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Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices by D. F. McKenzie
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Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices
D. F. McKenzie [*]


In recent years we have all come to recognize the need for what might be called 'scientific' investigation in bibliography, a phrase which at its best implies, as Professor Bowers has succinctly put it, a strict regard for certain fixed bounds of physical fact and logical probability.[1] The achievements resulting from such a concern are clear and important. In descriptive bibliography we have gained a new, accurate and rational vocabulary, and formulae that are both economic and unambiguous. In analytical bibliography — with which I am principally concerned — we have been taught to use the critical tools of comparison and analysis in a new way; and the importance of establishing press variants by collation, of detecting setting by formes, of distinguishing between compositors by spellings or impressions by press-figures is no longer questioned. Scientific bibliography, complete with its laboratory aids, has become a new orthodoxy.

Yet, as T. S. Eliot puts it, All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance. In the very act of opening our eyes to new and exciting


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possibilities, our discoveries raise fresh problems of understanding and breed an awareness of our limitations. In particular, the detailed relation of analytical bibliography to the editing of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts depends upon a number of assumptions about printing-house conditions that are only now beginning to be tested. Indeed, if I were to give this paper an epigraph, it might well be that quoted by Sir Karl Popper from Black's Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry published in 1803: "A nice adaptation of conditions will make almost any hypothesis agree with the phenomena. This will please the imagination, but does not advance our knowledge."[2] Our ignorance about printing-house conditions in the 17th and 18th centuries has left us disastrously free to devise them according to need; and we have at times compounded our errors by giving a spurious air of 'scientific' definitiveness to our conclusions.

There has of course been nothing morally reprehensible in this, for 'scientific' in such a use has meant little more than an honesty of method in respect to the physical phenomena available for study.[3] As in the physical and natural sciences, at least in their more elementary stages of observation and classification, it has, as I have indicated, simply meant placing the stress in the first instance on a finite number of particulars and drawing a conclusion from them. And since bibliographers very rarely have anything to work on but the physical evidence of the books themselves it has seemed only natural that any methodology should work within these limitations and seek its exactitude by describing and relating only the observable facts of the paper and the marks it bears.

Some distinguished bibliographers, it is true, have had their doubts. R. C. Bald remarked that "whatever bibliography may or may not be, it is not an exact science, if one understands by an 'exact' science a branch of study which arrives at its conclusions through experiment and observation and can reproduce the conditions of an experiment so that the results can be repeated and checked at any time ("Evidence and Inference," pp. 2-3). And R. B. McKerrow, late in life and writing


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more particularly of textual criticism, made much the same point and added the comment that "Nothing can be gained, and much may be lost, by a pretence of deriving results of scientific accuracy from data which are admittedly uncertain and incomplete" (Prolegomena, p. vii). It is this last point which I wish to take up.

The effect of Bald's suggestion that bibliography "cannot claim for its conclusions the same universal validity as belongs to those of the exact sciences" is simply that we should rest content with a very different order of certainty but take the precaution of scrutinizing more frequently than we do the procedures of bibliographical scholarship. McKerrow's comment, however, runs far beyond his intention and offers a radical criticism of the very bases of all knowledge inductively derived. It is not that bibliographical inquiry differs in any essential respect from 'scientific' inquiry as described, but that the method common to both is itself logically unsound. Bibliography, as it happens, is a convenient area in which to demonstrate its unsoundness.

For whatever the short-term advantages, to assume, as we have been asked to do, that analytical bibliography must be empirically based, and to limit our knowledge to that which may be derived by inductive inference from direct observations, is to invite the obvious objection that no finite number of observations can ever justify a generalization. Bertrand Russell remarked that so far as he could see induction was a mere method of making plausible guesses. "It is far from obvious, from a logical point of view," writes Sir Karl Popper, "that we are justified in inferring universal statements from singular ones, no matter how numerous; for any conclusion drawn in this way may always turn out to be false: no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white" (Scientific Discovery, p. 27). David Hume had made essentially the same point: "Even after the observation of the frequent conjunction of objects, we have no reason to draw any inference of any object beyond those of which we have had experience."[4] And more graphically the Lilliputians' ignorance is ironically exposed: "Besides, our histories of six thousand moons make no mention of any other regions than the two great empires of Lilliput and Blefescu."

Nor is it simply that there is no logical way of arriving at general truths from the examination of sampled cases. To observe at all is to bestow meaning of some kind on the thing observed; to gather particular pieces of evidence is to seek those relevant to some preconceived


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notion of their utility.[5] But the main point is that any general laws derived by the inductive method remain highly vulnerable to fresh evidence. Where the known particulars are few, this risk will be greatest.

The inductivist in all subjects may of course freely admit that incompleteness is almost invariably a characteristic of his evidence and that his conclusions may therefore be subject to modification when new evidence comes to hand. Looked at in this way the inductive process carries a burden of assumed truth waiting to be converted into proven error: knowledge, that is, comes with the act of disproof. And until that moment arrives we may be offered conclusions that lay claim only to some degree of 'reliability' or 'probability,' based on reasonable assumptions about the comprehensiveness of the evidence used and about the predictability of past or 'normal' examples into the future.[6]

Even such a qualified attitude, however, is still inadequate to the demands of bibliography. For one thing, I doubt that 'normality,' in any serious and extended sense, is a meaningful concept.[7] For another,


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even granting the inductivists' case, I doubt whether bibliography has yet either the body of documentary evidence or the fund of experimental proof necessary to bring most of its conclusions within a usefully narrow range of probabilities. Under present conditions, therefore, we are tempted either to over-stress the few 'proofs' achieved (by restricting further inquiry to a demonstration of their 'normality' and so asking that new conclusions be consistent with it), or conversely (in the greater number of cases where we have little developed knowledge of the causative conditions) to tolerate any number of 'probable' explanations for the same limited range of phenomena. Neither alternative is a particularly happy one. The first protects us from open-ended speculation by a crippling limitation of the subject; the second, although it characterizes the subject as practised, is rarely capable of conclusive demonstrations.[8]

But there is another way of looking at the whole problem; nor does it involve any question-begging distinctions between bibliography and 'science,' for it applies equally to both. It simply consists in recognizing the present situation of multiple 'probabilities' as the desirable one and regarding them as hypotheses to be tested deductively. I am naturally tempted to it because the productive conditions in early printing houses display an incredible variety which, if it is to be re-conceived at all, demands an imaginative facility in devising hypotheses;[9] and also because bibliographers, as a matter of fact, are becoming increasingly concerned to trace processes involving complex relationships less susceptible of conclusive demonstration. More seriously, deductive reasoning (by which a general hypothesis dictates particular possibilities or 'predictions' and rules out others) does offer a sound way to knowledge. Like induction, it is open to logical objection, for no amount of positive evidence can ever conclusively confirm an hypothesis;


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but one piece of negative evidence, one contradictory occurrence, will conclusively falsify it.

These comments are philosophic commonplaces and stated so baldly must seem slightly naive. Yet they do serve to point quite sharply to the two main directions open to bibliographical inquiry. If bibliographers wish to persist as inductivists then they must diligently search out the historical facts which will alone provide a fairly accurate definition of 'normality' and offer these as a corrective to the logical defects inherent in the method. Alternatively they may confess outright the partial and theoretic nature of bibliographical knowledge, proceed deductively, and at the same time practise a new and rigorous scepticism.

In fact the nature of 'normality' as so far revealed by historical evidence suggests that the 'norm' comprised conditions of such an irrecoverable complexity that we must in any case adopt the latter course. If the 'scientific' proofs offered in some recent bibliographical analyses of older books were seen philosophically for the conjectures they are, we should I think be nearer the true spirit of scientific inquiry and the humility that always accompanies an awareness of the possibility of fresh evidence and therefore of falsification. The subject would not then be circumscribed by the demand for demonstrable proofs; rather it would be expanded in its hospitality to new ideas and in its search for fresh historical evidence in the service of disproof. Such a method would be, in the best sense, scientific.

In the following section I wish to offer some varieties of fresh evidence. Its main implication is that the very fixity of the physical bounds within which we are asked to work is inimical to the development of a sound methodology — first, because if the stress is laid on 'proof' then the small number of paradigms available to us unreasonably restricts the subject; second, because in the present state of our knowledge the finite particulars with which we must work are too few and therefore permit too many alternative generalizations to be induced from them; third, because the conception of 'normality' as a corrective to the undisciplined proliferation of generalizations misrepresents the nature of the printing process; fourth, because induction is necessarily an inconclusive method of inquiry. The evidence is consistent with my belief that we should normally proceed in our inquiries by the hypothetico-deductive method which welcomes conjectures in the positive knowledge that productive conditions were extraordinarily complex and unpredictable, but which also insists that such conjectures be scrutinized with the greatest rigour and, if refuted, rejected.


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When the University of Cambridge set up its printing house in 1696, nearly all the records relating to the erection of the building, and then subsequently to its operation throughout the next decade, were preserved. The annual press accounts show clearly the kinds of expenditure involved in running a small printing house; and the workmen's vouchers for composition, correction and presswork, together with the joiners', smiths', glaziers', plumbers', typefounders', fellmongers', carriers', and printers'-suppliers' bills, reveal the week-by-week operations of a printing house in a detail which is, I believe, unparalleled. In addition the Minute Book of the curators of the Press provides direct evidence of printing charges and edition sizes over the period.[10] With such a wealth of primary documentary material it has been a simple matter to construct detailed production charts for the books printed, showing their progress sheet by sheet and recording the exact division of work between different compositors, correctors and pressmen. It has been a simple matter also to offer definitive details on the wages earned and the actual amount of work done by compositors and press-crews, and to construct work-flow diagrams illustrating the disposition and organization of work within the printing house as a whole on all books and ephemera in production over any one period. It must suffice for the moment simply to observe that the patterns which emerge seem to me to be of such an unpredictable complexity, even for such a small printing shop, that no amount of inference from what we think of as bibliographical evidence could ever have led to their reconstruction. To this Cambridge evidence we may now add the invaluable record of work done in the Bowyers' printing house over the years 1730-9. The ledger which records this work is in the possession of the Grolier Club of New York and is to be edited for the London Bibliographical Society by Mr Keith Maslen. The details which it gives of compositors' and pressmen's work, sometimes week by week, also permit the accurate reconstruction of working conditions, whether for one book or for the printing house as a whole. As Mr Maslen has remarked, "Work patterns are more complex at the bigger and busier London house, but in broad outline the picture is unchanged."[11]


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Let me now look briefly at our ruling assumptions about the amount of work that a compositor and pressman might get through in an hour, day, or week. On these points, however carefully we qualify it, the evidence such as we have leads us to suppose a maximum setting rate of something like 1000 ens or letters an hour by one man and a printing rate of 250 impressions an hour at full press.[12] Taking each of these figures as averages which allow for imposition, proofing, correction, make-ready, washing and distribution, we may then, to estimate daily production, multiply by twelve to get as totals 12,000 ens and 3000 impressions. Finally, for weekly totals, we multiply by six to get figures of 72,000 ens and 18,000 impressions. These totals, we allow, are probably too high, but translating them cautiously into terms of actual book production, we might say that a quarto of five to six sheets, each containing some 10,000 to 12,000 ens and printed in an edition of 1200 to 1500 copies, would take about a week to produce if only one compositor and one full press were at work on it. Given the conditions mentioned, the logic is impeccable. Nor is it, as a method, foolish simply because we cannot know of occasional human aberrations from these norms. Yet I cannot forbear a quotation from George Eliot's Daniel Deronda:

Men may dream in demonstrations, and cut out an illusory world in the shape of axioms, definitions, and propositions, with a final exclusion of fact signed Q.E.D. No formulas for thinking will save us mortals from mistake in our imperfect apprehension of the matter to be thought about . . . [and] the unemotional intellect may carry us into a mathematical dreamland where nothing is but what is not.

The Cambridge and Bowyer papers (and they are not the only ones) make it quite clear that wages and therefore output, since the men were on piece-rates, varied considerably as between one man and another. It is not just a matter of occasional lapses or minor disparities to be cautiously conceded; it is a fundamental fact that should radically alter our whole conception of 'norms'. Moreover, any one man's income and therefore his actual output might fluctuate greatly week by week. Taking the Cambridge compositors first, one of them (John Délié) averaged 13s.5d. a week over one period of 59 weeks, and only 9s.9d. over a further period of 80 weeks. Yet on 11 May 1700 he was


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paid at the rate of £1.6s.8d. a week for setting in two weeks eight sheets of a book which required a daily average of 10,240 ens plus marginal notes. William Bertram averaged 10s.8d. over one period of 78 weeks and 10s. over another period of 47 weeks. Clement Knell and John Muckeus were content to average just over 13s. a week for long periods, and William Great 10s.3d. The only compositor to show sustained application at a high level was Thomas Pokins. His average weekly income over a period of two full years was £1.1s.5d. Yet in the five weeks up to 6 June 1702 he set some 318,000 ens, giving a daily average of 10,600, and his reward for this work was just on £1.7s.11d. a week. To reinforce the implications of these comments on the fluctuations in wages earned, we have only to look at the amount of work actually done in ens per day. Pokins's averages throughout 1702 were 6,307 (not 10,000 or 12,000) ens a day or 37,842 (not 72,000) a week. The next best daily averages for any lengthy period were those of Bertram with 5,700 ens and Knell with 5,603. Often the daily totals were well below these figures, and all of them of course are well below even such an elastic hypothetical norm as 10,000 to 12,000 ens a day. A glance at appendix II (d) below will show a similar variation of performance within the Bowyers' shop. The wages for the two-week period range from as much as £3.15s.od. to as little as 8s.2d. And this personal variation as between compositors may be paralleled by comparable fluctuations in the amount of work done at various periods throughout the year. Strahan's ledgers, although they do not yield the same detail, also show great fluctuations in the total wages he paid out week by week (B. M. Add. MS. 48,801). And the records of the Plantin-Moretus Museum, the Oxford University Press, and even the "Case-Book" of John Wilson, printer in Kilmarnock in 1803, tell the same story.[13]


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Turning now to presswork, we have precisely the same situation. One of the better performances at full press in Cambridge was that of Jonathan Cotton and Robert Ponder during the week ending 24 February 1700 when for £1.4s.6d. each they worked off 10,350 sheets on four different books, averaging well over 3,400 impressions a day. But such figures and therefore such high incomes were quite exceptional. Albert Coldenhoff, working by himself at half press, earned on average 13s.3d. a week over a period of 67 weeks, and other average weekly wages earned by various workmen at half press were, in round figures, 11s., 12s., 15s. and 18s. At full press the average receipts show the same kind of range. If instead of wage bills we again look at the actual amount of work done, we can point to Thomas Green's single-handed production of 8,250 impressions one week, and only 4,750 the next; or to the work of Ponder and John Quinny who printed the following numbers of impressions week by week from mid-June to mid-July 1700: 15,200; 13,800; 9,700; 12,700; 10,700; 17,000 and so on. The hypothetical norm, you may recall, was 18,000.

Well, conclusions? Simply that our hypothetical figures are too high? Certainly that seems to be true, but the implications are I think more far-reaching. One is that we have perhaps failed in our historical sense, too readily imputing our own twentieth-century ideas and interests and the assumptions of our own society — especially our economic assumptions — to men whose attitudes to work were quite different from ours. We cannot afford to disregard contemporary social conditions and pre-Industrial Revolution attitudes. One careers adviser pointed out in 1747 that many pressmen played a great part of the time, and Benjamin Franklin took much the same jaundiced view of the British workman. As one economic historian puts it, "the conditions of life and habits of the people were all against the monotony of regular employment;" and again: "Contemporary evidence indicates that few cared to take advantage of their opportunities." The mass of labourers, said Sir William Temple, work only to relieve the present want.[14] Our society today reacts to the stimulus of high wages because modern society can satisfy a wide range of wants. But if wants don't increase, there is little point in working for anything beyond the bare necessities, and good wages will only suggest to a workman "an opportunity


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to avoid part of his toil."[15] An anonymous writer of 1728 makes the point well: "People in low life who work only for their daily bread, if they can get it by three days work in a week, will many of them make holiday the other three or set their own price on their labour" (my italics).[16] One of the reasons why Elizabethan printers tried so often to exceed their allowed number of apprentices may have been that apprentices could be commanded to work regularly where journeymen could not.[17] So although we may today think of piece-rates as an incentive, it would seem that in the 17th and 18th centuries they were the employers' best protection from men who had no intention of working any harder than necessary for food and drink. A journeyman's output, that is, was conditioned largely by what he was able or willing to earn. As Moxon revealingly says, "they are by Contract with the Master Printer paid proportionably for what they undertake to Earn every working day, be it half a Crown, two Shillings, three Shillings, four Shillings, &c." (my italics). That is, he speaks quite casually of a performance difference of one hundred per cent.[18]


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The significance of this system of individual contracts — operating as far back as 1631 and even, I would claim, 1591 — has I think been overlooked. What it meant in effect was that a workman need work no harder than he had contracted to do, and only if he fell behind his contracted figure and then kept another waiting might he have to make good his colleague's loss of work. It was the master's job to accommodate these variables, not the workmen's. That the master had to make payments and organize production schedules on the assumption that men worked at different speeds is quite consistent with the Cambridge and Bowyer evidence and any other that I have seen; nor is it, so far as I know, inconsistent with any of the classically 'demonstrable' bibliographical proofs. But its consequence — the normality of non-uniformity — is an uncomfortable one for any methodology.

It might be thought that the fluctuations in output which I have noted are — in part at least — to be expected if there were too little material to keep the men working at high capacity week after week, a state of affairs all too likely in a small provincial academic press. Yet, once more, the evidence available shows a similar pattern at other presses. In fact, both the Cambridge and Bowyer records suggest that fluctuations in the volume of work would be reflected more readily in the number of workmen employed than in the actual level of work done by any one man.[19]


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Where output varies so markedly from man to man and period to period, any reliance on 'norms' would seem to imply an almost irresponsibly large burden of probable error; polite concessions to occasional departures may serve a while as palliatives but general statements that can be so persistently falsified whenever any concrete evidence appears to test them are poor premises for advanced argument. Moreover, I have for simplicity here dealt mainly in averages; the actual figures are infinitely more varied and any attempt to trace the total complex patterns week by week, even with all the documentary evidence, is like trying to record the changing images of a kaleidoscope in the hands of a wilful child.

So far I have discussed, too, only the most elementary variables, and have left aside all question of edition sizes or the ways in which work was organized. Assumptions about the edition sizes of early books usually take account of the 1587 ordinance of the Stationers' Company which, with one or two exceptions, forbade the printing of more than 1250 or 1500 copies of any book from the same setting of type, although as McKerrow remarks "we have no certain knowledge of how long or how carefully the rule was observed."[20] And occasionally edition sizes have been related to the bibliographical evidence of skeleton formes, since it is understood "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."[21] For the later 17th century and the 18th century the problem of variability in edition size is acknowledged to be more complex. Yet even in the early 1590's a pressman, Simon Stafford, giving evidence in court, pointed out that the number of sheets printed in any one day might vary considerably, reflecting different edition sizes, since "they had diverse numbers upon Severall bookes and the


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numbers did alter."[22] At Cambridge in the early 1700's sermons were printed on average in 650 copies, the minimum being 400 and the maximum 1150. But the mean, as distinct from the average, was nearer 500 copies. One book of theological controversy was printed in a first edition of 750; a second edition of 1000; a third edition of 2000; and a fourth edition of 1250. Yet another of the same author's books ran through three editions in the order of 750, 500 and 500; and another was printed in two editions of 1000 copies each. Other figures for edition sizes of books on a fairly wide range of subjects are: 350, 500, 522, 550, 700, 820, 1050, 1150, 1250, 1500 and 3000. Again the Bowyer papers show a similar variation, apparent even in the Voltaire editions cited in appendix II (g). And the same point is made by the edition sizes given in Strahan's and Ackers' ledgers, and more particularly in those I quote both for the part issues of A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels and the monthly numbers of The London Magazine. Quite apart therefore from these figures invalidating any hypothetical norm (for any particular case, given the degree of variation, would seldom correspond to the assumptions of a guiding hypothesis), the need for a master printer to juggle with such varying totals, as well as the varying abilities of his workmen, reinforces what has been merely hinted at so far about work organization.

Normally in bibliographical analysis we are concerned with a particular book, usually a work to be edited, and that great range of printing which our literary interests have not led us to examine must be largely ignored. This is as it should be for life is short and, as Professor Todd has indicated in a disarmingly amusing note, some books are more valuable than others.[23] But the consequences of such selectivity cannot be ignored if bibliography, as the study of the transmission of literary documents, is to continue to lay claim to the serious intellectual status that Greg established for it. I shall return to this point. Meantime I wish to look briefly at a very common assumption, though not a universal one, in bibliographical analysis. It is the assumption that even if the whole resources of a house were not directed towards printing the book under examination, at least one compositor and one


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press-crew would be set to work fairly consistently on it.[24] Under these conditions we might expect five to six sheets a week to be completed.

