He us currently the editor for the Arden Shakespeare 4th series volume of “Poems.”

In 2016, Adam curated the exhibition “The Books That Made Shakespeare” at the University of Iowa. You can access an online version of the exhibition here

Read more about Adam’s teaching and research at the website Anchora, which includes several online essays, as well as some of the amazing resources, materials, and activities in book studies taking place at the University of Iowa. We will have links to Adam’s work, as well as the website for his book Selling Shakespeare, in the show notes for today’s episode.

In this episode, I’ll be asking Adam Hooks about :

  • Richard Field was the son of a tanner in Stratford Upon Avon, the same town where William Shakespeare grew up. Adam, were Richard and William Shakespeare childhood friends?
  • Adam’s research on the White Greyhound, which I will link to in today’s show notes, says that Richard Field sold copies of Shakespeare’s poems from the White Greyhound for a full 20 years. Adam, did Shakespeare see royalties from this published work?
  • In his article “Shakespeare at the White Greyhound” Adam refers to Shakespeare hiring Richard Field in 1593, the same year Shakespeare wrote Richard III, to publish what Adam calls “the first heir of his invention.” Adam, what was Richard Field hired by Shakespeare to do?
  • … and more!

Download this Stratford Upon Avon Watercolor Print

Completed in pen, pencil, and watercolor by Cassidy Cash, this Stratford Upon Avon print features 8 real life properties located in Stratford Upon Avon, England, from the life of William Shakespeare in one beautiful print. Celebrate your love of Shakespeare by downloading your free copy when you sign up for our email newsletter. The newsletter goes out on Mondays with episode notifications, and as a subscriber you get artwork like this one every month, completely free.

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This illustration is part of our exclusive members library available when you subscribe to That Shakespeare Life. Subscription helps support the podcast and gives you access to the entire library PLUS you get our exclusive Experience Shakespeare digital history activity kits delivered once a month. Learn more and sign up here.

Go, call our uncle to our presence straight;
Say we intend to try his grace to-day.
If he be guilty, as 'tis published.
Henry VI

Henry VI Part 2 (III.2)

First quarto of Venus and Adonis (1593) Source

Shakespeare Hired Richard Field Specifically

In his article “Shakespeare at the White Greyhound” Adam refers to Shakespeare hiring Richard Field in 1593, the same year Shakespeare wrote Richard III, to publish what Adam calls “the first heir of his invention”, which is a direct quote from the dedication Shakespeare wrote for Venus and Adonis.

There seems to be an acknowledgement from Shakespeare that this poem is the first published work in this format.

As Adam explains,

“What Field was hired to do is he was primarily a printer rather than a publisher–that distinction [is made] because a printer makes the pages of the book, laying out of the text. Composing the text and actually [physically] printing the sheets. The publisher, by comparison, was the person responsible for the money. They decide if something is going to be printed and either have it done or do it themselves. For the purpose of selling it 1594–Field turns over titles of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece to Harrison, who became the publisher, and for the next few years hired Field to do the printing of these copies for him to sell. “

 Adam writes that the title page from Venus and Adonis offers a window into the intent of publishing these poems with Richard Field. Specifically, the motto on the title page is one Adam calls a “bold” and “audacious” assertion by Shakespeare in his article for Shakespeare Documented about the title page.

There, Adam explains that the Latin motto, translated to English, is “Let base conceipted witts admire vilde things, | Fair Phoebus lead me to the Muses springs” ([qtd] in Christopher Marlowe’s All Ovid’s Elegies translation of the elegy).” (Source)

Adam says that the motto is bold because it makes an assertion about the poet’s prowess, sophistication of his art, and invocation of a classical muse (Ovid).

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Dar'st thou support a publish'd traitor?
Oswald

King Lear (IV.6)

Guildhall and King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford Upon Avon England. Photo taken by Elliott Brown. Public Domain. Source. This is the building where historians believe William Shakespeare would have gone to school as a boy. Richard Field was in Stratford Upon Avon and of the right age to have attended the same school at the same time as William Shakespeare.

Richard and William Grew Up Together

Richard Field was the son of a tanner in Stratford Upon Avon, the same town where William Shakespeare grew up. Adam shares this week that “it is completely possible” that the two men who later worked as business partners were originally childhood friends. 

Shakespeare’s house and Field’s house were around the corner from each other, and the men were only about 2 years apart in age. Their age and being from Stratford Upon Avon suggests they likely attended grammar school at the same time (acknowledging that there are no Grammar school records for William Shakespeare.) This is circumstantial evidence, but King Edward VI Grammar School was the only one in Stratford Upon Avon, so if the boys went to school, they very likely attended together.

We don’t know anything about Shakespeare’s friends in Stratford as a child. However, there is historical evidence to demonstrate that their fathers knew each other. John Shakespear ewas a glover, and Henry Field was a tanner. These two professions are related to one another. We have a paper record showing that John Shakespeare oversaw the inventory of Henry Field's business after Henry's death.

While the paper record is not available digitally, you can see the record acknowledged here.
It is available on microfilm if you are able to get to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust collections library. Also, there's an additional record connecting John Shakespeare with Richard Field that is digitized via Shakespeare Documented here. Apparently, John Shakespeare and Henry Field were both accused by a Thomas Siche of owing him money.

