Malone Society Research Fellowship: Maria Shmygol

This is the first of two blog posts from Maria Shmygol about her research into William Percy’s manuscript play The Aphrodysial, for which she received a Malone Society Fellowship. Part two can be found here.

Maria is based at the English department of the University of Liverpool, where she is assisting Nandini Das with her work editing Volume 6 of a fourteen-volume critical edition of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, general edited by Daniel Carey and Claire Jowitt for Oxford University Press. She recently completed an AHRC-funded doctoral project entitled ‘“A Sea-Change”: Representations of the Marine in Jacobean Drama and Visual Culture’, research for which engaged with a range of commercial plays, civic entertainments, and court masques.

Maria’s current work—particularly her edition of William Percy’s The Aphrodysial, for which the Malone Society awarded her a Research Fellowship—develops her interests in textual editing and manuscript culture. Other research interests include cultures of knowledge in the early modern period and the relationship between natural history and print.

She was the co-organiser of a conference entitled ‘Making Knowledge in the Renaissance’ (Liverpool, March 2015) and is currently writing an article on theory and practice in the textual works and artisanal practice of the French Huguenot potter, Bernard de Palissy.


William Percy’s The Aphrodysial (1602)

Part I: Working with the Play in MS HM4

I am currently editing William Percy’s manuscript play, The Aphrodysial (1602), which will be published by Digital Renaissance Editions. I’m very grateful to have received a Malone Society Fellowship, which helped to support me in carrying out a transcription of my copy-text at the Huntington Library earlier this year. This two-part blog entry will provide an introduction to Percy, his manuscript, and my work on it (Part I) and an overview of Percy’s remarkable play and its interests in staging marine spectacle (Part II).

William Percy, son to the Eighth Earl of Northumberland, was an amateur dramatist and poet who lived on the fringes of London and Oxford literary culture. His only published work is his Sonnets to the Fairest Coelia (1594) but his other poems and plays are extant only in three holographs: Alnwick Castle MSS 508 (1644) and 509 (1646), and Huntington Library MS HM4 (1647). While the plays were mostly composed in the first decade of the seventeenth century, the surviving manuscripts are later transcriptions carried out by Percy in the final years of his life while residing in Oxford. The majority of the plays were written between 1601 and 1603, as indicated by the dates borne by them in the manuscripts and through internal evidence, and Percy must have copied the surviving transcripts from earlier papers that are no longer extant.1

The Aphrodysial is extant in only two of these holograph copies: Alnwick 509 (1646) and HM4 (1647). As with the other plays in both manuscripts, The Aphrodysial is written in a legible, but shaky, italic and has been revised several times throughout. Working with Percy’s manuscript at the Huntington presented a number of interesting issues. I’m using the Huntington copy as the basis for my edition because it represents a more ‘final’ version of the play than does the ‘experimental’ text found in the slightly earlier manuscript. Nevertheless, as the images below make clear HM4 is riddled with copious emendations that take the form of deletions, insertions, marginal notes, and a plethora of pasted-on slips, which made transcription of the manuscript somewhat of a challenge.

 smygol image 1

The peculiarities of Percy’s shaky italic hand initially took some getting used to (e.g. the difficulty of distinguishing between his e/t forms). What proved most challenging were the repeated instances of very cramped text, which typically took quite some times to make sense of. However, nothing proved more frustrating than the presence of the pasted-on slips, especially the instances where multiple slips are pasted on top of one another, given that it’s impossible to see exactly what is underneath them. Oddly, the frustrations of working with this manuscript seemed fitting for a rather eccentric play such as this. The material presence of the emendations offers a valuable insight into the frustration that Percy himself much have felt when revising his play and preparing the manuscript, arduously fussing over fine details and changing his mind back and forth between choices such as ‘bracelet’, ‘love-rolle’ and ‘ceston’, for example.

  smygol image 2


The manuscript bears witness to the ways in which Percy worked with and shaped his play, revising and perfecting both the dialogue and the stage directions throughout. It’s evident that thinking about the play in performance was very important for Percy, since he provides alternative directions for boy and adult actors’ companies, being careful enough to note that fake beards should be provided for the boys but not for the men, for instance.

