Sunday, December 26, 2010

Notes on "The Craft of Printing and the Publication of Shakespeare's Works - Chapter 2

Early printed books sought to reproduce the books created in scriptoria, and thus early typefaces were designed to resemble the same letters that scribes commonly used. Gutenberg saw no need to supplant the work of the illuminator, and thus he printed his books with spaces for illuminators to adorn printed books exactly as they did with manuscripts (34).

The first styles copied for print were of the family that we call "black letter." There were four formal hands (Textura (the most formal), Fere-humanistica, Rotunda, and Bastarda) and one informal (signature). More informal hands have less curves in their letters, Textura (which was used for the Gutenberg bible) is strictly angular and lacks any curves at all (the letter "o" is produced with six straight lines). Fere-humanistica had rounder, more open letters than Textura, and footless descenders (Textura's descenders had feet) that ended bluntly; this typeface was used for general works in Latin. Rotunda had curved letters within the straight lines of Textura, and tended to be used for works in the vernacular. Bastarda has many curved letters and the "f" and "long-s" descend below the line; it was the least formal of the formal faces, and was used for legal or general works (35).

Roman fonts were developed for classical works because the more modern black letter faces were considered inappropriate, and although modern scholars place the use of this lettering in the Carolingian period (~780 - ~900 AD), Renaissance scribes thought the face originated in ancient Rome. The first book printed in Italy, Cicero's De oratore, was printed in a Roman font in 1465 that is the ancestor of all other Roman faces (35).

The italic face was developed by Francesco Griffo while working in Venetian print house of Aldus Manutius, and was modeled on the cursive hand of the papal chancery. It was intended to be an economical alternative to roman typeface printing, but under the guidance of the designer Francois Guyot, working in Antwerp for the house of Plantin, italic face gained its function as a secondary and subordinate typeface used in conjunction with roman letters (37).

The primacy of roman, or "white-letter" faces, based on the classical model, came to supersede the more medieval black letter faces, with the primacy of white letter being established by around 1500, although vernacular works continued to be printed in black letter for years to come (37).

cf Stanley Morison's "Introduction to The New Hebrew Typography by Hugh J. Schonfield. London: Dennis Archer, 1932. Also other works by Morison, whom Williams calls "the eminent historian of typography" (37).

Canon roman is a large roman font that appears on the heading of "large and important volumes" such as the 1611 King James Bible and First Folio. Pica roman and italic, the smallest size of type available on specimen sheets designed by Francois Guyot in Antwerp in ~1565, but used by him in London in the 1570s, are the typefaces used for most of the original printings of Shakespeare's plays in single editions (39).

The long-s began disappearing from English after 1785 (40). I don't know how useful that is to my thesis, but it's an interesting fact.

One of Gutenberg's key innovations was the alloy formula he used for the creation of type: 75% lead, 12% tin, 12% antimony, 1% copper; this formula heats easily, cools quickly, neither expands nor shrinks during the heating and cooling process, and retains its solid shape over a lengthy service life. While modern formulas reduce the amount of lead and increase the amounts of other ingredients, modern type-casters still essentially follow Gutenberg's formula (46-47).

While specific measurements of sizes of paper varied between print shops in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a few sizes were agreed upon and regarded as roughly equivalent: Imperial (75 x 50 cm, 29" x 19-3/4"), Royal (60 x 44 cm, 24" x 17-1/2"), Demy (one half Imperial: 50 x 35 cm, 19-1/2" x 13-3/4"), and Foolscap (45 x 31.5 cm, 17-1/2" x 12-1/2"). Two other sizes were added in the sixteenth century: Crown (between Demy and Foolscap) and Pot (smaller than Foolscap). In the seventeenth century Medium was added (between Royal and Demy) (52).

Paper was available unfolded as a "broadside" or "broadsheet," which was suitable for public bills, or for books requiring large illustrations; folio, which was a broadside folded once, creating two leaves and four pages; quarto a broadside folded twice creating four leaves and eight sheets; octavo is a broadside folded three times for eight leaves and 16 sheets, and the series continues to sixteens (16mo), thirty-twos (32mo), and sixty fours (64mo). Twelvemo was an intermediary system that yielded books more convenient for handling than some of the folds based on fours; this system continued with eighteens (18mo) and twenty-fours (24mo) (53).

