Friday, March 14, 2014

Poyson and Malice

A title page for "The Prince," with extensive handwritten notes on the opposite page.Though it was available in England in manuscript form prior to its first official English translation, Machiavelli's The Prince became officially available in 1640. Unfortunately for those who wanted to get ahead in politics, The Prince was almost immediately re-banned in 1643. This despite the introduction by the translator Edward Dacres in which he rather ambiguously extolls the virtues of the text.

This book carryes its poyson and malice in it; yet mee thinks the judicious peruser may honestly make use of it in the actions of his life, with advantage.
England was not the first to specifically bar the work as it had previously made the Index librorum prohibiturum, the Catholic Church's list of banned books. The cynical might say that the initial ban by the Church was not because it found the subject matter inherently heretical, but because Machiavelli's treatise urged a ruler to always consider the ruler's own self interest ahead of every other concern - which naturally posed a threat to the political might of the Church.

Our copy is well thumbed with numerous annotations in Latin and English in the margins by previous owners. The notations include many references to English history including one on Queen Elizabeth which appears next to an underlined passage that reads:
Afterwards ought hee encourage his Citizens... but rather provide rewards for those that shall set these matters afoot, or for any one else that shall in any way amplifie his City or State.
Though our copy is currently uncatalogued, you can ask for it by title and date (1640) and mention that it's part of the Hickmott uncatalogued material.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Novel and Extensive Machinery!

 Playbill for "The Tempest! Or -- The Enchanted Island!"
Our post last week about four hours of Hamlet in French reminded us of a previous post featuring Tempest playbills.  One of those deserves more attention: a breathtaking performance of Shakespeare from 1856.  The Tempest! Or--The Enchanted Island! was a musical rendition of Dryden's adaptation of Shakespeare's Tempest. This version was far more popular than Shakespeare's throughout the 19th century.

But this show was extra special. It was "Produced with UNRIVALLED MAGNIFICENCE" featuring 23,000 feet of moving canvas scenery. The actors were billed as coming from a "Talented Company," but the real action was behind them. A giant painted panorama scrolled across the back of the stage as the play progressed, showing views of the Prospero's cave by moonlight, the yellow sands, and the coast of the enchanted island with the storm-driven ship. It all ended with a Tableau and Finale by Ariel and the Sprites.

Details from the playbill.
Sobering are the ticket details: a hefty $6.00 for a private box, $1.00 for the balcony, and $.50 for the Second Tier box "assigned for the use of Colored Persons."

Details from the playbill, including ticket prices.
See it by asking for Williams/Watson Playbill PR MA Bos-BoT2 f8560329