Collaboration and the Cambridge Press
Among Benlowes’ donated books, there is a copy of Thomas Lupton’s popular sixteenth-century recipe book, A thousand Notable things, of sundry sortes (1586, STC 16956.3).57 With advice on everything from curing gout to whitening one’s hands with sparrow dung, this vernacular work of folk wisdom—layered with different readers’ marks and annotations—seems an unusual book to include in a college bequest. Perhaps recognizing this, Benlowes bookends his copy with two Latin inscriptions.
The first, written along the gutter of the title page, reframes the annotations found within. Directly addressing the reader, it states: “Huic Paruo quaecunq[ue] vides inscripta Libello / Lector, digna brevi sunt mihi visa nota,” or in a loose translation, “Reader, you see inscribed in this little book whatever notes have been seen by me as fitting to have been abbreviated.” Then, on a blank page just before the index, he has written three fragments of sententiae with his characteristic flourishes.
The first is “non est mortale quod opto,” “I seek nothing that is mortal,” a frequent commonplace found, most notably, as the motto encircling Crispin de Passe’s engraving of Ganymede mounting the eagle to heaven, used in Gabriel Rollenhagen’s widely-read book of emblems. Next is “Omnia probato / Quod bonu[m] est teneto,” “examine everything, keep what is good,” another oft-copied phrase taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Finally, he has written “sic nullu[m] vobis temp[us] abibit iners,” “thus no hour will slip wasted from you,” a line from Book III of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria teaching women how to win the love of a man. By literally framing Lupton’s recipes between these Latin inscriptions—a note to the “Lector” on the one end and a patchwork of repurposed sententiae on the other—Benlowes places this prosaic household book and its marginalia within the humanistic practice of commonplacing transcendent wisdom. Benlowes, or possibly the library, then binds it with John Reynold’s The Triumphs of Gods Revenge, a series of sensational, moralistic stories of murder. Through singular acts of compilation and repackaging—slight shifts in the text’s material apparatus—the meaning of the work changes.
This fiddling at the fringe of a material text anticipates the kind of creative labor Benlowes would pursue in his first major literary project: publishing and packaging boutique copies of Phineas Fletcher’s The Purple Island, or The Isle of Man together with piscatorie eclogs and other poeticall miscellanies (1633, STC 11082 and 11082.5), in partnership with Cambridge University Press. Fletcher was a generation older than his young patron and had penned most of his poetry between 1607 and 1612, when he was a student at Cambridge. This occasional, collegiate verse remained in manuscript until the later 1620s and early 1630s, when—possibly at Benlowes’ instigation—it began appearing belatedly in print.58 In some instances, opportunistic London stationers bought or simply profited from the older texts. For example, Thomas Walkley published Fletcher’s Brittains Ida (1628, STC 11079.5), an erotic epillyon, and misattributed it to Edmund Spenser—probably intentionally, since, as Zachary Lesser has shown, he was at that time engaged in peddling a nostalgic brand of chivalry for his own political gain.59 Not all were fooled by Walkley’s ruse: as one eighteenth-century reader wrote in his copy of Fletcher’s Piscatorie Eclogs, “Britain’s Ida perhaps may be a juve[nile piece of] Fletcher’s; It is more in Fletcher’s manner than Spensers.”60 The bibliographer Mary Ethel Seaton finally answered the question of authorship when she discovered an early manuscript in Sion College Library and published an edition of his work in 1926.61 Even as publishers like Walkley were exploiting Fletcher’s older occasional verse in the London marketplace, the rural university press at Cambridge was bringing it out under his name as an affiliate “Collegii Regalis Cantabrigiae” (of King’s College, Cambridge), as the title page of Locustae, vel Pietas Iesuitica (1627, STC 11081) puts it. Benlowes plays a role in facilitating some of these publications and, in the case of The Purple Island, produces at Brent Hall a special issue bound in his arms and printed with homoerotic emblems of friendship and patronage. While some of these copies were presented to Benlowes’ friends and Fletcher’s patrons, most were likely sold as high-end literary products packaged by hand in an era when most printed texts were still sold in sheets—much like the books being made at the same time by the women of Little Gidding, another satellite workshop of the marginal university press.
