Page:A Census of Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto (1916).djvu/22

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put together by stenographers) that they have only the very smallest value. There is no evidence in the case of any of these later quartos pointing to the original manuscript having been collated afresh in order to improve the text, or of access having been had for this purpose to any new one. The theory that all the quartos were stolen and surreptitious has had this one good effect, that it has prevented editors from formally maintaining that recourse was had to any such authoritative source, old or new, when the later quartos were printed. Unfortunately it has not prevented them from adopting some of the readings of these later quartos into their own texts. Of course if these readings had been clearly marked off as “early conjectures” the editors adopting them would have been well within their rights. A printer’s reader of Shakespeare’s day was at least as likely to make a good guess at a missing word as Rowe, Theobald or Hanmer. But these emendations from the early reprints have been treated as “variants,” invested with an authority of their own by the dates at which they appeared. A reprint, however, even if it appeared within a few months of the First Edition, derives its authority exclusively from that and cannot be set up against its source. Textually, therefore the later quartos in and by themselves are negligible and should be neglected, the extent to which they have influenced the text of Shakespeare being distinctly matter for regret. Indirectly on the other hand they are of importance as the source of a vast number of readings in the First Folio which could never have been rightly appraised if the intermediate quartos had disappeared. Each time the text of a play was reprinted new errors were introduced and the majority of these errors were carried over from one quarto to the next. At the threshold of the First Folio, which usually followed the latest quarto, many of them were stopped, but many others got through, and in some cases there is clear proof that the new reading of the Folio is a mere botching of an error which first appears in an intermediate Quarto. By the help of the quartos all these errors can be eliminated from the Folio text, and the modern editor has nothing to consider save the original readings of the First Quarto and the original readings, right or wrong, introduced by the Folio. This genealogical value of the intermediate quartos, though subsidiary in character, is very great.

As a basis for further discussion we may now present the results of this Census as it affects the quartos which appeared between the First Editions in this form and the First Folio in the following table.