University of Virginia Library


To its description of this edition (No. 6648), the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke adds the note: "Das Doppelblatt 140 u. 143 ist neu gesetzt worden." This appears to be the first notification that sheet S2.5 is known in two different settings, a fact that (apparently) escaped the attention of the editor of this work for the Early English Text Society's edition.[11] Of the twenty-one copies of this book known to me, only four have the variant sheet specified by the Gesamtkatalog—Göttingen, Bibliothèque Nationale, Bodleian (S. Selden d 13) and the Grenville Kane copy now at Princeton University Library.[12] Thirteen copies have the text as printed in the Early English Text Society series, while three copies want (among others) the pertinent leaves—Windsor, Bodleian (Auct. QQ supra l. 25) and the York Minster copy now in the collection of Phyllis Goodhart Gordan and Howard L. Goodhart of New York. Seymour de Ricci informs us that the Sion College copy lacks S5, but I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to obtain information as to the state of S2 in this copy.

Although the Gesamtkatalog simply assumes without further proof that the Göttingen state is that which was "neu gesetzt," there is plenty of evidence to prove that this is certainly the case.[13]


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In this instance, positive proof is supplied by the different systems of punctuation employed by the two compositors. As will be seen from a perusal of the modern reprint, the enormously preponderant punctuation mark used in the Fayttes is the virgule (/). For example, on signatures S1, S3, and S4 (six pages common to all copies), there are 164 punctuation marks of which 163 are virgules, the remaining one being a semi-colon. In the first setting as represented by the copy in The Pierpont Morgan Library (PML 781), there are 118 instances of punctuation on S2 and S5; of these 117 are virgules and the remaining one is a semi-colon.

For the other setting, the Kane-Princeton copy shows (on sheet S2.5) 105 cases of punctuation, of which 96 are periods, 6 are semi-colons and only 3 are virgules. Obviously the text of this sheet was set by a different compositor—one following his own rules of punctuation—than the one who had composed all the rest of the volume. Thus it is quite certain that sheet S2.5 of the Morgan copy belongs to the original setting and that the Princeton one is the reprinted sheet.

Again we may enquire what a comparison of the two states reveals and again we will note that the reprint shows a deterioration of text. The state of the Morgan copy has six misprints, while the total in the Princeton setting amounts to some seventeen such errors; two misprints are common to both states.[14] Characteristic of the better text of the first is the reading "Consules of Mountpellyer" (S2, l. 4) where the reprint specifies "Consules Mountpollyer." Conversely, however, the second setting has the more correct last lines in the colophon which read: ". . . he may || atteyne to euerlastyng lyf in heuen. whiche god graunte to || hym and to alle his lyege peple. AMEN. || Per Caxton ||". The first contained the misprints "euerlastpng" and "gaunte." However, since the far greater number of misprints is found in the form as represented by the Princeton copy, we must consider this second setting as the more inferior text.


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A most singular peculiarity of the Princeton volume requires special mention. The blank last leaf (S6 recto) in this copy shows a distinct off-set of the text of S5 verso, a condition often encountered among Caxton imprints. But the startling fact here is that the Princeton leaf shows an off-set of the original setting, not of the resetting which now faces it in the volume. There seem to be only two logical explanations for this phenomenon, either that the copy was "made up," perhaps when it was rebound by Bedford,[15] or that the off-setting took place in Caxton's workshop. If the latter assumption be the correct one, we would have certain evidence that the copies of the Fayttes were not bound up as soon as printed but that the sheets were stored unbound.[16] Thus it would have to be argued that the Princeton sheet S1.6 came into contact soon after printing (possibly by being gathered with it) with a sheet of the earlier setting of S2.5, but that, in the long run, it was not bound up with this particular sheet.

Turning to the other alternative, it seems highly improbable that the blank leaf was added to this copy,[17] since no one would ever have considered it necessary to supply such a leaf in order to create a "perfect and complete" example. Again one cannot assume that only leaf S5 was supplied, since S2 is its proper conjugate; therefore, if anything was added to the Princeton volume, it must have been the whole sheet (S2.5). Furthermore, if the blank be the original one, as we have good reason to believe, it seems unlikely that the important printed leaf just ahead of the useless blank could have been missing from this copy at any time; surely, if S5 was lost, S6 would have disappeared too. One must believe, then, that if the volume is not in the same condition as it was when sold by Caxton (at least, as far as the identity of leaves is concerned), one must assume that the Princeton book was so "made up" that S1.6 was supplied from one copy and S2.5 from another. This seems to be so highly improbable a hypothesis that


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the first explanation for the presence of the off-set in the Princeton Fayttes appears the more acceptable.

In conclusion, a word should (I think) be said on the subject of the origin of these two variant settings. In the case of the Pilgrimage, of course, the sheet was reprinted in order to correct an error of imposition;[18] a similar technical error[19] occurs in the very first book credited to Caxton's press—the Recuyell of the Histories of Troy, [Bruges, circa 1475]. The cause for the reprint of sheet S2.5 in the Fayttes is less obvious. It illustrates, however, a phenomenon previously noticed in several volumes printed by England's prototypographer. Since the second setting contains more misprints than the first, it was probably not called into being through a desire to improve the text. True enough, two glaring errors in the colophon were corrected by the second setting, but this improvement could have been achieved by simple stop-press corrections and certainly would not have required the resetting of four entire pages.[20] It seems likely that the reprinting was necessitated either because something happened in Caxton's workshop which required the resetting of sheet S2.5, or that Caxton failed to print the correct number of sheets to complete the copies in hand and was thus obliged to make good the deficiency after the original formes had been distributed.


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One must, then, assume that the reprinting of sheet S2.5 was the result either of an accident in the printing office or of a short count when the sheet was being machined. If an accident necessitated the reprint, it is scarcely probable that this took place during the printing of the sheet since it would be an incredible coincidence for both inner and outer formes to "pie" at approximately the same stage in the course of production.[21] If sheet S2.5 was not reprinted because a short count made this necessary, one must believe that some accident took place at the press after the full number of sheets had been printed and the formes distributed, for the loss of a sufficient number of sheets would have compelled Caxton to reset the text and supply the necessary number in a new setting. While this would be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the reprinting of sheet S2.5 in the Fayttes, one can only with difficulty credit a theory which assumes that Caxton permitted such accidents to happen again and again. There are reprinted sheets of precisely this sort in the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers (Duff 123), the Morte d'Arthur (Duff 283), the House of Fame (Duff 86), and probably elsewhere, for aught I know.[22] Surely these could not all be the results of physical accidents. On the other hand, contemporary accounts prove beyond question that short printing was a common enough occurrence to be a source of annoyance and trouble to both printers and publishers. Neither of these explanations for the presence of the variant setting in the Book of the Fayttes of Armes and of Chyvalrye is completely convincing, but if there be a more satisfactory one, it is not apparent to me.