Early in the craft year which began on 19 July 1557, and was the first of the chartered existence of the Stationers’ Company, John Waley, or Wally,
entered what was no doubt the present play on the Register along with several other works. The entry runs as follows:
To master John wally these bokes Called Welth and helthe/the treatise of the ffrere and the boye / stans puer ad mensam another of
youghte charyte and humylyte an a b c for cheldren in englesshe with syllabes also a boke called an hundreth mery tayles ijs [Arber’s
Transcript, I. 75.]
That Waley printed an edition is therefore to be presumed, but it does not necessarily follow that the extant copy, which though perfect bears neither date
nor printer’s name, ever belonged to it. Indeed, a comparison with a number of works to which he did affix his name suggests grave doubts on the subject.
Though not a high-class printer, there seems no reason to ascribe to him a piece of work which for badness alike of composition and press-work
appears to be unique among the dramatic productions of the sixteenth century.
‘Wealth and health’ appears among the titles in the list of plays appended to the edition of Goffe’s Careless Shepherdess, printed for Rogers and Ley in
1656. The entry was repeated with the designation ‘C[omedy].’ in Archer’s list of the same year, and, without the addition, in those of Kirkman in 1661 and
1671. In 1691 Langbaine wrote ‘Wealth and Health, a Play of which I can give no Account.’ Gildon has no further information to offer, nor have any of his
immediate followers. Chetwood, in 1752, classes it among ‘Plays Wrote by Anonymous Authors in the 16th [by which he means the seventeenth]Century,’
calls it ‘an Interlude’ and dates it 1602. This invention was only copied in those lists which depended directly on Chetwood’s, such as the Playhouse
Pocket-Companion of 1779. Meanwhile, in his Companion to the Play-House of 1764, D.E. Baker, relying upon Coxeter’s notes, gave an essentially
accurate description of the piece, except that he asserted it to be ‘full of Sport and mery Pastyme,’ and described it as an octavo. This entry has been
copied by subsequent bibliographers, none of whom have seen the original.
The play was among those discovered in Ireland in the spring of 1906 and sold at Sotheby’s on 30 June, when it was purchased for the British Museum at
the price of one hundred and ninety-five pounds. Its press-mark is C. 34. i. 25.
The extremely careless typography of the original makes the task of reprinting a difficult one. Ordinary misprints abound, and these have been
scrupulously retained, a list of irregularities being added below. It has, however, proved impossible to arrive at any satisfactory method of distinguishing
between ‘n’ and ‘u.’ In the first hundred lines, which are by no means the worst printed, there are thirty-two cases in which the letter is indistinguishable,
eighteen cases of an apparent ‘u’ which should be ‘n,’ and seven cases of an apparent ‘n’ which should be ‘u.’ When it is further remembered that there are
few cases in which it is possible to say for certain that a letter really is what it appears to be, and none in which it may not be turned, some idea of the
difficulty in the way of reprinting will be obtained. To have followed the original in this matter would have been to introduce another misprint into at least
every fourth line, while even so several hundred cases would have remained which could only have been decided according to the apparent sense of the
passage. The only rational course was to treat the letters as indistinguishable throughout, and to print in each instance whichever the sense seemed to
require. Again, as the superscript letters ‘c,’ ‘e,’ ‘t,’ are seldom distinguishable, the printer has been given the benefit of the doubt. Another difficulty arose
in connection with the speakers’ names. In the original these have often dropt from their proper places, which can now only be ascertained from the sense
and the not very regular indentation. With some hesitation it has been decided to restore them to the positions they should apparently occupy, noting all
cases in which they are a line or more out in the original. Lastly it may be remarked that in the speeches which aim at imitating foreign languages the
apparent readings of the very indistinct original have been scrupulously reproduced, and no attempt has been made, even in the subjoined list, to suggest
In the last sheet some of the pages are cropt at the foot. In most cases nothing more than the catchword has disappeared, and although between lines
768 and 769 something seems to be lost, it is doubtful whether this is due to the cropping, since D1v has already one line too many.
The original is printed in the ordinary black letter of the period, of the body known as English (20 ll. = 94 mm.).