University of Virginia Library


In E. Gordon Duff's Fifteenth Century English Books (Bibliographical Society, Illustrated Monograph No. XVIII, 1917), one finds the following note appended to his description of No. 267:

There are two issues of this book: in the original issue (B.M.) the two inner pages of sheet f3 have been imposed wrongly, so that what should be on f3b is


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on f6a and what should be on f6a is on f3b, and the whole book is in type 4. In the second issue (Britwell) this whole sheet has been reprinted in type 4*, so as to read correctly.[2]

Of the six copies that have survived to our day,[3] the British Museum is the only one to have sheet f3.6 in the original state,[4] the remaining copies all belonging to the later "issue" (contrary to the opinion expressed in STC 6473).

Since it is absolutely certain that the Museum copy belongs to the earlier state, one may well ask how it compares with the "corrected" later form of sheet f3.6? The ready answer to this query is that the resetting (though corrected so far as the imposition is concerned) is much the more inferior text. Not only does the reprint contain eleven misprints to seven found in the original setting[5] but it also omits nineteen words found in the original— a fact of much greater significance. To be exact, twenty words are omitted by the reprint but, by way of partial compensation, one word[6] not found in the first setting is added by the second.

Almost half the words wanting in the later sheet are clearly omitted because of careless type-setting. The compositor of the reprint, although he was setting type from printed copy, did not follow his original line for line.[7] On the verso of signature f3 (of the reprint) he departed so far from his copy that when he reached the bottom of the page he found that he had less than half a line to accommodate a full line of the original text. By making radical omissions, the compositor succeeded in having his page end at the proper place but not without doing violence to the text. In the original state (f6) the passage in question reads:


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. . . And leue || it wel yt though the passiō of crist profite not these innocēts to their || ful saluaciō yet it profiteth them so moch yt sathanas lyeth loken in || the depthe of helle / so that he ne may not ne none of his mynystres || [f4] annoyen ne tormenten none Innocent / as their malyce wold / ne || harmen none persone / but by his owne assent . . .
In the reprint, the same text (f3 verso) appears as:
. . . & || leue hit wel that thong (sic) the passion of Jhesu crist prouffite not || these innocentes to their sauacion / yet it prouffiteth them soo || moche yt sathanas lyeth lokē in helle yt none of his mynystres || [f4] annoyen ne tormenten none Innocent / as their malyce wold / ne || harmen none persone / but by his owne assent . . .
In making these omissions the compositor succeeded in having his text end with the correct word, but in order to achieve this both sense and grammar were sacrificed to expediency.

Apart from this instance, the textual differences are slight and occasionally reflect no more than the spelling habits of two different compositors;[8] for example, the British Museum state has "nought" eight times where the reprint has "not." In those cases where a choice can be made, however, the British Museum setting is always the better. Thus where the soul asks the body "how hast thou lost al thy queyntyse" (BM, f3v, l. 33), the reprint offers "how thou hast lost al queyntyse." Clearly then, instead of seizing upon the opportunity to improve the text, a careless compositor has permitted the text of the reprint to deteriorate.

Curiously enough, the reprint exhibits a technical—as well as a textual—deterioration. Concerning the use of "guide-letters" or "directors," Konrad Haebler[9] observes that in order "to lighten the rubricator's work, the custom was gradually adopted of printing in small type (usually in lower-case), in the space left to be filled in by hand, the initial which the rubricator was to add in colors." This had been common practice on the Continent from as early as 1471-2, and directors appear in books printed at Caxton's


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press even in the days of its activity at Bruges.[10] In the Pilgrimage, guide-letters were used throughout the volume including the first setting of sheet f3.6, but directors are not present in the reprint of this sheet. Thus the reprint demonstrates the return to a more primitive practice of type-setting where such reminders were not considered necessary for the benefit of the rubricator.