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The choice of books for comparison is not easy, for the practice of compositors certainly altered with varying circumstances. We have seen how a shortage of capitals probably led to the recurrence of a form in The Merchant which is not found in Hamlet, and we must presume that the fount of type with which they were working might have predisposed compositors in favour of certain forms. For our purposes, therefore, books printed in the same type as the two quartos (Roman '82') will be especially valuable. The spelling of their copy was perhaps the largest single factor which affected the work of compositors. We can check this, to some extent, by examining books reprinted from earlier editions which came from other printing houses, but the check is not fully adequate, for compositors could work far more rapidly from a printed text than from a manuscript and this inevitably affected their faithfulness to copy. Likewise, the legibility of manuscript copy would influence the speed and workmanship of compositors, and we have little hope of making any satisfactory allowance for this. Another factor is the amounts of prose and verse in a book; compositors sometimes departed from their normal spellings and punctuation in order to justify a line, and there would be a greater tendency to do this in a prose work than in a verse one. The format of a book might similarly influence their work; a duodecimo book in prose might present justifying difficulties every half dozen words or so. Over and above these factors, there must be the human factor; a compositor


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might favour one spelling for a year, or perhaps for only a few days, or he might have to work for a short time in a bad light, or be rushed in his work. The study of compositorial habits is obviously full of difficulties, but nevertheless it is possible, at this early stage, to present some kind of answer to our enquiry and thereby add to our knowledge of the two Shakespeare texts. I have chosen to examine books which represent most of the different circumstances which I have just described in the hope that something may emerge about the wider problems involved in the study of compositorial habits.

The most interesting evidence comes from James Roberts' reprint of Titus Andronicus for Edward White in 1600 The previous edition was by John Danter in 1594 and in this first quarto the following spellings predominate: -ow, -ew, their, deare, farewell, said, houre, being, honour, moue, reuenge, Ile. In the Roberts reprint, farewell, said, and reuenge were not altered, but sometimes the others were, as follows:

-ow, -ew became -owe, -ewe   B2,D3v,I2v.  
their became theyr   A1,2,4(3),4v,D1(2),E1(2),1v,F1v(2), 2,4v,G1v(2),I1,1v(3), 4v(3),K1,1v(3),2v.  
deare, etc. became deere, etc.   A4(2),C1,D2,E2v,3v(2),4,F1,1v, 2,I1v,K1,2v.  
being became beeing   D1v.  
honour, etc. became honor, etc.   A2,B1,1v,2.  
moue, etc. became mooue, etc.   B4v,D2v.  
Ile became ile   D3,E3,4v,I3(2),3v.  
A few irregular forms were changed:          
-owe, -ewe became -ow, -ew   D4,F3,G4v,I1v,2v.  
howres became houres   C4v.  
honorable became honourable   K2.  
mooued became moued   F1v.  
ile became I'le   I1.  
Danter's first quarto varied the following forms: sweete/sweet, madam/ maddam, receaue/receiue, sodaine/suddaine, and choise/choice/choyse. The Roberts reprint sometimes altered these, as follows:        
sweete became sweet   A3v,4,B2v,4,C1v(2), D1(2),E2v, 3v(2),4,F1,G2,H2,3,I3v,K1.  
maddam(e) became madam(e)   D1(2),2v,F3,I4v.  
receiue, etc. became receaue, etc.   E3,I2v.  
choise became choyse   F3v.  
In addition to these spelling changes (which Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice suggest may be significant), this was changed to thys on C1v(2),2(2),3v,F4(2), and I1v.


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From this evidence, it would seem that the two compositors who set Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice also set Titus Andronicus, and certain pages can be allocated to each:

Compositor X   B1,1v,2,4v,C4v,D2& v,3,3v,E3,4v,F3, I2v,3,3v.  
Compositor Y  A1,2,3v,4,4v,B2v,4, C1,1v,2,3v,D1, 1v,2,4,E1,1v,2v,3& v,4,F1,1v,2,3v,4,4 v, G1v,2,4v,H2,3,I1,1v, 4v,K1,1v,2,2v.  

