link catchup

Hi all—I’ve been so busy writing elsewhere that I haven’t kept up here. *sorry* But some links to some of that book history goodness in case you missed out:

At The Collation I wrote a whole lot of posts, but there are two recent ones that are exactly the sort of thing I would have written about here if I wasn’t trying to shore up content over there. The first is “Learning from mistakes,” about how much I love finding printer’s errors in early books and what we can learn from their mistakes. Check out the comments, please, to help me understand what’s going on in the 1641 pamphlet that I end the post with and why Wing drives me nuts! The second post, just up a few hours ago, is “Correcting mistakes,” and it picks up from the previous post to consider how early modern printers tried to fix their errors and how readers didn’t always heed their corrections. Don’t tell those Collation people (especially that cranky editor SW) but I think there’s going to be a third in the series looking more closely at how readers respond to errors in books.

I also put together a course site for my Folger seminar on “Books and Early Modern Culture.” The syllabus is there, including the assignment descriptions. Only class members can access the readings themselves, but there’s also a page listing a whole lot of open-access resources for studying early modern book history. I even put together a list of all the books my students have studied over the years, and wrote about that collection at The Collation as well as a post about the experience of two students working with different copies of the same book.

an armorial binding mystery

Another book from my students’ projects, this one with a curious binding:

At first glance, what you might see is an armorial binding: a binding in which an owner has stamped his arms in gold tooling. No big deal, really; there are plenty of books like those in libraries. But this one is more complicated: there are TWO coats of arms, one stamped on top of the other. Here’s a close-up of the center of the binding, where the arms are:

And here’s the picture again with one of the two arms outlined:
A close-up of the top portion, in which you can see that there are two crowns juxtaposed and the heads of two faintly visible supporters:
Looked at in raking light, you can see that the supporter on the right looks like an antlered stag:

And the supporter on the left looks like a horse:

I can’t make out the details of the arms themselves, but you can see the motto on which the supporters are standing:

My student deciphered it as “fidei coticula crux” and that looks right to me.

If you look closely at that last picture, you can see that the arms with the supporters and motto was done second: its lines cross on top of the other arms. And if you look at the original arms, you might recognize them as James I’s arms: there’s the harp on the bottom left of the shield, the lions and fleur-de-lis quartering the right, and the motto “honi soit qui mal y pense” circling the shield. (This gives you some sense of the arms, though that harp is a bit excessive.) (And I should point out, although it’s surely obvious by this point, that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about arms and that my vocabulary choices might not be quite precise. But this is why we need help.)

So whose coat of arms is on top of James’s? Is it possible it’s James’s favorite, George Villiers, aka the first Duke of Buckingham? According to the Burke I was looking at, not only was the family’s motto “Fidei coticula crux”, but he used the supporters of “a dapple grey horse” and a stag. But, as I said, I’m not super confident of my ability to deal with armorial and geneological crap, so does someone want to confirm or deny this? I’m drawn to it because if someone WAS going to stamp their arms on top of the king’s, wouldn’t it be great if it was him? (If you’re not familiar with this period, you might want to know more about Villiers; this link should, I hope, get you into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography‘s article on him for the next few days [though April 27th]. If it no longer works, well, this would be a good time for you to do some scouting about on your own! If you know of some reliable open access information about him, please leave it in the comments. Or go edit the Wikipedia page, which could use improvement!)

I should say something about what book this is, I suppose. It’s John Smith’s 1624 The generall historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. It’s a very interesting book, and there’s some great marginalia in it, but that will have to wait until another post, especially since my student is still in the middle of her research! But the arms thing is tricky to decipher and the Folger catalog record identifies only one of the two crests (James’s, of course), so I wanted to lend her a hand in getting it sorted out. And I certainly didn’t want to lead her astray with my desire for it to be Buckingham! So please leave me a note telling me what you think and I’ll pass it on to her.

that thei they thnt

My students are in the process of choosing the books they’re going to work with this semester, so I’ve been looking at lots of books I haven’t seen before. One of them is an English translation of Nicholas Monardes’s Historia medicinal, a 1577 book with one of those glorious long titles: Ioyfull newes out of the newe founde worlde, wherein is declared the rare and singuler vertues of diuerse and sundrie hearbes, trees, oyles, plantes, and stones, with their aplications, aswell for phisicke as chirurgerie, the saied beyng well applied bryngeth suche present remedie for all deseases, as maie seme altogether incredible: notwithstandyng by practize founde out, to bee true: also the portrature of the saied hearbes, very aptly discribed: Englished by Ihon Frampton marchaunt. (Want more info? Check out the record on Hamnet.)

In doing her description of the book, my student noticed something funny about the headlines. They are set up to do something fairly typical: the book is divided into three parts, and the headlines tell you which part you are reading, as shown here:

“The first parte of the thynges that” is on the left-hand side of the opening, with the conclusion of the phrase on the other side of the gutter: “thei bryng from the West Indias.”