The foundation for Benlowes’ work on The Purple Island is the emergence of Cambridge University Press as a more powerful and motivated publisher of what we might today call literary works, especially poetry. Although the university had held a patent to print books since 1534—well predating the Stationers’ Company’s Royal Charter of 1557—it had only exercised its privilege since 1584, and then had done so unevenly. Beginning with Thomas Thomas, a succession of printers struggled to make a profit in the rural university town. Most students bought or borrowed cheap imports of the texts they needed, draining the press’s local market.62 At the same time, repeated suits from a rotating group of London stationers holding lucrative patents continually challenged the university printer’s right to publish almost any profit-making text, as David McKitterick has shown.63 Caught between the continental book trade and the protectionist London company, the press survived its first few decades by printing the works of a few best-selling Cambridge theologians, like William Perkins, as well as ephemera like almanacs.64 It also served as a job printer, providing bookplates for the college libraries and blank forms for the town, including licenses for ale-houses and printed orders instructing beggars to leave a parish—the name of the vagrant and place and date of his or her crime left blank, to be filled in later by hand.65
All of this began to change around 1625, when the university appointed Leonard Greene and the brothers Thomas and John Buck as university printers. Greene was a Cambridge bookseller who had married into a profitable business; he had ties to the London trade and was a freeman of the Stationers Company. When he died in 1630, he was replaced by Roger Daniel, another experienced stationer with knowledge of printmaking. By contrast, the Bucks were young Cambridge men who had never worked a press, a fact often brought up in disputes with the Company, which complained that they were “schollers not skillful in printinge.”66 What they lacked in technical expertise, though, the Bucks—especially the energetic and egotistical Thomas Buck—brought to the job something that earlier printers had not: access to the university’s unique textual ecology, its media and modes of transmission. Dominated by men, collegiate literature flourished in manuscript as occasional poems, short plays, Latin exercises, and bawdy jokes were passed between students, copied into blank notebooks, or self-published in quires that could be stitched into verse miscellanies.67 Local circuits of scribal publication in Cambridge or Oxford fed the coteries in and around the Inns of Court as students moved to London, making the reputations of poets like John Donne, most famously, but also many poets in Benlowes’ wider orbit, like Richard Crashaw.68 A mid-seventeenth-century manuscript now at Folger Shakespeare Library contains verse by Crashaw, Benlowes, Thomas Fuller, Thomas Philipott (who wrote commendatory verse for Benlowes’ Theophila), and others affiliated with Cambridge in the 1620s an 1630s alongside sermons and some recontextualized Shakespearean verse from John Benson’s 1640 Poems, thus showing how literary coteries could continue to circulate together long after their formation, picking up other texts in manuscript and print along the way.69 Exploiting its own cohort of “muses,” the Oxford press had already begun printing university verse collections to mark and market public events, such as the death of Philip Sidney, and London stationers were beginning to capitalize on the popularity of poets like Donne, as Megan Heffernan shows in her history of John Marriott’s 1633 edition.70 Seeming to recognize the untapped potential of Cambridge’s own literary talents, Thomas Buck moved the press to larger quarters, bought more presses, and began what in hindsight seems an almost systematic program of printing and promoting Cambridge works that had until then circulated only in manuscript—much of it through the intermediary of regional patrons and promotional agents like Nicholas Ferrar and Mary Collett at Little Gidding, who sent Herbert’s The Temple to the press after his death and who may have been serving the Bucks as binders.71
It is in this context that Benlowes helped the university press publish Fletcher’s The Purple Island. A singular, hybrid work initially composed around 1615, the book’s titular poem follows the shepherd Thyrsil over the course of twelve cantos as he narrates his travels over the “purple island,” a topographically figured human body. Bones are marble pitted in the ground, the fleshly earth rising from this foundation and running with rivers of blood. Prince Intellect, the mind and soul, rules the island’s three regions: the lower (the belly), the middle (the breast), and the highest (the head). The head and heart are cities within these regions. The mouth is a cave with porter teeth to receive provisions into the stomach’s store-house, where the island’s cook ceaselessly concocts sustenance. The bowels are folded pipes, expelling the byproducts of the cook’s work; the bladder is a lake of urine. Marginal notes in the print edition anchor the poem to empirical knowledge gleaned from anatomical textbooks, tethering its pastoral geography to an emerging program of natural philosophy, as Lana Cable has shown.72 It is as if, Jonathan Sawday writes, “the poem has arrived complete with its own interpretation based on the spare observations of the new scientist: the Baconian philosopher intent on prying into the infinite recesses of Nature.”73 At the same time, the island not only allegorizes the human body but specifically figures the British isle, and Thyrsil’s journey across this political landscape is spiritual. Weaving fragments from his brother’s Christs Victorie and du Bartas into his imaginative anatomy, Fletcher maps the body politic onto the individual, who in turn becomes an idealized spiritual Everyman. As Fletcher’s editor Johnathan Pope emphasizes, the connective tissue here is nosce te ipsum, the ancient injunction to know thyself.74 “Study all arts devis’d since time began, / And not thy self,” warns Benlowes in commendatory verse printed with the poem, “thous studiest not, but play’st.”
Modern critical debate has tended to center on how successfully (or not) Fletcher blends these anatomical, theological, and political discourses. Kastor, one of the first scholars to grapple seriously with the text, considers it “one of the most unusual poems in English,” an “instructive but monumental failure,” while subsequent critics like Sawday have argued that “what tends to appear to us as a struggle between two discourses should more properly be understood as an attempt at synthesis.”75 Two points are worth drawing out from these discussions and emphasizing here, by way of underscoring Benlowes’ involvement. First, The Purple Island was, like Fletcher’s other youthful works, forged in the homosocial furnace of Cambridge. The fads and fashions of university men influenced Fletcher’s choice of the Spenserian form and genre, just as the textual world inhabited by students—a world of textbooks, lectures, dialogues, closet dramas, and dirty poems—helped to inform the poem’s structure and subject matter. For instance, as Pope points out, the anatomical cantos span three days in Thirsil’s song, exactly the amount of time needed to work through a corpse before its flesh putrefies, and in fact Fletcher’s “lecture” (as Pope calls it) follows the order in which the body would have been dissected.76 Thus the poem’s diegetic time, which seems awkwardly slow to a modern reader, actually tracks temporal rhythms that would have been familiar to students. By thickening the discursive registers of his text—layering allegory with anatomy, or the poem with annotations—Fletcher sculpts his work for the university coterie in which it circulated.
Second, print inevitably morphed that coterie context, changing how readers could engage with the text. No doubt The Purple Island had a social life in manuscript. Benlowes certainly encountered a copy, and, as Pope points out, Izaak Walton misquotes lines from Canto 12, suggesting he may have had access to a now-lost version.77 However, no manuscripts from that time are known to exist. All editions today stem from the 1633 book, printed decades after the poem’s creation; and while Fletcher sanctioned that printing, its structure, design, and textual apparatus were non-trivially shaped by its patron-publisher Benlowes and by Cambridge University Press. For instance, it seems likely that the marginal notes on anatomy were not part of the poem’s original design but in fact were added to the printed edition, perhaps to fortify the book’s content for an audience still more accustomed to seeing sermons and theological commentaries come off the university press beds than pastoral poetry. As if to further brand the printed book as a monument to the university, the printer has tacked onto the end of every canto a version of the “alma mater cantabrigia” device—an image that, as McKitterick puts it, had “helped more than any other innovation to establish a distinctive livery for Cambridge-printed books” in the press’s early days.78 Thus attending to the book’s publication history—and all the mediating technologies and readerships that history entails—helps reconcile the seeming strangeness of its ready-made interpretive apparatus in print and the imaginative world of the poem.
