Of Enormous Importance to Tudor Poetry & Drama

MIRROUR FOR MAGISTRATES. Baldwin, William (d. ca. 1563), Ferrers, George (c. 1510-1579), Skelton, John (ca. 1460-1529), Sackville, Thomas (ca. 1536-1608), et al.

A mirour for magistrates: being a true chronicle historie of the vntimely falles of such vnfortunate princes and men of note, as haue happened since the first entrance of Brute into this iland, vntill this our latter age. Newly enlarged with a last part, called A winter nights vision, being an addition of such tragedies, especially famous, as are exempted in the former historie, with a poem annexed, called Englands Eliza.

London: Imprinted by Felix Kyngston, 1610


Quarto: Four parts bound as three: 19.2 x 13.8 cm. Collation: A8, B2, C-Z8, Aa-Nn8, Oo8, Pp-Zz8, Aaa-Ddd8, Eee8, Fff-Kkk8, Lll6. Lacking the cancel Oo4, as often (The cancelland, with a dedication to Prince Henry, was removed upon the prince’s death. It was removed and was to be replaced by a cancel bearing a dedication to the Earl of Nottingham but “evidently the substation was delayed for most copies occur without any dedication.”-Pforzheimer.)

FIRST COMPLETE EDITION. With Kyngston’s device on the first title page and the divisional titles to “The Variable Fortune” (dated 1609) and “A Winter Nights Vision.” There is a woodcut portrait of Queen Elizabeth on the divisional title page to “Englands Eliza.” There are additional woodcut portraits on leaves Rr6v, Ss5v, Tt4v, Xx2v, Yy5r, Zz8r, Bbb8v, and Ccc7v of “A Winter Night’s Vision”. “Each legend is preceded by a woodcut of the subject. These cuts were first used by Holinshed, 1577, and are derived at long last from some that were used by Verard.”(Pforzheimer)

A fine copy, bound in 17th c. calf, rebacked, with only minor cosmetic blemishes.

FIRST COLLECTED EDITION OF THIS INFLUENTIAL SOURCE-BOOK FOR ELIZABETHAN DRAMATISTS. The book was intended as a continuation of John Lydgate’s “Fall of Princes”. The “Mirrour”, as Budra observes, “was to be a mirror for self-inspection for the powerful; as its focus was historical and political, it was directing the powerful to study their own fates in those of their immediate, and conspicuously unsuccessful predecessors.”

This edition collects all three earlier parts of “Mirrour for Magistrates” and adds “A Winter Nights Vision” and “Englands Eliza,” written by Richard Niccols. “Shakespeare was familiar with it and used the story of Queen Cordelia for some points in 'King Lear.' This collection also contains the story of Locrine, which was used in the anonymous play of that name wrongly attributed to Shakespeare in the Third Folio."(Bartlett 277).

The first attempt to print the “Mirrour for Magistrates” was undertaken by John Wayland, who intended to print the text as a second volume to his edition of Lydgate’s reworking of Boccaccio’s “Fall of Princes”(1554). The “Mirrour” was, in fact, conceived of as a continuation of Lydgate’s “Fall” and begins were Lydgate left off. The printing was halted for political reasons and only the title page for that intended edition was printed. The contents of all subsequent editions varied due to the influence of the nobility, editorial choices, and issues involving licenses, so that no edition is the same. The first part of the “Mirrour” to appear in print was in fact what was to become known as the “Third Part.” Consisting of 19 lives, covering primarily the War of the Roses, it was printed by Thomas Marshe in 1559 and exists in only 9 copies. Marshe next printed an expanded edition, with 8 additional lives, in 1563. Subsequently, other parts were written and printed, resulting in titles announcing “The First Part” (written by John Higgins), the “Second Part” (by Thomas Blenerhasset), and “The Last Part” (i.e. the “Third Part”) by William Baldwin, George Ferrers, and others. The first collected edition, which united the previously published “First Part” and “Last Part” (but omitted the “Second Part”) with new material, appeared in 1587.

The only complete edition of the “Mirrour for Magistrates” (the one offered here) was printed by Felix Kyngston in 1610. The copyright to the previously published parts descended to Kyngston through his mother, Joan Orwin, from Thomas Marshe. The whole was edited by Richard Niccols (1584-1616), who wrote “A Winter Nights Vision” and “Englands Eliza”. Ha also re-wrote the life of Richard III, and wrote several additional lives including that of King Arthur. According to Pforzheimer, this edition includes –in addition to the new material- all of the material from the 1587 edition mentioned previously as well as “The Second Part”, which had been omitted from that edition.

The authors:

William Baldwin and George Ferrers are credited with writing 19 of the lives that made up the first edition of 1559. Other contributors of note include Thomas Phaer (translator of Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’), Thomas Chaloner, Thomas Churchyard, John Skelton, Thomas Heywood, and Thomas Sackville.

The “Mirrour” was enormously influential in the development of English philosophy and the conception of tragedy among the Elizabethan poets. Its influence on Shakespeare has already been noted. The poems of William Warner, Michael Drayton, and Richard Daniel also reflected its strong appeal. The tragic demises of famous men and women from English history were intended to cause those in power to “reflect” on their own character and actions. Some of the most memorable parts include the fortunes of Edward IV’s notoriously wanton mistress Jane Shore (1445-1527), and Sackville’s celebrated poems “Complaint of Henry Duke of Buckingham” and “Induction”, which relates the poet’s journey to the underworld. Drayton’s “Cromwell” was not only influenced by the “Mirrour” it was in fact included in the 1610 complete edition.

“Between 1559 and 1610, the ‘Mirrour’ expanded in size to accommodate all of British history. Like Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ and Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles’, it was the product of a complex intersection of sources, writers, and printers. As a combination of poetry, history, and political censure, it was highly esteemed by contemporaries. Meres ranked it, in ‘Palladis Tamia’ (1598), along with the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe, Kyd, Chapman, Dekker, and Jonson; Sidney praised its ‘bewtiful partes’; and Ben Jonson mentioned it in the prologue to ‘Bartholomew Fair’ some four years after the final ‘Mirrour’ edition was printed. Baldwin was lauded for the work and Elizabethan dramatists regularly used the ‘Mirrour’ as an archive of material. And it was widely imitated: various other ‘Mirrours’ were printed using some variation of the formula; and the most popular ‘lament’ tradition evolved in response to the example of the ‘Mirrour’s autobiographical complaints.”(Budra, “The Mirrour for Magistrates and the ‘De Casibus’ Tradition)

Grolier: Langland to Wither 179; STC (2nd ed), 13446; Case, A.E. Poetical miscellanies, 4(k); Pforzheimer, 738