The format of my edition for Digital Renaissance Editions will enable me to do justice to Percy’s play by making the surviving manuscript versions available alongside my edited text. The edition will include facsimile images of both MS copies and my transcriptions of them, together with a modern-spelling annotated edition (which will have interactive links for glosses and longer explanatory notes). The material will be electronically tagged, which will facilitate navigability between modern text, transcription, and facsimile at the click of a mouse. DRE’s open-access policy will make this fascinating and regrettably little- studied play freely and easily available to students and researchers alike. The edition will likewise invite more critical engagement with Percy’s drama, the likes of which I have been undertaking in recent years.2 It is my intention that the edition will encourage a further reassessment of the style and content of Percy’s play and its place in early modern literary studies.

1. The plays composed between 1601 and 1603 are: The Cuck-queanes and Cuckolds Errants, or, The Bearing down the Inn (1601), Arabia Sitiens, or, a Dream of a Dry Year (1601), A Country’s Tragedy in Vacuniam, or, Cupid’s Sacrifice (1602), The Aphrodysiall, or, Sea Feast: A Marinall (1602), The Faery Pastoral, or, The Forest of Elves (1603). The sixth play was written significantly later: Necromantes or The Two Supposed Heads (1632)

2. I have carried out work on the play for the purposes of my doctoral thesis and have presented a seminar paper on ‘Dis-enchanting Marine Wonder in William Percy’s The Aphrodysial’ at the Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting (St. Louis, MO, April 2014) as well as a paper entitled ‘‘Such a fish as never was heard of’: A Whale for a Stage in William Percy’s The Aphrodysial’ at the Society for Renaissance Studies Conference (Southampton, July 2014).

Marginal Malone

The Malone Society is very pleased to inform members and others that a symposium, ‘Marginal Malone’, will take place on 26 June 2015 at the University of Oxford. This symposium examines the lives and afterlives of Malone’s readings of English literature, and is a collaboration between the Yale Program in the History of the Book and the Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book.

The speakers are Margreta de Grazia, Arnold Hunt, Clive Hurst, Kathryn James, Ivan Lupić, Bill Sherman, and Tiffany Stern.

Symposium, Saturday 16 May

We’re holding a symposium!

Reverend Productions and The Malone Society present:

King Leir

A staged reading and symposium
Saturday 16 May, 10:30am-6:30pm
The Chapel, Somerville College, Woodstock Road, Oxford

The staged reading will commence at 11am. Speakers in the afternoon symposium will include Professor Tiffany Stern, Professor Katherine Duncan-Jones and Professor Sir Brian Vickers. Please see below for the full programme.

Tickets £20 (students: £15). Admission includes a sandwich lunch and afternoon tea.
Box Office:!kingleir/crwp
Further information:

Leir 7For the full programme, see our ‘Events’ section.

Malone Society Photo Competition Launch

Most of us have a favourite Malone Society title. Add a dash of creativity and a photo, and you could win that volume.

We are launching our brand new photo competition today, and this is how you participate: 1) pick your favourite title from our list of publications (…/malone-catalogu…) 2) Get creative: create a little scene with lego men, do a drawing, use sock-puppets – it’s all up to you, so long as the title is clear. 3) take a photo and post it to twitter or facebook with the hashtag ‪#‎malsocphoto‬. Winners will be announced here, on twitter, and on facebook, and we will be picking a new one each month.

Best of luck to you all!

Book of the Month

Dear all,

We are changing our Book of the Month scheme. We have gone through our entire catalogue at this point, and, not wishing to repeat ourselves, we will now be tailoring our offers to relevant events on the academic and performative early modern stage instead.

Check this space for future updates, and feel free to make suggestions regarding events you feel may be of interest – we always appreciate your comments.

Book of the Month: Collections IX

The Book of the Month for December 2014 is Collections IX. If you’re a member of the Malone Society, take advantage of this great deal and buy a copy today for only £5.00 plus £3 postage! (The regular price is £15).

Collections IX

The ultimate bargain! Five fascinating items, offering a range of insights into early modern theatrical practice for just £1.00 each!

Marvel at the costs and variety of items involved in mounting the Corpus Christi play, and a range of other dramatic entertainments, in sixteenth-century Sherborne (Dorset)!

Contrast the paucity of twenty-first-century theatrical companies touring the provinces with the number of prestigious troupes visiting Aldeburgh (or being paid not to visit Aldeburgh) from 1566 to 1635!

Re-live the delights of an Elizabethan jig!

Laugh at the activities of the citizens of John Tatham’s (?) seventeenth-century comedy!

Join the hunt for the authors of five fragmentary ‘waifs and strays’ of the Elizabethan-Jacobean stage, including the opening lines of ‘A stately Tragedy contayninge the ambitious life and death of the great Cham’, and part of a masque possibly performed by a juvenile troupe in the 1620s as part of the Christmas festivities in the house of Lord Grey.


