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Letter from Thomas Bowker to Edward Alleyn about a dog, with numerous notes on the verso by Alleyn of payments, including for a book of Shakespeare's Sonnets, June 19, 1609.
June 19,
1609
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MSS 2 folio 44 verso

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MSS 2 folio 44 verso
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© Copyright David Cooper used with the permission of Dulwich College.

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Dulwich College has graciously contributed images from their collections to Shakespeare Documented, and retains sole ownership of said images. Visitors may link to and cite the images within Shakespeare Documented in personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact Dulwich College to request additional use, at: archives@dulwich.org.uk

Document-specific information
Creator: Edward Alleyn
Title: Letter from Thomas Bowker to Edward Alleyn about a dog, with numerous notes on the verso by Alleyn of payments, including for a book of Shakespeare's Sonnets, June 19, 1609.
Date: June 19, 1609
Repository: Dulwich College, London, UK
Call number and opening: MSS 2 fol. 44v
View in Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project

Item Creator
Edward Alleyn
Item Title
Letter from Thomas Bowker to Edward Alleyn about a dog, with numerous notes on the verso by Alleyn of payments, including for a book of Shakespeare's Sonnets, June 19, 1609.
Item Date
June 19, 1609
Repository
Dulwich College, London, UK
Call Number
MSS 2 fol. 44v

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

© Copyright David Cooper used with the permission of Dulwich College.

Terms of use
Dulwich College has graciously contributed images from their collections to Shakespeare Documented, and retains sole ownership of said images. Visitors may link to and cite the images within Shakespeare Documented in personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact Dulwich College to request additional use, at: archives@dulwich.org.uk

Document-specific information
Creator: Edward Alleyn
Title: Letter from Thomas Bowker to Edward Alleyn about a dog, with numerous notes on the verso by Alleyn of payments, including for a book of Shakespeare's Sonnets, June 19, 1609.
Date: June 19, 1609
Repository: Dulwich College, London, UK
Call number and opening: MSS 2 fol. 44v
View in Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project

Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), the famous Elizabethan actor and wealthy Jacobean gentleman, purchased a copy of Shake-speares Sonnets, published in 1609, recording his acquisition under “Howshowld stuff”:

a book Shaksper Sonets                        5d

A man of affairs and a man of the theater par excellence for most of his adult life, Alleyn is known to have maintained a personal library, making his purchase of the Sonnets unsurprising.

Edward Alleyn is connected with William Shakespeare, often as the leader of a rival company, in many contemporary documents. He was head of the Lord Admiral’s Men (later Prince Henry’s Men), just as Shakespeare was head of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men). Though Alleyn may have regarded Shakespeare as a competitor, this note shows that he paid five pence for a copy of his Sonnets, a conventional price for a quarto of its size. In fact, the University of Manchester copy of the first edition also includes a note recording a purchase price of “5d.”

Alleyn’s note is written in his own hand among many other notes on the back of a letter addressed to Alleyn as Master of the Bears. The conventional date given to this document, June 19, 1609, is somewhat misleading. The letter, from a so far unidentified Thomas Bowker, is clearly dated June 19, from Roehampton, but without a year. As Alleyn and his father-in-law Philip Henslowe became joint Masters of the Bears in 1604, the letter could have been written in any year from 1604 onward. For his part, Alleyn could have written his note in any year from 1609, the publication year of the Sonnets, to the time of his death in 1626. While the second half of 1609, after the entry of the Sonnets in the Stationers Register on May 20, is a reasonable estimate for the note, it could have been written in 1610 or even later.

The note regarding the purchase of the Sonnets has been suspected as a John Payne Collier forgery (see Duncan-Jones, Ungentle Shakespeare). It is, after all, written into what started out as a blank space beneath other notes, and is, perhaps, “too good to be true.” But a close inspection of Alleyn’s handwriting, especially his “long-s” and his symbol for “pence,” will reveal that the entry is unquestionably authentic, far beyond the imitative skills of any known forger, including Collier.

Alleyn’s entry is written “sideways” at the top right of the document as presented here. The text of the letter is visible on the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project (featuring documents from Dulwich College), edited by Professor Grace Ioppolo.

Written by Alan H. Nelson

Sources

Katherine Duncan-Jones, Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life (London: Arden, 2001).

Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman, John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

Sidney Lee, A Life of William Shakespeare, With Portraits and Facsimiles (London, J. Murray, 1916), 160 n.1.

Alan H. Nelson, "Shakespeare and the Bibliophiles: from the earliest years to 1616," in Owners, Annotators and the Signs of Reading, ed. Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote (London: British Library, 2005), 49-73. 
 

 

Last updated August 23, 2016