Again, however, should we not take pause? The occasional prospectus might serve to put us on our guard, for few require printing times of anything like even five sheets a week. And in fact some surviving Cambridge agreements offer delivery times of — as near as matters — one sheet a week. Out of some 36 books of ten or more sheets produced between 1698 and 1705, only 7 were printed at an average rate of more than 2 sheets a week. Suidas, the Greek lexicon, was printed at the rate of 3½ sheets a week, and the remainder of this group of 7 books progress on average at a rate of between 2 and 3 sheets a week each. For 14 books the average was between 1 and 2 sheets, and for 15 books it was no higher than a single sheet and often it was less than that. The Cambridge evidence cannot be discounted by noting that some of these books required careful correction, for the evidence from the Bowyer and Ackers ledgers points exactly the same way.[25] Nor does there seem to be any necessarily significant relationship between the total amount of work on hand and the rate of progress for any one book.

The force of these examples is simply that the Cambridge and Bowyer presses, like any other printing house today or any other printing house before them, followed the principle of concurrent production. Obviously the variety of runs gave greater flexibility in the organization of presswork and permitted more economical use of the


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several sizes of type available; but, however efficiently total production was organized, the system inevitably meant that individual books took longer to print than we might have thought likely, just as most books today take far longer than the productive capacity of the machinery would lead us to expect.

The important point, however, was made by Professor Todd many years ago. Under conditions of concurrent production, he remarked, "the book is only one of several components in a more extensive enterprise, and thus exhibits only a portion of the information necessary for its analysis. Until the other portions have been located and the various pieces reassembled in the pattern originally devised the puzzle will remain unsolvable" ("Concurrent Printing," pp. 45-6, 56). And again: "in instances of concurrent printing the bibliographer must examine all the books so related before attempting the analysis of any. To do less than this . . . is to learn little or nothing at all." These remarks cannot be repeated too often, but unfortunately Professor Todd's qualifying comments have tended to minimize their application to "the larger establishments of the eighteenth century [where] the facilities were certainly adequate for simultaneous work on several projects, involving, in some instances, independent groups of compositors and pressmen, in others, the same group intermittently employed, first on a few sheets of one book, then on a few of another." And his more immediate concern, the interpretation of press figures, whose "very presence implies unsystematic piecework engaged in conjunction with other miscellaneous endeavours," has also perhaps encouraged the belief that concurrent production may very well have been a feature of large printing houses in the 18th century but not of smaller and earlier ones.[26]

Such a view must be abandoned. No amount of historical quibbling can neutralize the plain facts of the Cambridge documents: an earlier and smaller printing house, never using more than two presses, often one and a half, and occasionally only one, habitually printed several books concurrently. So far as I am aware there is no primary evidence whatever to show that any printing house of the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries did not do likewise.


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Our mistake here I think goes back to a misreading of an observation by McKerrow. He remarked that "for a printing house to be carried on economically there must be a definite correspondence between rate of composition and the output of the machine room."[27] Notice how all-inclusive his terms are: printing house, machine room. I should like to offer now two quotations which take their origin in McKerrow, and I should like you to notice how in each case McKerrow's valid general statement is transformed into an invalid particular statement. First, Professor Turner:

In the Elizabethan printing shops, a cardinal principle of efficient operation was, we suppose, that composition and presswork should proceed at the same rate. If material could be set into type faster than the press could run it off, compositors had to waste time; conversely, if presswork went faster than composition, the pressmen would stand idle. Given pressmen and compositors of reasonable skill, the chief factor determining the speed of the presswork was the size of the edition . . .
at this point we become involved in a particular statement
. . . and the chief factor determining the speed of composition was the amount and difficulty of the text material to be set into each forme. Ideally one forme ought to be machined in the time required to distribute the immediately preceding forme and to set and impose the next, and in the case of books which got a great deal of text into each forme, as the [Shakespeare] Folio did, this ideal relationship could be approached only if two compositors could set simultaneously.[28]
Professor Hinman asks:
What plan would ensure the most satisfactory ratio between the time necessary to set one forme of the contemplated book into type and the time needed to print off the desired number of copies of such a forme? — for an efficient balance between composition and presswork was one of the prime requirements of successful printing house operations in the earlier seventeenth century. (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 45n.)
This last is a quite different and seriously distorting assumption: that an economic relationship between composition and presswork is necessary on any one book for the business as a whole to be successful. The position is really so much more complex; indeed the more variables a printer has to juggle — in numbers of compositors and full or half press-crews, in their individual capacities, in edition sizes, in the number


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of books on hand, and in the demand for ephemera — the more chance he has of making them compatible and therefore of making his business as a whole economically successful.[29]

Such a conclusion is not inconsistent with the figures given earlier to demonstrate the variable levels of production achieved by a printing house; they simply reinforce the point that an 'economic' disposition of men and materials could only be achieved complexly — and that the fine considerations of timing implied by many studies devoted to the analysis of a single work may be a world away from the reality. Relax the time scheme ever so slightly, and a whole house of bibliographical cards comes tumbling down. In particular the correlations often traced between edition size, number of compositors, skeleton formes and presses, must look very different if translated to a context of concurrent printing. But I anticipate.

If concurrent production was much the most efficient way of running a printing house, as distinct from the most efficient method of producing a single book, how then, under these conditions, was work apportioned? What kind of range does a compositor's work, for example, show week by week? Although it was by no means rare at Cambridge for a compositor to have a monopoly on any one book, the work was usually shared. Of a sample of 118 Cambridge books, only 50, or 42%, were set by a single compositor; and if we except very short works like sermons, the percentage drops to 24. Moreover it was unusual for a compositor to work for any long period on one book to the exclusion of all others — usually he would be setting type for two or three concurrently. Of the 13 compositors whose work for Bowyer over a two-week period early in 1732 is recorded in appendix II (d), only one was engaged on one book alone.

Undoubtedly the main considerations determining the allocation of work were simply a compositor's freedom to do it and the availability of type. If a compositor had no other work on hand he would be transferred to any that might be offering and for which type was available. For normally, even when two or more compositors worked on a book, they did not work together setting sheet and sheet about. What usually happened was that one took over where the other left off and then composed as many sheets as the master found convenient or


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as other commitments allowed. A quarto edition of Virgil may be cited to make the point. Bertram set sheets A-E, then Crownfield took over and set F-3R, next Michaëlis set 3S-3Z, Bertram then resumed setting, continuing to 4F, Délié was brought in to set 4G, Crownfield took over once more with 4H and finally, after Crownfield had retired at 4O, Bertram set to 4R and finished off the book. Although four compositors were involved, and although Crownfield worked on two sections of the book and Bertram on three, on no occasion were any two men setting simultaneously. Nor incidentally would it be true to say that they were setting alternately. And it would certainly be quite wrong to assume that work was divided so that the book might be printed more quickly. Meantime of course each Cambridge compositor was also concurrently engaged on some other book or books.[30] In appendix II (g) examples 2 and 4, Bowyer's two English editions of Voltaire, show the same pattern of work. Whereas the printing house printed, and individual compositors normally set, several works concurrently, the composition of any one book would therefore usually be a simple matter of progression from sheet to sheet, or from one group of sheets to another, by consecutive compositors. It follows that the compositorial pattern within any such book will rarely offer adequate evidence in itself of the productive conditions but will have been determined by, and will reflect the exigencies of, the general pattern of work in the printing house as a whole over a period of months or even years.

Turning now to the other half of the equation — presswork — we must again affirm that the most efficient disposition of work, given the variables to be reconciled, could be achieved only by a highly flexible system. As with composition, the actual manner in which work was apportioned to the men would have depended in part on the number of men employed and the amount of work on hand. But regardless of the size of the plant it seems unlikely that a particular press consistently served the compositor or compositors setting a particular book. At Cambridge, it is quite clear, any press-crew might get any sheet of any book to print off, and consequently it was rare for any book of more than two or three sheets to be printed solely at one press. The production tables for books printed at Cambridge show quite conclusively that the use of two press-crews was a perfectly normal procedure and had nothing whatever to do with increasing the speed of production. If a forme was ready for printing, it went to whichever


Page 20
crew was ready to take it, although usually it seems that a sheet would be printed and perfected by the same crew. The position in the Bowyers' shop is much more complex, for it is clear that formes, not just sheets, might be sent to any press which happened to be free and that any sheet might well be printed at one press and perfected at another. Again the Voltaire and Baxter examples in appendix II (g) make it plain that this practice was very common.

In a large shop the distribution of work is likely to be more complex simply because there are more routes open for a book to take; but in both large and small shops there is such strong evidence of fluctuations in the number and strength of press-crews that a pattern of work must very often reflect such changes too. At Cambridge there was considerable variety in the number and composition of the press-crews, ranging from half press only during the first half of 1699, to full press only during the second half of the same year and a good part of 1700, and various combinations of half and full press during other years. Only for a brief period in 1701 were two full presses in operation simultaneously; but we find (unexpectedly, for the usual arrangement we might think would be for the two men to work together at a single press) two half presses at work during 1705, 1706 and part of 1709. There were frequent changes in the composition of the crews during the period from 1699 until early 1702. In later years the normal arrangement — if you will permit the term — was one full press and one half press. But the varying patterns make it extremely difficult to assume a norm. So too in the Bowyers' shop: 3 presses were in use between 24 Dec. 1731 and 15 Jan. 1732; 4 between 17 Jan. and 29 Jan.; 4 (but only 3½ crews) between 31 Jan. and 12 Feb.; 5 between 14 Feb. and 26 Feb.; and 6 (but possibly only 4 full and 2 half crews) between 28 Feb. and 18 Mar. (Just to complicate matters further for the analyst, press no. 7 was in use throughout the whole of this period and the press figure 7 appears on some of the sheets which it printed, but at no time were there as many as seven presses in use.)

So a press-crew, just like a compositor only more so, would usually be working on several books at a time, with "All work to be taken in Turn, as brought to the Press, except in such Work as may require Dispatch, or the Compositor will want the Letter . . .".[31] The simplest way of using the crews most efficiently was not to try to maintain a strict relationship between a particular compositor and a particular press — the varying edition sizes and varying output of the men would


Page 21
have made this very difficult — but, given the presswork which was offering, to apportion it so that each crew always had something to go on with. This was the easiest way of accommodating the varying runs required for the different books in production at the same time. In thinking otherwise we may also have under-estimated the flexibility of the common press itself as a machine. Each press had several friskets, ready cut to common formats. It was a very simple matter to change them over; and since the sheets were printed wet on a sopping tympan, the type bit deep into the paper and careful make-ready was unnecessary — certainly it did not need the care of the modern kiss-impression. Technically there was no reason therefore why the press should not work to a number of compositors setting several different books, perhaps within one day, certainly within one week.

It is more than time now for us to re-unite the two halves of McKerrow's equation — the 'rate of composition' and 'the output of the machine room'. We have seen that, both at Cambridge and in the Bowyers' shop, books were produced concurrently. This meant not only that several books were in production at the same time but that each workman, whether at press or case, was often engaged on several books more or less at once. If we are correctly to reconstruct the detailed operations of a printing house — even a very small one — or a true account of the printing of any one book, we must therefore do it in a way that shows the complete pattern of work in its full complexity.

The diagrams given in appendix I (a) and (b) are an attempt to do this. They show precisely how all work on hand at Cambridge was allocated between 26 Dec. 1701 and 28 Feb. 1702 and convey some impression of the flow of work.[32] Again I am tempted to quote George Eliot and say that the sheets seem to follow only what she calls "the play of inward stimulus that sends one hither and thither in a network of possible paths." Suidas, an exceptional case, demanded the almost undivided attention of four compositors working in pairs on each volume; and Crownfield, Bertram and Pokins spread their work over two to three books each. When we look at the distribution of work to the different press-crews, we note that with one exception every compositor or pair of compositors sent work to both presses; and, moreover, that the work composed during these weeks was in many cases


Page 22
printed by any of four different press-crews. If we take a single book — Psyche, either volume of Suidas, or Whiston's Short View — the point to be made is much the same, that the various sheets of any particular book were likely as not printed at more than one press. The details given for the Bowyer shop in appendix II (a) to (e) cover two distinct periods: first, from 26 Dec. 1730 to 6 Feb. 1731, and second, from 31 Jan. to 26 Feb. 1732. Their testimony in witnessing to the disposition of work is consistent with that of the Cambridge records but the relationships revealed between the several productive units, whether compositors or pressmen, are very much more complex. The information given reveals, for example, the number of pages set by each compositor, the edition size, and the number of formes printed by each press; in the case of appendix II (a) we can also see the peculiar arrangements between presses 1, 3 and 7 for printing and reprinting the Defence of the Present Administration. I take this evidence to be quite conclusive. It shows that the essential procedures for the distribution of work were the same for a larger and later shop as they were for an earlier printing house with only two (or more commonly one and a half) active presses. It shows that although we should doubtless be right to assume — allowing for certain social attitudes and conditions we have mentioned — that composition and presswork as a whole were fairly economically balanced, it would be quite wrong to conclude that this balance was either necessary or possible for work on any individual book.


The more substantial matters discussed in the preceding section — workmen's output, edition sizes, and the relationship between composition and presswork under conditions of concurrent production — must now serve as a prelude to notes on a number of bibliographical procedures that imply quite different productive conditions. If the evidence of part II withstands challenge, it must I think be held to falsify several current hypotheses. It is not easy to summarize these but the ones I have in mind relate particularly to compositors' measures, cast-off copy, skeleton formes, proof-correction and press figures.

If one assumes that a compositor usually worked on only one book at a time he would have had no need to alter the measure to which he had set his composing stick. Changes in line measurement within any one book might therefore be taken to indicate an abnormal interruption, after which the stick was reset to a slightly different measure, or


Page 23
the presence of a second compositor.[33] Professor Bowers cites, for example, Bellon's The Mock-Duellist (1675) in which sheets B-F are set with a 120 mm. measure and sheets G-I with a measure of 121 mm. "In such a book the inference is probably that with sheet G another compositor . . . took over the work. In general, one is likely to conjecture that any interruption of the printing sufficient to cause a single compositor to adjust his stick again after working on some other book would most likely have been sufficient to cause the skeleton-formes to be broken up . . ." ("Bibliographical Evidence," p. 157). These conclusions must, however, seem misplaced if one begins from a different premise. If we assume concurrent production, for example, then the likelihood of measures reflecting the division of work among compositors will be small. In the first place, production times were too long; and in the second place, compositors working on several books at a time, often in quite different sizes of type, would have had to change their measure constantly. As it happens, these propositions are consistent with the Cambridge evidence, whereas analysis of a few of the Cambridge books suggests that it would be impossible to judge how compositorial work was divided on any of them from the evidence of measures. Not only do the widths of type-pages set by the same compositor vary, but different compositors are often found setting to an identical measure, and interruptions are routine. The general practice inferred from limited physical evidence and the underlying assumption about work method remain mutually consistent, but in most cases they are likely to be quite wrong.

One of the more delicate exercises in advanced analytical bibliography is tracing the pattern of skeleton formes as evidenced by running titles in order to determine the order of presswork and, it might be claimed, the number of presses used. This pattern may be related by a time scale to another showing compositorial stints, or it may of itself be taken to imply a certain number of compositors at work on the book. The relationship indicated between composition and presswork may then be employed as an analytical tool in determining such things


Page 24
as nature of copy, methods of setting, edition size and proofing procedures. Implicit in all such analyses is the fundamental assumption that composition and presswork on a particular book would normally seek a condition of balance. This is a difficult area in which to order the work done while being fair to the arguments of those who have used such evidence; nor am I confident that I fully understand the analytical principles used. But the subject is important and even at the risk of misrepresentation demands discussion.

The pioneer study in the use of headlines, as in much else, was written by Professor Bowers over thirty years ago.[34] The association of sets of headlines with skeleton formes is now so well evidenced that it may be taken for granted, and, as Professor Bowers has also remarked, "the basic principles of the printer's use of headlines did not differ markedly in any period when books were printed by hand."[35] Where a single skeleton was used for both formes of a sheet,

the press was idle while the forme just off the press was being washed and stripped and its skeleton was being transferred to the type pages which were next to be printed. . . . Some printers used two skeletons, each with its own set of headlines. Thus while one forme was on the press, the skeleton was being stripped from an already printed forme and imposed about the type pages next to be printed. Since the transfer of this second skeleton could take place while the press was printing the first, there was no delay at all between the time a forme was removed from the press and the time the new one was planked down on the bed (pp. 188-9).

The phrase 'the press was idle' is perhaps misleading since under conditions of concurrent printing the press would not be 'idle' at all but employed on another book. It has however had considerable repercussions and a great many bibliographical arguments have been constructed on the assumption that this inferred idleness could not have been the norm and must have been avoided in order to secure a balanced relationship of composition and presswork. So Professor Turner: "In order to effect the minimum press delay, the formes . . . would have had to go through the press in the following order . . .".[36] ". . . in one-skeleton work the press was forced to stand idle . . .".[37]


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"There is every reason to believe that press delays were abhorrent to the 17th-century printer" ("The Maid's Tragedy," p. 217). ". . . a compositor would not change from setting by formes to seriatim setting without risking a press delay unless he was ahead of his press . .."[38] ". . . the adoption of one-skeleton printing for several formes, and the resultant press delays . . ." ("Philaster," p. 28). "If we assume that two skeletons would have been employed in the most efficient manner . . .".[39] ". . . working on the assumption that composition and presswork could stay more-or-less in balance . . ."[40] ". . . two formes . . . would not have been machined concurrently, for had they been, a delay in presswork would have resulted."[41]

Professor Hinman, however, extended the argument by pointing out that if a book were printed in a very small edition, printing would be so well ahead of setting that a second skeleton would be of little use.

The press will inevitably be obliged to stand idle periodically, waiting for the compositor to get new material for it. In such circumstances, of course, there would be no point in accelerating presswork speed further by the use of two skeletons; for although the use of two skeletons can speed up presswork, it cannot increase composition speed: however many skeletons are employed, the same number of impositions will be required ("New Uses for Headlines," p. 209).
Professor Hinman then suggests that if the edition were a very large one, however, the reverse might be true. Printing would take longer than setting and the pressmen might well seek to avoid delays and restore the balance by using two skeletons. Hence Professor Bowers has subsequently stated that "certain assumptions can be made about the rate of compositorial to press speed and thus about the number of


Page 26
copies printed";[42] and Professor Williams has remarked that "in a small edition press time would be briefer than composition time and the compositor would always be concerned lest he fall behind and so delay his press."[43]

Yet another application was indicated by Professor Hinman when he noted that skeleton formes "have an intimate connection with various possible methods of stop-press correction" ("New Uses for Headlines," p. 222). Applying this principle in a re-examination of the proofing of Lear, Professor Bowers wrote:

With one-skeleton printing there is nothing for the press to work on when the forme is removed for correction. The most obvious thing to do with two skeletons is to plug this gap by putting the second forme on the press and pulling its proofs so that correction in the type can be made at leisure without further halting the press.[44]
At the same time he offered a succinct restatement of the basic position:
Two-skeleton printing was an extension of one-skeleton, devised to secure relatively continuous presswork by avoiding the major delay at the press which occurred when a new forme was imposed for printing.[45]

The temporal relationship between composition and presswork here assumed is however capable of many permutations. One might start with evidence of presswork and seek signs of, or infer, compensating adjustments in composition; alternatively, one might begin with some knowledge of the speed of composition and then try to trace evidence of presswork to match. In the first case the evidence of presswork


Page 27
will almost invariably be in the shape of skeleton formes, although their interpretation may not always be straightforward.

