Politeuphuia, Wits Common-wealth 345G
Politeuphuia, Wits Common-wealth 345G

345G Over the last twenty years I have been lucky enough to have had and sold  all of the “Wit’s series” : Wits commonwealth, Published first in 1597, as the first in a series of which Mere’s “Palladis tamia”( I had only ten pages), 1598,was the second,Wits theater of the little world,” by Robert Allott, 1599, the third, and Palladis palatium, wisedom’s pallace,” 1604, the fourth. As well as Allot’s “Englands Parnassus” 1600. Poetical miscellanies have always intrigued me, Miscellanies are not like anthologies, or are wrongly refered to as anthologies. In 1962 (the year of my birth) Donald Hall  Selected and introduced “Contemporary American Poetry” for Penguin books , Penguin Poets series D67, I think that people who know about modern American Poetry would not argue with me if I were to say that it might be the corner-stone of a New American poetics. Likewise Tottle’s miscellany of 1557 introduced blank verse to the english reader. It was so popular during the Elizabethan era it is considered the most influential of all Elizabethan collections (not that there was much competition). It is generally included with Elizabethan era literature even if it was, in fact, published in 1557, a year before Queen Elizabeth I took the throne.The influence of these two works, Tottel’s and Hall’s appear clearly once one begins to look. Shakespeare uses some of its verses in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet, and directly quotes the anonymous poem, “Against him that had slaundered a gentlewoman with him selfe”, in The Rape of Lucrece. The “Wit’s series” take up the load and pull it to the public in a way which was un presented.. Stapelton states that “Tottel’s is a ‘great contribution to English letters’,as well as the first to be printed for the pleasure of the common reader’. This “common reader” is what I find most important. With the Tottle Miscellany poetry left the court and was made available to the ‘public’. How wonderful indeed!  After a bit of court and publishing and religious turmoil, the Wit’s Series, breathed life into English poetry for the ‘common reader’ again. Mere’s Palladis tamia , like Tottle’s miscellany is notoriously scarce. But the other books of the Wit’s series do show  to those who hunt for them.

Wit's commonwealth 1684
Wit’s commonwealth 1684

Now I am fortunate enough to have a 1684 reprint of Politeuphuia to offer, this will be the first one I’ve seen since 1995 when I had my last copy. (a 1650 edition 018C)

345G  Ling, Nicholas, ed. fl. ca. 1599 [Usually ascribed to John Bodenham, who planned the collection, though the work appears to have been done by Nicholas Ling. Cf. Dedication; also DNB.] Politeuphuia, Wits Common-wealth. Newly corrected and amended. London : printed for E. Flesher, in the year 1684.  $4,500 Duodecimo, 5.75 x 3.15 in. edition(?), first printed in 1597. A-O12 (lacking A1,  blank). Copies  located in  N.America by ESTC : Folger Shakespeare, Harvard University, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, Indiana University ,San Francisco Public Library University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois. Usually ascribed to John Bodenham, who planned the collection, though the work appears to have been done by Nicholas Ling. Cf. Dedication; also DNB.. Often cited as “Wits commonwealth” , and some editions appeared under that title.  Published first in 1597, as the first in a series of which Mere’s “Palladis tamia”, 1598, was the second, “Wits theater of the little world,” by Robert Allott, 1598, the third, and “Palladis palatium, wisedom’s pallace,”1604, the fourth. Cf. DNB. Politeuphuia is made up of 140 chapters called “Heads or Places” For every ‘Heading” there is a ‘definition ‘ and

Wit's commonwealth 345G
Wit’s commonwealth 345G

then  a number of aphoristic sayings relating to the Heading. Like the other Elizabethan Miscellanies the popularity of this book, of which altogether some eighteen editions before the end of the seventeenth-century were issued, was due it would seem to the fact that it filled a peculiar need of the public of the day.  It is difficult to imagine the style and tone of the conversation of the later years of Elizabeth’s court — the written word is the only clue. But it is certain that the more commonly endowed members of a society which included men of such wide reading and extensive knowledge as Bacon, Selden, Jonson and Raleigh must have frequently felt the need of some compendium of wise and sententious aphorisms by means of which they might ornament their discourse.   It is just that function which this volume appears to be intended to fulfill for it is a compilation of precepts and maxims, frequently with their source noted, gathered under various heads such as ╘Of Courage  ‘Of Nobilitie’, etc. Each division begins with a definition and ends with a Latin quotation, while the tables which are appended enable one to search not only the divisional topics, but also the individual aphorism much in the manner of a modern Bartlett. The popularity of this type of manual in the early years of the seventeenth century may be compared with the deluge of ‘outlines’ of this and that which the public of the present day is encouraged to imagine will provide a short and easy road to knowledge and culture. This appears to be substantiated by the fact that this book is but one, the first of a series, of four volumes which for the want of a better name is called the ‘Wits Series’. From the fact that there is no indication in this book that it was to be followed by others it may be assumed that the series, as a series at least, was not projected until after the demand for this first book indicated the public taste. “In the address To the Reader, which otherwise appears to be a reprint of the text of the third edition, the 1650 edition is numbered the ‘fifteenth edition’. It is quite possible that it is the fifteenth but we have only the publisher’s word as no copies of editions five to eight can be traced, and it is a well-known “puffing” device to misnumber editions.” (Pforzheimer #802 &803) Wing (CD-ROM, 1996), L2346 (Langland to Wither see #23)


