Andrew Wise

Andrew Wise (fl. 1589 1603), or Wyse or Wythes, was a London publisher of the Elizabethan era who issued first editions of five Shakespearean plays. "No other London stationer invested in Shakespeare as assiduously as Wise did, at least while Shakespeare was still alive."[1]

Andrew Wise was the son of a Yorkshire yeoman; as "Wythes," he served an eight-year apprenticeship under Henry Smith and Thomas Bradshaw starting in 1581, and became a "freeman" (a full member) of the Stationers Company on 26 May 1589.[2] He ran his own business in London from about 1593 to 1603; his shop was at the sign of the Angel in St. Paul's Churchyard.

Wise published editions of the following five Shakespearean plays:[3]

  • He entered Richard II into the Stationers' Register on 20 August 1597, and published the first quarto of the play before the end of the year. The second and third quartos both followed in 1598. All three volumes were printed by Valentine Simmes.
  • Richard III was entered into the Stationers' Register on 20 October 1597; the first quarto appeared later that year. Wise published the second quarto of R3 in 1598, and the third in 1602. Valentine Simmes printed signatures A-G of the first quarto, with H-M coming from Peter Short's print shop. The other two books were printed by Thomas Creede.
  • Henry IV, Part 1 was registered on 25 February 1598 (new style), and published later that year, printed by Valentine Simmes and Peter Short. Q2 followed in 1599, with printing by Simon Stafford.
  • Henry IV, Part 2 was registered on 23 August 1600; the sole quarto edition of the era was published that same year. In this case, Wise worked in partnership with colleague William Aspley; the printing was done once again by Valentine Simmes.
  • Much Ado About Nothing was also registered on 23 August 1600, and published that year by Wise and Aspley, with printing by Simmes.

In one view, "Andrew Wise...struck gold three times in a row in 15978 by picking what would become the three best-selling Shakespearean quartos as the first three plays of his brief career."[4]

In addition to Shakespeare's plays, Wise published a range of other contemporary works, including Thomas Nashe's Christ's Tears Over Jerusalem (1593), and Thomas Campion's Observations in the Art of English Poesy (1602). As was typical of publishers of his era, he published religious and homiletic works, like The Pathway to Perfection and The Mean of Mourning (both 1596) by Thomas Playfair though he appears to have operated a rather small-scale business, in comparison with other stationers of his generation.

On 25 June 1603, Andrew Wise transferred his copyrights to R2, R3, and 1H4 to fellow stationer Matthew Law, who issued subsequent quartos of all three plays. Thereafter Wise "is not heard of again."[5]


  1. Sonia Massai, Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007; p. 91.
  2. Joseph Ames, Typographical Antiquities, London, 1790; Vol. 3, pp. 1372-3.
  3. E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 3, pp. 481-5.
  4. Peter W. M. Blayney, "The Publication of Playbooks," in: A New History of Early English Drama, John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan, eds.; New York, Columbia University Press, 1997; p. 389.
  5. F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 15641964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; p. 533.
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