The importance of these points becomes clear if we extend our critical lens beyond this single poem and its isolating modern editions to encompass the entire 1633 book as a material object. The Purple Island only comprises twenty-six sheets; after it ends, a second internal title page introduces a new eighteen-sheet book of poems, the Piscatorie Eclogs, and other Poeticall Miscellanies, with a new registration and pagination. Another book within the Poetical Miscellanies contains Fletcher’s elegy Elisa, again with its own title page. With the exception of Elisa and a few shorter works, most poems in the book continue in the pastoral register of The Purple Island but extend its imaginative landscape to encompass the same male-dominated, Spenserian world found in Fletcher’s other poetry, including the Latin verse in Sylva Poetica, the “piscatory drama” Sicelides, and Venus and Achises, the manuscript version of Brittains Ida, which retains references to Fletcher’s authorship. At the center of this world is “Chamus,” Cambridge, an insular town full of guileless “fisher-boyes” and capricious flatterers. Homosociality and homoerotic patronage are key themes. For instance, in the first eclogue of The Piscatory Eclogues, the old fisherman Thelgon (an eidolon for Phineas’s father Giles the Elder) laments losing the attention of the fair Amyntas (King James). Thelgon offers a thinly veiled critique of James and perhaps a truthful account of the Fletcher family’s own suffering due to the loss of his patronage. “I have a pipe, which once thou lovedst well,” he apostrophizes, but now “Amyntas hath forgot his Thelgons quill; / His promise, and his love are writ in sand.”79 In “To E. C. in Cambridge, my sonne by the University”—a poem not fully part of the pastoral universe—Fletcher extolls his bond as “father-friend, and a friend-father” to an absent younger man, his “sonne by the University.” In manuscript, these poems may have formed an interlaced gathering, traveling together in various configurations; in the printed book, they come together in a specific constellation that compels the reader to experience The Purple Island, Piscatorie Eclogs and the poetical miscellany as conjugates, literally bound together.
While not unusual or unique among printed books of the time, the togetherness of these poems—when taken seriously—pushes us into new interpretive territory. On the one hand, the 1633 edition’s linked clusters of verse behave much like a manuscript verse miscellany, and we might mine the rich vein of work by Arthur Marotti, Mary Hobbs, Marcy North and others to see more clearly the milieu in which Fletcher’s book, and the many others like it, circulated.80 Such verse collections often show what Harold Love calls “significant shape,” a phrase that Michelle O’Callaghan glosses in her case study of two early Stuart manuscripts as “a discernible, if flexible, structure.”81 As Joshua Eckhard has argued, the associational resonances between the individual works within this shaped gathering—especially in university miscellanies, of the sort made and encountered by Fletcher—helped give rise to new genres, like the anti-courtly lyric.82 Imagining The Purple Island as a print-mediated collection of coterie university verse thus helps highlight the purpose of its assembled form: it makes legible to readers Fletcher’s otherwise obscure system of cross-referencing and in-jokes, placing each poem in a meaningful context. On the other hand, the edition’s use of divisional title pages and discrete sections mimics the look of a Sammelband, a single volume binding together many texts—like the copy of Lupton that Benlowes donated. Alexandra Gillespie, Jeffrey Todd Knight, and others have unpacked the creative labor that went into arranging such books, arguing that that early modern readers understood this work as itself a type of authorship.83 University libraries, too, regularly bound sets of texts together. As Knight writes, in a comment that might easily name Benlowes’ own publishing process, “the unsettled conventions of book assembly in the period helped foster an idea of the literary work as flexible and contingent, and a pervasive, underlying idea of writing as something closer to what we would call repurposing or decontextualization.”84 Yet even while the 1633 edition formally reflects these readerly practices, it is, of course, neither a reader-assembled manuscript or Sammelband but a printed book issued from the press as a complete package. Its two halves are separately signed and paginated yet never found apart. This form—again, not uncommon for printed books at this time—suggests that the force of miscellaneity energizes a wide range of textual production in the period, indeed was a feature so ordinary that, as Eckhardt and Daniel Starza Smith point out, it did not warrant naming.85 Specifically, its packaging brings to the fore the ways in which the university press was belatedly drawing the scribal ecology of Cambridge into print and in the process inadvertently turning often dynamic collisions of occasional verse into static monuments to an earlier time—if not always from the perspective of contemporaneous readers, accustomed to remixing their own books conceptually and literally, then at least from the perspective of the later readers who have struggled to read the queer togetherness of these texts.
