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The procedures for proof-correcting English books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are still imperfectly understood, partly because we seem to have developed the vexatious habit of occasionally taking partial knowledge for whole truths. Variables such as the subject matter of the book under investigation, the kind of press at which it was printed, the author's attitude toward the book, the printer's ability and willingness to pay for professional correction, and so on, often prevent useful and accurate generalizations about the topic. Although most scholars of the period are aware that a six-penny play printed at a London commercial house would ordinarily be far less attentively corrected than a Latin treatise on the perils of Papism printed at the Oxford University Press, the point seems to have fallen more into the realm of faith than of demonstrated fact. It is the purpose here to sort out the variables and to clear the air of some of the misconceptions which have arisen from the application of principles belonging to some classes of books to all classes of books.

In 1935 Percy Simpson declared that one of the most "mischievous" errors in modern thinking about the production of early books was "the assumption that authors did not read proofs."[1] The first chapter of his book contains an impressive array of authors' apologies for failing to attend the press to read proof, failures which resulted in more than the usual number of errors having crept into the text. Simpson drew the natural conclusion that these disclaimers amount to testimony that authors did commonly read proof, or at least that they were expected to do so. He allowed, however, that in some cases "the main motive which prompted this scrupulous proof-reading was the theological purpose of the book" (p. 3). It is this qualifying factor which has not received enough attention in recent years and the neglect of which has led to fairly widespread acceptance of Simpson's general conclusion that "ample evidence has now been accumulated to show that proof-reading by authors was a common practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; that it was, as common sense would suggest, a business precaution which safe-guarded the interests of both author and publisher" (p. 49). The limited truth in this conclusion is that authorial proof-reading was common practice in those cases in which the author and the publisher had, in fact, interests to


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safe-guard, in cases, that is, of such things as legal books or theological works, in which significant errors could bring the authors and publishers afoul of the law. In the proof-reading of trade books of much less consequence, such as pamphlets, almanacs, ballads, plays, and the like (what we might call popular literature), economic concerns or matters of pure expediency often displaced the common-sense desire for an accurate text which might otherwise have led authors and publishers and even printers to desire authorial correction.

Fredson Bowers, certainly a man familiar with a great many dramatic quartos, has remarked that "the keen concern for meaning manifested by the proof-reader of an early dramatic text is usually a figment of the critic's imagination."[2] And even more than this, "the automatic assumption is surely wrong that every forme of cheap commercial printing was necessarily proofread. Any editor of Elizabethan 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" (p. 136, n.1). Obviously, Bowers' findings do not square at all with Simpson's contention that authors commonly read proof.[3] The discrepancy, however, does not justify the generalization opposite to Simpson's that "proofreading by authors was not usual before the eighteenth century; indeed, early proofreading normally consisted of a reading (by the master printer or his assistant) of one of the first sheets printed off, without recourse to the copy, and marking any apparent errors for correction."[4] This, like Simpson's, is a partial truth. Simpson's data shows us beyond a doubt that proof-reading by authors was indeed quite usual prior to the eighteenth century, but only for certain kinds of books printed under certain conditions. What these conditions were may be seen by examining the reasons behind the emergence of the Learned Presses at Oxford and at Cambridge and by looking in a systematic way at the proof-correction of several different classes of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books to clarify the distinctions between them and to show how and why the procedures of proof-reading differed so widely between each class.

The nature and purpose of the printing-house had a decided influence upon the attitude toward the degree of accuracy the book should attain. The Press at Oxford University did not become an official arm of the University itself until late in the seventeenth century, but steps toward making it so had begun at least a century earlier. The impulse behind the movement was the desire to create a Learned Press, one that would provide a corrective to the sorry, mercenary houses in London. Several of the documents relating to the history of the development of the Press at Oxford betray an undisguised disdain for the quality of work going forward in London; indeed, the slightness


