The Play of Pericles
Amours de Voyage
by William Shakespeare
Winner, First Prize (Limited Editions) 2011 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada.
Judges’ Award, Oxford Fine Press Book Fair, 2011
PUBLICATION DATE: 2011
Pericles is not a play most people have ever seen, and not many more have ever read it. For reasons which have always been a mystery to us, the play is rarely performed. But whatever critics and scholars have said about Pericles — and they have generally been dismissive — actors and audiences love it. With attempted murder, incest, pirates, a goddess, storms at sea, miraculous resurrection, shipwreck, love, loss, reconciliation, brothels, jousts, and palaces, it can hardly be said to be without incident or interest. Finally, it contains, in the reconciliation scene with Marina, what many consider the single most moving scene in all of Shakespeare.
Publishing Pericles, however, is not so easy a matter as simply setting the play in type and printing it. The text of the play is acknowledged to be corrupt. The only text surviving from Shakespeares time is a quarto edition published in 1609. Both as a printing job and as an edition of a text, it is an unholy mess: verse is set as prose; words, lines, and (it seems) whole sections of scenes are omitted; speeches are attributed to the wrong characters, and so on. Moreover, it is clear from the physical evidence that the book was set in type by three different compositors, probably in two different shops, and that it was set not from the foul papers (Shakespeares own copy) but from a “reported” copy, possibly cobbled together by a group of the actors who took parts in the performances. This 1609 quarto was followed by five further reprints closely based upon it — one later the same year, and others in 1611, 1619, 1630, and 1635. But despite this evidence of success, Pericles was not included in the first or second folios (probably because the editors knew the text to be corrupt), and only finally appeared in the second printing of the third folio in 1668, 52 years after Shakespeares death..
Despite this neglect in the folios, it is clear that Pericles was an extremely popular play. We know this both from the number of reprints, and from contemporary report. Interestingly, it was also the first of Shakespeares plays to be produced when the theatres re-opened after the Restoration. We don't know precisely what text might have been used for these productions, but it must have been the quarto text, possibly with alterations in the forms of corrections and necessary additions. Indeed, through the centuries, many people have attempted to “correct” or “realize” the text from various conjectural positions and with recourse to a variety of methods. Such work would seem to require a number of skills: a thorough knowledge of the development and characteristics of Shakespeare's style; theatrical experience in as many of Shakespeares plays as possible (and particularly in Pericles); training in the analysis and interpretation of literary (and particularly Elizabethan and Jacobean) texts, and in prosody; and familiarity with the operations of a 17th century printing office, with practical experience in the handsetting and printing of type.
As it happens, Crispin spent some years as a professional actor, and has acted in all Shakespeares plays: he has acted in three productions of Pericles and directed a fourth, and it has always been one of his favourite plays. He is a published poet, and holds a Masters degree in English. Finally, of course, he has spent twenty-five years setting type by hand, using methods not markedly dissimilar from those used in Elizabethan printing houses. For these reasons, he is able to bring these several distinct and apposite kinds of knowledge — acting and directing, textual studies, the writing and study of poetry, and typography — to bear on the problems of the plays text.
Our intention has been to publish a text which would be a pleasure to read, and would allow the glories of this unfairly neglected play to find new devotees. The book is illustrated by Simon Brett, one of the world’s leading wood engravers, and more to the point, one of the most literate and sensitive illustrators working today. We began discussions with Simon in 2000, and from the preliminary sketches it was clear that this would be a book unlike any we had produced before. In Simon’s words, we have tried to “stage” the play on the page, to “bring to life the silences, illustrate the dumbshows, articulate the voyages.” It has been an exhilarating journey.
The Play of Pericles is a tall quarto, printed on Zerkall paper in several colours. The types are Poliphilus & Blado with Duensing for display, and elements of the text are printed in calligraphy specially designed and executed for this edition by Andrea Taylor. The play is illustrated with over one hundred wood engravings by Simon Brett. The book containing the play itself will be accompanied by a second volume comprising a substantial essay on the play’s history and a discussion of the various theories about its composition & Shakespeare’s possible collaborator, an essay by Simon Brett on illustrating the play, and notes on the text.
The book is published in two states:
STANDARD: 125 COPIES. The play in full purple morocco, with the accompanying
volume of essays and notes in quarter morocco with printed paper designed
by Andrea Taylor, in a chemise and slipcased.
DELUXE: 12 COPIES FOR SALE, WITH 4 HORS COMMERCE.
Bound by Hélène
Francoeur in a déstructuration binding of alum-tawed goat and
purple morocco, with stamping in gold; the supplementary volume in quarter
alum-tawed goat déstructuration with paper printed with calligraphy
by Andrea Taylor. Accompanied by a portfolio of a selection of signed
and numbered proofs of engravings. Contained in a box of purple cloth
with a vellum label stamped in gold.
NOTE: A small number of sets of Simon Brett’s engravings for Pericles are available and can be obtained directly from Simon. Please see this page for contact information.