To make this argument more concrete, consider the previously-mentioned copy of the Piscatorie Eclogs annotated by “W. Thomson,” the reader who corrected the misidentification of Brittain’s Ida to Spenser in its margins. This “Thomson”—probably William Thompson, eighteenth-century editor of John Davies and William Browne—peppered other pages with marginalia that reveal the historical individuals behind the pastoral pseudonyms (“The Author’s Father is shadow’d under Thelgon, Dr. Gyles Fletcher,” p. 1), cross-reference lines to classical works, and link the book to his own library of literary manuscripts (“I have a Vol. of Latin Poems in 4to in the Authors own MS,” p. 3). In short, his annotations attempt to make visible to later readers the by-then vestigial network of Cambridge-based literary production in which Fletcher’s own miscellaneous gathering of pastoral poems—both The Purple Island and the Piscatorie Eclogs together—operated. Yet, even as Thompson tries to place Fletcher’s texts within a more fluid and hybrid literary system, another owner treats the printed object as fixed in its arrangement and design, going so far as to supply a final missing leaf in manuscript.86 That this leaf contains Quarles’ poem to “the Spencer of this Age,” written over a page printed with a single woodcut ornament, renders it a fitting emblem for the book’s thickly mediated circuits of exchange between print and manuscript, between a vibrant, homosocial community of male poets and the entombed texts that memorialize their work. When Thompson’s copy later washes up in the British Library, the institution once again recontextualizes Fletcher’s authorship as part of a family history and its literary legacy by binding The Purple Island in a Sammelband with two other Cambridge-printed Fletchers in quarto: Phineas Fletcher’s Locustae, vel Pietas Iesuitica (1627, STC 11081), an anti-Jesuit rejoinder to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and the second edition of Christs victorie and triumph in heaven and earth, over and after death (1632, STC 11060), by his brother Giles the Younger. Some of Thompson’s annotations were trimmed during this rebinding, an institutional decision that suggests the primacy of the printed text over the evidence of these eighteenth-century editorial notes. From Thompson’s marginal cross-referencing to the British Library’s clipped Sammelband, tracking the movement of this single book over three centuries shows readers continually renegotiating the togetherness of Fletcher’s texts in print as attitudes toward print, authorship, and the pastoral tradition change.87
Appreciating the transtemporal, transmedia dynamics at play a book like The Purple Island, and later readings of it, in turn makes legible the wider array of Cambridge’s literary production in print at the time, especially its many pamphlet-like octavos of neo-Latin verse. Little read today and neglected as material texts, these small gatherings of verse, epigrams, epistles and devotional poems contain the same kind of academic in-jokes and debates found in Fletcher’s piscatory eclogues but are narrower in scope and audience. And like Fletcher’s faux Sammelband, they tend to be found bound together in variously linked configurations—what Harold Love has called in the context of scribal publishing “rolling archetypes,” or Piers Brown has described in his work on Donne as a “rhapsodies,” a word that literally means “song-stitching” in ancient Greek and a pervasive term for fascicles of gathered texts in the period.88 For instance, Fletcher’s Sylva Poetica is always bound with his father’s De literis antiquae Britanniae (1633, STC 11054); together, they function like a student’s exercise book or verse collection, marking and memorializing the university’s cultural capital. Benlowes also produced a neo-Latin octavo printed by the university press. Titled Sphinx Theologica, sive Musica Templi ubi Discordia concors (1636, STC 1880, “The Theological Sphinx, or Temple Music, where Discord harmonizes”), the book joins ten prose devotional meditations to scriptural extracts and song-like verse. It looks privately printed, as McKitterick points out, featuring ornate typography, unusual woodcut frames, and its publication date printed—with Benlowes’ typical enthusiasm for word games—as a chronogram (TrIn-VnVs DeVs Mea LVX & saLVs).89 Although Benlowes intended it as a three-part work—almost like a musical part-book, with each part issued separately—only the first was ever printed, and now it is regularly found bound together with other contemporaneous, Cambridge-printed octavos of verse.90 For instance, four extant copies in seventeenth-century bindings pair Sphinx Theologica with Richard Crashaw’s Epigrammatum sacrorum liber (1634, STC 6009).91 Two of these at Cambridge colleges additionally contain John Saltmarsh’s Poemata sacra (Cambridge, 1636, STC 21638) and Benlowes’ friend Alexander Ross’ cento or patchwork poem compiled from Virgil’s verses (1634, STC 24826.5), thus suggesting Benlowes-Crashaw-Saltmarsh-Ross functioned as a linked gathering. A third copy once held at Peterborough Cathedral is additionally bound with later books of poems by Richard Corbett and Robert Wild, which themselves form a rhapsodic collection in other bound volumes.92 These “rolling archetypes” in print were probably generated in part by the college librarians when they chose to stitch certain volumes together. Another extant copy in seventeenth-century (and probably library) binding pairs Benlowes with six octavos printed abroad, including one as early as 1539—perhaps a nod to Benlowes’ unique continental stylings.93 Of the Sphinx Theologicas found alone in contemporary bindings are Benlowes’ gift volumes, like the copies he gave to St. John’s College and Magdalene College, and one stab-stitched with a simple paper wrapper; unusually, it still awaits its more permanent casing.94 By contrast, extant copies in more recent bindings invariably contain Sphinx Theologica alone, no doubt having been pulled from Sammelbände in many instances.95
With these practices in mind, we can return to the 1633 edition of The Purple Island and begin to see how Benlowes applies similar methods to it as its patron and publisher. First, he engineers its apparatus. In a warm dedicatory letter, Fletcher thanks him for his creative labor and encouragement, writing: “How unseasonable are Blossomes in Autumne! But since you please to have them see more Day then their credit can well endure,” he continues, “marvel not if they lie under your Shadow, to cover them from the piercing eye of this very curious (yet more censorious) age” (sig. ¶3r). This protective shadow includes the book’s commendatory apparatus, which Benlowes engineered, featuring a laudatory poem by Benlowes (“Benevolus”) himself, as well as verses from Lodowick Roberts, Abraham Cowley, and Francis Quarles. Roberts and Quarles claim not to know the author personally, a fact that further suggests that Benlowes, who knew them both, served as an intermediary between Fletcher and the press. Another poem by Francis Quarles, previously published in the Divine Fancies, is tacked to the end of the book, possibly as a way of capitalizing on Quarles’ celebrity. And there is short note to the reader signed by Daniel Featley, a leading controversialist. He writes:
Thou shalt finde here Philosophie, and Moralitie, two curious handmaids, dressing the Kings daughter, whose garments smell of Myrrhe and Cassia, and being wrought with needlework, and gold, shall make thee take pleasure in her beauty. (sig. ¶4r)
Referring to Psalm 45, an epithalamium on the marriage of a king to a foreign woman, Featley casts the book as the beautiful bride adorned in perfumed garb and the reader as her husband-to-be. The gendered image of a feminine text made for the male reader’s gaze is conventional; however, by drawing attention especially to the poem’s ornate “garments,” Featley encourages the reader to take as much delight in the book’s material embellishment as in the “Philosophie” or “Moralitie” who helped compose the verse—indeed, the book’s beauty is holy.96
Featley’s metaphor for Benlowes’ creative labor in dressing the book becomes literal in Benlowes’ second method of involvement: the bespoke packaging of The Purple Island’s so-called “large paper” issue (STC 11082.5). Three characteristics identify these copies. First, they were printed on thick, high-quality white paper and have extra wide margins. Second, pressed to blank pages around the main and internal title pages are three engravings celebrating patronage and friendship, probably printed by Benlowes and Schoren.97 The first image shows the Fletcher and Benlowes coat of arms entwined in a warm embrace. It is printed on the verso of the main title page, where it looks and functions somewhat like a bookplate, a statement not only of Benlowes’ and Fletcher’s closeness but of their joint authorship and ownership over the printed product.