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of the books being printed there formed the basis of the argument for establishing a Learned Press in the first place. Of course, not all books printed in London during the period were ephemera; on the contrary, a vast amount of learned printing, in Latin and in English, went forward in the city. In 1595, Andrew Maunsell, a London bookseller, assembled lists of the important books printed in the vernacular. In The First Part of the Catalogue of English printed Bookes: Which concerneth such matters of Diuinitie, as haue bin either written in our owne Tongue, or translated out of anie other language: And haue bin published, to the glory of God, and edification of the Church of Christ in England (London: John Windet, 1595), Maunsell compiled hundreds of titles of books, most printed in London, which he grouped under the headings of "Diuinitie," "Bible," "Catechismes," "Prayers," and "Sermons"; in The Seconde parte of the Catalogue . . . which concerneth the Sciences Mathematicall, as Arithmetick, Geometrie, Astronomie, Astrologie, Musick, the Arte of Warre and Nauigation . . . (London: James Roberts, 1595), he enumerated titles dealing with the secular sciences. (The two Parts are available in facsimile, ed. D. F. Foxon, Gregg Press, 1965.) In two essays treating information garnered from Latin books printed in England (about which more will be said later), James Binns examined a total of 75 volumes, 62 of which were printed at London, seven at Oxford, and six at Cambridge. Hence, it would be a mistake to draw a simplistic, radical distinction between mere trivia printed in London and serious works printed at the University Presses. Nevertheless, as a casual glance at any random pages of The Short-Title Catalogue reveals, thousands of "trifles" of the popular sort mentioned earlier poured off the presses at London, and, in their zeal to establish Learned Presses, the champions of scholarly printing naturally focused their attacks chiefly upon the ephemera, though shoddy performance in the printing of learned works in London did not entirely escape their condemnation. The bias is evident in an anonymous, sixteenth-century "brief for the University's Chancellor, Robert Dudley, first Earl of Leicester, to plead with the Queen for her leave to print at Oxford," a document which puts the matter succinctly: "Finally, whereas nearly the whole of the kingdom abounds in frivolous trifles written in English, tending rather to corrupt morality than to any sound and serious education, the young might by these means be attracted to something healthier and more advanced."[5] As trivial, licentious stuff in the vernacular poured off the presses in London, the more "important" manuscripts, those treating the classics, law, religion, and philosophy, were in danger of extinction for want of publishers and printers willing to preserve them. Furthermore, as the dissemination of such works declined, the quality of learning and skill in the Latin language likewise began to decline, in the view of the scholars, to abysmally low levels. One prime reason, therefore, for establishing a Learned Press at Oxford was "the desire for the destruction of barbarism," which amounted to the desire to forestall the decline of proper


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Latin and to stem the rising tide of frivolous trifles in the vernacular (Carter, pp. 9-10).

The major obstacle to Learned printing was expense; it was a financially disastrous undertaking. The London presses indulged in the production of trivialities in the mother tongue because such items appealed to a large market and because the presses were in business to make money. They were self-supporting commercial houses, as, indeed, was the Oxford Press itself before its attachment to the University was made official. The problem for the Learned Press, of course, was that the market for learned books in foreign languages was much more limited, and therefore less profitable, than that for broadside ballads, pamphlets, and plays in English. That profit should be necessary to survival nevertheless infuriated Archbishop Laud, who undertook the establishment of the Learned Press at Oxford in the first half of the seventeenth century. The terms in which he couched his statute providing for an overseer of the Press indicate an impatient contempt for the goings on in London:

Since the experience of the trade shows that these mechanic craftsmen for the most part look for profit and saving of labour, caring not at all for beauty of letters or good and seemly workmanship, and bundle out any kind of rough and incorrect productions to the light of day, be it provided by this statute that an Architypographus shall preside over the University's public printing office, which is to be established in a building specially devoted to this purpose (Carter, p. 31).
Of the character and accomplishments of this Architypographus more shall be said later, but for the present it is sufficient to say that the tone of the statute is remarkable for its hostility toward all things which smacked of profit, particularly as the profit was made at the expense of learning and accuracy. For Laud it was the profit motive which produced the deformed work, the "rough and incorrect productions," in the London printing-houses, an implication which will be of great consequence in understanding the procedures of proof-correction in the commercial establishments.