Do they, for example, indicate one press or two? Professor Bowers long ago remarked that "the evidence of running-titles to determine the number of presses is often dubious in the extreme and its application hazardous."[46] And Greg expressed some doubt about the equation of skeleton formes with presses.[47] Yet such equations have been made. Professor Price, writing of Your Five Gallants, claimed that "in 1607 [Eld] had at least two presses, as the running-titles . . . show." And again, writing of Michaelmas Term, "the series of running-titles seem to imply that at least four presses worked on the book."[48] Professor Bowers: "Since regularly alternating two-skeleton formes produce maximum efficiency for one-press work, the staggered appearance of three skeletons . . . suggests the use of two presses." On this assumption, it becomes possible to observe a "mathematical regularity of transfer between the presses according to a fixed and efficient system"; hence "the three-skeleton pattern . . . is proof of two-press printing" (my italics).[49] And again: "The analysis of running titles reveals that two presses printed Q2 [Hamlet]," each press being served by a different compositor.[50] It is not surprising then to find others writing of "a normal pattern for two-compositor work in which each man serves a different press."[51] And writing of The Revenger's Tragedy, Professor Price noted that the four skeletons present suggest two presses, adding that elsewhere "Eld's pressmen clearly revealed their use of two presses by printing on different stocks of paper."[52]


Page 28

The attractive simplicity of Professor Bowers' initial proposition about skeleton formes is no longer easy to discern. Nevertheless it has been repeatedly put to use in order to determine also the number of compositors engaged on a book. In an article on the printing of Romeo and Juliet Q2, for example, we are told that "variant compositorial characteristics suggest the presence of two compositors" and are assured that "the mechanical evidence of presswork corroborates that suggestion" (my italics). The quarto was printed from two skeletons recurring in regular sequence. The writers continue: "This evidence from running titles can be explained only with great difficulty as accompanying the work of one compositor; but a reasonable explanation may be offered by resorting to the hypothesis of a second press, and thus of a second compositor" (my italics).[53] Earlier, Professor Bowers had remarked that "printing by two presses must necessarily require the services of two compositors" ("Bibliographical Evidence," p. 166 n. 13). Again that a "general alternation involving the use of four skeleton formes is inexplicable for printing with one press; yet if we hypothesize two presses it follows that there must have been more than one compositor."[54] In another case, where only one skeleton-forme was used, "the running-title pattern indicates no second workman."[55] Professor Turner has written: "One skeleton ordinarily means one compositor; two may mean two setting simultaneously . . .".[56] But the clearest example of skeleton formes in relation to composition is offered by Hamlet Q2, in which "compositor X served one press and


Page 29
imposed his formes for that press, whereas compositor Y served a second press and, correspondingly, imposed his own distinct formes for that press." These observations led Professor Bowers to remark that "when, as in Hamlet, the spelling tests for compositors equate so precisely with what one may conjecture to have been their stints from the evidence of running-titles, we may be somewhat more confident in the future about roughing-out two-compositor work in books on this running-title evidence" ("Printing Hamlet Q2," pp. 41-42).

There would appear to be enough flexibility in the principle to allow its reverse application, for, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet, two skeletons may become two presses if there is some slight evidence of two compositors (and hence "corroborate" the suggestion that there are two compositors). But since compositors have left no skeletons they are less easy to detect than headlines, and there are therefore fewer cases of presswork conditions being inferred from the prior evidence of composition.

By now I hope I have, at the very least, made clear by selection and juxtaposition the multiple and often confusingly diverse general statements inferred from the number and order of skeleton formes,[57] and laid bare the fundamental assumptions about desirable ratios between compositors and press-crews. It simply remains to ask how reliable such analyses would turn out to be if tested by analogy (a fair enough procedure, since their authors imply extended application by analogy).

Two Cambridge books may serve: Beaumont's Psyche (1702), a folio in fours, and Newton's Principia (1713), a quarto (Cambridge University Press, I, 126-7, 219-21). To take Psyche first, and in particular the quires 2E-2Z which can be related to full work-flow charts,[58] we may observe that the edition was 750; that only one compositor worked on it at a time (Bertram set 2E-2F, 2K-2Q½, 2T½-2Z; Crownfield 2G-2I, 2Q½-2T½); that four skeleton formes were in regular use; and that setting and printing of these 19 quires, or 38 sheets, took about 20 weeks in all (from mid September 1701 to 31 Jan. 1702). All I wish to establish now is the futility of attempting to infer any direct


Page 30
correlation of presswork with these conditions from the four skeleton formes. Two quires set by different compositors (2F-2G), and with identical forme patterns, were both printed at the same full press; two quires set by the same compositor (2K-2L), but with utterly different forme patterns, were both printed by the same half press; two quires set by the same compositor (2O-2P), and with identical forme patterns, were both printed at the same half press; all four skeletons appear in quire 2T, one sheet of which was printed at one full press and the other sheet of which was printed at another full press; all four skeletons appear in quire 2U, one sheet of which was printed at full press and the other sheet of which was printed at half press. And yet if this evidence were not available it would be perfectly respectable to infer that this regular use of four skeletons might mean either (a) a large edition; or (b) two compositors, if not three; or (c) at least one full press in continuous operation.

Newton's Principia is a little easier to deal with since it is a quarto, and although there are four skeletons in all, only two of these were in use at any one time. The first printed most outer formes in sheets C-2P, the second most inner formes; in 2Q-2V their roles were reversed. New skeletons were constructed for 2X, one printing all inner formes to 3P, the other all outer formes. Under these very straightforward conditions, we might normally infer one of the following:

(a) There was a single compositor, but the press was evidently lagging behind composition; therefore two skeletons were used to save imposition time. We might also infer a fairly large edition.

(b) The edition was probably small and presswork regularly ahead of composition — especially since the text was in Latin and cuts had to be accommodated within it; but nothing would be gained by the use of two skeletons under such conditions unless, say, two compositors were at work.

(c) The reversal of skeletons at 2Q is probably insignificant, but a serious interruption undoubtedly occurred after the printing of 2V when the first two skeletons were broken up.

I trust that this example is thought to be no worse for its approximations than most such arguments, but it seems to me to point up once more the nature of our guiding assumptions about skeleton formes and the relationship of composition to presswork. In doing so it also indicates the likely error in our general statements on these matters since their claim to represent the truth can be falsified by contradictory case-studies. If, as for many books, there were no external evidence to control speculation, any of the explanations given above, suitably


Page 31
sophisticated, could be employed in a publishable account of the printing of the Principia. The facts of the matter are: the edition was 700; only one compositor at a time worked on the book (Pokins set B, 2Q-3R, a-d; Délié C-2P); the book was printed at both full press (49 sheets) and half press (17 sheets) without these conditions in any way being reflected in the number or order of skeletons; when there were changes in skeletons, press conditions remained constant; a delay of some months in 1712 is unmarked by the skeletons; the mere reversal of skeletons at 2Q was preceded by a delay of 11 months; the creation of entirely new skeletons for 2X may have been related to a delay of about 3 months; the first pair of skeletons were in use for over 2 years, the second for 1½ years; printing of the 66 sheets in the book extended from October 1709 until May 1713.[59]

I have not examined the skeleton formes in Bowyer books, but the fact that the sheets in them were often printed at one press and perfected at another must render very complex indeed any analysis seeking to relate compositors, formes and presses — even with the help of press figures. It cannot be assumed that other and earlier presses did not do likewise (without the figures); it is just that we happen to know for certain in some cases what the Bowyers did.

I wish now to broaden the argument a little by adverting to the Shakespeare First Folio and by offering yet another case-study. When Professor Hinman writes:

Long sequences of Folio formes were often set by two compositors setting simultaneously; yet one press regularly printed off these formes as rapidly as they were set. Now, unless our estimates are badly at fault, this would not have been possible if the edition had consisted of many more than about 1,200 copies. Nor on the other hand could two compositors (and no more than two seem ever to have set type for the Folio at any given time) have kept even one press continuously busy if the edition had been of appreciably less than 1,200 copies . . .[60]


Page 32
When Professor Hinman makes this point, he is deducing the probable size of the edition from an hypothesis about timing. The tentative nature of this deduction is made very clear and Professor Hinman's scholarship is of such excellence that it is seldom possible to offer views that he has not already entertained. Yet there can be no mistaking the main import of the above passage: two compositors and one press working on the Folio alone yield 1200 edition-sheets a day. Obviously, without full information about all other work on hand, one cannot falsify Professor Hinman's argument or its implication that the printing of the Folio was, by and large, a self-contained operation. Nor, without such evidence, can one prove it. But it may be salutary to consider its status as a general proposition which is likely to be true for other books of the period. For, as Professor Hinman himself says,
Because the Folio was a book it must have been produced by methods which, in part at least, were followed in the making of other books; and investigative techniques that are of value in the study of the printing of the Folio should be useful in other studies too (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 13).

Now if roughly comparable books show quite different conditions of production, the above hypothesis about timing and the deduction from it about edition size will be weakened. More, its proven inability to predict the other possibilities will severely limit its standing as a statement of general application.

Volume I of the 1705 Cambridge-printed edition of the Greek lexicon Suidas is perhaps a book that is "roughly comparable" (The Cambridge University Press, I, 224-33). It is a folio in fours, with some 954 pages, about 8,500 ens per forme set double column in English Greek and English Latin with Long Primer footnotes; being started by 1 Nov. 1701 and finished by 4 Sep. 1703, it took some 22 months to print: the edition size was 1500 (150 large-paper copies, 1350 smallpaper); it was set throughout by two compositors working simultaneously on each forme; 166½ sheets were printed at full press and 72 at half press. The Shakespeare volume is a folio in sixes, contains just under 900 pages, has about 10,600 ens per forme set double column in Pica English; according to Professor Hinman's table it took about 18½ months to print but if we add the 2½ months given as the possible length of an interruption, the total would be 21 months; and Professor Hinman suggests an edition of about 1200 on the assumption that two compositors and one press were working on it more or less continuously. It would be foolish to think of these two books as being any


Page 33
more than only very roughly comparable; the Shakespeare Folio is in English, not Greek and Latin, and has 22 fewer sheets than the Suidas volume. Yet the Folio has slightly more ens to the sheet and Suidas took slightly longer to print, so that in the quantitative matters of bulk, relation of composition to presswork, printing time, and edition size, the two books are not perhaps so very different.

When we discover, however, that throughout exactly the same period as the one in which the first volume of Suidas was being printed the identical one-and-a-half presses that printed it also served three to four other compositors, two of them often working simultaneously, to print another 1500 copies of the second volume of Suidas — yet another Shakespeare Folio as it were — as well as 20 other books whole or in part and at least 23 smaller jobs, then we might be forgiven for thinking that Professor Hinman's estimate is badly at fault. Nevertheless my point is not that his equation (two compositors and one press yield 1200 edition-sheets a day) is wrong — indeed, under some conditions it might well be exact — but that it seriously misrepresents the general conditions of book production.[61]


Page 34

If I am right, and there is miscalculation somewhere, the reason for it probably lies in an inference drawn from skeleton formes, and its consequences return us to the subject of concurrent printing. For the purity of Professor Hinman's argument virtually commits him to the view that the Folio was printed on one press, "the Folio press." Apart from 18 quires near the beginning, the Folio is a one-skeleton and therefore, it is claimed, a one-press book: ". . . throughout most of the book, indeed, two-press work was manifestly impossible, the same skeleton having been used in successive formes . . .".[62] Professor Hinman here means that two presses cannot have been in simultaneous use, but as he says at another point:

Only one press at a time can possibly have been used, and it is but reasonable to suppose that the successive Folio formes, once set, were ordinarily delivered to the same pressmen and printed at the same "Folio" press.[63]


Page 35
Moreover, two compositors working together and serving this one press are thought to represent an ideally self-sufficient relationship for an edition of about 1200 copies, and since apparently this is the condition more frequently found,
it seems clear that the printing of the Shakespeare collection was planned as a self-contained operation, one that could be economically conducted altogether apart from the other printing tasks with which the establishment was concerned. Yet the plan was by no means inflexible. It allowed for the concurrent production of other occasional work. First of all, however, it provided for the independent printing of Shakespeare's plays (I, 75).

Professor Hinman's main stress here, and his concession, are the crux of the matter. At times of course most analytical bibliographers working in this field have to confess an imbalance of composition and presswork on a book, either implicitly by failing to pursue the point or explicitly by marking breaks in an otherwise apparently consistent pattern. When this happens, some odd jobbing at case or press is a likely and convenient suggestion to restore the ratio and avoid idleness. This opportunistic resort to a theory of concurrent printing need not be documented at length but it is important to note its circumstantial origins. For much of the Shakespeare Folio, set by one man, there is persistent evidence that the economic considerations behind the plan (at least in the form suggested) did not apply; and to explain the apparent imbalance Professor Hinman allows that 'the Folio press' must have engaged in some concurrent printing:

It would be rash to suggest that, if only one compositor at a time set type for the Folio, the Folio press (as for convenience we may call it) must always have stood idle half the time. It could have been used to print other, non-Folio matter — if only this other matter were available. And doubtless it sometimes was; but not always, not regularly (I, 74).
And again:
Fairly often, therefore, though rarely for long, the rate at which composition for the Folio normally progressed was halved, and accordingly the full-time services of the press were not required for Folio printing. But we need not suppose that press time was therefore wasted. It is in the highest degree probable that, on at least most of these occasions, both the Folio press and one of the Folio compositors were used to produce other work — presumably job work . . .[64]


Page 36

If I now seem to labour a point it is simply because Professor Hinman's account of the printing process reflects and therefore lends massive authority to the erroneous assumption that a book was normally put into production as an independent unit. The single skeleton forme, its association with 'the Folio press', the suggested edition size, the 'economic' balance between compositors and press-crew, all combine to reinforce this view. What is offered as exceptional — occasional concurrent printing — other evidence would suggest to be normal; what is offered as normal — a self-contained operation — is elsewhere exceedingly rare. Neither the Cambridge nor Bowyer papers would permit such inferences to be drawn from skeleton formes; neither would permit such assumptions to be made about the operations of a single press; neither would be consistent with the general economic argument put forward. Nor is it, I think, a matter of proven historical difference, as though the early 17th century were doing something that the 18th century no longer found necessary. For no differences have been constated that cannot be seriously questioned by exposing the primary assumptions. Noting at one point that most of the Folio was printed by a single press, Professor Hinman revealingly adds:

Or, conceivably, by two presses working alternately on different formes; but this, for all practical purposes, would amount to the same thing.[65]
With all respect, one is obliged to say that 'for all practical purposes' it would not. The moment we admit the possibility of two presses we halve the work of one of them on the Folio and concede that each is concurrently printing other books as well. The problems of calculating the ratio between compositors and press-crews are doubled, for the ratio must be assessed for each crew and the assessment must take full account of all other work on hand. The pattern of work becomes far more complex as the various edition-sheets for different books are printed off one with another at the two presses. For some limited theoretic purposes the ratios abstracted by Professor Hinman may be sound, but his evidence, as he concedes, is consistent with normal conditions of concurrent printing at press, and much of the time with concurrent work at case.


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The implications of assumptions which seem to be so much at odds with usual printing conditions do not end here:

It is demonstrable, that a single press could (and did) print off a Folio forme at least as fast as two compositors working simultaneously, one on each of its two pages, could set such a forme. Hence there can be no doubt that composition by one compositor ordinarily took at least twice as long as the machining of the forme.[66]
Under the latter conditions 'there would be a gross imbalance between composition and presswork', under the former 'a highly efficient ratio'. Professor Hinman makes much of the economic reasons for simultaneous setting, and hence setting by formes:
With some emphasis let it be said, for the point is vital, that casting off copy would make possible the simultaneous setting of different Folio pages by different compositors. Hence Jaggard might well have undertaken it even if his supplies of type had been unlimited (I, 74).
Again, an economic ratio of composition and presswork for the Folio
could be effected, and effected economically, if two compositors worked simultaneously on its various formes — and Jaggard probably cast off the copy for it with precisely this end in view (I, 75).
By displacing type-shortage as the primary reason for casting off copy, and substituting an economic relationship dependent on assumptions about timing, Professor Hinman not only diminishes the classical status of his own major demonstration but starts a bibliographical hare. The constant factor throughout the Folio is shortage of type because of the method of quiring, and Professor Hinman himself makes it clear that this "may have made it more or less mandatory to set the Folio by formes." His attempt to give an extended generality to his brilliant particular and practical proof from type-shortages misrepresents the general conditions of work, not only in Jaggard's shop but in the period as a whole.

For this again is my immediate concern: the encouragement given to the view that even where there is no conclusive evidence of type-shortages, revealed by the presence of identical sorts in both formes of a sheet or in the first half of a quire, we may have setting by formes. In such cases reliance is usually placed on a 'pattern of distribution' — evidence which is used with most admirable insight and control by Professor Hinman but which, in lesser hands, and in quarto printing,


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may prove very tricky indeed. In a folio of course the major production unit was the quire and (now that Professor Hinman has pointed it out) it is obvious enough why in a folio in sixes type should be inadequate for normal page-by-page setting. In a quarto, however, the reasons are far from clear, and despite Professor Turner's assurance that "it begins to appear that [Elizabethan play quartos] were more often than not composed by formes" (my italics) ("Printing King and No King", p. 255), a certain scepticism ought perhaps still to be exercised. Professor Williams, for example, arguing that the quarto Epicedium (1594) was so composed, implied considerable concern on the compositor's part at setting vv for w, an assessment by the compositor of the number of w's required for the work, a count of those available to him in the case, and a decision to set by formes for this one reason despite attendant complications. In another case "Random mixing of roman and italic forms of 'k', 'K', 'S' and 'Q' . . . are common in the quarto and are without significance. The shortage of lower-case 'w', on the other hand, discloses a pattern throughout the quarto."[67] But one may fairly ask whether it is safe to prove a case by accepting only such limited 'patterned' evidence. The idea that a 'pattern' must be significant because it appears to indicate a regular method of work is one of the most perniciously seductive presuppositions of current bibliographical analysis. The conflicting evidence of 'k' is disregarded in part because it "violates the order of imposition and printing as disclosed by the running-title evidence." For "evidence from running titles indicates that outer B preceded inner through the press." This of course is merely a further assumption given the status of proof (and then applied as such) because the skeleton formes can, but arbitrarily, be ordered in a pattern.

In the Shakespeare Folio, Professor Hinman noted, "As a rule . . . no forme has types in common with either the forme immediately preceding or that immediately following it" (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, p. 81); and the sequential relation of setting, printing, and distribution here implied has been adapted for the quartos. Professor Turner had earlier given it shape when, writing of Philaster, he observed

that types which originally appear in B(o) reappear through sheet C; whereas types which originally appear in B(i) do not reappear in sheet C


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but do reappear in sheet D. Therefore, B(i) must have been distributed after B(o) and doubtless followed it through the press.[68]
Mr John Hazel Smith, discussing Much Ado, offers a similar argument: "The precedence of A(i) is proved by three italic types (B1, B2, d1) from that forme which are then divided between the formes of B." And again:
That Much Ado is composed by formes will be abundantly clear later. It is already indicated by the types (B1, B2, d1) which appear in two adjacent sheets: under seriatim composition it would be very rare to find, as we find several times in this quarto, on the first or second page of a second sheet a type from either forme of a first sheet (p. 11).
And Professor Turner's subsequent formulation gives the principle a usefully definitive form:
in a quarto set by formes, type from the first forme of each sheet normally reappears in both formes of the succeeding sheet, but type from the second forme only in the second forme of the succeeding sheet.[69]
Mr Smith's study is probably the least fortunate example of an attempt to prove setting by formes in a quarto by "applying scientific bibliographical methods," for Professor Hinman has since pronounced it wrong.[70] But the irony is that the methods used by Mr Smith were those "illustrated by the work of Charlton Hinman on the Shakespeare First Folio and by George W. Williams and Robert K. Turner, Jr, on


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other Renaissance quartos" ("Compositor of Much Ado", p. 10). And some of these methods are not, inherently, very reliable.[71]

The comment called for here can only be a very general and cautionary one. Neither the Cambridge nor Bowyer records offer much positive evidence of setting by formes; although their combined testimony does demonstrate the rarity of such a practice for books other than page-for-page reprints and must therefore give us pause. We must recall too that neither Moxon, Stower, nor any other early grammar mentions casting off as a means of enabling work to be set by formes. In every case it is, as Stower puts it in his index, a "manner of calculating in order to ascertain the number of sheets a manuscript will make, the size of the letter being fixed on"[72] — that is, a device for costing, and for determining the paper required, not for organizing work. Nowadays we call it estimating. As Professor Hinman observes, actual casting off for setting would not have been undertaken without good reason, although it is true that the difficulties may have been overestimated for verse plays as distinct from full prose works (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 73). But if, as is claimed, "the practice was by no means uncommon" and "is to be seen in first quartos that issued from many different printing houses, over a wide stretch of years" ("Shakespeare's Texts," p. 31), it is to be hoped that firmer controls will be applied in its demonstration than have hitherto been evident. In particular, arguments heavily reliant on time-schemes will rarely command that ready assent which was given to Professor Hinman's initial proof that the Folio must have been set by formes.[73] On the face of it, the most important reason for setting by formes in quarto is unlikely to have been urgency, nor even an unusually small fount, but a fount depleted because of concurrent printing — for if work overlapped on two or more books using the same fount of type, setting by formes would offer a method of making some progress with all. Professor Hinman has again led the way in showing how, in Jaggard's shop, concurrent setting of other books, reduced the supply of type for the Folio.