The second image, discussed more below, adds an emblem to a blank leaf after the internal title page to the Piscatorie Eclogs.98 The last engraving—which does not appear in all copies—was printed on a separate leaf and inserted before the internal title page to the Poetical Miscellanies.
Thus Benlowes takes a paratextual apparatus that so often seems merely a social or commercial necessity, designed to help promote a text or mark its sections, and transforms it into a platform upon which to stage his own literary interventions, stitching this miscellaneous gathering of printed poems into a coherent book. Finally, he had each copy bound in leather stamped with the same gold supralibros of his arms that he had already used on his donated books.99
This design functioned almost like an early version of what would become known in the nineteenth century as a publishers’ binding, a casing that branded a book as the product of a particular atelier. Perhaps Schoren even stamped the covers of these books himself at Brent Hall.100 Add to these three features some bibliographic evidence suggesting that these “large paper” copies were printed before the more common issue, and it would seem that they are not the exception to the cheap-paper norm, produced as an add-on or afterthought for Fletcher’s presentation copies, as catalogues often assume. Rather, they represent the book as it was originally conceived: as a boutique, almost vanity publication in print, championed and subsidized by Benlowes the patron-publisher for coterie sale and presentation.101
Benlowes theorizes this creative and collaborative labor in the second engraving, a complex emblem of patronage and material making. Reaching toward a sun from either side of the print are two flowers, a sunflower and a pansy. An anagram of Benlowes’ name—Edward Benlowes / Sun-warde Beloved / Durus, a Deo Benevolus (obdurate, but beloved by God)—links the two flowers, which frame a poem signed with Phineas Fletcher’s initials. The design copies the engraved title page to Heliotropium by Jeremias Drexel, a favorite religious author of his.102 However, whereas Drexel analogizes humankind to sunflowers or “heliotropes,” always turning to face the will of God, here Fletcher pastes over the human/God dyad with the poet/patron relationship, layering religious and literary hierarchies. The emblem’s poem amplifies these resonances by setting up a complex interchange between the heliotropic author/pansy and the God/patron/sun to whom he turns for inspiration:
While Panses Sun=ward look; that glorious Light
With gentle Beames entring their purple Bowers
Shedds there his Love, & heat, and fair to sight
Prints his bright forme within their golden flowers.
Look in there Leaves, and see begotten there
The Sunnes lesses Sonne glittring in azure sphere.
Here, several familiar devices mix and mingle. There is the pun on pansies as pensée, thoughts, and Christ as the sun/son to whom the pansy/poet’s thoughts turn. There is also the pun on the leaves of the pansy as the leaves of the book, amongst which the reader will find a small imprint of divinity colorfully blossoming, much like the emblem itself. However, Fletcher’s wordplay on printing as a kind of sexual reproduction—an act of pressing and penetration that pushes the heated plate into a moistened paper substrate, shedding ink and image—complicates the relations between these conventional figures.103 For, on the one hand, it is the sun, and thus Christ, who prints his form onto the pansy, a blue flower with a yellow, sun-like dot in the middle. It is Christ’s love that shines obliquely from Fletcher’s divinely-inspired poetry, and to which both he and Benlowes, the “sun-ward,” turn. To suggest anything other would seem to be, as Jenkins points out—rejecting any other interpretations—“such blasphemy as Fletcher could not have intended.”104 Yet, on the other hand, it is Benlowes who designed and likely printed the special engraved ornament that blooms within the book’s leaves, shedding his “Love, & heat” on Fletcher’s verse. He warmly encouraged Fletcher’s “unseasonable . . . Blossomes,” then pressed their leaves with his own emblematic imagery. Thus while the anagram “Sun=warde beloved” suggests Benlowes too turns to the sun/son, just as the pansy, the link between the anagram and the poem’s first line implies that Benlowes is also the beloved sun—the younger “son” to his poetic father-figure Fletcher, and also the patron “sun” beloved by his “wards.” Blasphemous as it seems, this reading is further supported with evidence from Quarles’ Emblemes.105
The densely knotted imagery of this emblem links Benlowes’ patronage to other parts of the The Purple Island, too, as well as Fletcher’s broader creative network. For instance, the last line of the poem’s first stanza is repeated almost verbatim from one of the piscatory eclogues, the set of poems that the engraving prefaces:
Look in their Leaves, and see begotten there
The Sunnes lesse Sonne glittring in azure sphere.
The warmer sunne his bride hath newly gown’d,
With firie arms clipping the wanton ground,
And gets an heav’n on earth: that primrose there,
Which ‘mongst those violets sheds his golden hair,
Seems the sunnes little sonne, fixt in his azure spheare.
In the context of the eclogue, Damon, a figure for Fletcher’s earlier patron Sir Henry Willoughby, is helping Algon (Fletcher) win the heart of his love Nicaea (Fletcher’s wife Elizabeth), imagined as a kind of marble statue, “more hard then diamond [sic].” Acting like the sun in Benlowes’ emblem, the patron Damon/Willoughby warms his cold friend and the stony Nicaea, bringing them to bloom with love like the colorful primroses and violets around them. By repeating lines from the poem in the engraving that prefaces it, Fletcher links old eclogue to new emblem, printed poem to paratextual apparatus, and his earlier patron in manuscript, Willoughby—who introduced him to his wife—to his present patron in print, Benlowes, who dresses for him his new bride, the book. These resonances takes on new meaning yet again in the way the book circulates among living embodiments of these pastoral figures. For example, one copy now at the Morgan Library and still in its original binding bears an inscription from Phineas Fletcher to Willoughby’s daughter Anne. It reads:
To Mrs. A. Wilughby.