The Oxford project went on feet, not on wheels. When Fell took over Laud's position as champion of the Learned Press later in the century, the case had altered not one whit. In 1670/1 he wrote to Issac Vossius in Holland: "We have it in mind, provided the Vice-Chancellor agrees, and all goes well, to set up in this place a press freed from mercenary artifices, which will serve not so much to make profits for the booksellers as to further the interests and convenience of scholars" (Carter, p. 61). All did not go well, either for Laud or for Fell, for although the Press devoted itself to printing not only Bibles but works in Latin, Greek, and Oriental languages, it fell afoul of the inevitable financial troubles that such a project could be expected to encounter. Consequently, the Press was forced to print some items of more popular appeal, such as almanacs, to keep itself solvent. The Stationers Company of London, however, viewed such efforts as a threat to their monopoly on printing in the city; as a result, some very complicated arrangements were made whereby the University Press received "forbearance" payments, money paid it by the Stationers in exchange for an agreement not to print such books as


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would compete with those in the London market. Still, it was not enough; the Press at times resorted to printing works not covered by the forbearances simply to produce enough revenue to keep the Press operating. Irked by the apparent breach of faith, the Stationers repeatedly attempted, often successfully, to legislate greater and greater restrictions upon the Press until by 1692 at the latest, "it was the view of the Stationers that the two Universities should confine their publishing to learned books" (Carter, p. 158).

Much the same situation obtained at the Cambridge University Press, which, though it did not receive official sanction from the University until very late in the seventeenth century, had nevertheless occupied itself with the printing of learned books since its inception. Not surprisingly, the Cambridge Press encountered the same kinds of difficulties that vexed the Press at Oxford. D. F. McKenzie has pointed out that "in the very nature of things learned works of this kind were produced by and for a small minority group; compared with the staple wares of the book trade, they were never very numerous; they took a long time to prepare; requiring careful correction, they passed through the Press more slowly than cheap popular works; they were too costly to produce for their undertakers to make much of a profit; and, in any case, being slow sellers, they lacked ready backers."[6] From the business perspective, the Cambridge Press does not appear to have been any more successful a venture than its counterpart at Oxford, and, indeed, Cambridge was also obliged to make arrangements with the Stationers in order to remain afloat.

Despite the risks and the bleak prospects of financial success, the Cambridge Press too persisted in its efforts to preserve high quality in scholarly printing, partly from the same motives which impelled the Oxford Press. As an anonymous writer in 1662 put the case,

The University'es priviledge is looked upon as a trust for the publick good, & theire printing of these bookes will force the Londoners to printe something tolerably true (else they shall not be able to sell while better may be had from Camb) who otherwise looking meerly at gaine will not care how Corruptly they print, witnes the 200 blasphemy's wch Mr B[uck] found in their bibles; & the millions of faults in theire school bookes, increasing in every edition. . . . (McKenzie, I, 5)
The writer's confidence in the power of high-quality printing at Cambridge to inspire improvements in London was obviously misplaced, but once again the idea of a Learned Press was based upon the conviction that the London printers were careless, mercenary creatures incapable and unwilling to bestow upon their works the attention necessary to produce accurate, reliable texts even of important books. There needed to be a new conceptual as well as financial approach to printing if scholarship and the learned works were to survive.

The whole body of evidence from the records of the University Presses indicates that they both regarded themselves as exceptional printing-houses.


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They undertook a serious charge in the name of scholarship and the preservation of cultural heritage, and in consequence they exhibited an attitude toward profit which differed radically from that of their London cousins. The wealth was in the learned works, the profit in the dissemination of knowledge. And not only were they dedicated to the preservation and advancement of learning, but they were bent upon producing books of higher quality and accuracy than those turned out by the Londoners, even by those who were engaged in printing learned works. In his introduction (I, xiii), McKenzie declares that "the University Press, it is shown, was in some respects untypical, but it would be misreading the evidence so to regard the whole undertaking and therefore the invaluable witness it bears to the organization and methods of hand printing. The people who ran it were professionals and, as judged by their works, competent." The statement is somewhat misleading because it tends too far to level the distinctions which did obtain between the Learned Presses and the London houses; it is important to distinguish those "respects" in which the University Press was "untypical" because those are the features which will help to explain the differences in practical printing procedures employed at each kind of press. That the people who ran the University Press were "professionals" is one of those features, because the most damning charge levelled repeatedly at the workers in the London houses is that they were not professionals; rather, they were craftsmen, as Laud called them, tradesmen engaged in a business for the purpose of earning a living. Their entire perspective on the office of printing was therefore governed by a different attitude toward means and ends. The end of printing for the Learned Presses was the book itself; for the London presses, the book was a means to the end of turning a profit. The difference between a profession and a trade is precisely the difference between a Learned Press and a Commercial press.

