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The Headlines of William de Machlinia's Year-Book, 37 Henry VI by Curt F. Bühler
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The Headlines of William de Machlinia's Year-Book, 37 Henry VI
Curt F. Bühler

THE RECENT REVOLUTIONARY STUDIES in the field of headlines by Bowers,[1] McManaway, Hinman and others among my colleagues have suggested to me that I might try my prentice hand at this line of investigation. For this trial effort, I chose an English incunabulum in the Pierpont Morgan Library[2] which might prove valuable from a bibliographical point of view even if, for the literary student, the book is singularly lacking in appeal. The results of my study are set forth below; they are interesting though, perhaps, inconclusive—the latter being the possible result of my inexperience in this form of bibliographical research.

The volume under examination is the Year-Book 37 Henry VI credited to the press of William de Machlinia in London and apparently printed between 1486 and 1490. The collation of the volume, as given by Duff 422,[3] is: [a8-1] b-f8 g h6. The information as to the first quire is somewhat uninformative. Upon


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careful study it becomes evident that folio 3 is an insert as it is printed on different paper from the rest of the quire; the watermarks and the stub found between folios 5 and 6 of the Morgan and Exeter College copies confirm this. Apparently this leaf was forgotten or overlooked when the quire went to press and the omission was made good by an insert. According to Dr. Greg's formulary, the first quire would be described as a 6(a2+1). For reasons which I set forth in my Rosenbach lecture (1947), I should prefer to describe this as [a7; a3 disjunct) or, as expressed in M. Polain's[4] form, [a7(4+3, le 3e encarté)].

Before turning to the volume itself, a word may be said about the headlines in such fifteenth-century books as the present example. It is, of course, a commonplace observation that early type was often somewhat crudely cut and easily subject to damage; frequently the ink was carelessly applied and, being thin, tended to spread and distort the face of the type. This at once simplifies and complicates the examination of the headlines. While the variety of tied letters in the earlier fonts makes it easy to sort out the headlines into readily identifiable groups, the indistinct characters and bad inking make it extremely difficult, on occasion, to determine whether a specific headline on one page is the same as that on another or whether the apparent identity is just an instance of a headline reset with the identical combination of tied letters and reasonably comparable spacing. The headlines in the present volume have been minutely examined as to letter-press, and calliper measurements of over-all length and spacings have been carefully recorded;[5] for the purposes of this discussion, only those running heads will be admitted which can, with reasonable certainty, be assumed to be identical.


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One peculiarity of the headlines in this book must be pointed out at once, since it is of special significance. In normal circumstances (and especially in books of a later date), a particular headline, when it forms part of a permanent skeleton,[6] must necessarily always be in the same position[7] relative to the edges of the type-page. In this Year-Book, however, the position of a specific headline is not so invariable. For example, in quire b the eight verso running-heads show five (possibly more) different positions relative to the (printed) left-hand edge of the type-page, the maximum difference being as much as 13 millimetres. Dr. Fredson Bowers has kindly suggested to me what is surely the only reasonable explanation for this phenomenon. It is possible that the long lines of the folio volume made it difficult for the pressman to pick up a whole line of type (that is, the headline with its letter-press and quads) without danger of pieing. Thus one may assume, in this case, that in transferring the parts of a skeleton from one forme to assemble them again around the type-pages of the next one, the printer merely picked up the letter-press of the headline, centered it (as nearly as he could judge) to the text-page and filled up the rest of this line to the edge of the type-page with the loose quads from the forme about to be distributed. This would adequately explain the variations in the position of the headline from page to page.

Turning now to the actual headlines in Machlinia's Year-Book, we find that, with three exceptions,[8] each recto page contains the words "Henrici sexti." The versos usually indicate the four terms of court (Michaelmas, Hilary, Easter


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and Trinity). The recto headlines are extant in at least three different settings that can easily be spotted:
  • (1). Thorned H; ri tied
  • (2). Thorned H; ri separate letters
  • (3). Unthorned H; ri tied
As the investigation will at this stage be simplified by confining our study to the last three gatherings (f-h), it will be seen that the verso headlines cover the Trinity term (Trin xxxvij) and appear in four different settings:
  • (a). ri tied; j undotted; 5 mm. space; 30 mm. over-all[9]
  • (b). ri tied; j dotted; 3 mm. space; 28 mm. over-all
  • (c). ri tied; j dotted; 1 mm. space; 26 mm. over-all
  • (d). ri separate; j undotted; 30 mm. over-all

