The First and Second Volumes of Chronicles

Chrzanowski 1587hShortly after Raphael Holinshed’s death in 1580, George Bishop and John Harrison formed a new syndicate to publish a second edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles. John Hooker was picked to be general editor; Abraham Fleming, John Stow, Francis Thynne, and others would participate in the project. The histories were brought up to date and many other corrections and revisions were made to the 1577 edition based on recently published work by Hooker and Stow’s and Thynne’s unpublished materials. The changes made the Chronicles more comprehensive, much larger, and superior to the first edition despite the omission of the illustrations. It was a huge success.

In February 1587 the Privy Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the printers to delete nine passages in the book that contained objectionable accounts of recent history, affecting a total of 164 pages. In the second volume three passages were to be deleted from the continuation of Scottish history. They might have jeopardized relations with Scottish King James VI (the future James I). Of course, the printers had to cancel whole leaves, and in the present copy these recisions have been made. The cancellations in the third volume were intended to excise passages that represented failures of Elizabeth’s policies in the Low Countries and materials about English justice that dealt with politically charged issues. In the present copy some of these cancellations were missed by the printer; nineteen leaves that should have been deleted are present.

The second edition has been identified as the one used by Shakespeare as the principal source for his English history plays and Macbeth as well as one of the sources for King Lear and Cymbeline. One particular telling example was identified by Geoffrey Bullough in his Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare: “For in Richard III, V. iii. 325, the blunder by which Richard describes Richmond as ‘Long kept in Britaine at our mother’s cost” derives from a misprint unique to the second edition; Halle, and the 1577 Holinshed, correctly have ‘brother’s cost’.”

Chrzanowski 1587h *

STC 13569

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675