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If copy is cast off for a quarto text, there is no compelling reason why any sheet should not be printed in any order — say, H, F, A, C, D, B, E, G. One might expect and assume a straightforward progression through the book, but there is no compelling reason for it. But order of formes through the press is an important ingredient in much bibliographical work. Where there is detectable damage in the course of printing (whether to types, headlines, rules or ornaments) it may be quite possible to prove order, and in some cases a precedent forme, at least within the same sheet, may be determined by using the Martin-Povey lamp. I am not sure whether it is evidence of this kind that led Professor Turner to write that "information about presswork, specifically the order of the formes through the press, is relatively easy to obtain and is based on evidence that is the least controvertible" ("Beaumont and Fletcher Folio", p. 36), but, so far as I can tell, order has usually been determined, not according to such evidence, but according to a pattern of headline recurrences. "Evidence from running titles indicates that outer B preceded inner through the press" (Williams, "Setting by Formes", p. 43) is a familiar form of wording; or "on the evidence of running titles, it is clear that B(o) was machined before B(i)". I confess that I have never understood what was meant when I have read such a phrase, and again I suspect that priority is based on assumptions about timing, and inferences drawn from variants, from a pattern of alternating skeletons, or from reappearing types which permit a hypothesis about distribution. In any case, whatever the internal patterns which some physical features may take within a book, there is little reason to elucidate them by constructing a time-scheme or by supposing the successive printing of all formes of the same book. I know of no evidence that obliges us to think of one sheet (or forme) being followed immediately on the press by another of the same book. There is some case for it when perfecting, none between sheets. There is too much evidence in the Cambridge books of perfectly regular patterns sustained under the most diverse conditions of concurrent printing. It is not always easy to tell when an apparently general statement is really only a singular one made of a particular book, but if it is generally true, as Professor Turner says, that "to prove the order of printing is usually to prove the order of composition of the formes" ("Beaumont and Fletcher Folio", p. 37), important textual consequences may follow from the initial assumptions.[74]


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It is perhaps worth looking briefly at one Cambridge book, Bennet's Answer to the Dissenters Pleas (2nd ed., 1700). Its testimony is not all that important, since it is a page-for-page reprint, yet it does show quite vividly that, once copy is cast off, any sequence of setting and printing might be followed. The sheets were composed as follows: Bertram set E, K by 13 Jan. 1700; B, H, S by 20 Jan.; Knell set C by 26 Jan.; Bertram D, L, U and X/* by 10 Feb.; Knell completed F, G½ between 20 Jan. and 17 Feb.; G½, I by 24 Feb.; Bertram P, Q, R by 24 Feb.; N, O, T by 2 Mar.; Knell A, M by 9 Mar. The order of printing appears to have been: E, H, K, B, L, S, U, C, D, F, X/*, G, I, R, Q, N, O, P, A, M, T (Cambridge University Press, I, 192-3).

The Cambridge papers, if not those of the Bowyers, provide very clear evidence of regular proof-correction of all books printed. Such a practice may have been slightly unusual as many of the books were classical texts and the press prided itself on its accuracy, yet I think not, for London houses in the 18th century, like Cambridge, regularly set as their price for proofing one-sixth of the rate of composition.[75] There is considerable doubt, however, about the validity of applying 18th-century evidence to Elizabethan books; even Moxon's testimony from the later 17th century has been rejected as irrelevant to the earlier period. If this is so, then the 'norms' used to introduce some measure of probability into analytical accounts of the proofing and printing of earlier books will themselves be only inferential. Moxon, we may recall, notes that:

The Press-man is to make a Proof so oft as occasion requires . . . The Compositer having brought the Form to the Press, lays it down on the Press-stone, and the Press-man . . . Pulls the Proof-sheet . . . carries the Form again to the Correcting-stone and lays it down: And the Proof he carries to the Compositers Case [pp. 302-3].

And the Compositer gives the Correcter the Proof and his Copy to Correct it by: which being Corrected, the Correcter gives it again to the Compositer to Correct the Form by [p. 233].

Having corrected it, the compositor


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carries the Form to the Press, and lays it on the Stone for a Second Proof, and sometimes for a Third Proof; which having Corrected, he at last brings the Form to the Press, and again lays it on the Stone . . . After all this Correcting a Revise is made, and if any Faults are found in any Quarter of it, or in all the Quarters, he calls to the Press-man to Unlock that Quarter, or the whole Form, that he may Correct those Faults . . . [pp. 238-9].

And before continuing printing, the pressman will check

4thly, That no Letters or Spaces lye in the White-lines of the Form; which may happen if the Compositer have Corrected any thing since the Form was laid on the Press, and the Compositer through oversight pickt them not all up [p. 269].

Professor Bowers has remarked, however, that

Moxon describes a method of pulling proofs that interrupted the printing whenever a forme to be proofed was prepared. The delay would not be equally serious, but on the evidence this does not seem to have been the usual Elizabethan practice (Bibliography and Textual Criticism, p. 103 n. 1).

To make this point is to stress again the primary importance of continuous printing at press. Professor Hinman would doubtless agree, for he says that

The proof-correction practices spoken of by Moxon may have been common in his day, but they were certainly not so in the 1620's (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 228 n. 1).

But Professor Hinman's basic reason for rejecting Moxon's account as in any way relevant to the 1620's has little to do with timing. It is rather the many self-evident errors that survive in the printed text. Discussing — and dismissing — in a footnote the idea that regular proofing may have preceded that established by a collation of the variants he has observed, Professor Hinman notes:

there are far too many obvious errors of all kinds in far too many Folio pages to allow us to think that any such preliminary reading as may have been done for this book, whether with or without benefit of some kind of printed proof, and whether by compositor or by an official 'corrector of the press', ever amounted to much (I, 228 n. 2).

It is a view that in general Professor Bowers would probably — and reciprocally — endorse, since he has observed that

The automatic assumption is surely wrong that every forme of cheap commercial printing was necessarily proof-read. Any editor of Elizabethan


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play quartos is familiar with some formes in which the typographical errors are so gross as to make it seem impossible to suppose that these formes had been read (Bibliography and Textual Criticism, p. 126).

It may seem singularly fool-hardy not to follow such authority, but I am constrained to persist in a certain incredulity. Professor Hinman's failure to list the 'many obvious errors of all kinds' at least makes one's task of qualification a little easier since he has not, in this case, sufficiently illustrated, let alone proved, his point. If Moxon, and proofing practices so well evidenced elsewhere in the century and beyond it, are to be displaced as the 'norm', the question would seem to demand rather fuller discussion than I have yet seen devoted to it.

The view that Professor Hinman is concerned to question is, essentially, Greg's — that in the Folio "the printer was not indifferent to the accuracy of his text."[76] And it may well be that if we were "once possessed of a full record of the press variants in the First Folio" (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 227), such a view might have to be altered. Professor Hinman's labours of collation leave him in no doubt that now "there is in fact considerably more evidence that the printer was largely indifferent to the accuracy of his text" (I, 227). Yet such a conclusion is scarcely judicious; there is a great difference between the truth and the whole truth, between "a full record of the press variants" and a full record of the surviving press variants.[77]

This is not just a quibble. Traditionally the stages of proof-correction have been at least three: galley (whether page- or slip-), revises, and, as a last resort, stop-press. And let us not forget that the manuscript copy precedes all three. Now it is incontestable that these several stages can be found in increasing frequency as one moves from manuscript (how much of that survives?), to page-proofs (very few of these), to revises (slightly more of these — if some of our surviving 'proof' sheets can be so considered), to stop-press (hundreds of these). Each successive stage supersedes the previous one; once the unique copy has been set and checked, it can be disposed of, once the single galley proof has been read and checked, it can be disposed of, once the revise has been read and checked, it can be disposed of, but once printing has started, the multiple copies are preserved and of course they are available for consultation in those portions of the edition still extant. It


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only remains to note that the principle of increasing frequency persists even here, for, as Professor Hinman has observed in the case of the Folio, the earlier 'uncorrected' state is likely to be preserved in about ten per cent of copies, and the later and latest, press-corrected, states in ninety per cent of surviving copies; these last therefore will be the ones most frequently observed. We must of course work from what we have to what we have not, but our chances of going the full distance and thereby establishing 'a full record of the press variants' — if these are taken to include all stages of proofing — are very remote indeed. When such evidence (of its very nature) demanded to be discarded, it is difficult to see why one should assume that it never existed.[78]

But one may consider the point in another way: it is easy after repeated and intense scrutiny to discover 'obvious' misprints, and it is also very easy to miss them. Each year I put some four or five senior and intelligent students through the rudiments of type-setting and when they come to correct their work they almost invariably have to do it in two or three stages because these latter-day John Leasons have failed to correct all the 'obvious' errors the first time through. Yet there was a first time (see Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 233). It is true that the more experienced students make fewer mistakes, but it is again remarkable how many of these mistakes my latter-day John Shakespeares overlook in their first attempt at correction. Much the same point is made of course by Professor Hinman when speaking of sections of plays set by Compositor E, sections "which were subjected to much more proof-reading than others — yet only to very careless proof-reading, since a great many errors nonetheless escaped uncorrected in these plays" (I, 233). Errors, that is, persist through one or more stages of proof-reading; the much-proofed page from Antony and Cleopatra leaves errors uncorrected.[79] The existence of some formes in three or more states indicates that at one or more stages of correction errors were missed which were later thought serious enough


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to alter. Greg's list of misprints in Q1 Lear, based on the corrected state of the sheets and therefore taking no account of the original errors that were subsequently altered, is most revealing in this connection (Variants, pp. 63-79). Professor Hinman's new evidence from variants introduced at a relatively late stage of the Folio's production does not dispose of Greg's judgement. The 'obvious errors' have been there since 1623 and Greg, who had as good an eye for them as anyone, still thought that "the printer was not indifferent to the accuracy of his text", and that "he took what were thought in his day to be reasonable precautions, and went to some trouble, to reach a moderate standard in the execution of what may not have been at all times an easy task" (Shakespeare First Folio, p. 464).

There is of course another way of looking at the problem — and I must repeat that I am really only concerned with questions of method and that like Troubleall I merely wish to ask 'by what warrant' certain inferences are given the standing of general statements. So, a priori, one might ask whether it is likely that the essentially trivial corrections noted by Professor Hinman would have been made at all if the printer were indifferent to the accuracy of his text? Or, to put it yet another way, is it likely that a printer who put up with so many bibliographically serious delays at press in order to correct minor blemishes would fail to observe routine correction procedures in order to avoid major infidelities and the prospect of really serious delays in the last stages of production? Which brings us back to Moxon.

It is not I hope gratuitously irresponsible to suggest that none of the evidence presented from the Folio demonstrates conclusively that the procedures which Moxon describes were 'essentially different' from those of the 1620's. At the very least, the "Proofe, and Reuiewes" pulled by Jaggard for Brooke's Catalogue testify to the currency of Moxon's terms at this time, and in Jaggard's shop (McKerrow, Introduction, p. 207). We must grant that the copy for the Folio has disappeared; we must grant that the foul proofs have disappeared; but what does remain in evidence corresponds exactly to that which we should expect to find at the later stages of correction as outlined by Moxon. And it is precisely at these stages of correction that copy is not consulted. That phase is well behind, and even if some errors have persisted it is not to be expected that substantive matters will now command 'painstaking' attention. But it is to be expected that typographical infelicities — the things that catch (and for long curiously avoid) a pressman's eye through the repeated pullings — will be picked up from time to time. Turned letters, lifting spaces, uneven inking, badly


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defective letters — these are precisely the things which at this stage the beater, who "peruses the Heap" (Mechanick Exercises, p. 292), was deputed to look for. He takes care
to see if no accidents have befallen the Form, viz. that no Letters, Quadrats or Furniture &c. Rise, that no Letters are Batter'd . . . that no Pick be got into the Form, or any other accident that may deface the beauty of the Work . . . (p. 303)
Rising letters, quadrats and furniture, and probably loose spacing, are fixed by the pressman, who has a bodkin for the purpose; but if letters are to be replaced, "he Unlocks the Quarter they are in, and desires the Compositer to put in others in their room" (p. 304). None of this is inconsistent with what we find in the Folio; indeed Professor Hinman's variants are clear evidence that Jaggard's beater was doing exactly what Moxon demands — turning out a book that was not marred by too many purely typographical blemishes.

Let us now recall too what Moxon says of revises and of correction at press: the forme, being now on the bed of the press, is left there, "and if any Faults are found in any Quarter of it [the Compositor] calls to the Press-man to Unlock that Quarter . . . that he may Correct those Faults" (pp. 238-9). There are several points here: the kind of corrections documented for the Folio are unlikely to have required removal of the forme from the press. At this stage, even after as many as three proofs, a revise is pulled — but now the forme is virtually ready for printing and the likelihood is great that printing will begin while the revise is being looked at. The single copy of the revise is likely to be a pull of the full forme; in the case of the white-paper forme its chances of being preserved are negligible, but in the case of the perfecting forme this single marked sheet has a greater chance of being placed on the heap and eventually bound. Although the revise will be of the full forme, Moxon suggests that it might be attended to in sections, or quarters, so that the pressman might unlock only so much of the forme as is necessary, perhaps only a page in the case of the Folio. In many cases in the Folio both pages must have been unlocked and corrected together, yet Moxon's wording does hint that the revise itself might be read in sections. I find it most interesting therefore that Professor Hinman should write: "Four actual proof-sheets for the Folio have survived — although . . . they ought perhaps rather to be called proof pages"; and "the essential proof-reading unit, so to speak, was rather the single page than the complete forme" (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 233, 234). I wonder, however, whether


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these four proof pages should not perhaps be referred to as revises to distinguish them from the first and substantial stage of correction as well as from the last and accidental one.

In any case, however cursory we may think the Folio by our own standards and in the absence of author-correction, it would seem premature to conclude that what so closely corresponds to revises and stoppress correction as described by Moxon was not preceded by the routine proofing procedures which he also outlines. These may have been deficient in execution, but I cannot think that Professor Hinman's inferences justify the view that "the method of printing and proofing adopted", whether in the Folio or beyond it in the earlier 17th century, "was essentially different . . . from the method described by Moxon some sixty years later" (I, 228).

Professor Hinman, in another context, also discounts the testimony of Ashley's translation of Le Roy (1594), "since Le Roy was not a professional printer" (I, 41). Ashley writes of the pressman who is pulling:

taking the barre in his hand, he pulleth as hard as he can vntill the leafe be imprinted on one side, on which they bestowe halfe the day; and the other halfe, on the other side; yelding in a day twelue hundred and fiftie sheetes, or thirteen hundred imprinted. But before they do this, they make two or three proofes, which are reuiewed: and on this correction continew the rest.[80]
The late Mr Kenneth Povey found reason to believe that Ashley had expert help in making his translation; and it may be further noted that Jaggard's precise use of the word "Reuiewes", both as a noun and as a verb in the phrase "viewed, reuiewed, directed, corrected", suggests that Ashley's use of the word "reuiewed" was not idle. Ashley is at one with both Jaggard and Moxon in suggesting that, first, there might be two or three proofs and, next, a 'reuiew' or revise. Even the phrase "continew the rest" could relate to a process of continuous printing, stopped to make the late changes found in the revise, and then resumed. Mr Povey used Allde's 1624 edition of Massinger's The Bond-man as a test case, and found all the variants reconcilable with an orderly routine of proof-correcting and perfecting described by Moxon. He suggested, moreover, that
since Ashley's concise account is fully confirmed by Moxon, it might well


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be adopted as the credo of students of Elizabethan printing-methods in preference to any modern construction (p. 43).
Nowhere perhaps so much as in the consideration of skeleton formes and proof-correction procedures are modern constructions so crippled by the absence of primary evidence and so vulnerable therefore to the general objections that may be made to all inductive methods. One recalls Black: "a nice adaptation of conditions will make almost any hypothesis agree with the phenomena." It is doubly a pity, however, when writers adapt conditions to suit their theories and then find themselves obliged to discount the testimony of such an excellent palmer as Moxon.

But much the same may be said of many studies of 18th-century printing which have been conducted on the assumption that conditions then were essentially different from those of the preceding century. My own major argument in this paper is of course that productive conditions were constantly changing, not just from century to century in different houses, but from day to day in the same house, simply because concurrent printing has been the universal practice for the last 400 years. If I am right, this fundamental fact poses more problems for analytical bibliography than any minor period differences. These there certainly were, and they must be carefully charted, but we must beware of that ostensibly sophisticated historical relativism which insists on making fine distinctions between periods when virtually nothing certain is known about either element of the comparison. When, for example, Professor Todd writes that

whenever books contain press figures their very presence implies unsystematic piecework engaged in conjunction with other miscellaneous endeavours. For labour which is predetermined, controlled, and properly recorded by the overseer . . . the figures become superfluous and accordingly disappear ("Concurrent Printing", p. 56).
the implication is that we are here dealing with quite distinctive conditions; but this, as the song says, ain't necessarily so. Whatever the variables, labour was always predetermined, controlled, and properly recorded, whether on piece rates or not. Crownfield's disposition of work, usually without figures, was no different from the Bowyers' with figures, and Stower's "Plan of a Book for checking Compositors' and Pressmen's Bills" assumes exactly the same conditions a hundred years later when press figures are on their way out (Printer's Grammar, p. 435). The procedures have always been the same — only the methods of recording them have differed.


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I cannot here attempt to describe the thick web of theory spun around press figures.[81] In their incredible and perplexing variety they are eloquent witnesses to the customary conditions of presswork in any printing house, and perhaps only an imagination as fertile as Professor Todd's, and a mind as subtle, could have penetrated their mysteries. On their usefulness, let him speak:

Contrary to McKerrow's prediction that [press figures] would prove to be of little importance, recent investigation has shown that they may be interpreted as signs of cancellation, variant states, half- or full-press operation (indicating the employment of one or two men at the machine), type pages arranged within the forme in some irregular pattern, sheets impressed in some abnormal order, an impression of the formes for each sheet by one man working both formes in succession, or two men working both simultaneously, impressions interrupted for one reason or another, reimpressions or resettings of the book, in whole or in part, copy distributed among several shops, overprints involving an increase in the number of sheets machined for certain gatherings in order to meet an unanticipated demand for copies, and underprints consisting of a decrease in the number of sheets in order to reduce the issue and speed its publication ("Editorial Problem in the Eighteenth Century", p. 47).
Much bibliographical writing, like that in any new subject, has a strong proselytizing strain which is apt to show itself in a slight tendency to rhetorical overstatement and the premature elevation of particular observations to the status of general truths. One or two pieces of information that have become available since Professor Todd wrote the above account do call for its qualification; I present them now only to carry forward my general argument that the 'empirical' method, with its reliance on 'direct observation',[82] might lead us wildly astray. Press figures, as Professor Todd has indubitably shown, are of enormous value in revealing conditions normally concealed, but they still need theories to make them work and the theories so far applied have been largely without benefit of primary evidence from the printing house itself.

As I have indicated elsewhere, Cambridge pressmen in the early 18th century did not normally use press figures, and the first two volumes of Suidas are the only two books of the period in which they appear (Cambridge University Press, I, 128-32). This exception is wholly due to the employment of John Terrill who came up from


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London towards the end of November 1701 and who left Cambridge again on 15 May 1703. Terrill's bills for presswork match the figures exactly and make it perfectly clear that, in this case, the figures represent a man, specifically Terrill, not a press. Terrill did not always use a figure, nor keep to the same one; and it is certain that here in the Cambridge house his use of a figure was a purely personal and optional matter. His main reason for using one at all would seem to have been that the first two volumes of Suidas were being printed concurrently and as they were independently signed 'Suidas the quire G' or 'Suidas G1' might refer to either or both volumes. So Terrill played safe by marking the sheets that he printed, although he thought it necessary to figure only one forme in each sheet. In this, his practice was consistent with that recommended by Savage in 1841 but not with that followed by the Bowyers in the 1730's.[83] Terrill's main concern seems to have been merely to use some idiosyncratic mark, and once the work had been paid for any other might serve as well. It is not surprising therefore to discover that Terrill used two different figures (* and ‡) in both volumes. The first (*) was used between the end of November 1701 and 28 Feb. 1702; during this period Terrill worked under markedly different conditions at different times — first with Brown at full press and then alone at half press — yet he used the same figure throughout. From 28 Feb. until 2 May 1702 he worked with Ponder without a figure. Thereafter, until his departure on 15 May 1703, Terrill used the second figure (‡), again in both volumes, to mark almost every sheet on which he worked. When he left, the figure disappeared.

Clearly the consistent use of one figure in one part of a book and of another figure in another part has in this case nothing whatever to do with simultaneous — or even successive — printing of each portion at different presses. Nor has the incidence of variously figured and unfigured sheets anything whatever to do with printing at full or at half press. If, even occasionally, a pressman was personally responsible for his choice of figure, as here, this would go far to account for the many idiosyncratic numbers or marks adopted in some books and their apparently haphazard arrangement. And if, even occasionally, a figure represents a man rather than a press, it is formally possible to argue that a sheet which shows varying figures in copy to copy simply reflects changes in the press-crew part-way through a single impression and not distinct impressions.


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Indeed, whether a figure indicates a pressman or a press, such variation is in any case to be expected in books printed in very large editions. The London Magazine, for example, was printed for a time in 8000 copies. Since it comprised three and a half sheets, its printing would have kept three full presses wholly engaged for more than a week. Over such a time span — longer if the presses were required to do other work too, as Ackers' were — it is highly probable that changes would occur in the conditions under which the single impression would be completed. Changes of men, as well as changes of press, part-way through printing might well be reflected by new figures yet none of them be bibliographically significant — or at least no more bibliographically significant than the daily discontinuities incident to all printing in large editions. Naturally such evidence would rarely be left to stand alone; at the very least it would set one searching for new skeletons, partial re-settings, advertisements and so on; my point is the quite simple one that the relationship between variant states and distinct impressions must be very carefully assessed if the general conditions of work are not to be misrepresented.