The fun part is what happens on the left. On most of the pages, this part of the phrase appears as you would expect:

But sometimes, it goes a bit askew:


or even:

All these mistakes happen only in the first part of the book (although there are other errors in the headlines in the second and third parts). “Thei” is obviously a slip from the phrase’s continuation and appears on signatures A1v, D1v, and F1v. “They” is a similar mistake; it appears on D3v and F3v. It’s not connected to “thei”–by which I mean, it’s not some sort of correction of “thei”, which wouldn’t make sense anyway, because “thei” is spelled perfectly acceptably according to early modern standards, as evidenced by the fact that it’s spelled that way on the other side of the gutter. No, I know it’s not a correction of “thei” because both mistakes appear on the outer formes of the D and the G gatherings: “thei” on D1v/G3v with “they” on D3v/G3v. In other words, they were both in use at the same time. (If this doesn’t make sense, go back and practice your quarto folding again.)

My favorite, though, is the last one–“thnt”–which appears with the greatest frequency, on signatures B2v, C1v, G2v, and H2v. What in the world is “thnt”? It’s “that” when someone has accidentally put an “n” in with the “a”s when he was redistributing the type. A good compositor would touch-set, just as a good typist touch-types. You don’t look at where your fingers are on the keyboard; you look at what it is you are typing. If you’re copying something (typing notes up from a book, for instance), you’re looking at the book, not at your fingers or your typewriter computer screen. When you’re grabbing type from the case and reading the manuscript that you’re setting, you’re not only not looking at each letter as you put it in the composing stick, even if you were to glance at it, it’d be a mirror image.

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons you proof your work.

the small joys of looking at books

Take a gander at this book I was looking at today:

Boyer’s The compleat French-master, 1699, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q

Can you see what’s going on here? It looks at first glance like the top page has been folded back, revealing the text of the previous leaf. But that’s not it. You’re looking at the verso side of sig. H4 and nothing else.

Can you see now that it’s only one leaf?

Here’s an image of what this leaf looks like in other copies of this book:


And now do you see what’s happened? During printing, this leaf got folded over in the press, and the inside of the fold missed the type (that’s the blank streak) and the outer part of the fold was, once unfolded, misaligned. Print the image off and fold it to see for yourself!

Here’s the recto side of the leaf:

Boyer’s The compleat French-master, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q

You can see the crease from the fold, but since this side was already printed, there’s no misalignment of the text.

I love this detail in this book. It’s not really significant, it’s just a tiny reminder that the book is a made objects, and that in making objects, things happen and sometimes leave their traces. It’s one of the tiny joys I find in looking at books–not reading them, but looking at them.

That’s it for my post. My new theory is to stick with the short and sweet. Now that the Folger allows readers (and staff) to snap their own photos, I’m determined to share more of the tidbits that I come across. I’ll still do the longer posts, but at least this way I won’t have such long periods of silence in between!

(A shout-out here to the cataloger who created the entry for this book. As with many items in the Folger’s collections, this has a wonderfully detailed record, including the information that this fold was to be found. You can see the record for yourself–you’ll notice that the book is full of other nice details. And the next time you encounter a cataloger, make sure you buy them a drink. Or chocolate. Or both.)

essayes of a prentise

Another example of a student project today, this time at the intersection of politics and poetry as well as of England and Scotland: King James’s The Essayes of a prentise, in the divine art of poesie. This book is a collection of poems and translations by James, as well as “A treatise on the airt of Scottis Poesie.” Published in 1584 in Edinburgh, James was then King James VI of Scotland, and net yet King James I of England, a title he didn’t take until 1603, although the book is cataloged by the STC as authored by James I. (The STC record is the source of the Folger’s catalogue entry for the book; there are standardized rules for all cataloging, of course, but it seems to me misleading to think of this work as being by the King of England, rather than an aspirant to that title.)

There are some great things about this book, including the fact that it’s written in a Scots dialect. Are you surprised that James would write a treatise on poetry? He addresses that very surprise in his preface:

“ze may marvell paraventure, quhairfore I sould have writtin in that mater, sen sa mony learnit men, baith of auld and of late hes already written thairof in dyvers and sindry languages: I answer, That nochtwithstanding, I have lykewayis writtin of it, for twa caussis.”

If you want to know the two causes, you’ll have to read the essay yourself. (By the way, I’ve regularized the u/v usage, as I typically do in transcriptions for this blog, and I’ve reproduced the long “s” form as our modern “s”, but you’ll have to provide your own accent to make sense of the rest of it.)

As you might imagine, part of James’s aim is to argue for the particularity of Scottish learning: the rules for English versification are not and should not be the same as those for Scottish. Just as poesie is also politics in the treatise, so it is throughout the book, which proceeds wtihin a network of Protestant politics, from the Huguenot who printed it while in exile in Edinburgh to the substance of the works.

The book itself has a wonderful sense of presence, including lots of white space and even blank pages (a sure sign of luxuriousness, given the cost of paper). The layout of these poems is a lovely example of early shape poetry:

One of the most interesting aspects of the book isn’t what is in it, but what binds it:

That’s a beautiful, and unusual, orange vellum binding, with tooling, including the name of its owner, W. Lord Burghley. According to research done for a Folger exhibition, this binding is nearly exact that of another copy of this book, one which is tooled with the name “W. Lord Hunsden”. The existence of the two bindings, plus the face that this binding does not resemble the bindings of other books Burghley owned, suggests that it could be a presentation copy by James VI to Burghley–bringing us back to the intersection of poesie and politics.