One of the practical consequences of the differing perspectives on the aims of printing is that the scholarly attainments of the men setting up and correcting type for works in Latin, Greek, and Oriental languages would naturally have to be considerably greater than those of men composing and proofing works in the vernacular. The overseers of the Learned Presses recognized the problem, of course, and they sought men capable of printing the kinds of books they had in hand. It has long been recognized that the quality of English printing, including type-founding, paper-making, press-construction, and type-setting itself, lagged far behind the quality of continental printing.[7] As a result, many of the material goods used in printing were imported from Holland, Germany, and France. Sometimes the workmen themselves were brought from abroad because, accustomed to working with better materials and to adhering to higher standards, they were more accomplished in all aspects of the trade. Printing having had a longer time to develop on the continent, the workers were better educated, more responsible,


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and more competent. It is not surprising, then, to find the Learned Presses employing a higher proportion of foreign workmen than the London Printers did. In the mid-sixteenth-century records it is fairly easy to trace the influx of foreign workers because each one had to be admitted formally to the trade, which meant that his name was entered in the Stationers' Register. By the late seventeenth century the regulations concerning aliens, though not relaxed, were more commonly ignored, making it more difficult "to assess with any accuracy the true proportion" of workmen moving from the continent to England (McKenzie, I, 61). The records of the Cambridge Press nevertheless indicate a preference for foreign employees:
With its Dutch overseer [Crownfield], however, and the favour of its prime promoter [Bentley] well inclined towards continental achievement, the Cambridge Press might well be expected to prove hospitable to journeymen from abroad; and it is no surprise to find among its compositors the names of Willem de Groot, John Delie, Christian Michaelis, and Johannes Muckeus, or among its pressmen the name of Albert Coldenhoff. A Johannes Friedrich Graevius also made a brief appearance at the Press in August 1701 when he laid two and prepared four pair of Greek cases (McKenzie, I, 61).
These men were French, Dutch, and German, and they represent all offices in the craft or art of printing: compositors, pressmen, and the corrector, Crownfield himself.

It is perhaps belaboring the obvious to point out that the workmen had to be able to read and understand the language they were setting into type, but it is a point necessary to help distinguish the nature of the corrector and his duties as he performed them at Oxford or Cambridge from his character and function as he performed them in London, depending, of course, upon the nature of the book in question; although a London house could hire a specialist proof-reader to attend to a particular scholarly book, it is unlikely that each London printer retained a full-time learned corrector, since the need of him would have been merely occasional. Rather, we are concerned with the regular house corrector in London compared to the regular proofreader at the Learned Presses. And as late as 1708 English printing quality had not yet caught up to the continental standards, for Bentley was complaining to Newton that "Our English compositors are ignorant & print Latin books as they are used to do English ones; if they are not set right by one used to observe the beauties of ye best printing abroad" (McKenzie, I, 54). The English workmen, those employed extensively in the commercial houses, did not have the qualifications necessary to set and correct learned books. An excellent early example of the disaster that could befall a book printed by inadequately trained workmen is afforded by this apology which precedes Florio's Firste Fruites (1578): "Gentle Reader, for such faultes which have escaped the Authors naughty pen, the Compositors wavering hande, the Correctors dasling, and the Printers presse, we desire thee courteously to amend, for surely the Author writes scarce good English, and a ragged hand with all, and the Compositor understandes no Italian."[8]


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In order to forestall such catastrophe in the more difficult task of printing learned books, the promoters of both the Oxford and the Cambridge Presses made provision in their plans for what they called an Architypographus. In Laud's statute, De typographis Universitati (1633-34), we find a sketch of the ideal character and duties of this officer of the Press:

He shall be a man thoroughly acquainted with Greek and Latin literature and deeply learned in philological studies. His functions shall be to superintend the printing done in that place and to see that the material and equipment, that is to say the paper, presses, type, and other implements of this workshop shall be the best of their kind. In all work that comes from the University's public printing office he shall determine size of type, quality of paper, and width of margins, correct correctors' mistakes, and take unremitting care of the good appearance and fine workmanship of the product (Carter, p. 31).
This is no small charge; not only was the Architypographus to be responsible for checking and correcting the work of the regular correctors, but he was also to see to it that the overall quality of the printing, in materials and workmanship, compared favorably with the continental standard. Cambridge too was careful to provide for its Press such a general supervisor: "The Architypographus was a servant of the university, corrected, prescribed the size of letter, etc., and had general oversight of the equipment" (McKenzie, 1, 97).