But, as Dr Fleeman has already shown, there is quite conclusive evidence in the Bowyer ledger to associate press figures with a press not a man, evidence which can be corroborated by reference to the printed books themselves.[84] Bowyer numbered his presses and his accounts usually show, by their numbers and crews, the presses at which work was done. If a press-crew had a press of its own at which it regularly worked — and there is some evidence that this was so in Cambridge in 1740 — then the distinction between men and machines would virtually disappear;[85] but the Bowyer papers offer us no such simple resolution. In the examples of Bowyer books listed in appendix II (g), the figures and/or presses and/or crews can be lined up with a certitude unparalleled in any purely inferential construction. Yet it is most important to note, first, how many discrepancies there are between the records and the printed figures (especially in No. 5); second, the difficulty of assuming continuity of press-crews for any one figure; third, the irrelevance of the highest figure printed, although it designates a press, to the actual number of presses in use; fourth, that the occasional failures to figure a forme are in fact oversights and do not represent work done at a notionally blank press. It is another example of the by now familiar paradox: primary evidence definitely restricts


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the generality of many statements hitherto made about the interpretation of press figures; yet it reveals such diversity of conditions in their use that almost any answer might well be true for any particular book. It is another warning that, as Professor Todd has put it, "any theory envisaging a uniform procedure in an unorganized, laissez-faire handicraft must be regarded with suspicion" ("Observations on Press Figures", p. 173). When therefore the writer of a review article in the Times Literary Supplement took Mrs Russell to task for not adequately listing press figures in her bibliography of Cowper, and suggested that the printers of certain editions might be identified by the pattern of press figures, or that because the figures 3 and 6 recur in Bensley's editions of Cowper these editions were always placed in the care of the same pressmen, the arguments may be much less 'advanced' than they seem.[86] In the light of complexities discovered by any primary documentation so far unearthed, such an ostensibly direct frontal assault turns out to be no more than a rear-guard action in defence of a much too simplistic and now obsolescent bibliographical method.


I should not wish to deny that significant changes occurred in printing and publishing between the years 1500 and 1800; but on two counts I wish to offer some resistance to the evasive tactics of those who would for their part deny the relevance of conditions in any one period to those in another. Of course 1586 is not 1623, nor 1683, 1695, 1701, 1731, nor 1790. Yet just as Greg has argued that bibliography, as the study of the transmission of literary texts, comprehends manuscripts as well as printed books, so I wish to argue that the integrity of the subject can best be preserved and a sound methodology evolved only if we stress the similarity of conditions in all periods. Then fine distinctions may be entertained, not as period differences but as the inevitable result of variables which will differ from day to day and house to house. My second reason for resisting the too ready rejection of analogy is that very little fundamental research has been done on the history of printing. History is never so gross as when it's being formulated to serve a theory; and bibliographers with their eyes closest to the internal physical evidence have, on the whole, seen least of what lies beyond it.

The familiar picture of 'Elizabethan' printers, restricted in number, presses, edition quantities, and apprentices, and therefore constantly


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under pressure, and operating an essentially uncomplicated, balanced production schedule, is attractive in its simplicity. But in its generalized form such a picture is also apt to be dangerously misleading. Simpson, discussing the limitation of presses, once wrote that "When a printer with at most two presses had a book on the stocks, he could do nothing else until he had printed it off."[87] Such a view, so stated, now seems extremely naive, although something like it is implied in many studies even today. The documentation that exists for a shop of comparable size in 1700, printing books in editions no larger than those permitted in 1587, makes it clear that productive conditions of enormous complexity involving as many as ten or a dozen jobs at any one time were normal in a small two-press house.

But even the size of 'Elizabethan' shops has perhaps been a little too readily set at one or two presses, and the 'strict limitation' on their numbers over-stressed. The evidence would appear to be straightforward, but is it? Were there really too few printers and presses for the work available, or too many? In 1582, at a time of complaints from journeymen about lack of work, Christopher Barker said that the number of printing houses then in London (22) could be more than halved and the needs of the whole kingdom still met.[88] In 1583 the complaint of the 'poor men' of the Company was that they had too little work, and Commissioners appointed to look into the trade recommended that some privileged books be released to the poor for printing, a practice continued by the several Stocks of the Stationers' Company throughout the 17th century to assist printers who were short of work (Greg, Companion, pp. 21, 128). In May 1583 there were 23 master printers, possessing in all 53 presses: Barker had 5, Wolf 5, Day and Denham 4 each, and six others 3 apiece.[89] Although the Commissioners of 1583 recommended that no more presses be set up without license, their recommendation in respect of the existing presses was simply

That euerie printer keping presses be restrained to a reasonable nomber of presses according to his qualitie and store of worke, as for example the the Quenes printer hauing but .v. presses, and the lawe printer but twoo, we think it not reason that Wolf haue .v. but to restraine him and such other to one or two by discretion till his stoare of worke shall require moe (Greg, Companion, p. 131).


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Could anything more permissive be desired? The Star Chamber decree of 1586 forbade the erection of new presses "tyll the excessive multytude of Prynters havinge presses already sett up, be abated" (Greg, Companion, p. 41). A statement of the position the following month shows that the number of printers had risen to 25 and that Barker had increased the number of his presses to 6 (Arber, Transcript, V, lii). Apart from isolated cases of surreptitious printing punished by seizure of equipment, and apart from the normal licensing of those who succeeded to the select company of master printers, there is nothing to show how this positive abatement in the number of presses was procured. For the next twenty-nine years, there is little primary evidence at all to show in what measure the conditions of 1586 had ceased to apply. Indeed, apart from the recurrent fuss over privileges, there is evidence of a general relaxation.

When in 1613-15 the unemployed journeymen again complained about their inability to set up presses, they saw that a necessary condition of such a freedom would be access to privileged copies — otherwise there would be little work.[90] The master printers for their part were worried, or made a pretence of being so, at the "multitude of Presses that are erected among them" and by a self-denying ordinance agreed that, the King's Printer apart, fourteen of them should have 2 presses each and five of them 1.[91] Since the number of printers was 20 in all, such a rule can only mean that many of them had retained from a much earlier period, or set up over the last few years, far more presses than the numbers now set down. And since the number of printers did remain fairly constant, the agreement can only have been designed to secure a slightly more equitable distribution of work among these very printers; it implied, therefore, considerable under-production in the smaller shops.

Are we to take it that this decision by the Court of Assistants was immediately enforced? There is no evidence of it. Eight years later, on 5 July 1623,


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Whereas the mr printers of this Company, according to a former order haue reformed themselues for the number of presses that eueryone is to haue and accordingly haue brought in their barres to shewe their Conformitie therevnto. . . (Jackson, p. 158).
again it is set down down that, the King's Printer excluded, fourteen printers should have only 2 presses each and five of them 1. Augustine Matthews was one of these five, but it is clear from another entry that he had more than one press (Jackson, p. 159). By September the following year the order had still not been put into effect and an inspectorial party was authorized to dismantle any excess presses.[92] By 7 Feb. 1625 the Court was prepared to give up:
It is ordered that if the mr Printers doe not Conforme themselues to the number of presses as hath ben agreed of by former orders and bring in their barres before or ladye day next, Then those that are already brought in to be deliu'ed backe againe [my italics] (Jackson, p. 173).
In 1637, after being restricted to one press ever since 1586, the Cambridge printer was graciously allowed a second. When in 1632 Roger Daniel had moved in he took over:
Six printing presses, five copper plates, six bankes, seven great stones, one muller, thirteen frames to set cases on . . . six and fifty paire and an halfe of cases for letters made of mettle and one case for wooden letters, five and twenty chases, twenty gallies, fifty paper and letter bords, . . . (Roberts, p. 50).

The Star Chamber decree of 1637, reporting that of 1586 as defective in some particulars so that divers abuses had arisen to the prejudice of the public, attempted to keep the number of master printers down to 20 (there were 22), but the number of presses, always more difficult to restrict, was allowed to rise (Greg, Companion, p. 105). By 1649 there were apparently some 60 printers in London and by 1660 the number had increased to 70, though it is doubtful whether there were so many printing houses. The Licensing Act of 1662 provided that no more printers be licensed until the number had fallen again to 20, but nothing was done to enforce the ruling and for the next thirty years it was openly ignored.[93] In 1668, after the great fire, there were 65 presses in 26 houses, the King's Printer having 6, two others 5


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each, another 4, seven had 3, nine had 2, and six had 1.[94] Negus in 1724 listed 75 London houses and 28 in the provinces. Mr Ellic Howe comments: "There was, therefore, no great expansion in the trade compared with its state seventy years previously" (London Compositor, p. 33). By 1785 there were 124 printers; in 1808 "not more than 130", although Stower in the same year listed 216; by 1818 the total in London was 233.[95]

All I wish to ask now is whether there is much conclusive evidence that 'Elizabethan' conditions in any one printing house were utterly distinctive from those common in the 18th century? Expansion of the trade there undoubtedly was but except in a very few cases (Watts in the 1720's, Bowyer, Richardson and Strahan mid-century — a half dozen at most out of upwards of a hundred?) what we get in the 18th century is proliferation, multiple establishments, not an exceptional growth in any one. The fundamental conditions of work in each remain unchanged. Or again, if it is urged that the multi-press shops of the 18th century have few parallels in the early 17th century, one is entitled to ask quite directly how Ackers' and the Bowyers' three-, four-, and five-press shops of the 1730's differ from those of Barker, Wolf, Day, Denham, all of whom had more than three presses, and the other six printers who in 1583 had three presses each. Or one might ask how significantly, in terms of size, either group differs from those listed in 1668 (eleven of whom had three or more presses). And even if it is conceded that none of the printers limited to two presses in 1615 and 1623 would have grossly exceeded this number, a certain scepticism is still permissible since there is no evidence at all that they conformed to the ruling and much that they refused to. Or take the question the other way round: grant for the moment that most Elizabethan shops were two-press or one-press houses; it may then be asked what the distribution of presses was within 18th-century houses. How many had two, how many had only one? In the second week of October 1732 even Bowyer had only two (See appendix II (f).). For the rest, no one knows, and even press figures may not tell us.

Is the problem any simpler if we look at edition quantities? It is true that these were limited by regulation in Elizabethan-Jacobean


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times and not in the 18th century. Yet two points must be kept in mind. First, very few books printed in the 18th century, apart from some newspapers and periodicals about which some firm figures are at last available, ever in fact exceeded the limits for editions laid down in 1587 and liberalized in 1637. Neither the Cambridge, Bowyer, Woodfall, nor Strahan documents suggest that for any one edition, however many impressions it might comprehend, there is any very gross disparity between Elizabethan and 18th-century conditions in this matter. Out of some 514 books printed by Strahan between 1738 and 1785, only 43 were printed in 2000 copies or more, and of these only 15 were in editions of 3000 or more (Hernlund, "Strahan's Ledgers", p. 104). The edition quantities I cite for Dyche's Guide to the English Tongue may be more in keeping with some statements I have seen about expansion of the trade in the 18th century — and with others implying trade restriction and small editions in the 17th century. In any case it leads me to my second point: the prodigious numbers of certain books that were produced in the earlier period. Professor Todd once remarked that "a certain discretion common to most authorities, including bibliographers, moves us to view the unknown as unmentionable". And the loss of much ephemera of the 16th and 17th centuries (almanacks, school texts, and many other books required in multiple editions by the several Stocks of the Stationers' Company) has perhaps made us unmindful of the volume of such work. The late Cyprian Blagden's analysis of the distribution of almanacks in the second half of the 17th century, only one aspect of such printing, is a useful corrective.[96] For the earlier period odd cases reveal substantial printings: the 4000 copies of the Psalms in metre, for example, printed by Frank and Hill in 1585; the 10,000 copies of the ABC and Little Catechism printed the same year by Dunn and Robinson (Greg, Companion, p. 37). In three years, during the early 1630's the Cambridge printers provided for the London Company 18,000 Pueriles Sententiae, 12,000 Aesop's Fables, 6000 Pueriles Confabulationes, 6000 copies of Mantuan, and at least seven other books in 3000 copies or more (Roberts, p. 51). But the major evidence of large editions, far in excess presumably of the limits set, is the complaints from journeymen. The Company regulations of 1587, designed for the benefit of the journeymen, sought to provide further work by restricting the use of standing formes and by limiting impressions to 1500 copies of some books and 3000 of others (Greg, Companion, p.


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43). These were of course Company regulations enforced, if at all, by those least likely to gain from them. The workmen are further complaining in 1614, and in 1635 an organized protest is made about the extraordinary number of books printed at one impression and the abuse of standing formes. The alleviation of the journeymen's distress may have been procured by the restriction of standing formes to the Psalter, Grammar and Accidence, Almanacks and Prognostications, but one doubts it.[97] The 1635 provision that no nonpareil books exceed 5000 copies, no brevier exceed 3000 (6000 in some cases), and that all others be kept to editions of 1500 or 2000 (3000 with permission), suggests that multiple impressions and large editions were hardly the prerogative of the 18th century (Greg, Companion, p. 95).

Professor Todd has probably done most to set the general attitude towards 18th-century printing and thereby also to imply that conditions in the earlier periods were considerably different. He writes:

[Eighteenth-century books] are the products of conditions of greater complexity than those which apply to earlier periods, and therefore occasionally require supplemental techniques for their analysis. It has not been sufficiently realized that printing, in this century, has progressed beyond the era of the simple handicraft and now represents one of mass production, where not a few but hundreds of pages of type may be retained and repeatedly returned to press, where not one or two individuals but batteries of pressmen and compositors may produce, in a matter of hours, editions running into thousands of copies, where not one but several books may be put to press concurrently by the same personnel. These practices, though extraordinary in the seventeenth century have become commonplace in the eighteenth . . . ("Editorial Problem in the Eighteenth Century", p. 46).
And elsewhere:
Before the expiration of the Licensing Act in 1695 the process of book-making was undoubtedly less confused than afterwards: only thirty-five master printers were authorized to practise the trade, and most of these, we may be sure, conformed to the regulation limiting the number of presses and apprentices for each shop. . . . After 1695, though, the conditions for disorder increase in approximately the same ratio as the means for detecting it disappear ("Observations on Press Figures", p. 179).


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Professor Todd is undoubtedly right that some 18th-century books are the products of conditions of greater complexity: any increase in size will increase the number of variables. Undoubtedly too in the largest houses a good deal of type was kept standing, although it would be interesting to go into the economics of such a practice. For the rest, the case for any really radical difference between the centuries would seem to have been over-stated. Perhaps a fine historical exactitude will be possible when more primary documentation has been published and some serious thought given to its economic implications.


Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. It's the only way I can explain the central paradox of this paper: that all printing houses were alike in being different. Despite my misgivings about 'norms' I have tried to suggest that all printing houses were more alike over the years than many bibliographers are prepared to allow: in size of plant, variability of work force, edition quantities printed, use of standing formes, proofing procedures, and most important of all in printing several jobs concurrently. I have stressed the supreme importance of primary evidence and I have tried to use it to expose and curb what I take to be erroneous inferences. In doing so, I have also tried to demonstrate more generally some weaknesses inherent in the inductive method. When the standing of general statements is damaged by contrary examples, the inductivist usually seeks a safe retreat in some form of historical relativism; I have tried to show how naive this can be. I am sure that Professor Hinman is right, though my sense pursues not his, when he stresses the importance of the new knowledge which will come "in the light of information about printing-house personnel and printing-house methods that is only now becoming known" ("Shakespeare's Texts", p. 26).

Bright lights will cast deep shadows, and I must confess to a feeling of mild despondency about the prospects for analytical bibliography: limited demonstrations there may certainly be, although they may require a life-time's devotion to make them; wherever full primary evidence has become available it has revealed a geometry of such complexity that even an expert in cybernetics, primed with all the facts, would have little chance of discerning it. But, as Nestor says, "In the reproof of Chance lies the true proof of men". Bibliography will simply have to prove itself adequate to conditions of far greater complexity than it has hitherto entertained. To do so, it will inevitably


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be obliged to use multiple and ingenious hypotheses, to move from induction to deduction, simply because a narrow range of theories is less likely to embrace the complex possibilities of organization within even a quite small printing house. A cynic might observe that the subject is already characterized by multiple and ingenious hypotheses, but too many of these have been allowed to harden into 'truth'. A franker acceptance of deductive procedures would bring a healthy critical spirit into the subject by insisting on the rigorous testing of hypotheses, and the prime method of falsification — adducing contrary particulars — would impose a sound curb on premature generalizations. It may be little pleasure "to observe how much paper is wasted in confutation", but bibliography might grow the more securely if we retained a stronger assurance of its hypothetical nature.

There is, however, a final paradox. Bibliography has nothing to do with bibliographies, and I only hope that new knowledge about productive conditions will prove disturbing enough to widen the gap between the two. The essential task of the bibliographer is to establish the facts of transmission for a particular text, and he will use all relevant evidence to determine the bibliographical truth. Author and subject bibliographies have a completely different function and it would be preposterous now to demand of them any great bibliographical sophistication. This would appear to be an argument in favour of degressive bibliography. Not at all; the phrase is meaningless. Booklisting may be as degressive as it wishes, bibliography never. Greg made the point so clearly that it's surprising to find that there is still any fuss about it; if any notice had been taken, we should have less half-baked bibliography and cheaper book-lists.[98]

But finally, if our basic premise is that bibliography should serve literature or the criticism of literature, it may be thought to do this best, not by disappearing into its own minutiae, but by pursuing the study of printing history to the point where analysis can usefully begin, or by returning — and this is the paradox — to the more directly useful, if less sophisticated, activity of enumerative 'bibliography'. This it is which gave us the Pollard and Redgrave and Wing S.T.C.s, both of which have been of inestimable service to the study of history, life, thought — and bibliography — in the 16th and 17th centuries. It will be a pity if history, life, thought — and bibliography — in the 18th century are long deprived of a comparable service.


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Note to the appendices: The information offered in the following appendices is intended merely to provide supporting evidence for the argument of this paper. It is not offered as a contribution to the detailed bibliographical study of either the books or the printing houses mentioned in it. The original documents referring to the Cambridge University Press are printed in my Cambridge University Press, 1696-1712: A Bibliographical Study (1966): the two charts printed here continue those given as Table 15 in that book. The details of the Bowyer printing house are taken from the Bowyers' record of composition and presswork over the years 1730 to 1739; the volume in which this work is recorded is in the possession of The Grolier Club and is being edited for publication by Mr Keith Maslen. An edition of the ledger of Charles Ackers, printer of The London Magazine, was recently published by the Oxford Bibliographical Society. The appendices are long, but I have deliberately multiplied the examples to illustrate fully the variety of conditions under which the books mentioned came to be made, by different men, at different periods, and in different places.


