Between 1658 and 1663, the printer Nathaniel Brooke included, at the end of several of his books, a list of publications available from his shop. The list often, but not invariably, included what appears to be a group of eight plays in a section headed "Books in the Press and Now Printing". None of them, as far as is known, were ever printed by Brooke, or anyone else.
- Books in the Presse, and ready for Printing.
- 1· The Scales of Commerce and Trade: by T. Wilsford.
- 2. Geometry demonstrated by Lines and Numbers; from thence, Astronomy, Cosmography, and Navigation proved and delineated by the Doctrine of Plaine and Spherical Triangles: by T. Wilsford.
- 3. The English Annals, from the Invasion made by Julius Cesar to these times: by T. Wilsford.
- 4. The Fool transformed: a Comedy.
- 5. The History of Lewis the eleventh King of France: a Trage-Comedy.
- 6. The chaste woman against her will: a Comedy.
- 7. The Tooth-drawer: a Comedy.
- 8. Honour in the end: a Comedy.
- 9. Tell Tale: a Comedy.
- 10. The History of Donquixiot, or the Knight of the ill favoured face: a Comedy.
- 11. The fair Spanish Captive: a Trage-Comedy.
- - Edward Philips, The New World of English Words, 2S4r.
The advertisement runs in substantially identical wording (as regards the eight plays) in at least thirteen other Brooke publications in the years 1658-1663, listed below. The advertisement has a couple of variant forms: in 1660, Brooke removed item 1 (as he had published it in that year) and renumbered the rest accordingly 1-10. Another variant appears at the end of the second edition of Wit's Interpreter (1662), where the whole catalogue is through-numbered, so that these books are items 130-140. Brooke also sometimes omitted the eight plays: for instance, in the version of the catalogue that appeared at the end of Jeremiah Burrows's The Saints' Happiness (1660). Perhaps he thought them inappropriate to mention for book-buyers who had bought Burrows.
The plays are last seen in the catalogue in 1663. Brooke continued printing updated catalogues, but later versions omit the eight plays under discussion: one such catalogue appears, for instance, on the last pages of Louise Boursier, The Compleat midwife's practice (1663), Wing C99.
Greg, BPED, 1000-1 notes that this is an odd collection of eight plays, none of which Brooke is known actually to have printed: "While at this date it is no doubt still possible, however improbable, that an edition of a particular play should have entirely disappeared, to suppose that this happened to a whole series of plays would be obviously absurd". There is indeed no reason to suppose that any of these pieces, if they ever did get into the press, actually got out again". G. E. Bentley agrees, arguing that "The advertisements must have been at least premature... though one would assume that Brook had a manuscript." (Bentley, JCS, 5.1327).
Of the eight plays, one appears to be extant. The Telltale survives, or at least largely survives, thanks to its preservation in a manuscript now at Dulwich College. It is a tragicomedy set in Florence. See the recent study by William B. Long, which argues in favour of the general consensus that that manuscript is a scribal copy of the play, made around 1630-40. Another of the eight plays, "Honour in the End", is plausibly the play of that name recorded in Herbert's Office-Book as having been licensed for the Palsgrave's Men on 21 May 1624. The rest remain unknown apart from Brooke's list, but that two of the list are indeed clearly pre-1642 dramas from the commercial stage bolsters the case that the other six might be.
Texts containing Brooke’s advertisement for the plays
- Cartwright, Christopher. A Practical and Polemical Commentary… (1658). Wing C93.
- Flatman, Thomas. Naps Upon Parnassus (1658). Wing F1140.
- Phillips, Edward. The New World of English Words (1658). Wing P2068.
- Carrington, S. The history of the life and death of His Most Serene Highness, Oliver, late Lord Protector (1659). Wing C643.
- Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpepers Semeiotica uranica'(1658). Wing C7548.
- Culpeper, Nicholas. Culpeper's school of physick (1659). Wing C7544.
- Loveday, Robert. Loveday's letters domestick and forrein (1659). Wing L3225.
- Winstanley, William. England’s Worthies (1660). Wing W3058. [NB listing is revised in this and later ones]
- Phillips, John. Wit and Drollery (1661). Wing S2439.
- Selden, John. Theanthropos: or, God made man (1661). Wing S2439
- Lytler, Richard. The Reformed Presbyterian (1662). Wing L3573.
- Culpeper. Nicholas. Culpeper's Last Legacy (1662). Wing C7519A.
- C., I. Wits Interpreter, 2nd edn (1662). Wing C6371.
- Phillips, Edward. The New World of English Words (1663). Wing P2070.
Long, William B. "Dulwich MS. XX, "The Telltale": Clues to Provenance", Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 17 (2005): 180-204.