Nicholas Ling

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Nicholas Ling’s publishing emblem was a “ling” (a codfish) entwined with a honeysuckle.[1]

Nicholas Ling (died 1607) was a London publisher, bookseller and editor. He published several important Elizabethan works, among them the first two quartos of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Ling was the son of John Lynge, a parchment maker from Norwich. He was apprenticed to Henry Bitteman from 1570 and became a member of the Stationers in 1578.[2][3] He often collaborated with other publishers. In 1597 he published a collection of quotations Politeuphuia, or Wits Commonwealth. He is also credited with editing the poetry collection England’s Helicon (1600).[4] In 1603 he edited, with John Trundell, the first quarto of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This edition was printed by Valentine Simmes and is considered the so-called “bad Quarto”.[5] A few months later, James Roberts printed the second quarto of Hamlet on his behalf. It is considered to be a version of the play authorized by Shakespeare. Some writers suggest that John Trundell had a distorted version of Hamlet available and wanted to publish it quickly to meet demand. Roberts on the other hand, confirmed by the Stationers entry of 1602, owned the copyright to the play and possibly arranged with Ling to print the better version, giving Ling the opportunity to sell the play twice.[6]

Before his death, Ling sold 16 copyrights to John Smethwick, including those of several Shakespeare plays.[6]


Individual references

  1. John Camden Hotten: The history of signboards: from the earliest times to the present day. 1866, S. 474.
  2. Notes & Queries. 6th Series, V. VI (Nov. 11, 1882) p. 395.
  3. Nicholas Ling. In: O. J. Campbell (ed.): Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare. 1966, S. 462.
  4. J. William Hebel: Nicholas Ling and England’s Helicon. In: Library. S4-V (2), 1924, PP. 153-160.
  5. G. R. Hibbard (ed.): Hamlet. Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 69-75.
  6. a b Gerald D. Johnson: Nicholas Ling, Publisher 1580-1607. in Studies in Bibliography. 38, 1985, S. 203–214.