Very few details conflict with this allocation: X's honorable replaced Y's form on A2, but the honor/honour distinction does not hold for The Merchant, and in Hamlet, X's -or form is sometimes found on pages set by Y; X's madam replaced maddam on D1(2) and I4v which were both set by Y, but there are a few irregularities in the madam/maddam distinction in both Hamlet and The Merchant; Y's -ow, -ew forms replaced X's - owe, -ewe on F3 and I2v and sweet replaced sweete on I3v, but the shorter forms are often found on X's pages, especially in The Merchant. The allocation of pages A3v B2v, 4, D4, F3, G2,4v, and H2,3 must be considered doubtful, for they rely on -ow, -ew, sweet, or madam spellings which are not entirely trustworthy.

Judging from Titus Andronicus it would seem that if Compositor X found -ow and -ew in his copy he did not often bother to change them to the -owe and -ewe forms. Nor did he always change honour to honor, and moue to mooue. He did not once change farewell to farwell, reuenge to reuendge, or sweet to sweete. Compositor Y did not change houre to howre and was not consistent in changing being to beeing, their to theyr, and madam to maddam. Both compositors sometimes changed sweete to sweet and -owe, -ewe to - ow, -ew, and both sometimes retained uncharacteristic forms of receaue/receiue, etc. These tendencies help to divide other books between the two compositors.

Samuel Harsnet's A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603) is in Roman '82', the type used for the three Shakespeare quartos.[11] It is a quarto of prose with 36 gatherings, not counting signature A which contains preliminary matter in italic type. The copy for this book probably had very few, or no, -owe, -ewe or sweete forms; I have noted only 5 -owe or -ewe forms (B3v, N2v, T2, V1, & Dd3) and two sweetes (E3 & R4v). Similarly I have noted honor only once (R2), deare once (L2v), and sayd eight times (Q1, T4v, V2,4v, Y3v, Dd1v, & Ll3v); in each case the Y forms predominate and probably did so in the copy. I have not found ile, farewell or farwell, madam or maddam, leisure or leasure; houre is infrequent and invariable; thys I found once (M1) and reuenge


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once (L1); choise and choyse I found twice each (C3, M2 & G1v, R1), and choice once (Aa1). The work of the two compositors is distinguished by their/theyr, receaue/receiue etc., being/beeing, sodaine/suddaine, and, less reliably, mooue/moue etc. The following pages may be allocated with some confidence:    
Compositor X   C3,3v,D2v,El-3v,F4- G2,H2v- 3v,I3v-K1,L2,2v,M1 v,2,3,Q4,R2,4v,T1v, 2,4,X2,Z1v,Aa3,3v,Bb3v,4,Cc2v- 4,Dd2v,3,Ee2v- 4,Ff4,4v,Hh3,3v,Kk2,2v,3v,Ll3v- 4v,Mm2,Nn3, 3v,  
Compositor Y   B1v-C2v,C4v-D1&v,D3- 4v,E4,4v, F1v-3v,G3v-H1v,H4v- I3,K2v-L1,L3-M1,M4-N1v, N2v,N3v-O1v,O4,4v,P2,3v,Q1 v-3v,R2v-4, S2v,3v,4,T2v,3,4&v,V1v,V3- X1,X4,4v,Y2-4v, Aa1,1v,Aa4v-Bb2v,Cc1-2,Dd1v,Dd4-Ee2,Ff1v,Ff2v-3v,Gg2v,3,Gg4-Hh2v,Ii4-Kk1v,Kk4-Ll2v,Mm1,3,Mm4v- Nn2v,Nn4,4v.  