Books are but leaues, verse flowers: how fitly can
The flower of verse paint owt the flower of man?
Fletcher’s phrasing downplays the ornateness of the Benlowes-bedazzled book (“books are but leaves”) while emphasizing the importance of the “verse flowers” that Anne’s father helped to bloom with his patronage. In so doing, Fletcher’s simple inscription—notably plain in form—resituates the adorned book yet again within the context of The Purple Island’s original composition. Moving across different spaces, moments, and media, Benlowes’ bespoke assemblage diffuses and diffracts the process of literary production across a patchwork of repurposed identities.
Benlowes’ involvement in printing and packaging The Purple Island presses us to reconsider abiding assumptions about the nature of literary collaboration in the period, as well as the circulation and transmission of poetry through manuscript and print in the first half of the seventeenth century. More than just a financier or the subject of a flattering dedication, Benlowes served as the project’s patron-publisher, its muse and its champion; he pulled it from the dustbin of Cambridge history and, nearly twenty years after its initial composition, lavishly dressed its debut in print to commemorate his collaborations and his homosocial, almost familial coterie. That his own desires, tastes, and money could accomplish this, leaving for us a legacy of unique verse that largely would have been lost otherwise, suggests how much more there is to early modern publishing than the competition of the London marketplace. From the rural peripheries, working together with the embattled Cambridge press and with Jan Schoren and Phineas Fletcher in the intimate spaces of Brent Hall, Benlowes compiled books that model the affections between men. Nowhere is this more evident than in an inscription he began using around this time, including in several extant copies of The Purple Island near the emblem of his friendship with Fletcher. It reads:
Esse suj voluit monumentum,
Et pignus Amoris.106
wanted it to be a monument,
and pledge of his Love.
These lines are poached from Book 5 of the Aeneid, when Aeneas finds himself in Eryx, ruled by Acestes, one year after his father Anchises’ death. To commemorate his father’s passing, Aeneas and Acestes host a series of funeral games. During the archery contest, Acestes’ arrow catches fire mid-air; Aeneas interprets the event as an omen and showers Acestes with gifts once owned by his father Anchises, who in turn had received them from Cisseus of Thrace as “a memorial of himself and a pledge of his love.” Through the patrilineal exchange of objects, men are bound together.107
57. St. John’s College Library Uu.23.48(2).
58. It is A. B. Langdale who first assigns this composition date in Phineas Fletcher: Man of Letters, Science, and Divinity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), 40, 51. Langdale assumes Benlowes is responsible for Fletcher beginning to appear in print.
59. Zachary Lesser, Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 217. The decorative borders, doggerel “Arguments” added to each canto, and the removal of any characters linking Fletcher’s pastoral world to the text all point to a deliberate ruse to make the book appear more Elizabethan in tone and topic—what Langdale describes as a “complicated and successful hoax, involving Fletcher, Walkley, and possibly Benlowes” (95). That Walkley dedicated the short book to his client the Duke of Buckingham’s young daughter Mary—signing the dedication as “The humblest of your deuoted Seruants”—certainly suggests a motive for the misattribution more than ignorance or a desire for profit. Around this time, William Sheares also brought out Fletcher’s Sicelides a piscatory (1631, STC [2nd ed.] 10083), a pastoral drama first written for James’ royal visit to King’s College in 1615, without attribution.
60. British Library 239.i.23.(1.), 69. Unfortunately, the letters in brackets as well as several other important annotations were cut off when the book was rebound. However, they are supplied in Frederick Boas, ed., The Poetical Works of Giles and Phineas Fletcher, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), xiv. In his letter to Sir John Duke Coleridge, published as Who Wrote ‘Brittain’s Ida’? (mis-assigned to Edmund Spenser:) answered in a letter to Sir John Duke Coleridge (1869), Alexander Grosart assumes the “W. Thomson” of Queen’s College who owned and annotated this book is Rev. William Thompson (1712–1766), who edited Sir John Davies and other seventeenth-century English poets.
61. Mary Ethel Seaton, Venus & Anchises (Brittains Ida) and other poems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1926).
62. James Willoughby, “Universities, Colleges and Chantries,” in A Companion to the Early Printed Book in Britain, 1476–1558, eds. Vincent Gillespie and Susan Powell (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014), 211.
63. David McKitterick, A History of Cambridge University Press, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 76ff.
64. M. H. Black, Cambridge University Press, 1584–1984 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 55–6. On the oft-undervalued importance of job printing to the handpress trade, see Peter Stallybrass, “‘Little Jobs’: Broadsides and the Printing Revolution,” in Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, eds. Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007): 315–341.
65. McKitterick, A History of Cambridge University Press, 170–2.
66. Quoted in ibid. p. 167.
67. Arthur Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 31–40; H. R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558–1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 166–8. For case studies of manuscripts or poems that exemplify of this mode of transmission, see “‘Rolling Archetypes’: Christ Church, Oxford Poetry, Collections, and the Proliferation of Manuscript Verse Anthologies in Caroline England,” English Literary Renaissance 44.3 (Autumn 2014), 486–7; David Colclough, “‘The Muses Recreation’: John Hoskyns and the Manuscript Culture of the Seventeenth Century,” Huntington Library Quarterly 61.¾ (2000): 369–400; Jessica Edmondes, “Poetic Exchanges and Scribal Agency in Early Modern Manuscript Culture,” Huntington Library Quarterly 80.2 (Summer 2017): 239–55; Scott Nixon, “‘Aske me no more’ and the Manuscript Verse Miscellany,” English Literary Renaissance 29.1 (Winter 1999): 97–130.
