The Witch

The Witch

The Witch

The Witch

Excerpt

The manuscript of Thomas Middleton's play The Witch, preserved in the Bodleian Library (MS. Malone 12), consists of 49 quarto leaves measuring 7½ by 5½ inches. The first leaf, bearing on the recto the title-page and on the verso the dedication, is separate and unpaged. The pages of the text are numbered 1-95 (with 47 miswritten 49). Pages 1-94 are written on twelve quarto sheets, but the third leaf of the eleventh sheet (between pp. 84 and 85), the stub of which can still be seen, was cancelled by the scribe himself. The last leaf, containing the last page of the text (95) and a blank verso, is again separate. As appears from the watermarks the paper is of one make throughout except for the title-leaf.

The present binding of russia leather belongs to the late eighteenth century, perhaps to the time when the volume was in the possession of George Steevens. Bound up in it is a pen-and- ink copy of the 'Vera Effigies Tho. Midletoni Gent.' published as an engraved frontispiece to Middleton Two New Plays of 1657 and also found in some copies of his No Wit Like a Woman's of the same year. On a fly-leaf before the title-page there are some notes in the handwritings of George Steevens and Edmond Malone relating to the ownership of the manuscript. It appears to have been at one time the property of the actor and playwright Benjamin Griffin ( 1680-1740), to have come into the possession of Lockyer Davis, a bookseller in Holborn from 1753 to 1791, and later into the library of Thomas Pearson. At the sale of Pearson's books on 1 May 1788 Steevens acquired it for £2. 14s., and at the Steevens sale on 20 May 1800 Malone bought it 'at the enormous price of £7. 10. 0.'. With the bulk of Malone's manuscripts and books it came to the Bodleian in 1821.

T

he scribe of the manuscript was identified in 1926 as Ralph Crane, an impecunious scrivener who was employed from time to time by the King's players. F. P. Wilson article in The Library ( Sept. 1926, vii. 194-215) narrates what is known of his life and gives a list of existing manuscripts, dramatic and nondramatic. To this list should be added yet another transcript of Middleton Game at Chess, making three in all ( R. C. Bald in M.L.R., 1943, xxxviii. 177-80), and the Chatsworth manuscript of Jonson Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue ( F. P. Wilson in T.L.S., 8 November 1941).

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