Again only a few of the distinctions noticed in Hamlet and The Merchant are significant in A. Warren's The Poor Man's Passions (1605). This is a quarto of verse, so the use of the longer forms would not be greatly influenced by the need to justify. Once more, the copy probably had few -owe or -ewe forms, for these occur in the printed book only on B1,4v, D3, E3 and F1. It might, however, have read sweete a number of times; I have found it 5 times (C1v, E2, F2v, & G1,1v) but sweet only 3 times (C1v, 3, & H4). Honour, houre, choise, and farewell are invariable, while reuenge, said, suddaine and leasure occur only once each (G3v, I1v G4v, & C2). I found being on I2 and beeing on G4; deere is on G4v and deare on D3v, E1, H3v(2), and K1; both the mooue and moue forms are found throughout. It is chiefly through the their/theyr distinction that the book can be divided between the two compositors. Their is found throughout, but theyr only seven times on G4(2),4v(3)and I4v(2). These spellings, together with the deere, beeing, reuenge, said and suddaine already noticed, and the absence of - owe or -ewe forms from sheets G and I, suggest that the whole book may have been set by Compositor X, with the exception of parts of sheets G and I which were probably set by Y.

The copy for G. Estie's A Most Sweet and Comfortable Exposition upon the Ten Commandments and upon the 51 Psalm (1602) almost certainly had a preponderance of -ewe and -owe spellings. It is a small octavo of prose with a comparatively large type, so that there are only a few words to each line, and justifying must have been a frequently recurring difficulty. Again Y's theyr spellings are especially significant: their is found throughout the book, but theyr occurs some 41 times up to K2v and thereafter is not found at all. There is a sprinkling of X's -owe, -ewe spellings from the first (I have noted them on B3, 4v, C3v,6,6v, D3v,7, E7, F1(2),


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H1v,2,3v,7, & K4v), but since Y's distinctive theyr is also found on many of these pages, the longer form has probably been retained to help justification. Again, a change comes at sheet L in which I have noted only 2 -ows or -ews but a cluster of longer X spellings (on L3,3v,4(3), & 6). On sheet M there are a further 7 X spellings (on M1,1v,2,4,5v(2), & 8v). There are only 7 of these spellings in the remaining 6 sheets, but since there is no recurrence of Y's theyr, X is probably still responsible but has used the shorter form occasionally to accommodate the text to the short lines. It is noteworthy that the pages are signed 1 to 3 up to and including sheet K, L is signed 1 to 5, and the following ones, 1 to 4. Moreover other spellings suggest that X took over the composition from Y at L1; suddaine etc. is found on D3 and sodaine etc. on M2v,8, and O7; deere is found on A5 and deare on M2; choyse is found on D2 only; thys is found on A2v(2),4v, E3, G1, and K1,7 only; sweete and sweet are both found up to F7, thereafter the word occurs only once, on S4 in the X form. There are some anomalies: reuenge occurs infrequently but is invariable; Y's honour is the normal form occurring on L1v and following pages, and X's honor is found on N7v and O8 only; said occurs throughout and X's sayd on A5v and N8v, the former having a theyr characteristic of Y; the receaue/receiue distinction does not hold (the X form occurs up to Is only) nor does the less frequent mooue/moue. These irregularities need not greatly influence the allocation of pages between X and Y; neither receaue/receiue nor mooue/moue held for The Merchant, which is fairly close to this book in date, and the conservatism of both compositors as demonstrated in Titus Andronicus sufficiently explains the rest. Y probably set up to the end of sheet K of Estie's Exposition, and X the remainder.

H. Smith's Four Sermons (1602) is a quarto in eights written in prose and therefore with a recurrent need to justify. The allocation of work between the two compositors seems to be complicated, but Compositor Y probably set most of the pages of signature A, and Compositor X most of those of signature B. The significant spellings are:



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After signatures A and B, for C, D, E, and F, the workmen seem to have changed more frequently, the two, on occasion, setting alternate pages. It is possible that a third compositor was employed. Deere is invariable and said is so until C8v, after which a few X forms occur. Being/beeing, receaue/receiue etc., mooue/moue etc., sodaine/suddaine, and sweete/ sweet are seldom helpful.

England's Helicon (1600) is probably another book for which the same two compositors were at least in part responsible, but for many of its pages there is no certain evidence. This might well be due to its copy being written in many different hands. All that may be claimed here is that signatures C, F, and O seem especially to belong to Compositor X, and S, Aa, and Bb to Compositor Y.