DOI: 10.1093/library/fpad016 ISSN:

Compositors’ Spelling Preferences and the Integrity of 2 Henry VI

Brian Vickers
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


The recent New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion states that 2 Henry VI was co-authored by Shakespeare and Marlowe, citing an essay by Paul Vincent arguing that a change in the spelling of the interjection O/Oh showed a change in authorship. Vincent affirmed that ‘playwrights usually favoured one alternative far more than the other, and that the compositors of the First Folio regularly followed their copy text.’ He compiled a list of the variant spellings, arranged by Act and scene, identifying which compositors had set each section. Vincent argued that a passage corresponding to Act 3 in modern editions (the Folio is undivided) containing few instances of either O or Oh signalled an authorial change. When the evidence is arranged according to the sequence in which the two compositors set the pages, no consistent preference can be seen, thus disproving the case for Marlowe’s co-authorship.

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