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William Bowyer's Printing House: Composition and Presswork
31 January — 12 February 1732

1. Composition   Work Done   Earnings  
I. Lance  Evidence of Christian Religion O, P, Q, R and making up three formes  13. 8. 
R. Dennett  Bill for Sugar Colonies 2 sheets  £3. 0. 7. 
Remarks on Lives of the Saints B, C, D, E, F, G, H4 
Life of Cleveland, vol. I Title 
B. Baddam  Cocks's Catalogue M1, N8  £1. 6.11. 
Charitable Corporations D 
Hymns for St Dunstan's 
Sacrament A, B, C, E, F4 
B. Tarrott  Charles XII F4  14. 8. 
Letter to Member of Parliament 2 sheets 
Sacrament D half sheet 
D. Gaylord  Calmet's Dictionary 3Z, 4A, 4B, 4C  £2. 6.11. 
Articles of Limerick A, B and over-running several times 
Charles XII M, N, O4 
G. Grantham  Gyles's Catalogue  8. 2. 
Voyages 6O2, Q2, R2, U4, Y2, A4 
G. Hills  Charitable Corporations A, B4, [C6]  £1.11. 8. 
Charles XII F4 
Tully's Offices L12, M12 
C. Micklewright  Votes 18, 19, 20, 21, 22  £2.12. 6. 
Tully's Offices L12, M12, N12 
J. Morgan  Charles XII C5, D8, E5, F8, G8, H4  £1. 7. 8. 
Hutchinson B 
Gentleman Farrier 
R. Holmes  Scripture Vindicated D6, E, F, G, H, I, K, L  £1.10. 4. 
Proposals for Hippocrates 
T. Hart  Votes 14, 15, 16, 17  £2.10. 8. 
Memoria Technica M, N, O 
Wesley's Job Y, Z and correcting Y 
T. Allestree  Gyles's Catalogue A4  £1. 7. 2. 
Voyages 6O2, 6P4, 6S2, 6X2, 6Z2, 7B4, 7C2 
J. Nutt  Moss's Sermons B, C, D, E, F  [£3.15. 0.] 
Charles XII B, C11, D8, E11, F8, G8, H12, I 
Scheme to Pay National Debt 2 pages ditto imposing 3 half sheets 
Hymns for St George ye Martyr 
Greek quarto page of Mr Dwight 
An English folio page 


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William Bowyer's Printing House: Composition and Presswork
14 — 26 February 1732

1. Composition   Work Done   Earnings  
D. Redmaine  Bankrupts' Bill A, B  £3. 5. 4. 
Votes 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 
Spenser H, I, K 
Injured Innocence G8, H4 
R. Dennett  Remarks on Lives of the Saints H4, I, K  £1.11. 8. 
Injured Innocence I2, K8 
Voyages 7O, 7P2 
Sacrament F4, G8, H8, I8, K8  £2. 7. 2. 
B. Baddam}  Letter to Archbishop 7 half-sheets 
B. Tarrott}  Gentleman Farrier C, D, E, F 
Tully's Offices N12, O  £3. 9. 0. 
G. Hills}  Ditto Brevier Index P12 
C. Micklewright}  Bankrupts' Bill C, D, E, F 
Life of Cecil A, B 
R. Holmes  Scripture Vindicated, Part II M, N, O, P, Q, R, S  £1.11. 1. 
Evidence of Christian Religion S, T, U1/4, Title ¼ 
G. Grantham  Voyages 7E1, 7G3, 7H2, 7K2, 7L4, 7M3, 7Q2, 7R3, 7T2, 7U2  £1.18. 2. 
Injured Innocence H4, I6 


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D. Gaylord  Calmet's Dictionary 4D, 4E, 4F, 4G, 4H  £1.15. 2. 
Charles XII F8, Correcting N 
C. Knell  Voyages 6S2, 6T2, 6Z2, 7C2, 7D4, 7E1, 7H2, 7I1, 7M1, 7N4, 7R1, 7S4, 7T1  £1.17. 1. 
G. Karver  Cocks's Catalogue M7  £1.13. 9. 
Chiselden's Syllabus 
Cock and Bull 3 half-sheets 
Hutchinson C8 
W. Diggle  Voyages 6B2, 6T2, 6X2, 6Y2, 7E2, 7F1, 7G1, 7I3, 7K2, 7P2, 7Q2  £1.12. 2. 
Nelson quarter-sheet 
T. Hart  Votes 23, 24, 25  £3. 0. 8. 
Wesley's Job 2A, 2B, 2C2 Correcting Z, 2A 
Mr Chishull's half-sheet 
Memoria Technica P 
Bill for Parton Pier 
J. Nutt  Moss's Sermons A, a, G, H, I ditto 2F half-sheet, vol. I  £1.12. 6. 
Chiselden one page 
Two Great Primer receipts 


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William Bowyer's Printing House: Composition and Presswork
8 — 14 October 1732

1. Composition   Work Done   Earnings  
P. Grantham  Bacon's Letters X, Y  9. 1 
M. Newsted  Clifton's State of Physick A, a, b  18. 1. 
O. Nelson  Rosalinda D, E, F  18. 1. 
R. Holmes  Fryar Bacon 3G, 3H, 3I, 3K, 3L, 3M 1 page  £1. 1. 5. 
T. Clark  Essay on Colonies B, C, D, E  £1. 0. 1. 
D. Gaylord  Thuanus Part VI 6A, 6B, C 2 pages  £1. 0. 1. 
2. Presswork   [Press 1 [Press 2
6000  Latin Testament 
300  Chiselden's Tables  XXV, XXVI 
1500  Swift's Miscellany  B1  B1 
100  Middleton's Sermon  Titles 
750 } 
150 }  Thuanus  6A2  3R2, 3S2 
5 } 
1000  Rosalinda  B2 
220 }  3D2, 3F2, 3G2 
Fryar Bacon 
30 } 
Clifton's State of Physick  M2, N2 
25 } 
200 } 
Bacon's Letters  S2 
25 } 
Receipts for Duke of Somerset  π 
------  ------ 
Earnings £1.15. 8.  £1.12. 6. 

Note: Neither the names of the crews nor the numbers of the presses used are given, but payments of copy-money show that two full crews were employed. Each man at press 1 therefore received 17s.10d. and each man at press 2 received 16s.3d.


  • Books Printed by William Bowyer: Some Case-Histories
  • 1. Voltaire, Histoire de Charles XII. [London, 1731.]
  • 12°: A — P6 (all printed by Bowyer) Copy: BM. 10761.df.14.
  • Production: 7½ sheets; edition 750; composition 5s.3d. per half sheet; presswork 1s.9d. per half sheet; price per sheet 24s.; finished by 13 Jan. 1732; volume I only printed by Bowyer. On this and the next three items, see the article by K.I.D. Maslen, The Library, 5th ser. XIV (1959), 287-93. (The date of completion, 13 Jan., is derived from the Bowyer Paper Stock Ledger. Bowyer's account of work done covers the entire period from 26 Dec. 1731-29 Jan. 1732, hence the later date given below.)
  • Composition: A — P, T. Hart 29 Jan.
  • Presswork: A, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 29 Jan.; B, C, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.; D, I (Diggle/ Peacock) 29 Jan.; E, F, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.; G-M, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 29 Jan.; N, O, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; P, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.
  • Figures: 1 — A4, D3v, G6v, H6v, I3v, K6, L3v, M4v
  • 2 — N6v, O3v
  • 3 — B6v, F6v, P4v
  • Note: Franklin's and Reynolds' failure to figure C and E.
  • 2. Voltaire, History of Charles XII. London, 1732.
  • 8°: A1 B — N8 O1 (all printed by Bowyer) Copy: BM. 153. p. 23.
  • Production: 12¼ sheets; edition 1000; composition 6s.; presswork 4s.; price per sheet 18s.; begun by 29 Jan. 1732; finished by 26 Feb. 1732; first 12¼ sheets only printed by Bowyer.


Page 71


  • Composition: K, L, Lane 29 Jan.; B, C11, Nutt 12 Feb.; C5, D8, Morgan 12 Feb.; D8, E11, Nutt 12 Feb; E5, F8, Morgan 12 Feb.; F8, G8, Nutt 12 Feb.; G8, H4, Morgan 12 Feb.; H12, I, Nutt 12 Feb.; M, N, O4, Gaylord 12 Feb.; correcting in N, Gaylord 26 Feb.
  • Note: F may have been set twice. In addition to the claims listed above, the following are recorded: F4, Hills 12 Feb.; F4, Tarrott 12 Feb.; F8, Gaylord 26 Feb.
  • Presswork: Bi, Bo, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Ci, Co, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 29 Jan.; Di, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Do, Eo, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.; Ei, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 29 Jan.; Fi, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Fo, 7 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.; Gi, 1 (Diggle/ Peacock) 29 Jan.; Go, Ho, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Ko, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Ki, Li, 7 (Jones/Perry) 29 Jan.; Lo, Mi, 1 (Peacock/Perry) 12 Feb.; Mo, Ni, 2 (unnamed) 12 Feb.; No, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 12 Feb.; A/O, 1 (Peacock/Perry) 12 Feb.
  • Figures: 1 — C1v, C8v, E7v, G1v, L6v, M7v
  • 2 — B7, B8, D1v, F8, H2v, K7, M7, N8
  • 3 — D7, E7, G7, I8, I8v, N8v
  • 7 — F8v, H5v, K5v, L5v
  • Note: Go claimed by 2 but figured 3; the changes of crew for presses 1 and 7; the same crew worked both presses 3 and 7 within the same period, so that both cannot have been in use at once.
  • 3. Voltaire, Histoire de Charles XII ('Seconde Edition, révùe corrigée / par l'Auteur'). [London, 1732.]
  • 8°: A — K8 L4 (all printed by Bowyer) Copy: BM. 611.c.12 (1).
  • Production: 10½ sheets; edition 1000; composition 8s.; presswork 4s.; price per sheet 21s.; begun begun by 18 Mar. 1732; finished by 8 April 1702; first 10½ sheets only printed by Bowyer.
  • Composition: A-H, Dennett 18 Mar.; I, K, Dennett/Tarrott 25 Mar.; L½, T. Hart 25 Mar.
  • Presswork: (None of the crews is named) Ai, Ao, 7 — 18 Mar.; Bi, 5 — 18 Mar.; Bo, Ci, 3 — 18 Mar.; Co, 1 — 18 Mar.; Do, 3 — 18 Mar.; Di, 7 — 18 Mar.; Ei, 4 — 18 Mar.; Eo, 1 — 18 Mar.; Fi, 3 — 18 Mar.; Fo, 7 — 8 Apr.; Gi, 3 — 8 Apr.; Go, Ho, 7 — 8 Apr.; Hi, 2 — 8 Apr.; Ii, 3 — 8 Apr.; Io, 7 — 8 Apr.; Ko, 4 — 8 Apr.; Ki, L, 2 — 8 Apr.
  • Figures: 1 — C7, E7
  • 2 — H8, K1v, L3v
  • 3 — B7, C8, F8, G8, I7v
  • 4 — E6, K2v
  • 5 — B8
  • 7 — A2v, A3v, D1v, F2v, G2v, H7, I5
  • Note: Fo was also claimed by press 2 on 18 Mar.; Do (press 3) unfigured.
  • 4. Voltaire, History of Charles XII ('The Second Edition, Corrected.'). London, 1732.
  • 8°: A6 B — N8 (all printed by Bowyer) Copy: BM.
  • Production: 12 sheets; edition 2000; composition 6s.; presswork 8s.; price per sheet 28s.; finished by 18 Mar. 1732 (as all claims are dated 18 Mar., dates are omitted from the tables of composition and presswork given below); sheets B — N only printed by Bowyer.
  • Composition: B16, C4, Grantham; C6, Knell; C6, D2, Allestree; D11, Grantham; D3, E6, Knell; E6, Allestree; E4, F7, Grantham; F5, Knell; F4, G4, Allestree; G8, Grantham; G4, H4, Allestree; H4, Knell; H8, I10, Grantham; I2, Allestree; I4, K4, Knell; K8, Grantham; K4, L3, Allestree; L7, Knell; L6, M6, Grantham; M8, Allestree; M1, Nutt; M1, N4, Knell; N8, Grantham; N4, T. Hart.
  • Presswork: (None of the crews is named) Bo, 4; Bi, 2; Co, 3; Ci, Do, 7; Di, Eo, 1; Ei Fi, 2; Fo, Go, 3; Gi, 4; Hi, 3; Ho, 2; Ii, 1; Io, Ki, 7; Ko, Lo, 3; Li, 1; Mi, 7; Mo, Ni, 2; No, 1.
  • Figures: 1 — D7v, E7, L8, N8v
  • 2 — B8, E1v, F5v, H2v, M2v, N1v
  • 3 — C8v, F7, G8v, H7v, L7
  • 4 — B2v, G1v
  • 7 — C1v, D7, I2v, K1v, M1v
  • Note: Ii (press 1) and Ko (press 3) are unfigured.
  • 5. Baxter, Glossarium Antiquitatum Britannicarum. London, 1733.
  • 8°: A 4 a8 B — T8 U4 Copy: BM. 7708.b.5.
  • Production: 20 sheets; edition 500; composition 10s.; presswork 2s.4d.; price per sheet 22s.; begun by 10 Oct. 1732; finished by 2 June 1733.


Page 72


  • Composition: (Thomas Hart set the text unaided except as noted for the 8 pages of C) B, 7 Oct.; C8, Hart/Micklewright 11 Nov.; C8, D, 25 Nov.; E, F8, 2 Dec.; F8, G, 9 Dec.; H8, 20 Jan.; H8, I8, 27 Jan.; I8, K, L8, 24 Feb.; L8, 3 Mar.; M8, 10 Mar.; M8, N8, 17 Mar.; N8, O, 24 Mar.; P, Q, R, 14 Apr.; S, T8, 28 Apr.; T8, 5 May; U8, 12 May; A, a, 26 May.
  • Presswork: Bo, 2 (Mazemore/Peacock) 11 Nov.; Bi, 1 (Classon/Diggle) 11 Nov.; Co, 3 (Bradley/Vicaris) 2 Dec.; Ci, Di, Do, 1 (Classon/Diggle) 2 Dec.; Eo, 2 (Mazemore/ Peacock) 9 Dec.; Ei, 1 (Classon/Diggle) 9 Dec.; Fi, Fo, 2 (Mazemore/Peacock) 23 Dec.; Gi, 3 (Dennis/Duff); Go, Hi, Ho, 2 (Mazemore/Peacock) 27 Jan.; Ii, Io, 2 (unnamed) 24 Feb.; Ki, Ko, 1 (Diggle/Reynolds) 3 Mar.; Li, 3 (Dennis/Duff) 24 Mar.; Ni, 2 (Clarke/Mazemore) 24 Mar.; No, 7 (Jones/Needham) 24 Mar.; Oi, 7 (Jones/Needham) 14 Apr.; Oo, 3 (Duff/Mazemore) 14 Apr.; Pi, 2 (Clarke/Dennis) 14 Apr.; Po, Qi, 1 (Milburne/Reynolds) 14 Apr.; Qo, 3 (Duff/Mazemore) 14 Apr.; Ri, Ro, 2 (Clarke/Jones) 28 Apr.; Si, 1 (Classon alone) 28 Apr.; So, 3 (Duff/ Mazemore) 28 Apr.; T (unrecorded); A/Ui, 1 (unnamed) 26 May; A/Uo, 2 (unnamed) 26 May; ai, ao, 7 (Brooker/Clarke) 2 June.
  • Figures: 1 — A3v, C1v, D3v, E7v, K8, K8v
  • 2 — a5, a6, B8v, F7, F8, G4v, H1v, H7, I7, I8, L2v, P7v, R7v, U3v
  • 3 — C8v, L7v, M7v, M8v, O8v, Q7, S6v, T7v, T8v
  • 5 — G5v
  • 7 — N7, O7v
  • Note: Press 1 failed to figure Bi, Po, Qi, Si; Press 2 failed to figure Eo, Ni, Ro; Press 3 printed Gi but the forme is figured 5; both ai and ao were printed by Press 2 but both are figured 7; the changing composition of the crews at each press:
  • Press 1: (a) Classon/Diggle (b) Diggle/Reynolds (c) Milburne/Reynolds (d) Classon alone (e) unnamed
  • Press 2: (a) Mazemore/Peacock (b) unnamed (c) Clarke/Mazemore (d) Clarke/ Dennis (e) Clarke/Jones (f) unnamed
  • Press 3: (a) Bradley/Vicaris (b) Dennis/Duff (c) Duff/Mazemore
  • Press 7: (a) Jones/Needham (b) Brooker/Clarke
  • 6. Spenser, The Shepherd's Calendar, ed. J. Ball. London, 1732.
  • 8°: A8 al B — Q8 R6 (—R6) Copy: BM. 11607.f.7.
  • Production: 17½ sheets; edition 700 Demy, 60 Royal, 4 Writing Royal; composition 5s.6d.; presswork 2s.6d.; price per sheet 20s.; begun by 27 Nov. 1731; finished by 10 June 1732.
  • Composition: (Daniel Redmaine set the whole text except probably for P, A, a) B8, 27 Nov.; B8, C, D, 24 Dec.; E — G, 29 Jan.; H — K, 26 Feb.; L — O, 18 Mar.; P (unrecorded unless it be George Karver's claim below); Q, 25 Mar.; R, 8 Apr.; 1 sheet [=P?], 6 pages, Karver 27 May; 4 pages, Grantham, 10 June.
  • Presswork: Bi, 2 (Davies/Mazemore) 24 Dec.; Bo, Ci, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 24 Dec.; Co, 3 (Diggle/Peacock) 24 Dec.; Do, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Di, Eo, 1 (Diggle/Peacock) 29 Jan.; Ei, Fo, 2 (unnamed) 29 Jan.; Fi, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 Jan.; Gi, 1 (Peacock/Perry) 12 Feb.; Go (unrecorded, but figured 7); Ho (unrecorded, but figured 5); Hi, 1 (Peacock/Perry) 26 Feb.; Io, Ii, 2 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Ki, 3 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Ko, Li, Lo, 1 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Mo, 2 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Mi, No, 4 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Ni, 1 (unnamed) 18 Mar.; Oo, 7 (unnamed) 25 Mar.; Oi, Po, 4 (unnamed) 25 Mar.; Pi, Qi, Qo, 1 (unnamed) 25 Mar.; Ri, 2 (unnamed) 25 Mar.; Ro, 7 (unnamed) 25 Mar.; Ai, 7 (Jones/Perry) 10 June; Ao, a, 2 (Hardicke/Mazemore) 10 June.
  • Figures: 1 — B2v, C7v, D6, E2v, G7v, H1v, K2v, L4v, L5v, P2v, Q7
  • 2 — A7, D2v, E1v, F2v, I2v, I8, Q3v, R4
  • 3 — C7, K8
  • 4 — M8, O3v, P6
  • 5 — H2v
  • 7 — A7v, B6, G8v, O2v
  • Note: Bi claimed by 2 (Davies/Mazemore) but figured 7; Franklin's and Reynolds' failure to figure Fi; the failure of press 2 to figure Mo; the failure of presses 1 and 4 to figure Ni and No; Qi claimed by 1 but figured 2; the failure of press 7 to figure Ro; Diggle and Peacock worked both presses 1 and 3 within the same period.
  • 7. T. Lobb, A Treatise of the Small Pox. London, 1731
  • 8°: A4 a — c8 B — 2H8 2I6 (— 2I6) Copy: BM. 1174.h.4
  • Production: 34 sheets; edition 750; composition 8s.; presswork 3s.6d.; price per sheet 18s.; begun by 30 Jan. 1731; finished by 14 Aug. 1731.


Page 73


  • Composition: B, Redmaine 30 Jan.; C, D, E8, H8, correcting C, Redmaine 20 Feb.; E8, F, G, Hart/Holmes 20 Feb.; H8, I, K8, Hart 6 Mar.; L-O, Hart/Holmes 20 Mar.; P-S, Hart/Holmes 3 Apr.; T-Y, Z4, Hart/Holmes 17 Apr.; X12 [sic = Z12?], Morgan 17 Apr.; 2A, 2B, 2C8, Hart/Holmes 1 May; 2C8, Hart/Holmes 15 May; 2D8, Hart 29 May; 2D8, Holmes 29 May; 2E12, Holmes 5 June; 2E4, 2F-2H, 2I4, Holmes 26 June; a, b, Imperfection B, 2I4, Holmes 17 July; 2I4, A, c, Holmes 31 July.
  • Presswork: Bi, 7 (unnamed) 6 Feb.; Bo, 2 (unnamed) 6 Feb.; Ci (no record); Co, 7 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Di, 2 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Do, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ei, 7 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Eo, 1 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Fi, Fo, 7 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Gi, 1 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Go, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Hi, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ho, 7 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ii, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Io, Ki, 2 (Clarke/Ward) 20 Mar.; Ko, 3 (Collyer/ Franklin) 20 Mar.; Lo, 2 (Clarke/Ward) 20 Mar.; Li, Mi, Mo, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 20 Mar.; Ni, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 20 Mar.; No. 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 20 Mar.; Oi, 7 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Oo, 3 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Pi, 2 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Po, Qi, 3 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Qo, Ro, 2 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Ri, 1 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Si, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 17 Apr.; So, Ti, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 17 Apr.; To, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 17 Apr.; Ui, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 17 Apr.; Uo, Xo, 2 (Clarke/ Ward) 17 Apr.; Xi, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 17 Apr.; Yi, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 1 May; Yo, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 1 May; Zo, 2 (Clarke/Ward) 1 May; Zi, 2Ai, 2Ao, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 1 May; 2B (no record); 2Co, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 5 June; 2Ci, 2Do, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 5 June; 2Di, 2 (Clarke) 5 June; 2Ei, 2Eo, 2Fo, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 26 June; 2Fi, 2Gi, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 26 June; 2Go, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 26 June; 2Hi, 2Ho, 1 (Clarke/Diggle) 17 July; 2I (not recorded); ai, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 31 July; A, ao, bi, bo, 1 (Clarke/Diggle) 31 July; co, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 31 July; 1000 loose titles, 2 (Clarke/Davies) 14 Aug.
  • Figures: 1 — a8v, b2v, c8, E7, G8, I2v, L8, M4v, M5v, R7v, S1v, U8, 2H7v
  • 2 — B7, K8, L7, P7v, Q8v, U5, X8v, Z7, 2D7v
  • 3 — c7, D7, G7, H7v, K7, O2v, P7, Q7v, S7, T8, Y7, 2F7v, 2G7v
  • 7 — a5v, B8, C7, E8, F6v, F7v, H8v, N3v, O8, T5, 2A8, 2B1v, 2B7, 2C7v, 2E2v, 2F4v, 2H6v, 2I4
  • 8. A Defence of the Present Administration. London, 1731
  • [8°: A — D4] Copy: not located
  • Production: 2 sheets; edition 3000; composition 5s.6d. per sheet; presswork 1s.2d. per 500, 3s. per 1500; price per sheet 16s. for the first 1000 and 5s. per ream for the rest; finished by 16 Jan. 1731.
  • Composition: A, B, J. Hart 16 Jan.; C, D, Micklewright 16 Jan.
  • Presswork: 'first edition':
  • Press 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) A, B, D, 500; A, C, 1500; A, B, C 500
  • Press 3 (Collyer/Franklin) C, 500; B, D 1500; D 500
  • 'second edition':
  • Press 3 (Collyer/Franklin) A, C 500
  • Press 7 (Clarke/Peacock) B, D 500
  • 9. E. Peyton, Catastrophe of the Stuarts. London, 1731
  • 8°: A2 B — I4 K2 Copy: BM. 110.e.23
  • Production: 4½ sheets; edition 750; composition 8s. per sheet; presswork 3s. per sheet; price per sheet 18s.; begun by 24 Dec. 1730; finished by 16 Jan. 1731.
  • Composition: B — F, Grainger 24 Dec.; G — K, Bell 16 Jan.
  • Presswork: B, C, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 24 Dec.; D, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 24 Dec.; E, F, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 16 Jan.; G, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 16 Jan.; H — K/A, 7 (Clarke/Peacock) 16 Jan.
  • Figures: 1 — B4, C2v, G1v
  • 2 — F4
  • 7 — H4v, I3v, K1v
  • Note: The evidence that Bowyer printed this pamphlet is of more than passing interest, for on Wednesday 27 Jan. 1731 its printer and publisher were taken into custody for publishing a libel. The bookseller, Charles Davis, was bound in a recognizance to appear at the King's Bench, which recognizance was continued for a period of 12 months, when he was discharged without penalty (Whitehall Evening Post, No. 1921, 28 — 30 Jan. 1731). Bowyer debits Davis with the printing costs, but the imprint reads 'Printed for T. Warner'.