 The items included in the volume are from manuscript sources in a range of institutions, including the National Library of Wales, the Essex Record Office, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Huntington Library. They were edited by A.D. Mills, J.C. Coldewey, J.M. Nosworthy, J.L. Murphy and G.R. Proudfoot.

This offer has now expired; to buy the book please go to our online shop.

Book of the Month: Tom a Lincoln

The Book of the Month for November 2014 is Tom a Lincoln. If you’re a member of the Malone Society, take advantage of this great deal and buy a copy today for only £5.00 plus £3 postage! (The regular price is £15).

Tom a Lincoln

Our Book of the Month for November is a tale of Arthurian legend, war, and fairy enticements as we follow Tom a Lincoln on his quest to discover the true identity of his father. Born the son of King Arthur, but abandoned and raised by a shepherd, Tom becomes discontented with his bucolic existence, deciding instead to recruit a band of outlaws and live as the Red Rose Knight. At Arthur’s court he comes to blows with the King Arthur, but redeems himself by thwarting a French invasion and is granted permission to travel in search of his true father. After six years he arrives in Fairyland, where he and his knights are seduced by the female inhabitants. He then moves on to the court of Prester John, and falls in love with the princess Anglitora, but is unable to marry her because he is a foreigner. You’ll have to read the play to discover if Tom and Anglitora get their happy ending, and whether Tom ever discovers the true identity of his father…


The Society’s edition is a diplomatic transcript of the unique MS, now Add. MS 61745 in the British Library. The introduction includes a discussion of the play’s links with the Shakespeare and Heywood canons.

This offer has now expired; to buy the book please go to our online shop.

Book of the Month: Captain Thomas Stukeley

The Book of the Month for October 2014 is Captain Thomas Stukeley. If you’re a member of the Malone Society, take advantage of this great deal and buy a copy today for only £5.00 plus £3 postage! (The regular price is £15).

Captain Thomas Stukeley

October’s Book of the Month takes us from London to Africa as we follow the exploits of its eponymous protagonist. Thomas Stukeley’s father comes to visit him in London, only to find his son neglecting his legal career and living beyond his means. Only three days after marrying Nell Curtis and paying off his creditors with his father-in-law’s money, Thomas decides to leave the law behind to seek honour on the battlefield. We follow him to Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Africa in his quest, but will his conscience get the better of him in his work for the double-dealing King Philip of Spain? For which side will he choose to fight? Will Captain Thomas Stukeley make it out of Africa alive?


The Society’s edition is a type-facsimile of Thomas Pavier’s Quarto of 1605, printed by William Jaggard. The volume is of especial textual interest in that it contains two versions of the same scene, one in standard English and the other in Irish dialect.

This offer has now expired; to buy the book please go to our online shop.

Book of the Month: The Marriage Between Wit and Wisdom

The Book of the Month for September 2014 is The Marriage Between Wit and Wisdom. If you’re a member of the Malone Society, take advantage of this great deal and buy a copy today for only £5 plus £3 postage! (The regular price is £15).

The Marriage Between Wit and Wisdom

Our Book of the Month for September tracks the adventures of Wit on his path to woo Wisdom, whom he has been ordered to marry on pain of losing his inheritance. On the way he is robbed by Idleness, bored by Honest Recreation, and imprisoned by Fancy. But will Wit and Wisdom finally tie the knot?


The Society’s edition is a diplomatic transcript of the unique MS (British Library, Add. MS 26782), which is of especial interest for its resemblance to a printed edition.

This offer has now expired; to buy the book please go to our online shop.

Book of the Month: The Wasp

The Book of the Month for August 2014 is The Wasp. If you’re a member of the Malone Society, take advantage of this great deal and buy a copy today for only £5.00 plus £3 postage! (The regular price is £15.)

The Wasp

August’s Book of the Month is a tale of power struggles, usurpation and subterfuge in Roman Britain. The Prorex Marianus seizes power from Gilbert and establishes his corrupt favourite in a position of influence while Gilbert, faking his own death, disguises himself as ‘The Wasp’ in order to test the loyalty of his wife and son. But will Gilbert’s wife and son prove loyal? Will Marianus retain the throne? The metamorphosing banquet just might provide the answer…


The Society’s edition is a diplomatic transcript of the unique MS (Alnwick Castle, MS 507), an authorial copy annotated as part of the the process of creating the play’s prompt-book for the King’s Revels Company.

This offer has now expired; to buy the book please go to our online shop.