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Or why is Collatine the publisher
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own?
Shakespeare

Rape of Lucrece

Detail showing St Paul's Cathedral from the “Copperplate” map of London, 1550s. Circa 1553. Source. Inside the churchyard behind the actual cathedral you will see in this drawing a small building with a cross on top. That was known as “St Paul's Cross.” The row of houses right next to this churchyard was a kind of shopping center. Each building housed a business, most often booksellers, which sold their wares to passersby and visitors that gathered at St. Paul's Cross. One of the shops which was held here was The White Greyhound, where Richard Field worked and published the works of William Shakespeare. 

The White Greyhound Published Shakespeare's poems

The Greyhound is a popular symbol for pubs and even the reign of Henry VII. It is used as one of Queen Elizabeth II's emblems today and consistently throughout English history. In this isntance, Adam tells us that it was likely a semi-patriotic name for the publishing house, but the White Greyhound was the name of a bookselling shop in London, were Richard Field worked as a publisher. 

The White Greyhound was in the BLackfriars district of London. Adam shares that, “Surviving imprints show Field printed several books for Harrison.” Richard Field did not own the White Greyhound, but it was a huge part of his career, including publishing poems of William Shakespeare. 

I’ve read many scholarly articles that suggest Shakespeare never wanted his works to be printed commercially. These same scholars often present the First Folio as evidence for Shakespeare's stance on making his work publicly available since the Folio was published after his death. Adam's research into Shakespeare's connection to Richard Field brings to light some interesting sugestions about the assumption that Shakespeare did not want to print his work.

Adam explains, “We do not have a complete idea of what Shakespeare’s desires and ambitions might have been as far as publishing his works in print. His two narrative poems (Venus and Adonis Rape of Lucrece) were designed to be printed, including dedications, which were signed by Shakespeare–that indicates there was at least some ambition to be a man in print on some level.”

If Shakespeare wrote and included dedications for his poems, a step specifically done for printed works, it does suggest intentionality on Shakespeare's part about printing the poems, whether or not being published was Shakespeare's primary aim or even what his life ended up being themed around for posterity.

It is interesting to note that when taking the body of work Richard Field is known to have published collectively, it seems he did not largely print in English. In that regard, Shakespeare's poems were a unique offering in Field's inventory. For Adam, the diversion from standard practice for Field's career only further underpins the idea that the men were associated personally as well as professionally, with Field perhaps extending publishing to Shakespeare on the basis of their history together. 

Similar episode you might enjoy:

How will this grieve you,
When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that
You thus have publish'd me!
Hermione

Winter's Tale (II.1)

“At the left in the foreground, a “puller” removes a printed sheet from the press. The “beater” to his right is inking the forme. In the background, compositors are setting type.” by Josh Amman, c 1568. Source Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (p 64)

No Royalties for Shakespeare!

Adam’s research on the White Greyhound says that Richard Field sold copies of Shakespeare’s poems from the White Greyhound for a full 20 years. While that's quite a substantial time for someone to sell and make a profit from Shakespeare's poems, when I asked Adam about whether or not Shakespeare saw any royalties from these years of being published, he replied, 

“Not a bit!”

Adam explains that the systems of intellectual property we are used to in modern times did not exist for Shakespeare. Arguably, what Shakespeare was operating within formed a precustor to copyright as we know it today, but those systems did not exist yet for Shakespeare. In terms of monetization, Shakespeare could have been offered a payment for giving Field/Harrison permission to print the works in the first place, but after they had those permissions then the publisher owned the work entirely.

Adam shares, “…there would not have been any ongoing cut of the profits from Field and Harrison's profit on selling these books.” 

We can tell from the history of the publishing of Shakespeare's poems that they were extremely popular. John Harrison was able to publish Rape of Lucrece, for example, for several decades. Adam suggests that the publishing record for Shakespeare's poems indicates Rape of Lucrece was the “most popular poem in the entire Renaissance.” 

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Books & Resources Adam Hooks Recommends

A. E. M. Kirwood, “Richard Field, Printer, 1589-1624” The Library, Volume s4-XII, Issue 1, June 1931, Pages 1–39.
Find this article online here. 

Douglas Bruster, “Shakespeare's Lady 8” Shakespeare Quarterly, 1 March 2015, Vol.66(1), pp.47-88

Find this article online here.

Jason Scott-Warren, Shakespeare's First Reader: The Paper Trails of Richard Stonley (UPenn, 2019)

Find this publication online here.

Download this Stratford Upon Avon Watercolor Print

Completed in pen, pencil, and watercolor by Cassidy Cash, this Stratford Upon Avon print features 8 real life properties located in Stratford Upon Avon, England, from the life of William Shakespeare in one beautiful print. Celebrate your love of Shakespeare by downloading your free copy when you sign up for our email newsletter. The newsletter goes out on Mondays with episode notifications, and as a subscriber you get artwork like this one every month, completely free.

Subscribe now and grab your copy!

This illustration is part of our exclusive members library available when you subscribe to That Shakespeare Life. Subscription helps support the podcast and gives you access to the entire library PLUS you get our exclusive Experience Shakespeare digital history activity kits delivered once a month. Learn more and sign up here.


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