Through an investigation of the dedications and addresses from various printed plays of the English Renaissance, the author recuperates the richness of these prefaces and connects them to the practice of patronage. The prefatory matter discussed ranges from the printer John Day's address to readers (the first of its kind) in the 1570 edition of Gorboduc to Richard Brome's dedication to William Seymour and address to readers in his 1640 play, Antipodes. The study includes discussion of prefaces in plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries as well as Shakespeare himself, among them Marston, Jonson, and Heywood. The author uses these prefaces to show that English playwrights, printers and publishers looked in two directions, toward aristocrats and toward a reading public, in order to secure status for and dissemination of dramatic texts. The author points out that dedications and addresses to readers constitute obvious signs that printers, publishers and playwrights in the period increasingly saw these dramatic texts as occupying a rightful place in the humanistic and commercial endeavor of book production.
Contents: Introduction: A preface about prefaces; The printing house and textual patronage; 'Complements of state': pageants, masques, and prefaces; Women as patrons of drama; 'It cannot avoid publishing': Marston and colleagues; 'I make thee my patron': Ben Jonson; The King's men's King's men: Shakespeare and folio patronage; Thomas Heywood's apology for readers (1608-38); 'Your noble construction': textual patronage in the 1630s; Epilogue: L'envoi; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.