68. L. C. Martin, “Introduction,” The Poems Latin, English, and Greek of Richard Crashaw (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), xlvi; Harold Love, The Culture and Commerce of Texts: Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993), 52–3.
69. Folger V.a.148.
70. Megan Heffernan, in her forthcoming Delight in Disorder: Making the Poetry Miscellany in Early Modern England.
71. Harold Forster, “The Rise and Fall of the Cambridge Muses (1603–1763),” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 8.2 (1982), 141. See also Paul Parrish, “Reading Poets Reading Poets: Herbert and Crashaw’s Literary Eclipse,” in Literary Circles and Cultural Communities in Renaissance England, eds. Claude J. Summers, Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000): 115–27; Mary Hobbs, Early Seventeenth-Century Verse Miscellany Manuscripts (Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate, 1992), 100–101. On the press’s move, see McKitterick, A History of Cambridge University Press, 323.
72. Lana Cable, “‘Such Nothing is Terrestriall: Philosophy of Mind on Phineas Fletcher’s Purple Island,” Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences 19 (1983): 136–52.
73. Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge, 1995), 177.
74. Johnathan H. Pope, “Introduction,” The Purple Island: Or, The Isle of Man (Boston: Brill, 2017), 4
75. Frank Kastor, Giles and Phineas Fletcher (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978), 112, 116; Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, 179.
76. Pope, “Introduction,” p. 13.
77. Ibid., 26.
78. McKitterick, The History of Cambridge University Press, 156.
79. Fletcher, The Purple Island (1633, STC 11082), 6, sig. A3v; p. 5, sig. A3r.
80. Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric; Hobbs, Early Seventeenth-Century Verse Miscellany Manuscripts; Marcy North, “Household Scribes and the Production of Literary Manuscripts in Early Modern England,” The Journal of Early Modern Studies 4 (2015): 133–157.
81. Michelle O’Callaghan, “Collecting Verse: “Significant Shape” and the Paper—Book in the Early Seventeenth Century,” Huntington Library Quarterly 80.2 (2017), 310.
82. Joshua Eckhardt, Manuscript Verse Collectors and the Politics of Anti-Courtly Love Poetry (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009), 6.
83. Alexandra Gillespie, “Poets, Printers, and Early English Sammelbände,” Huntington Library Quarterly 67.2 (June 2004): 189–214; Jeffrey Todd Knight, Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). On the togetherness of early modern books more generally, see Nancy J. Vickers, “The unauthored 1539 volume in which is printed the Hecatomphile, The Flowers of French Poetry, and Other Soothing Things,” in Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture, eds. Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996): 166–88.
84. Knight, Bound to Read, 9.
85. Joshua Eckhardt and Daniel Starza Smith, “Introduction: The Emergence of the English Miscellany,” Manuscript Miscellanies in Early Modern England, eds. Joshua Eckhardt and Daniel Starza Smith (Burlington: Ashgate, 2014), 1.
86. This leaf may have been added by Thompson, but it does not appear to be in his handwriting. The title page to the Piscatorie Eclogs is also tipped in, pasted to the first leaf of the text; this may have been done during a later rebinding.
87. For an early collection of essays on how poems travel together in sequences over time, influential to my own readings here, see Neil Fraistat, ed., Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1986).
88. Love, Scribal Publication, 346; Piers Brown, “Donne, Rhapsody, and Textual Order,” in Manuscript Miscellanies in Early Modern England, eds. Joshua Eckhardt and Daniel Starza Smith (Burlington: Ashgate, 2014); see also Arthur Marotti, “‘Rolling Archetypes’: Christ Church, Oxford Poetry Collections, and the Proliferation of Manuscript Verse Anthologies in Caroline England,” English Literary Renaissance 44.3 (Autumn 2014): 486–523.
89. McKitterick, A History of Cambridge University Press, 296.
90. Part-books are an important and underexplored exemplar for these linked gatherings of text, especially for the musically- and continentally-inclined Benlowes; see Kate van Orden, Materialities: Books, Readers, and the Chanson in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 4; D. W. Krummel, English Music Printing 1553–1700 (London: The bibliographical Society, 1975), 79ff.
91. Cambridge University Library, Peterborough H.2.38, St. John’s College Library, Cambridge, Dd.18.24, Folger STC 1880 Bd.w. STC 6009 copy 3; Emmanuel College, Cambridge S11.4.71 (1–4).
92. Cambridge University Library, Peterborough H.2.38. The other books in this volume are Terentius Christianus (1601); Richard Crashaw’s Epigrammatum sacrorum liber (1634, STC 6009); Certain Elegant Poems by the Oxford clergyman Richard Corbett (1647, Wing C6269C); and Iter Boreale, Together with some other Selected Poems by Robert Wild (1661, Wing W2134). Corbett’s and Wild’s books are also found bound together alongside John Cleveland’s Poems (1651, Wing C4685A) in a book now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UA03344). On Corbett’s circulation through Oxford manuscript coteries, see Christopher Burlinson, “Response and Accumulation: Textual Editors and Richard Corbett’s ‘Oxford Ballad’,” Studies in English Literature 52.1 (Winter 2012): 35–50 and “Maecenas and ‘Oxford-Witts’: Pedagogy and Flattery in Seventeenth-Century Oxford,” in Re-evaluating the Literary Coterie, 1580–1830, eds. Will Bowers and Hannah Leah Crummé (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 35–52.
93. Bodleian 8° Z 40(6) Th.Seld.
94. St. Johns College Library, Cambridge, Dd.17.31; Magdalene College, Cambridge, H.8.79; British Library 11409.e.10. Houghton Library STC 1880 is also bound alone in a more ornate, contemporary binding and bears ownership marks of Charles Moseley of Merton College (1713) and Nathaniell Butler, who received it from Walter Pheasant (1664). Aaron Pratt has convincingly challenged the idea that stab-stitching is a marker of ephemeral texts, an argument that the British Library’s stab-stitched Sphinx Theologica supports; see “Stab-stitching and the Status of Early English Playbooks,” The Library 16.3 (2015): 304–328.
