Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Field, Richard (fl.1579-1624)

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FIELD, RICHARD (fl. 1579–1624), printer and stationer, was the son of ‘Henry ffeilde of Stratford uppon Aven in the countye of Warwick, tanner’ (Arber, Transcript, ii. 93), whose goods and chattels John Shakespeare, the father of the poet, was employed with two others to value on 21 Aug. 1592 (Shakespeare, ed. J. P. Collier, 1858, i. 112–13). Field was apprenticed to George Bishop, stationer and printer, for seven years from 29 Sept. 1579. The first six years were to be served with Thomas Vautrollier, and the seventh with Bishop (Transcript, ii. 93). The term of apprenticeship expired in 1586. He was made free of the Stationers' Company on 6 Feb. 1586–7, and in 1588 married, says Ames, ‘Jakin [Jacqueline], the daughter of Vautrollier’ (Typographical Antiquities, ed. Herbert, ii. 1252), whom he succeeded in his house ‘in the Black Friers, neer Ludgate,’ using the same devices and sometimes printing the same copies. Collier quotes the marriage register as ‘R. Field to Jacklin Vautrillian,’ 12 Jan. 1588 (Memoirs of Actors in Shakespeare's Plays, 1846, p. 223). It is stated, however, in a list of master printers included in the ‘Stationers' Registers’ (Transcript, iii. 702), that Field married the widow of Vautrollier and succeeded him in 1590. He took his first apprentice on 3 Nov. 1589, followed by others, among them his younger brother, Jasper (ib. ii. 165, 179, 199, 230). The first entry to him in the ‘Registers’ is for ‘a booke in French, intitled: “Le politique reformé”’ (sic) (ib. ii. 511), on 24 Dec. 1588, of which he also issued an English translation. In 1589 he printed Puttenham's ‘Arte of English Poesie’ and a handsome edition, in a ‘neat brevier Italic,’ of ‘P. Ovidii Nasonis Metamorphoseon libri xv.,’ ‘impensis Johannis Harrisoni,’ a bookseller with whom he had many subsequent transactions. He was fined 10s. on 12 May for printing a book contrary to order, and on 3 Nov. 1589 for keeping an apprentice unpresented (ib. ii. 860–1). Sole license for the first edition of Harington's translation of ‘Orlando Furioso’ was granted to him on 6 Feb. 1592 (Cal. State Papers, Eliz. 1591–4, p. 179). In 1595 he produced his fine edition of North's ‘Plutarch,’ reprinted by him in 1603 and 1610–12. He came on the livery of the Stationers' Company on 1 July 1598. From an entry in the ‘Registers’ on 4 June 1599 he seems to have been at that time among the unprivileged printers (Transcript, iii. 678). He was chosen renter on 26 March 1604, and on 17 June 1605 paid 40l. instead of serving the office. On 11 June 1604 he was called to be assistant (ib. ii. 837, 840, iv. 29). He was several times warden and master in 1620. Two presses were worked by him on 9 May 1615 (ib. iii. 699).

The last book known to bear his imprint is Camden's ‘Annales, traduites en langue françoise par P. de Bellegent,’ 1624, 4to. On some Spanish books his name appears as Ricardo del Campo. During thirty-six years Field printed many important books, but he is chiefly interesting as the fellow-townsman and most probably the personal friend of Shakespeare. He was the printer of the first (1593), the second (1594), and the third (1596) editions of Shakespeare's ‘Venus and Adonis,’ as well as of the first (1594) edition of his ‘Lucrece,’ all for John Harrison. Not one of the quarto plays, however, came from Field's press. ‘In the production of “Venus and Adonis,”’ says Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, ‘it is only reasonable to infer that the author had a control over the typographical arrangements. The purity of the text and the nature of the dedication may be thought to strengthen this opinion, and, although poems were not then generally introduced to the public in the same glowing terms usually accorded to dramatic pieces, the singularly brief and anonymous title-page does not bear the appearance of a publisher's handiwork’ (Outlines of Life of Shakespeare, 7th ed. 1887, i. 101–4). Mr. Blades suggests that when Shakespeare first came to London he visited his friend Field and was introduced to Vautrollier, in whose employment as press-reader or shopman he may have acquired that practical knowledge of the art of printing shown in his writings (Shakspere and Typography, 1872, p. 26, &c.). Collier was unable to trace ‘any relationship between Nathan Field, the actor, and Richard Field, the printer, but they were neighbours, living in the same liberty of the Black Friars’ (Memoirs of Actors, 1846, p. 223).

[Cat. of Books in Brit. Mus. printed in England before 1640, 1884, 3 vols.; Shakespeare Soc. Papers, iv. 36–8; Bibliographer, i. 173; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 243, 411; Fleay's Chronicle Hist. of Shakespeare, 1886, pp. 112, 116.]

H. R. T.