Now the outer formes of quire f regularly have the combination: Trinity (c)—Henry (1); the inner formes, however, have with the same regularity: Trinity (a)—Henry (3). In the case of gathering g. both inner and outer formes have the headlines: Trinity (b)—Henry (1). The headlines of quire h are decidedly more complicated. The first two sheets (h1.6 and h2.5) have in both formes:[10] Trinity (d)—Henry (3); but the inner and outer formes of the innermost (h3.4) both have: Trinity (b)—Henry (1). The result then is this: in gathering f, Machlinia had and used two skeletons, one for the outer forme and the other for the inner; in quire g he used but one skeleton (a variant of that found in $(0) of f); and, for quire h, he employed for the outer two sheets a variant of the skeleton used in the inner forme of f. Since the innermost sheet of h is printed with the same running heads as quire g, it probably indicates that when Machlinia had set his type through folio 4 recto, he was ready to print the inner forme of the innermost sheet and proceeded to do so with the skeleton that had just been


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used for printing the last forme of g (whichever one that may have been).[11] While this sheet was printing, Machlinia put in a new head, i.e. Trinity (d), for the skeleton used for the inner forme of f in order to print the middle sheet of h as well as the inner forme of the outer sheet; the recto headline also appears on h1.

Turning now to the earlier gatherings, we find that the headlines for quire c are perplexing but afford information of a rather speculative sort. Here are found on the versos three forms for the headline for Hilary term:

  • (α). Hill' xxxvij—c4, c5 and c6
  • (β). Hillarij xxxvij—c8 (and d1)
  • (γ). Hillarij xxxiiij (sic)—c2 and c7
A study of the sheets in their bound and quired form (not that of production) supplies the following information. The skeleton for the previous printed forme (be that either forme of the outer sheet of gathering b) contained the headline "Michīs xxxvij—Henry (2)" and this reappears in the first inner forme of c (c1v-c8). For the outer forme, and for all the other versos (save c3), Machlinia required a new running title for Hilary term. Thus he here used Hilary (β) for c8v and, for c1, Henry (1). This latter heading had been previously employed for the printing of the rectos of b6 and [a3-5].

For the next sheet (c2-c7), Machlinia used another headline. The skeleton then contained, for the outer forme, the incorrect Hilary (γ)[12] and Henry (1). This same skeleton was


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employed for the inner forme, with the result that the Hilary (γ) headline on c2v was then wrong in two respects since, instead of Michaelmas 37, it read Hilary 34.

In the case of the third and fourth sheets of signature c,[13] Machlinia was obliged to meet a rather complex situation, for whereas the outer forme of the former and the inner of the latter had the same headline, the complementary formes did not. For the formes with the identical headline,[14] he used a running title reading Hilary (α)—Henry (2); this corrects the error of Hilary (γ) of the second sheet.

Beginning with the outer sheet, the headlines may be summarized thus:

  • Quire c 1.8(o): Henry (1)—Hilary (β)
  • (i): Henry (2)—Michīs xxxvij
  • 2.7(o.i): Henry (1)—Hilary (γ)
  • 3.6(o): Henry (2)—Hilary (α)
  • (i): Henry (2)—Michīs xxxvij H vi[15]
  • 4.5(o): De t'mino[16] &c—Hilary (α)
  • (i): Henry (2)—Hilary (α)


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The actual printing of the eight leaves of gathering c may well have proceeded as follows. When the compositor had set through folio 5r, printing on this section could have begun. In moving the skeleton from the last forme of b and requiring a new headline for c4v-c5, the printer placed the still usable running title (Michīs xxxvij) above the type-page of c1v and supplied the new head Henry (2)—Hilary (α). For the outer forme of c3.6 he could (and perhaps did) use the same skeleton and headline immediately[17] —and he could then have perfected both sheets by using the respective halves of the original headline together with the special running titles as noted above. At this stage the original pair of running titles was no longer together, so the compositor set up the combination Henry (1)—Hilary (γ) for c2.7 (probably using a skeleton then idle) and printed both outer and inner formes with this. The skeleton for inner c3.6 could then have been used for printing inner c1.8, keeping Henry (2) and using the Michīs xxxvij which had been preserved for this purpose. For the outer forme of this sheet, the printer then had available the skeleton of c2.7; he retained the Henry (1) but, noting the misprint, supplied the correct Hilary (β) for c8v.

These are the facts, so far as they can be ascertained with any reasonable assurance, which may be determined from the headlines—though the reader, without the book before him, is possibly by this time thoroughly confused. If my findings are correct, it would indicate that expediency was the order of the day at Machlinia's press.[18] It seems likely that the printing


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of the various formes for this book was undertaken rather with the idea of conserving effort than that of saving time or maintaining a logical sequence. As we have seen, Machlinia was perfectly capable (in gathering f) of handling two skeletons, printing the one forme with one skeleton and perfecting with the other. Why he did not follow the same procedure in quire g is incomprehensible to me, unless it be true that another press with a less skilled crew was set to work on this section of the book. Again, in quires c and h, Machlinia used more than one skeleton but (in all of h and in parts of c) he printed the inner and outer formes of the same sheet with the same skeleton. He thereby voided whatever benefits normally accrue through the use of multiple skeletons, especially those of keeping the press at full productivity and saving time. Machlinia may, of course, have found difficulty in keeping the text pages of troublesome Law-French in proper order (he had already made one serious slip in the first quire). This may have suggested to him that it would be better to proceed with caution rather than to avail himself of the full potential productivity of the press. If there is any other explanation for the curious order in which the headlines appear in quires c and h, it is not apparent to me.