It was the binding that brought my student to this book–Michael came across it by browsing through Hamnet for “tooling” and “ties”. But, as we’ve seen before, when you start looking at a book from one point of view, others open up, so that he moved from physical object, to text, to social and networks–none of which, of course, are separate from each other.

the primer in englishe and latine

Last year, at the start of each semester, I gave you something from a school book to celebrate the return of classes: in the fall it was Lily’s Latin grammar; in the spring, Comenius’s picture book. This semester, I think I’ll give you something slightly different to celebrate the return of students: a look at some of the books my students worked with last spring.

First up, this 1557 English book of hours:

The student who was working on this book was a theology major and chose it, I think, to have a chance to think about Catholic liturgy and print. There’s a lot to be learned about liturgy in studying it. The title of the book signals some of the basic issues at play: The primer in Englishe and Latine, set out along, after the use of Sa[rum]: with many godlie and devoute praiers: as it apeareth in the table. A brief history of primers in encapsulated in that title. There’s the reference to “Sarum use”, specifying this book of hours as following the Salisbury rite, the form that dominated England Catholic liturgy. Most notable is the identification that this includes a translation of the Latin prayers into English, an increasingly popular approach to the prayers after the Reformation, and one that was strictly regulated. That this is in both Latin and English links it to a specific historical moment. It wasn’t until after Henry VIII’s split with the Catholic Church that books of hours in English (usually referred to as “primers”) began to be published in England–and Henry, after 1545, promulgated his Royal Primer. With Mary’s reign, the Sarum rite again became the sanctioned form of the primer, though the popularity of English translations continued. The imprint of this book hints at the Sarum primer’s popularity: “Imprinted at London, by Jhon Kyngston, and Henry Sutton. 1557. Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum.” You could assume correctly from the “cum privilegio” that printing primers was a lucrative business that was awarded to a specific printer. You could correctly assume, too, that we would see a rise of English Sarum primers printed during Mary’s reign.

That’s a brief outline of some of what we can learn from the title page–a sort of cultural/political/religious history that can be gathered from studying this book. But we can do something fun, too, with the mise-en-page of this book:

This opening is mostly fairly typical: there’s the English translation in the large columns closest to the gutter in a nice blackletter font, and the Latin text in the outer columns in a smaller font. The decorated initials are printed woodcuts (that is, not hand-rubricated or illuminated). And the running titles and other directive texts are printed in red ink to guide the reader. All of these details can lead you into a study of how this book was designed to be used.

But there’s something else we can learn from this book, too. Here’s a close-up showing the text in more detail, including my favorite moment:

Did you notice it? Take a look again.

What is the title given to this prayer, which begins “Rejoyce O virgine Christes mother deare”? Is it “Of the five corporall joyes of our Ladie.”? But why is “Ladie” printed in black? Look underneath–it was first printed “of our lorde.” Ooops. Well, anyone can make a mistake, right? At least they corrected it. And that’s what I love about this page. Here’s the thing–printers did not typically print red and black ink at the same time. Think about it–it would be pretty hard to dab black ink only on the black bits and red ink on the red bits. You wouldn’t be able to do it with your standard ink balls.

Instead, you’d follow a much more complicated series of steps. First, you’d set the type for the whole form (that is, not just one single page, but all the pages on that side of the sheet). Then you’d determine which words were to be printed in red, take those letters out and replace them with blanks. You’d ink the whole thing with black, using those ink balls that have been keeping nice and moist by soaking in urine, and run it through the press once with black ink. After you’d run through the entire run’s worth of copies of that form, it would be time to do the red ink. You’d cut a new frisket (the protective sheet that covers over what you don’t want to get inked) that would have holes for the red text but keep the black text covered. You’d replace the blanks with the red text, which has been raised slightly above the black text so that when you pull the press, only the raised type will print. And then you would run the entire set of sheets through the press again. If you’ve done it all right, the red text will print in the holes that were left behind after the black ink run. As you can see from this book, sometimes the red and black ink printed a bit more askew. (You can find a tidier example of two-color printing at this earlier blog post.)

So here’s where I really love this: the printers, after making this mistake, recognize it, and want, understandably, to fix it–which means running the entire thing through the press for a third time! Oh, the labor of it all!

That’s what I’m going to think of at the start of the fall: sometimes learning and teaching doesn’t happen on the first try, or even the second. But that’s no reason to stop working! This is also a good reminder of how much of what we do is serendipitous–looking up this book in the catalogue, there was no sign of this cool printing tidbit. It was only because Caitlin looked through every single page in this book with her eyes wide open that she found it. What a nice reward for her curiosity! And that feels like another excellent piece of advice for all of us: don’t forget to be curious along the way and to be open to discovering something new.

Happy learning!

(Want to read about printing with red ink in more detail? Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises, as always, is your not-to-be-beat source about early printing; for the section on two-color printing, see pages 328-30. This lovely primer can be found in our catalogue here; a set of zoomable images from it are here.)