95. Examples of these include Huntington 477969, Newberry Case C 692 .088, and Ransom Center Wj B438 626sb WRE.
96. Wendy Wall, “Prefatorial Discourses: ‘Violent Enlargement’ and the Voyeuristic Text,” in The Imprint of Gender (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993, 169–226.
97. Without more evidence than has hitherto come to light, it is impossible to know for sure that Benlowes and Schoren printed the engravings themselves in Finchingfield. On the one hand, the printing appears to be the work of amateurs. Offset from stacking the completed sheets too soon mars nearly every extant copy, hinting at the possible limitations of the domestic atelier or Schoren’s expertise with the equipment. So too does a visible “stutter” effect in 6 of the 7 “large paper” copies that I have examined. It comes from pressing the first plate onto the back of the title page while that page’s ink was still wet, causing it to offset onto waste paper used to pack the rolling press. When the next sheet was run through the press, this offset ink set off again from the packing paper onto the new sheet, effectively “printing” it with a double image. (For a demonstration of this, see the embedded video introduction to The Purple Island.) On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the ink on the preliminaries would stay wet enough to offset after the twenty-five mile journey from Cambridge to Finchingfield. My tentative judgement is that Benlowes and Schoren printed the engravings at Finchingfield, and that the stutter might offer new insight into the drying times of ink, which might have been “reactivated” when the paper was moistened again for the rolling press. On wet paper and ink in relief processes, see Peter Blayney, “A Dry Discourse on Wet Paper (and Ink),” The Library 18.4 (December 2017): 387–404. I am grateful to Randy McLeod for helping solve the mystery of the stutter; for more on offset, see his “Fearful Asymmetry,” The Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship, eds. Neil Fraistat and Julia Flanders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 162–3.
98. To make this positioning work, Benlowes and Schoren have flipped the title page’s half-sheet bifolium inside out, thereby placing the blank leaf that precedes the Piscatorie Eclogues in later copies after it in their boutique issue, where it bears the emblem. Bibliographic evidence for this is abundant in the form of a clear and consistent blind impression showing that a page from Fletcher’s dedication to Benlowes (¶3v) was used as bearing type during the process of printing the unsigned internal title page to the Piscatorie Eclogues on a half-sheet. Most likely the printer swapped out type for ¶2r, the page imposed next to ¶3v, with the type for the internal title page. This suggests that two non-contiguous parts of the book were printed at the same time, and likely last: 1) two sheets of preliminaries from the front of the book, containing the main title page (¶2r), Phineas Fletcher’s dedication to Benlowes (¶3v–r), Daniel Featley’s note “To the Reader” (¶4r), and Benlowes’ commendatory poem (¶4v), as well as a second sheet of commendatory verse (¶¶1r–¶¶4v)—and 2) one half-sheet bifolium from the middle of the book, containing the internal title page to Piscatorie Eclogues. In “large paper copies,” the remnants of the blind impression, when present, are on the leaf with the emblem, after the title page. For more on this, see the embedded video introduction.
99. This is Benlowes stamp 2 in the British Armorial Bindings online database, eds. John Morris and Philip Oldfield (Bibliographical Society of London and the University of Toronto Libraries), online: https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/stamps/IBEN001_s2.
100. Four of the seven extant copies that I have examined are in their original binding; the other three appear to have been rebound later. Anne Dutton kindly informs me that Salisbury Cathedral’s copy is also in an original binding stamped with Benlowes’ arms.
101. As Pope has identified, there is one stop-press correction in the edition: the name “Echthros” at 12.14 in the special issue has been corrected to “Ecthros” in the normal issue. However, some regular issue copies still have “Echthros,” suggesting the correction came some time after the printer decided to issue the book on cheaper paper without the engravings (31–2). Thus the more common issue likely came off the press bed after Benlowes’ boutique project. Perhaps Cambridge University Press wanted to recoup the costs of printing the boutique edition and so produced a cheaper edition for wider circulation. Or perhaps it was part of the press’s agreement with Benlowes to have the rights to reproduce and sell the copy after it was set in type. McKitterick describes an arrangement between Nathanael Carpenter and Oxford University Press to print his Geography delineated (1625); Carpenter paid for printing and retained the rights to sell the copies as he wished, gaining “a handsome return on his investment” (295).
102. Benlowes is largely responsible for introducing English audiences to the popular Drexel via Ralph Winterton. Benlowes had lent Winterton his copy of Jeremias Drexel’s De aeternitate considerationes that he had acquired while abroad, which Winterton translated (1632, STC 7235). In a glowing dedication, he names Benlowes as a former Catholic, “yet brought home again by divine providence” and now “wedded to his books and Devotion”—a phrase that presages the ways that his relationship with Schoren and the poets he patronized would take the place of marriage in Benlowes’ life, their books serving as his much-doted-upon inheritors.
103. Benlowes and Fletcher work within a discourse that consistently links textual and sexual reproduction, and does so in ways that queer the notion of literary production. Here, my reading has been crucially informed by Stephen Guy-Bray, Against Reproduction: Where Renaissance Texts Come From (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009); David Glimp, Increase and Multiply: Governing Cultural Reproduction in Early Modern England (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); and Jeffrey Masten, Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship, and Sexualities in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
104. Jenkins, Edward Benlowes, 72n2.
105. G. S. Haight, “The Sources of Quarles’ Emblems,” The Library, Series 4, XVI.2 (September 1935), 193.
106. Jenkins, Edward Benlowes, 74.
107. On the homoerotics of these elegiac moments in the Aeneid, see Stephen Guy-Bray, Homoerotic Space: The Poetics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), esp. 67–73.