"The critical figured in the entire [printing] process were the compositors, because it was through their minds and fingers that the ideas of the text before them were 'committed to type'" (53).

Compositors were generally faithful to their responsibility to set an author's words faithfully, but they were also responsible for standardizing the author's spelling, form of words, capitalization, and punctuation; in this process they tended to subsume the idiosyncrasies of an author into their own, or into those of their print shop (likely both) (53 - 54).

"The number of pages to be printed at one time depends on the format of the book to be printed. For a folio volume the printer will print two pages at one time on one side of the sheet and then will print two pages on the other side of the sheet (perfect the sheet). The pages that fill either side of the sheet constitute one forme. The pages that will lie on the inside of the sheet when it is folded constitute the inner forme; those on the ourside, the outer forme. The pages of the inner forme of a sheet in folio will be pages two and three; the pages of the outer forme will be pages one and four. All of the pages of a forme are printed simultaneously" (55).

At a normal rate of speed, roughly 250 sheets could be printed per hour (59).

The number of copies printed in an edition was commonly somewhere between 1000 and 1500, and on the low end of this scale, a complete edition of a book containing either 48 folio or 96 quarto pages could be printed in as little as twelve days (two weeks time) (59).

"The amount of care given to the proofreading of early books varied with the importance of the work being printed and the time available" (59).

Compositors typically read over the line in their composing sticks, and may have read the pages on the forme, but for typographical and not literary concerns. More important works would have had a corrector proof read an early printing of a forme and mark errors; it was not customary for the press corrector to refer to the original manuscript, he was merely reading the sheet for sense, and if the sheet made sense as printed, he would let it pass (59).

"Uncorrected sheets already printed, the proof sheet itself, and the corrected sheets were all equally valid in the eye of the printer, and all were bound up indiscriminately in the final copies of a book to be put on sale" (60).

Holinshed's Chronicles of Enland, Scotland, and Ireland was an exception to the standard printing practice; a copy containing hundreds of page of proof sheets is currently held by the Henry E. Huntingdon library (60).

Checking a book for accuracy and fidelity to original copy was possible, but the process was cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive, and therefore was reserved for only the most important works: the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, foreign language works, and other books of suitable import. Proof sheets were not sent out of the print house to be corrected by the author until the eighteenth century (60).

Book binding was an ancient technique, much like paper making, and the advent of printing had more of a quantitative than a qualitative impact on the trade: there were many more books being produced to be bound. Only a few copies of a book would be bound initially, the rest were sold as sheets stitched together, although Bibles, prayer books, and law books were usually sold already bound (60).

The 1549 Book of Common Prayer contains the following notice describing binding options and costs:
No maner of persone shall sell this present Booke vnpbounde, aboue the price of two shillynges and two pence. And bound in Forell [parchment] for .ii.s xd. [two shillings and ten pence] and not aboue. And the same bound in Shepes Lether for iii.s. iiii. pence [three shillings and four pence] and not aboue. And the same bounde in paste or in boordes, in Calues Lether, not aboue the price of .iiii.s [four shillings] the pece. God saue the Kyng.
(qtd in Williams 62).


The development of printing evolved from an emulation of the previous technology (manuscript) into a technical discipline in its own right. Even in the early days of printing, Gutenberg realized that the new technology would best serve a mass-market approach, and while a market later emerged for elegance and decoration of printed books, the technology and techniques of the print house were developed for speed and economy. While printers who were not faithful to their copy would not likely be in business for long, technical accuracy was the primary concern of the print house; more literary considerations were appropriate for larger volumes of more important works, but the sort of editorial scrutiny that modern authors have come to expect would have significantly increased the price of early modern books.

Just as publishers of "more important"editions chose to incur (and pass on) the costs added by having an annotating reader serve as copy editor, publishers of other works implicitly chose not to. I am, of course, specifically thinking of Arthur Johnson and his quartos of The Merry Devil of Edmonton.

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