Wednesday, June 15, 2016

255. A Rough Advance Proof for Hamlet (1)

A fire at The Ballantyne Press at the end of 1899 jeopardized the imminent publication of the first two volumes of The Vale Shakespeare: Hamlet and Othello. Hamlet had been printed, while Othello was in the press. Both volumes had to be set and printed anew.

There is a proof for the Hamlet volume marked 'Rough Advance Proof' in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. Of this proof several copies are in existence, and all show small deviations from the final pages.

The title page of the final edition has an ornament placed between (or after) some of the words in the title.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (1900)
The advance proof looked a bit different by the addition of another ornament at the end of line four. It formed a line with those in the line before and after, and that must have been the reason for Ricketts to delete that ornament. What we do not know, is when he took that decision. The proof may have dated from well before the fire (9 December), and have been followed by another proof that has not survived.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof, 1899)
The page facing the opening page of the play mentioned the year of 1899, while the definitive text had 1900.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof 1899)
There were several textual changes as well. On page vi Marcellus's 'O' later became 'Oh', the spelling of 'relieved' was changed to 'reliev'd', and there were similar changes in spelling and punctuation on the next few pages.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark (proof 1899) and final text (1900, below)

In the final text the opening page displays a slight difference between the words Act I in the left margin and the first text line with the words 'SCENE I.' The marginal note is placed somewhat higher than the line of the text.

In the proof they were lining and placed exactly on the same height. Apparently, Ricketts was not pleased with this, and after correcting this, every opening page of The Vale Shakespeare (39 volumes) would display the same slight line difference.