Page 74


  • 10. Regnault, Philosophical Conversations. 3 vols. London, 1731
  • vol. 1 — 8°: A8 (—A8) B — 2C8 (— 2D8)
  • vol. 2 — 8°: A2 . . . Q — 2D8 (all printed by Bowyer)
  • Copy: BM. 536.h.6-7
  • Production: vol. 1 — 26 sheets; vol. 2 — 12 sheets; 38 sheets in all; edition 1000; composition 6s.; presswork 4s.; price per sheet 22s.; begun by 16 Jan. 1731; finished by 26 June 1731; in vol. 2 sheets A and Q — 2D only printed by Bowyer.
  • Composition: vol. 1: B — D, Gaylord 16 Jan.; E9, Micklewright 16 Jan.; E7, F — H, Gaylord 16 Jan.; I, K8, Grainger 30 Jan.; K8, L — O, P8, Gaylord 30 Jan.; P8, Q, Gaylord 6 Feb.; R — X, Y8, Gaylord 20 Feb.; Y8, Gaylord 6 Mar.; Z, 2A, 2B, Gaylord 20 Mar.; 2C, 2D8, Bell/Gaylord 1 May; A8, Gaylord 29 May.
  • vol. 2: Q, Bell 3 Apr.; R — X, Bell/Gaylord 1 May; Y — 2D, Bell/Gaylord 15 May; 16 pages Long Primer, Bell 29 May; two titles, Bell 26 June.
  • Presswork: vol. 1: Bi, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 16 Jan.; Bo, Co, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 16 Jan.; Ci, Do, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 16 Jan.; Di, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 16 Jan.; Ei, Eo, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 16 Jan.; Fo, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 30 Jan.; Fi, Gi, 7 (Clarke/ Peacock) 30 Jan.; Hi, Ho, Ii, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 30 Jan.; Io, Ki, 2 (Farmer/Wardman) 30 Jan.; Ko, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 30 Jan.; Li, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 30 Jan.; Lo, 7 (Clarke/Peacock) 30 Jan.; Mi, 1 (unnamed) 6 Feb.; Mo, Ni, 7 (unnamed) 6 Feb.; No, 3 (unnamed) 6 Feb.; Oi, 1 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Oo, Po, 2 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Pi, Qi, 7 (unnamed) 20 Feb.; Qo, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ri, 2 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ro, Si, 7 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; So, To, 3 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ti, 2 (unnamed) 6 Mar.; Ui, Uo, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 20 Mar.; Xi, 3 (Collyer/Franklin) 20 Mar.; Xo, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 20 Mar.; Yo, 2 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Yi, Zi, 7 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; Zo, 3 (unnamed) 3 Apr.; 2Ai, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 17 Apr.; 2Ao, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 17 Apr.; 2Bo, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 1 May; 2Bi, 2Ci, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 1 May; 2D, A (unrecorded).
  • vol. 2: Qi, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 1 May; Qo, Ri, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 1 May; Ro, 1 (Diggle/Mazemore) 1 May; So, Ti, 3 (unnamed) 15 May; To, 1 (unnamed) 15 May; Uo, 3 (unnamed) 15 May; Ui, Xi, Yi, Zi, 7 (unnamed) 15 May; Xo, Yo, Zo, 7 (unnamed) 29 May; 2Ai, 2 (unnamed) 29 May; 2Ao, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 29 May; 2B (unrecorded); 2Co, 1 (unnamed) 29 May; 2Ci, 2 (unnamed) 29 May; 2Di, 3 (Franklin/Reynolds) 26 June; 2Do, 7 (Farmer/Peacock) 26 June; 'A3' and titles to vols 1, 2 and 3 also claimed by Diggle alone at press 1.
  • Figures: vol. 1: 1 — A7, B7, C7, D8, K7, L8v, M1v, N2v, R7, T1v, U6, U7
  • 2 — C7v, I6v, K5v, O8v, R8, X7v, Y8v,
  • 3 — F7, G7, H7, I8, O8, Q7, S5, Z8v, 2A7
  • 7 — F5v, G5v, L7v, M5, N7v, P2v, Q8, S5v, T7, X8v, Y8, Z3v, 2A7v, 2B1v, 2C7v
  • vol. 2: 1 — Q1v, R2v, T2v, Z1v, 2C8v
  • 2 — U7v, Y7v, 2A6, 2C6
  • 3 — U7, 2D5v
  • 7 — S3v, X3v, Y5, 2B1v, 2B2v

(a) Edition Sizes of Part Issues of Astley's A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1743-47)
(Printed by Charles Ackers)

Volume   Part Nos.   Edition   Reprints   Total Edition  
sig. B  1750  350 +  1000  3100 
sig. C  2000  1100  3100 
sig. D  2000  1100  3100 
2000  1000  3000 
2000  1000  3000 
4 - 33  2500 
II  34 - 79  2250 
III  80 - 85  2250 
86 - 103  1750 
104 - 117  1500 
VI  118 - 164  1500 
Note: Ackers also printed 35,000 Proposals for this Collection.


Page 75

(b) Edition Sizes of The London Magazine
1732 — 1747

(Printed by Charles Ackers)

Monthly Numbers   1st Edition   Reprint   Total  
Apr. 1732 - Dec. 1732  [2500]  1500  [4000] 
Jan. 1733 - May 1733  4000  1250  5250 
Jun. 1733 - Jul. 1733  4000  1500  5500 
Aug. 1733  4500  1250  5750 
Sep. 1733 - Oct. 1733  5000  1250  6250 
Nov. 1733  5000  1000  6000 
Dec. 1733 - May 1734  6000  6000 
Jun. 1734 - Dec. 1734  6250  6250 
Jan. 1735 - Dec. 1736  7000  7000 
Jan. 1737 - May 1737  6000  6000 
Jun. 1737 - Jul. 1737  6000  1000  7000 
Aug. 1737  6000  6000 
Sep. 1737  6500  6500 
Oct. 1737 - Jul. 1739  7000  7000 
Aug. 1739 - Dec. 1740  8000  8000 
Jan. 1741 - Dec. 1741  7500  7500 
Jan. 1742  7000  1000  8000 
Feb. 1742 - Jul. 1743  8000  8000 
Aug. 1743 - Dec. 1743  7500  7500 
Jan. 1744 - Jan. 1747  7000  7000 
Feb. 1747 - Dec. 1747  7500  7500 

(c) Edition Sizes of T. Dyche's A Guide to the English Tongue
(Printed by Charles Ackers)

4 Dec. 1733  19th ed.  10,000 
4 Nov. 1734  20th ed.  10,000 
5 May 1735  21st ed.  10,000 
11 Oct. 1735  22nd ed.  10,000 
23 Sep. 1736  23rd ed.  10,000 
11 May 1737  24th ed.  10,000 
28 Jan. 1738  24th ed. [sic]  15,000 
19 Jul. 1738  'a new Edition'  10,000 
26 Jan. 1739  'a new Edition'  10,000 
17 Jul. 1739  'a new Edition'  5,000 
25 Oct. 1739  'a new Edition'  10,000 
3 Oct. 1740  'a new Edition'  20,000 
17 Jun. 1741  'a new Edition'  20,000 
3 May 1742  'a new Edition'  20,000 
14 May 1743  'a new Edition'  5,000 
18 Aug. 1743  'a new Edition'  10,000 
6 Jan. 1744  'a new Edition'  5,000 
12 May 1744  30th ed.  5,000 
9 Aug. 1744  'a new Edition'  5,000 
23 Oct. 1744  'a new Edit'  5,000 
10 Jan. 1745  'a new Edition'  5,000 
16 Mar. 1745  'a new Edition'  5,000 
7 Jun. 1745  'a new Edit.'  5,000 
10 Sep. 1745  'a new Edit.'  5,000 
14 Dec. 1745  'a new Edition'  5,000 
12 Apr. 1746  'a new Edit.'  5,000 
4 Jul. 1746  'a new Edit.'  5,000 
13 Oct. 1746  'a new Edit.'  10,000 
13 Feb. 1747  35th ed.  5,000 
27 Apr. 1747  'a new Edition'  5,000 
29 Jul. 1747  'a new Edition'  5,000 
2 Nov. 1747  'a new Edition'  5,000 
1 Feb. 1748  'a new Edition'  5,000 



This paper was originally given in a very much shorter form as a lecture at the University of Illinois, the University of Virginia, and the University of California (Los Angeles) in May 1963. In revising it I have tried to take account of more recent work but I am very conscious of the injustices I am doubtless doing to those whom I quote out of context. May I plead lack of space and offer the reflection that although methodological discussion has a way of seeming unfair to those criticised, it's only a form of intellectual house-keeping, dependent upon and tributary to the greater work of others? Mottos for the day might be: "Profound truths are not to be expected of methodology" (Sir Karl Popper) and "Methodology is at best a shortcut for the inexperienced" (R. C. Bald).


Textual and Literary Criticism (1959), p. 115.


Quoted at p. 82 of The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Harper Torchbook edition, 1965).


Bibliographers' use of the word may be consulted at the following points: W. W. Greg, Collected Papers, ed. J. C. Maxwell (1966), pp. 76, 220-3; R. B. McKerrow, Prolegomena for the Oxford Shakespeare (1939), pp. vi-viii; R. C. Bald, "Evidence and Inference in Bibliography," reprinted in A Mirror for Modern Scholars, ed. Lester A. Beaurline (1966), pp. 2-3; Fredson Bowers, On Editing Shakespeare (1955), pp. 41, 95, 99, 124; Textual and Literary Criticism, pp. 70, 81, 96, 100-1, 115; Bibliography and Textual Criticism (1964), pp. 72, 74, 90; J. Hazel Smith, "The Composition of the Quarto of Much Ado about Nothing," SB, XVI (1963), 10.


Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, part iii, sec. 12.


The point is neatly made by Robert K. Turner, "Reappearing Types as Bibliographical Evidence," SB, XIX (1966), 198: "hypothesis is essential to observation." Professor Hinman has a relevant paragraph: "When I first learned from the indisputable evidence furnished by individual types that the Folio was indeed set throughout by formes rather than by successive pages, I was probably as much surprised as anyone else. But should I have been? To prove setting by formes required evidence not adduced before; but not to have suspected it sooner was to have failed to see facts — or at least the probable implications of a complex of related facts — that had long been staring us all in the face, so to speak." The point is made "in order to suggest a not unimportant general principle of bibliographical investigation" — Printing and Proof-Reading of the Shakespeare First Folio (1963), I, 50-51.


The difficulties created by limited criteria are indicated by Antonin Hruby in "A Quantitative Solution to the Ambiguity of Three Texts," SB, XVIII (1965), 153-4; and Professor Bowers warns of the inadequacy and dangers of inferential arguments in "Some Relations of Bibliography to Editorial Problems," SB, III (1950), 54, 57. Professor Bowers' most thorough and challenging investigation of the problem is offered in chapter III of Bibliography and Textual Criticism. He suggests three orders of certainty, "the demonstrable, the probable, and the possible" (p. 77), and stresses the importance of "the postulate of normality" as a necessary curb on the number of plausible conjectures that human ingenuity might otherwise devise (pp. 64, 70, 72). See also Hinman, "The Prentice Hand in the Tragedies of the Shakespeare First Folio: Compositor E," SB, IX (1957), 3.


Professor Bowers remarks: "No one can argue that we know all about the printing processes of the past, and it is just as obvious from time to time this postulate of normality has fostered incorrect explanations based on imperfect evidence." (Bibliography and Textual Criticism, p. 72). The cautionary note is justified, not because the elementary physical actions of setting, transferring, imposing, inking, proofing, printing from, or distributing type differed from century to century, nor even because the kinds of work and sizes of shops differed, but because the amount of work done and the relations between those performing it differed from day to day. "Normality" in one sense is limited, though within its limitations valuable; in the other sense it doesn't exist.


"The subject as practised": it could be urged that no science is a disembodied activity, but only the activities of its practitioners, and that it is defined less by its body of commonly accepted knowledge than by the dynamics of difference. Robert K. Turner's "The Composition of the Insatiate Countess Q2," SB, XII (1958), 198-203, for example, does not offer mechanical demonstration and proof from the physical and inexorable evidence of the printing house so much as a proliferation of unrelated, arbitrary hypotheses to explain away inconsistencies.


May I recall what Greg said of Professor Dover Wilson? "He is of imagination all compact. And imagination, I would remind you, is the highest gift in scientific investigation, even if at times it may be the deepest pitfall." (Collected Papers, p. 217). I have myself a pleasant recollection of meeting Professor Dover Wilson in May 1958. "I always believe," he said, "that if you have a good idea you should send it out into the world. If it survives, fine. If it doesn't, then at least you know it's wrong." The serious implications of that last phrase are only now beginning to dawn on me.


The primary records are printed in volume II of my Cambridge University Press, 1696-1712 (1966).


AUMLA (May, 1967), p. 109. Dr J. D. Fleeman's discovery of the Bowyer ledger was reported in The Times Literary Supplement, 19 Dec. 1963, p. 1056, and some of its details were put to use in his note "William Somervile's 'The Chace,' 1735," PBSA, LVIII (1966), 1-7.


Professor Hinman conveniently summarizes the evidence and offers some very careful qualifications of it in Printing and Proof-Reading I, 39-47. Although his method and purposes must in fact assume a norm, he is quite clear about the foolishness of trying to pretend that there may not have been considerable variation from it (cf. I, 46).


I must express my gratitude to Dr Léon Voet, Curator of the Plantin-Moretus Museum for supplying me with photocopies of entries from the Mémorial des Ouvriers for the months of Jan.-Mar. 1622. Dr Voet has brought together much valuable information in "The Making of Books in the Renaissance as told by the Archives of the Plantin-Moretus Museum," PaGA, X, no. 2 (Dec. 1965), 33-62. The most relevant Oxford document is a "Bill Book" for the years 1769-72 which I cite by courtesy of the Printer to the University. John Wilson's "Case-Book" was brought to my attention by Miss Frances M. Thomson who is preparing an edition of it. I should also mention Mr Rollo G. Silver's contributions to this journal, especially "Mathew Carey's Printing Equipment," SB, XIX (1966), 85-122, which form a valuable addition to the primary documentation on early printing houses. There is a more general point to be made. Greg, recognizing the level of generality that any respectable discipline must seek, insisted that bibliography comprehend manuscript as well as printed texts. Similarly it might be argued that ancient and modern book production should not be too readily separated. Mr Simon Nowell-Smith has shown in his 1966 Lyell Lectures how more recent books can be usefully (and disturbingly for such concepts as "edition" and "issue") documented from publishers' archives. The growth of such bibliographical work in the modern period will, if the subject is to keep its integrity, enforce a greater realism in discussing the productive conditions for earlier books.


For these references see Cambridge University Press I, 89-92, 139-40.


E. S. Furniss, The Position of the Laborer in a System of Nationalism (1920), p. 234. Furniss remarks that "The English laborer . . . responded, when prices fell or wages rose, so that he could satisfy his wants with diminished effort, by 'keeping holiday the remainder of his time'." (p. 235). The contemporary evidence cited by Furniss is full and detailed. D.C. Coleman, in "Labour in the English Economy of the 17th Century," Economic History Review, 2nd ser. VIII (1956), 280-95, points out that modern writers have underrated the recurrent problem of unemployment and comments that half-employment was often the rule. He cites Thomas Manly's note of 1669 that "They work so much fewer days by how much the more they exact in wages;" remarks that this was said of "agricultural workers and of industrial, of urban as well as of rural;" and adds "Irregularity of work . . . was not confined to the working week. The working day at one end of the scale, the working year at the other, were both very different from their counterparts in the modern industrialized community" (p. 291).


Some Thoughts on the Interest of Money (1728), cited by Furniss.


Such an argument was in fact used in litigation in 1592 when Benjamin Prince, a journeyman employed by John Legate, said he need only do what he could whereas Parker, an apprentice, had to do as his master bade him. See "Notes on Printing at Cambridge, c. 1590," Trans. Cambridge Bibliographical Society, III (1959), 102. The whole question of full or partial employment, however, needs to be related to the evidence we have of journeymen's grievances. It may be that under conditions of widespread unemployment an increase in part-time work is to be expected rather than a severe restriction of the labour force to the few men of highest efficiency.


Mechanick Exercises, ed. H. Davis and H. Carter (1958), p. 327; see also p. 328 for the phrase "their Contracted Task." Professor Hinman (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 42-45) considers some of the evidence for daily output at press and case (e.g. the Gay-Purslowe contract of 1631, Moxon, Richardson's figures of 1756, and early 19th-century rates for setting). He clearly considers the figures rather high and suggests that they were not consistently attained. I am sure he is right, notwithstanding abundant evidence elsewhere for high press output — see "Notes on Printing at Cambridge," p. 101 n., where a number of references are collected. Testimonies for 1592 claim 2500 impressions as the normal daily amount worked off for 3s.4d. per press-crew. But it is also stated that under the rules of the London Company a pressman was to have his full contracted wages if on any day, by agreement with the master, fewer sheets were printed. Several 19th-century ones could be added, but Blackwell's estimate of 2500 impressions per day, cited by Mr Rollo G. Silver, is among the most important ("Mathew Carey's Printing Equipment," p. 102). The real point, however, is not that these figures were norms, except perhaps for very large edition quantities, but the accepted maxima. The evidence is consistent with the hypothesis of extreme variability within the limits indicated, but any "norm" derived from the evidence can be repeatedly falsified and its predictive value thereby seriously impaired. It may be noted that Plantin's pressmen and compositors received differential payments, as did those of Crownfield and Bowyer, for formes of varying difficulty, and in 1592 differential rates applied to presswork according to the size of type.


The point about fluctuations in the number of workmen is admirably made, in the case of Plantin, by the charts in Raymond de Roover's "The Business Organization of the Plantin Press in the Setting of Sixteenth Century Antwerp," De Gulden Passer, XXXIV (1956), 104-20. The figures there given show the absolute variations, but in addition the ratios of workmen to presses and of compositors to pressmen may be easily calculated as at January in every year from 1564 to 1589. To take two years: on 4 Jan. 1572 there were 13 presses in use, 23 pressmen, 23 compositors, and 7 other employees; on 2 Jan. 1574 there were 16 presses in use, 32 pressmen, 20 compositors, and 4 other employees. The smaller English shops could not have tolerated this degree of fluctuation, but where the records survive the ratios of compositors to pressmen to presses can be shown to have varied quite markedly. The Cambridge and Bowyer presses illustrate a disturbingly large variance in weekly, monthly and annual levels of production; Strahan's and Charles Ackers' output differed significantly from one year to the next; and the charts given of Oxford printing in F. Madan's The Oxford University Press: a Brief Account (1908), although based only on surviving works, are a graphic corrective to an over-reliance on "norms." I know of no direct evidence that obliges us to exempt Elizabethan and Jacobean printers from such fluctuations, although the legal limitation on the number of printers has tempted some to assume continuous output at maximum levels. There is much evidence that some Elizabethan printers constantly lacked work.


Introduction to Bibliography (1928), p. 132.


Hinman, "New Uses for Headlines as Bibliographical Evidence," English Institute Annual, 1941 (1942), p. 209.


"Notes on Printing at Cambridge," p. 101. See also P. Hernlund, "William Strahan's Ledgers: Standard Charges for Printing, 1738-1785," SB, XX (1967), 89-111, esp. p. 104 where the frequencies of certain edition sizes are given. Professor Hinman notes the folly of setting edition sizes to suit bibliographical equations (Printing and Proof-Reading, I, 40), but bibliographers sometimes forget that the number printed is a marketing decision which bears no relation whatever to printing conditions, although a master would of course be concerned to apportion all the work on hand in the most economic way.


