Thereader is immediately met with information regarding the creation of thisedition of Astrophel and Stella throughthe descriptions provided on the title page. The title page sets the locationof printing as ‘At London’1,and outlines to the reader how this text was ‘printed for Thomas Newman. AnnoDomini 1591’ (A1). As well as highlighting the conditions of printing, thetitle page suggests some of the ways this text was marketed to readers, withthe reference to Sir Philip Sidney as ‘Syr P.
S.’ (A1) seeming to expect thereader to be able to identify the author through the knowledge they alreadyhold about Sidney’s identity. Rather than referring to Sidney by his full name,the printer in this instance has instead decided to use a description whichplaces emphasis on Sidney’s status, which in turn suggests that the printerconstructed the description of the text on the title page in a certain way inorder to appeal to the reader. This idea is then supported by the fact that inNewman’s epistle, attention is drawn to the ‘worthiness of the author’ (A.
ii.Verso), thus supporting the idea that Sidney’s name and reputation was animportant selling point of the text. Furthermore, the title page describes how’Wherein the excellence of sweete Poesie is concluded To the end of which areadded sundry other rare Sonnets of divers Noble men and Gentlemen’ (A1), withthe description of ‘excellence of sweet Poesie’ (A1) again showing how the textis constructed in a way that further emphasises the quality of the work. Thedescription of how the text includes works by additional poets poses questionsconcerning why a printer would decide to include works not written by Sidney,with this perhaps suggesting that Sidney’s works were marketable to the extentthat they could help support other authors. The content of the title page can thereforebe seen to emphasis the praiseworthiness of the text the reader is about toencounter, creating a presentation of the work as being an important piece ofliterature from the very first page. In addition to this presentation ofSidney’s work on the title page, the descriptions of the work included in theparatextual material further suggests the ways in which a text could bemarketed on the basis of an author’s reputation. The epistle written by Newmancreates a complimentary impression of the text, with the flattering nature ofthe descriptions then affecting how a reader will approach the text. Newmanrefers to the text as the ‘famous device of Astropheland Stella’ (A.
ii.),and calls attention to the good reputation attached to the text through thereferences to how it carries ‘the general commendation of all men of judgement'(A.ii.). Whilst these descriptions would seem positive to the reader due totheir complimentary tone, the circumstances of the creation of this epistlearguably would affect how truthfully a reader would view Newman’s words.Through the information provided on the title page, the reader would be awareof Newman’s role as the printer of the text, which in turn would perhapssuggest that Newman’s descriptions of the text take on a complimentary tone inorder to appeal to the reader.
Furthermore, the epistle, whilst it recognisesthe work’s importance as a piece of literature, also appears to be very awareof the sales potential of the work, as suggested through Newman’s preoccupationwith Flower’s name appearing on the text due to the ‘credit and countenaunce'(A.ii.) it will provide, thus suggesting the impact a text’s preliminarymaterial can have on a reader’s expectations for a text.
Whilst the paratextual material isfull of complimentary descriptions of the text, highlighting the worthiness ofthe work, when the reader is met with the main text itself they face littleinstructional information concerning how they should approach the text. On thefirst page of the sonnets, there is an elaborate printer’s lace with the titleprinted beneath it, indicating the break from the paratextual material. Whilstthe title places emphasis on Sidney’s ownership of the text through thepersonal pronoun placed in the title ‘HIS ASTROPHEL AND STELLA’ (B1), thisedition has no authorial approval as it was published after Sidney’s death.Throughout Nashe’s preface, the theatrical assertion raised in relation to thesonnets appears to dictate a certain way of reading the text. Nashe describes howthe ‘tragicomedy of love is performed by starlight’ (A3), with the link betweenthe text and a performance adding to the discussion surrounding how Astrophel and Stella is structured as asequence of sonnets which are meant to be read as a narrative, rather than asindividual sonnets, due to the linear nature of performances. Whilst in thisedition the sonnets are not given a number which would dictate their order inthe sequence, this edition of the text clearly displays the printer’s decisionto place the sonnets in a certain sequence, with this being supported byNashe’s description of a dramatic structure which includes both a ‘prologue'(A3) and an ‘epilogue’ (A3).
The tension caused by the lack of authorialapproval is raised by Newman’s epistle through the description of how he usedthe written copies of the text which had been spread around to aid theproduction of this edition, though those copies have ‘gathered much corruptionby ill writers’ (A.ii. Verso). Whilst Newman does declare that he has ‘usedtheir helpe and advice in correcting and restoring it to his first dignitie'(A.ii.
Verso), the announcement of possible issues in the text, as well as theknowledge that Sidney did not officially approve this edition of the text, willaffect the validity a reader would assign to the work.1Sir Philip Sidney, His Astrophel andStella, (London: Thomas Newman, 1591), < https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eebo-99838194e&terms=22536&pageId=eebo-99838194e-2559-1&pageTerms=22536 >, last accessed 29th November2017, (A1)