marlowe

Lumber room at Lamport Hall where Hero and Leander and other rare early editions of Marlowe's works were found.

Charles Edwards depiction of his 1867 discovery:

"There in a back lumber room, covered with dust and exposed to the depredations of mice, which had already digested the contents of some of the books, and amid hundreds of old volumes of various dates and sizes, the far greater part of which are of very trifling value, I discovered a little collection of volumes . . . the very sight of which would be sufficinet to warn the heart of the most cold-blooded bibliomaniac."

 

Lamport Hall in Northampton was the scene of an important discovery in connection with Marlowe In the lumber room at Lamport Hall, home of the Isham family, two unique copies off Marlowe's Hero and Leander (the only surviving copies of the hitherto unknown 1598 edition published by Paul Linley) were discovered. In 1867 Sir Charles Edmonds, antiquarian and friend of the current owner of Lamport Hall, was asked by the latter to look through a pile off volumes that had been stored in the attic lumber room to see if there was anything worth keeping, so that the rest of the volumes might be cleared away. Edmonds found a great number of nearly valueless books, but among them he was overwhelmed to discover priceless treasures: in addition to the two Hero and Leander copies was a volume in which were bound together: 1. A unique 1599 edition of Venus and Adonis 2. A first edition of the 1599 Passionate Pilgrim, a volume published by William Jaggard containing poems of various authors (including Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd, some Shakespeare verses, and one poem now ascribed to Barnfield). The author of the entire Passionate Pilgrim collection is designated on the title pages as 'W.S.'; Jaggard was not always too scrupulous in his ascription of authorship. 3. The third part of the bound volume contained the Epigrammes of Sir John Davies and Certain of Ovid's Elegies: translated by Christopher Marlowe. It was a most significant haul for Marlowe and for Shakespeare.

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The portion of the house where the lumber room is situated was rebuilt in 1842, at which time many books were moved from the Elizabethan part of the house, presumably these volumes among them. It is interesting to speculate as to why it was here and nowhere else that the single copy of the 1599 Venus and Adonis and the only two copies of the 1598 Hero and Leander were found. The latter are of special interest as being the only edition bearing the dedication to Lady Audrey Walsingham signed by George Chapman, Marlowe's friend who was patronized by the Walsinghams and completed Marlowe's unfinished poem.

A likely theory is that these three little volumes were part of the collection made by the young John Isham, a student at Cambridge in the late 16th Century who was reputed to be an avid purchaser of books both for himself and to read to his father, Thomas ('The Blind Squire'). He was in close contact with the stationers and authors, and frequently bought books when first published, and was therefore an early connoisseur of first editions. His purchase may have been the instrument which protected these valuable books from the ravages of the outside world. In 1599 there was a great burning of books at Stationers Hall under the orders of Archbishop Whitgift; Marlowe's Ovid and Davies' Epigrammes were among those consigned to the flames, although the two more valuable books were not. These latter needed to survive another kind of threat, however: that of disrergard of first editions. Even Oxford University's library at that time disposed of many valuable first editions in order to replace them with the then more desired latest edition.