"The Degressive Principle," Times Literary Supplement, 1 Sept. 1966, p. 781.


I hope it will be agreed without my listing references that such an assumption is widespread. Professor Todd at least agrees, for he once wrote, in iconoclastic vein: "Implicit in most accounts of press-work on hand-printed books is the convenient assumption that, at a given time, the entire resources of the shop are devoted to the production of a single work . . .". — "Concurrent Printing: An Analysis of Dodsley's Collection of Poems by Several Hands," PBSA, XLVI (1952), 45. Jobbing work may be invoked as a convenient way of explaining apparent delay, but even in Professor Hinman's discussion of the First Folio, which takes some account of other works printed by Jaggard in 1621-3 (see I, 16-24), the fundamental work patterns are traced in isolation from the other work on hand as though the Folio contained in itself all the evidence of its production.


The Bowyer books tabled in appendix II (g) may serve as examples. The several editions of Voltaire were printed quite quickly (nos. 1-4); the 20 sheets of Baxter, a more difficult text, and the 17½ sheets of Spenser, both took 33 weeks (nos. 5 and 6); Lobb's 34 sheets, on the other hand, were finished in only 29 weeks; more direct evidence of the different speeds of work on different books can be seen in appendix II (a) — (f). For Ackers, see A Ledger of Charles Ackers, Printer of 'The London Magazine' (1968), p. 19. Few printers, however, were as slow as Nicholas Okes was with one work: in five years he had printed only 6 sheets of a book called Speculum Animae — Jackson, Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company, 1602-1640 (1957), p. 180.


Professor Todd later wrote of concurrent printing as a practice "extraordinary in the seventeenth century" but "commonplace in the eighteenth" — "Bibliography and the Editorial Problem in the Eighteenth Century," SB, IV (1951-2), 46. G. Thomas Tanselle, "Press Figures in America," SB, XIX (1966), 129-30, also writes of the need for fuller information on all books being handled within a shop at one time.


"Edward Allde as a Typical Trade Printer," Library, 4th ser. (1929), 143.


"Analytical Bibliography and Shakespeare's Text," MP, LXII (1964), 55.


Stower, The Printer's Grammar (1808), p. 376, makes the point: "Compositors and pressmen are at all times dependent on each other; they therefore demand the constant attention of the overseer [my italics] in order that nothing may occur to cause a stoppage or standing still to either party." In a smaller office this concern for oversight and disposition of the work on hand would naturally have been the master's.


See Table 11, Cambridge University Press, I, 106-7. For Bowyer, see appendix II (e) where, of 14 compositors listed for the two-week period, only one (C. Knell) worked on a single book.


Rules of a London chapel in 1734, printed by Ellic Howe, The London Compositor (1947), p. 31.


The two charts may be compared to those given as Table 15 in The Cambridge University Press. Taken together, the five charts show completely different patterns of work at five distinct stages of a continuous working period of five months, although many of the men and books involved are the same.


Bowers, "Bibliographical Evidence from the Printer's Measure," SB, II (1949-50), 153-67, esp. pp. 155-6: "The most elementary and easily discerned cases which can be determined by measurement occur when . . . printing of a book is so materially interrupted that when work is resumed a different measure is inadvertently employed." See also "Purposes of Descriptive Bibliography, with Some Remarks on Methods", Library, 5th ser. (1953), p. 18 n., and "Underprinting in Mary Pix, The Spanish Wives (1696)," Library, 5th ser. (1954), p. 248. John Smith, The Printer's Grammar (1755), pp. 197-8, suggests other reasons why measures, ostensibly the same, might differ. For Moxon, see Mechanick Exercises, p. 203.


"Notes on Running-Titles as Bibliographical Evidence," Library, 4th ser. (1938), pp. 318-22. In 1909 A. W. Pollard had drawn attention to the recurrent headlines in Folio 2 Henry IV (Shakespeare Folios and Quartos, pp. 134-5).


"The Headline in Early Books," English Institute Annual, 1941 (1942), p. 187.


"The Composition of The Insatiate Countess, Q2," SB, XII (1958), 202.


"The Printing of Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy, Q1 (1619)," SB, XIII (1960), 201; see also pp. 202, 204, 208 for assumptions about timing.


"The Printing of Philaster Q1 and Q2," Library, 5th ser. (1960), p. 22.


Ibid. In the article from which the last three quotations are drawn, Professor Turner suggests that "the erratic time-re-lationship" and therefore the imbalance in the relationship of composition and presswork may reflect variable copy, extra help with distribution, or indicate that "typesetting was attended by serious difficulties" — the textual implications of the latter inference are important.


"Printing Methods and Textual Problems in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Q1," SB, XV (1962), 46.


"The Printers of the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio of 1647, Section 2," SB. XX (1967), 37. Another point of view on this whole question of delay is that of A. K. McIlwraith: "It seems that printers . . . were sometimes willing to interrupt their work for quite a slight cause. This in turn suggests that time was not at a premium, and casts some doubt on any argument which rests on the assumption that speed was economically important." See "Marginalia on Press-corrections," Library, 5th ser. (1950), p. 244.


"Purposes of Descriptive Bibliography," p. 18 n. Elsewhere Professor Bowers brings together in a single sentence many of the considerations raised here: "On the evidence of spelling, only one compositor set (*) B-D, but with about half a normal edition-sheet, he could not have kept up with the press and therefore would not have imposed with two skeleton-formes." — "The Variant Sheets in John Banks's Cyrus the Great, 1696," SB, IV (1951-2), 179.


"Setting by Formes in Quarto Printing," SB, XI (1958), 49. The compositor was unlikely to have been "concerned" at the imbalance, since the reason for it (edition size) was none of his making. It is also salutary to observe that the words 'his press,' as in Professor Turner's article cited in note 38, show the unconscious hardening of assumption into self-evident truth.


"An Examination of the Method of Proof Correction in Lear," Library, 5th ser. (1947), p. 29.


Ibid., p. 28. In "Elizabethan Proofing," Joseph Quincy Adams Memorial Studies (1948), pp. 571-86, Professor Bowers added "I feel that this was the major delay which was circumvented and that a certain reduction possible in the time for press-correction was only a minor consideration." (p. 574).


"Notes on Running-Titles," p. 331. In a later note, Professor Bowers states that "running-titles will almost inevitably reveal simultaneous setting and printing of different portions of a book" — Principles of Bibliographical Description (1949), p. 125.


The Variants in the First Quarto of 'King Lear' (1940), pp. 48-9.


"The First Edition of Your Five Gallants and of Michaelmas Term," Library, 5th ser. (1953), pp. 23, 28. Professor Price believes that Michaelmas Term was printed partly by Purfoote and partly by Allde: "In [its] printing, one skeleton was used for gatherings A and B, two for C-I, one press doing the inner, the other the outer, formes; but for gatherings H and I, the presses twice interchanged the formes" (p. 29).


"Underprinting in The Spanish Wives," p. 254. Each press is said to have printed and perfected its sheet with the one skeleton forme.


"The Textual Relation of Q2 to Q1 Hamlet (I)," SB, VIII (1956), 46. See also "The Printing of Hamlet Q2," SB, VII (1955), 42.


Cantrell and Williams, "Roberts' Compositors in Titus Andronicus Q2" SB, VIII (1956), 28. They add: "The book was printed throughout with one skeleton-forme, and so necessarily on one press . . .".


"The Authorship and Bibliography of The Revenger's Tragedy," Library, 5th ser. (1960), p. 273. Quite apart from the question of skeleton formes, the inference from paper might be queried. It is just as simple to assume that that the heaps were told out by the warehouseman (or boy) from alternate bundles as required for each successive signature. Otherwise it must be assumed that each press knew in advance precisely what proportion of the edition it would print and had on hand all the white paper it would need to complete that work.


Cantrell and Williams, "The Printing of the Second Quarto of Romeo and Juliet (1599)," SB, IX (1957), 107, 113-4.


"Shakespeare's Text and the Bibliographical Method," SB, VI (1954), 79.


Cantrell and Williams, "Roberts' Compositors in Titus Andronicus," p. 28: "The problem of Titus Q2 is further complicated by the fact that in the reprint X and Y did not combine to set their material in a normal pattern for two-compositor work in which each man serves a different press. In fact, the peculiar feature of Titus is that there should be a second compositor at all. The running-title pattern indicates no such second workman" (my italics).


"The Text of Heywood's The Fair Maid of the West," Library, 5th ser. (1967), p. 302. In "The Printing of A King and No King Q1," SB, XVIII (1965), 258, Professor Turner had assumed that a single skeleton printing sheets A-F implied one compositor, and that a second skeleton introduced at G implied another, and quicker, one — although apart from signings there were otherwise "no means to distinguish the work of the two compositors" (n. 12). See also Hinman, Printing and Proof-Reading II, 522 n.l.


In some cases two skeletons, regardless of edition size or speed of composition, may be evidence not of increased speed of production, but of a slower than normal rate of production, simply because it can be a very convenient way of keeping type safely standing whether before or after printing (either to allow of proofing in the sheet, or to defer distribution). Stower, Printer's Grammar, p. 474; "Forms will sometimes remain a considerable length of time before they are put to press."


Ibid., Table 15, but continued below in appendix I (a) and (b).


We might stand to gain clarity if, when discussing changes in the pattern of skeletons, we were to abandon the term "interruption" with its assumptions about timing and its implications of delay. Normally what we are observing is simply a discontinuity.


Printing and Proof-Reading I, 46. See also I, 124 where the same point is made and Professor Hinman cites Moxon: "It is also Customary in some Printing Houses that if the Compositer or Press-man make either the other stand still through the neglect of their contracted Task, that then he who neglected, shall pay him that stands still as much as if he had Wrought." Professor Hinman seems to imply that if a forme were machined in appreciably less time than one could be set the press would stand idle and the compositors would have to reimburse the pressmen. But this can hardly have been so. It was the master's job to worry about these things; Moxon is only concerned with 'neglect' of a 'contracted Task.'


Although I am not really concerned to query Professor Hinman's estimate of the edition size of the Folio, it is possible to offer more precise estimates on costs than either Greg or Willoughby has given. Such a note in itself may be of interest, but my purpose is larger: to show how costing methods current in 1700 can be applied to the 1620's. It so happens that Cantrell Legge the Cambridge printer has left a very detailed "direction to value most Bookes by the charge of the Printer & Stationer. as paper was sould Anno Dni: 1622" (Cambridge University Archives Mss. 33.2.95 and 33.6.8). The Folio contains about 227 sheets. At the highest of Legge's 1622 prices, for paper and printing of the best quality, it would have cost 13s.4d. per ream. For average quality the cost would probably have been nearer, in all, to 10s. or 11s. per ream. At the first of these prices, an edition of 500 copies would have cost £151.6s.8d. to produce; for an edition of 1000 copies the cost would have been £302.13s.4d.; for 1250 copies it would have been £378.6s.8d. Legge indicates that the Stationers' mark-up was usually twice as much again as the prime costs for paper and printing ("So they gaine clearly for euery 12s. laid out 1-5-0 The like proportion you may make of all other english, & forraine bookes"). However many were printed, the unit cost per copy of the Folio, accounting paper and printing at the highest price (13s.4d. per ream printed), would be 6s.od. A normal markup would therefore give a selling price of 18s. (not far off Steevens' £1.os.od.). The maximum possible return therefore to the four partners would be £300 for 500 copies selling at 18s. each; £600 for 1000 copies; and £750 for 1250 copies. These figures are crude, but they are not so wrong as to be irrelevant. If 500 copies were printed, given a two-year printing period, the investment would yield roughly 100% per annum, if 1000 copies were printed it would have been 200% per annum. But since a good proportion of the prime costs would not have had to be met until printing was well advanced, nor the balance paid until after printing had finished, a substantial part of the "investment" monies could have been met from the income from sales. Even the lowest of these returns (on an edition of 500) would have justified the venture. It may also be noted that the amount regularly allowed to retailers was 3s. in the £. ("Notes on Printing at Cambridge," p. 103). It is possible to refine the figures further. Legge priced the best paper at 5s.6d. per ream; printing would therefore have cost 7s.10d. per ream. Gay's contract with Purslowe allowed 8s. per week for 3000 impressions per day; this meant, for a full press, 16s. per week for 18,000 impressions (or 18 reams perfected); this gives a price of roughly 10½d. per ream. Presswork on the Folio might therefore be set at 11d. per ream. Now, applying methods customary in 1700, allowing for correction at one-sixth the rate for composition, and adding the "printer's thirds" for over-heads, the detailed costs of printing may be outlined as follows:

Presswork  11d. 
Composition  3s. 8d. 
Correction  8d. 
5s. 3d. 
Add for overheads  2s. 7d. 
Cost of printing per ream  7s.10d. 
Add cost of paper  5s. 6d. 
Total price for paper and 
printing per ream  13s. 4d. 


Printing and Proof-Reading II, 438. Two skeletons were used in quires F-X, a-b. See also I, 125-6: "One of the most striking facts about the Folio is that only one set of rules appears throughout most of the book; and the continuous use of the same rules can be satisfactorily accounted for only if presswork could keep continuously abreast of composition without difficulty. [A footnote adds: "Otherwise two sets of rules — two 'skeletons' — would almost certainly have been used."] Evidence from rules alone therefore establishes the very strong likelihood that the Folio press regularly worked off one forme as fast as the immediately succeeding forme was set."


Ibid., I, 123. At this point Professor Hinman also writes: "Each successive forme [in 'o'] had been printed off and was ready for distribution by the time compositorial work for the next forme but one was undertaken." The distribution pattern shows that this was so, but I fail to see its relevance to speed of presswork; it simply means that setting did not go forward until the last forme but one was distributed. Professor Hinman mentions the possibility that composition was quite regularly interrupted on the completion of each new forme "to allow the press to catch up" but rejects the idea with the words "of such a practice there is neither evidence nor any shadow of likelihood" (my italics). The same sequence may be followed at variable speeds.


Ibid., I, 75. At I, 153 we find: "Whether one or two skeletons were used in such a book probably depended upon the composition-presswork relationship." See also I, 28 n.l, 49, 364; II, 490-1, 524.


Ibid., I, 123. See also I, 49: ". . . one compositor (and hence, it may be added, two or more compositors setting alternately; for this would amount to much the same thing) . . .". One should add that even without prejudice to the main thesis of balanced work on the Folio alone, Professor Hinman's masterly account of the work done on the Folio concurrently with other books makes it quite clear that a 'norm' of concurrent printing, as shown for the 1700's or 1730's, also applied to the 1620's.


Ibid., I, 74 n.2. The demonstration referred to is, I think, that given at I, 123-4; see note 63 above.


"Setting by Formes in Quarto Printing," p. 42. The second quarto referred to is The First Part of The Contention (1594).


"The Printing of Philaster," p. 22. See also "Printing Methods in A Midsummer Night's Dream" where Professor Turner argues that if type from B(o) is found in both formes of sheet C, and type from B(i) is found only in part of C(i), and if type from C(o) is found in both formes of D, and type from C(i) is found only in D(i), then, "when type reappears in this manner, composition cannot have been seriatim" (p. 36). The following remarks make it clear that Professor Turner means cannot have been seriatim "without press delays." The fundamental argument is not bibliographical in the sense that Professor Hinman's is.


"The Printing of A King and No King," p. 258. See also, in "Printing Methods in A Midsummer Night's Dream," Professor Turner's suggestion that "It seems likely that the compositor, working on the assumption that composition and press-work could stay more or less in balance, originally intended to follow the conventional procedure for setting by formes — to compose two formes, distribute the first, set the third, distribute the second, [set the fourth] and so on." (p. 46).


"Shakespeare's Texts — Then, Now and Tomorrow," SS, XVIII (1965), 31. It is also pointed out there that, before Richard II, "no first quarto has hitherto yielded such entirely conclusive evidence of setting by formes as the Folio does throughout" (p. 28).


See Turner, "Printing Methods in A Midsummer Night's Dream," p. 39: "By itself the testimony of shortage is, I believe, less reliable than any other bibliographical technique."


Printer's Grammar, index. See also Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, p. 239: "Counting or Casting off Copy . . . is to examine and find how much either of Printed Copy will Come-in into any intended number of Sheets of a different Body or Measure from the Copy; or how much Written Copy will make an intended number of Sheets of any assigned Body and Measure."


"Cast-off Copy for the First Folio of Shakespeare," SQ, VI (1953), 259-73.


Another theory that one should like to have some external evidence for is that which closely associates a compositor with a particular set of type cases. Professor Hinman offers a very fine discussion of the question and has much contributory evidence for identifying compositors from type-groupings where distinctive spellings are lacking. See also Turner, "Reappearing Types," pp. 200-3. I have not examined Cambridge or Bowyer books for evidence of this kind.


So Richardson, advising Oxford to do "as the London Printers do, reckon at the rate of 2d in the shilling for the Press Correctors, of what is paid the Compositors." — quoted by I. G. Philip, Blackstone and the Reform of the Oxford University Press (1957), p. 40.


The Shakespeare First Folio (1955), p. 464.


All the statement means is that some evidence of correction has survived; it leaves quite open the possibility that invariant formes already embody corrections, and that even where formes are variant the 'uncorrected' states may be intermediate ones.


Instances of an 'uncorrected' state surviving in a single copy point to the dangers we run if we too readily equate invariant formes with uncorrected ones. The 'uncorrected' states, being earlier, are likely to be fewer and in most cases may have disappeared completely. In "A Proof-sheet in An Humorous Day's Mirth (1599) printed by Valentine Sims," Library, 5th ser (1966), pp. 155-7, A. Yamada notes that "out of fifteen copies examined, the Bute copy alone retains the uncorrected readings on the outer forme of G, and all the other copies have the forme in the corrected state." (p. 155). Of twenty copies of Tailor's The Hogge hath lost his Pearle (1614), only one has inner and outer E in their 'uncorrected' states.


Stower said that it should be "an invariable rule" to demand a second revise, "particularly with foul compositors, as no sort of dependence can be placed on them" (Printer's Grammar, p. 382).


Quoted by K. Povey, "Variant Formes in Elizabethan Printing," Library, 5th ser. (1955), p. 42.


A useful reference list is given in Tanselle, "Press Figures in America," p. 126 notes 10 and 11.


See Todd, "Observations on . . . Press Figures," SB, III (1950-51), 173.


Savage, Dictionary of the Art of Printing (1841), p. 814.


"William Somervile's 'The Chace,' 1735," loc. cit.


Cambridge University Press, I, 125, but see also I, 131 n.1, and Tanselle, "Press Figures in America," p. 127 n.13.


"Of Text and Type," Times Literary Supplement, 24 Feb. 1966, pp. 233-5.


Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1935), p. 46.


Greg, A Companion to Arber (1967), p. 26. I shall normally cite Greg's calendar instead of the originals.


Arber, Transcript of the Registers of the Stationers' Company, I, 248.


Greg, Companion, pp. 52-3. This point is made time and again. Wood's petition of 1621 makes it clear that even of those with presses some were rich and some were poor: "the rich men of the Company by the power of their ordinances, dispose of all things in priuilege to their owne perticular benefits for the most part, and the poore Masters, and Iourney-men Printers haue little, and some of them no worke at all from the Company . . ." (Greg, Companion, p. 170). Lownes, Purfoote, Jaggard and Beale — "those foure rich Printers" — are most complained against for the privileges they hold and the punitive actions they can take against offendors, empowered as they are both by ordinance and their high position in the Company.


Jackson, Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company, p. 75.


Jackson, p. 169. The search uncovered a press operated by George Woods; it was dismantled. Woods of course had no right to a press at all.


Plant, The English Book Trade (1939), p. 84; Howe, London Compositor, p. 33.


Plomer, A Short History of English Printing, 1476-1900 (1915), pp. 185-8; Howe (p. 33) gives the figure as 35.


Ibid., pp. 132-3. Professor Todd states that "By the end of the eighteenth century the personnel of the trade numbered no less than 2815" ("Observations on . . . Press Figures," p. 179). But this figure relates to 1818, not to the previous century, and its user implies that the number of master printers had virtually doubled in the previous 10 years — see Howe, p. 132.


"The Distribution of Almanacks in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century," SB, XI (1958), 107-16.


The articles of 1635 (Greg, Companion, pp. 94-5) were still being ignored in 1637 (Ibid., p. 102). The trouble was partly that their enforcement was left to the men whose interests they were least calculated to advance. So one finds the journeymen continuing to complain that the orders of 1586-7 and those of 1635 had not been fulfilled and pleading that they be recorded in some court of justice so that they could be sued upon before a competent judge (Ibid., p. 326). The complaints come to a head again in 1645.


Collected Papers, pp. 76-77, 222-3, 240. The arguments from expediency given in The Times Literary Supplement during August-September 1966 seem to me to be beside the point.


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