Nicholas Ling (fl. 1570-1607) was London publisher, bookseller, and editor who published several important Elizabethan works, including the first and second quartos of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He was apprenticed to Henry Bitteman in 1570 and was admitted to the Stationers’ Company as a “freeman” (full member) in 1578. He generally partnered with other publishers. In 1597 he edited Politeuphuia, or Wits Commonwealth, a collection of prose quotations. He has also been credited by some critics with editing England’s Helicon (1600), a collection of Elizabethan lyric poems. In 1603 he collaborated with another bookseller, John Trundell, to publish the first quarto of Hamlet. This edition, printed by Valentine Simmes, has been widely condemned as a wildly inaccurate and badly printed travesty of the play. A few months later James Roberts printed the much more substantial and accurate second quarto according to the “true and perfect copy” of Shakespeare’s manuscript Gerald D. Johnson suggests that Trundell had acquired a garbled version of the text, which was quickly published in association with Ling to meet demand. Roberts had been given official access to Shakespeare’s manuscript by the company, as he had entered it as a forthcoming publication in the Stationers’ Register in 1602. He made a deal with Ling that Roberts would print the much more substantial “good” version a little while later, giving Ling exclusive sales rights, cutting out Trundell. Both would profit, with Ling getting to sell the same play twice.] In 1607 he transferred 16 copyrights to John Smethwick, among them three Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Love’s Labour’s Lost) as well as The Taming of a Shrew. Campbell, O.J. ed. “Nicholas Ling” in Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966) p. 462. Hebel, J, Williams. “Nicholas Ling and England’s Helicon” in Library (1924) s4-V (2): 153-160. $(KGrHqR,!pIFEliIVIT3BRrYZODCbQ~~60_57

Nicholas Ling was born in 1553 in Norwich. His father, John Ling, was a successful parchment maker who owned sev­ eral income properties which he later bequeathed to his third son, Nicholas. On 29 September 1570, when Nicholas was sev­enteen, he began to learn the book trade as an apprentice in the London print shop of a prominent stationer, Henry Bynneman.  While Ling was still an apprentice, he was joined in Bynneman’s  shop by a young man named Valentine Simmes. It seems likely that the two apprentices became friends during this time: it is possible that this relationship had a significant impact on the publication of QI Hamlet. But that would come many years later. Three years after becoming a freeman of the Stationers’ Company in 1579, Ling set up a shop at the “signe of the Maremaide”5 in St. Paul’s Churchyard in 1582, a shop leased to Ling by his former master, Henry Bynneman. For three years Ling remained in London, but he maintained his connections to Norwich, returning there in 1585 and remaining there until 1590, the year of his father’s death. Ling then returned to London where he would remain until his own death in 1607. We can infer that he probably used an inheritance to help establish and then ex­ pand his London publishing business, since businesses such as Ling’s initially required significant capital.” Like the majority of London’s Stationers, Ling’s shops were located in or near St. Paul’s throughout the twenty-eight years of his career.. His fi­ nancial resources and his family connections, combined with his association with Bynneman, would have assured Ling a se­ cure place in the community of printers and publishers in Lon­ don. He eventually owned English Stock, held office in the Sta­ tioners’ Company, and in 1603 served an abbreviated term as Renter Warden.7 It is not likely that a stationer enjoying this kind of success would have had any need to make money publishing illegitimate texts or dealing with bit players in search of a hasty pound. Early in his career, Ling’s publications were largely reli­ gious works, but by the time he had established himself securely in the London publishing community, his publications became noticeably more literary; these included works by Thomas Nashe, Christopher Middleton, Nicholas Breton, Edward Guilpin, Tho­mas Dekker, and William Shakespeare.   From the evidence sup­plied by advertisements on title pages, Ling’s shop was the cus­ tomary place for the sale and distribution of books that carried his imprint, even when that imprint was shared. From his deal­ ings with the Stationers’ Company and with other businesses in London, it can be safely assumed that Ling’s name was known: surely his was a familiar face in the community.   Nicholas Ling’s connections with the printer James Rob­erts may have begun through Ling’s association with John Charlewood, under whom Roberts apprenticed. Charlewood and Ling shared at least one entry in the Stationers’ Register, An­thony Munday’s The English Romayne Lyfe (STC 18272), dem­onstrating that Ling knew and worked with Charlewood in the early days  Ling’s career. The entry was made on 21 June 1582, only three years after Ling completed his apprenticeship and three years before he returned to Norwich. It may have been during this time that Ling met Roberts; the records of the Statio­ners’ Company and the imprints recorded in the STC show that the two stationers frequently conducted business with each other.

Shakespeare and the London Publishing Environ­ment: The Publisher and Printers of Ql and Q2 Hamlet Terri Bourus AEB 12 (2001)