Kyd's play was entered into the Stationers' Register on 6 October 1592 by the bookseller Abel Jeffes. The play was published in an undated quarto, almost certainly before the end of 1592; this first quarto was printed by Edward Allde — and published not by the copyright holder Jeffes, but by another bookseller, Edward White. On 18 December that year, the Stationers Company ruled that both Jeffes and White had broken the guild's rules by printing works that belonged to the other; both men were fined 10 shillings, and the offending books were destroyed, so that Q1 of The Spanish Tragedy survives in only a single copy. Yet the Q1 title page refers to an even earlier edition; this was probably by Jeffes, and no known copy exists.
The popular play was reprinted in 1594; in an apparent compromise between the competing booksellers, the title page of Q2 credits the edition to "Abell Jeffes, to be sold by Edward White." On 13 August 1599, Jeffes transferred his copyright to William White, who issued the third edition that year. White in turn transferred the copyright to Thomas Pavier on 14 August 1600 and Pavier issued the fourth edition (printed for him by William White) in 1602. This 1602 Q4 featured five additions to the preexisting text (see below). Q4 was reprinted in 1610, 1615 (two issues), 1618, 1623 (two issues), and 1633.