I should here like to thank Professor Fredson Bowers for his most welcome assistance and wise counsel; his help has been absolutely invaluable. It would be improper, however, to hold Mr. Bowers responsible for any possible errors in the deductions I have set down here.


Ada Thurston and Curt F. Bühler, Check List of Fifteenth Century Printing in The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1939, no. 1829.


E. Gordon Duff, Fifteenth Century English Books, Bibliographical Society, Illustrated Monograph no. XVIII.


M.-Louis Polain, Catalogue des livres imprimés au quinzième siècle des bibliothèques de Belgique, Bruxelles, 1932, passim.


It is hardly likely that the shrinkage caused by the wetting of the paper would make an appreciable difference in the measurements. The headlines are relatively short and the effect of shrinkage would not be perceptible in millimetre measurements below a maximum 33 mm. for the longest normal headline.


For the definition of this term, see Fredson Bowers, "The Headline in Early Books," English Institute Annual, 1941 (1942), p. 186, and his general discussion of the problem in "Notes on Running-Titles as Bibliographical Evidence," The Library, 4th ser., XIX, 315-338.


Very minor variations in the position of the headline may, of course, be due to the difference in the amount of pressure when the headline was locked but such a change would necessarily be quite small.


On the first printed page [a2], c4 (see below) and d3, the beginning of Easter term.


The measurement is taken from the left extremity of the cross-bar in T to the point at the bottom tip of j.


h6 verso is, of course, blank.


If one should assume that Machlinia began printing with the first sheet of quire h—printing both formes of this and the second sheet with only one skeleton, there is no apparent reason why he should have preserved the skeleton from the previous quire for use only in both formes of the innermost sheet. If he had been printing "outside in", one would expect to find the same skeleton used for all three sheets, or (if he here used two skeletons) to find the second skeleton used for the second sheet.


This, naturally, would be a suitable headline for Duff 419 (Year-Book 34 Henry VI). Through the courtesy of Mr. H. G. Nicholas, Librarian of Exeter College, Oxford, I learn that the section for Hilary term 34 Henry VI occurs on signatures f2 through h3 of Duff 419. This slight misprint perhaps means that the two books were printed about the same time.


In quire d, the situation is equally complex. For the first sheet of this quire, Machlinia seems to have taken, from the skeleton of c1-c8v, Hilary (β) for the inner forme as it reappears (just once again) on d1v and Henry (1) for the outer, since this reading is found only on d1 and was not used again till quire f. The innermost sheet, in turn, has the same headline in both formes: Pasche xxxvij (j undotted)—Henry (3); the latter appears here for the first time. This combination of running titles occurs only once more, in the outer forme of the second sheet of gathering e. In the rest of quires d and e, the only recto headline is Henry (2); the verso running-heads seem to defy classification.


One must otherwise assume that separate headlines were supplied for all four formes, since (as we shall see) parts of the original pair of running titles appear in the complementary formes. But these running titles seem to be identical and it seems mathematically most improbable that Machlinia could four times have set such headlines with the same combination of abbreviations, spacings and measurements. This is especially true in view of the noticeable variety found elsewhere whenever he was called upon to supply new letter-press. It is true that the headline on c6 verso seems to measure one millimetre more than the others but it is possible that this particular forme was not locked up as tightly as the other two. The measurements for the Trinity headline, it should be noted, depend on the space between the term and the year—a somewhat different matter than simple over-all length. Even a slight loosening of the pressure would probably spread the increased length more or less equitably throughout the running title, not necessarily in just one particular place.


This marks the end of the Michaelmas term.


The headline "De t'mino hill' anno H sexti.xxxvij." is supplied to mark the opening of the Hilary term.


If he had printed normally (that is, first the inner and then the outer formes of c4.5 and c3.6), he would have had available (from outer c3.6) the pair "Henry (2)—Hilary (α)" for printing outer c1.8. Since, however, he set up new combinations for both c1.8v and c2.7, it seems to indicate that the old pair of headlines was no longer available.


Charlton Hinman ("New Uses for Headlines as Bibliographical Evidence," English Institute Annual, 1941, pp. 207-222) has suggested that, when two skeletons were employed, this was done solely for the purpose of speeding up the presswork. He also states (p. 209): "It follows as a general principle that in any book printed on a single press two sets of headlines will appear only if the book was printed in an edition large enough for composition to keep ahead of presswork—and of presswork at the increased speed which the use of two skeletons would make possible." Neither of these conditions necessarily applies here, but it must be borne in mind that Machlinia was working, almost certainly with rather simple equipment, more than a century earlier than the period with which Hinman concerns himself. For the way the supply of type affects this problem, see Fredson Bowers, "An Examination of the Method of Proof Correction in Lear," The Library, 5th ser., II, 20-44.