Despite these precautions, things were not all sweetness and light, at least at Oxford. The ideal of the Architypographus was realized for only a short time; "established as the supervisor of printing at Oxford, controlling the academic printing-house, its equipment, staffing, and materials, a corrector of copy and a superior proof-reader, he soon became little more than a runner of errands between the Delegates and the printers and an accountant before being suppressed in all but name" (Carter, p. 143). Evidently what led to the demise of the office was a power struggle between the Delegates of the Press and the Architypographus, who, after all, regarded it his duty to run the entire operation. It appears that the first Architypographus at Oxford, Samuel Clarke, who took office in 1658, was not only properly qualified in accordance with Laud's statute, but also took the duties of his position as seriously as Laud would have expected. He was "a student of Hebrew and Arabic who had borne a share in the correction of the London Polyglot Bible and had plans for more polyglot publishing. He was energetic and earned from Anthony Wood the character of 'a most useful and necessary person' to the University. He interested himself in the mechanics of printing, catalogued the Greek types brought to Oxford in Laud's time, and made inquiries in Holland for matrices and a letter-cutter" (Carter, p. 143). In short, he took control of the Press in all seriousness, a move which threatened the control which the Delegates and the Vice-Chancellor felt more properly belonged to them. That the Delegates grew weary of this Architypographus in short order is evidenced by a note in the records a mere eleven years later when Thomas Bennett succeeded Clarke as the corrector of the Press. Lest he "might try to be a sort of architypographus, the partners [i.e. Delegates] noted:


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'Corrector not to intermeddle in any thing, but to mynde his businesse'" (Carter, p. 145).

Though the Oxford Press kept Bennett tethered, they nevertheless did retain this learned corrector. And all indications are that the Delegates were satisfied with the quality of work turned out by their pressmen and compositors, though Fell, when he took over the Press in the 1690s, soon found himself nettled by the workmen's attitude toward the enterprise: "To make them always attend their work, is I think beyond any Skill: Printers having a peculiar obligation to be idle, as being paid for it: Holiday money being a certain stile in their Bills" (Carter, p. 66). Despite their superior skills and talents, the men appear to have approached their tasks in the same spirit as their fellow tradesmen in London approached theirs. Hence, as far as attitudes, procedures, wages, and customs are concerned, Fell's remarks about the Oxford employees lend support to McKenzie's claim that "the workmen of the Cambridge University Press, notwithstanding their Dutch master and their own mixed nationalities and experience, were probably not unlike the journeymen and apprentices who made up the staffs of most small, two-press printing-houses of the seventeenth century. Their customs, as far as the evidence goes, seem to have been much the same as those Moxon mentions; and their rewards in years when production was reasonably well up were probably fairly similar to those obtained in London" (I, 93). The real issue, though, is not one of wages and customs but of the quality of the work they produced when they did, in fact, work.

The judges we must rely upon to assess the quality of the workmanship are the authors of learned works themselves. The workers at the Learned Presses certainly made errors, and authors apologized profusely for them, but we do not find the kinds of vitriolic remarks directed at these men that authors frequently aimed at their counterparts in London. Some of the London houses were engaged in the printing of learned books, and, since the difficulties to be met and overcome would necessarily be the same no matter where the book was printed, the procedures for printing and correcting ought to be equivalent. The quality of the results, however, would be directly related to the abilities of the men printing the book. Bishop Montagu, who had his Analecta ecclesiasticarum exercitationem printed in London in 1622, is one witness to the degree of success the city printers attained. Montagu's work is especially significant because we receive from him the same complaints about English workmen that generated the impulse toward establishing Learned Presses in the first place; in his preface he writes, "On top of the six hundred difficulties with which we are afflicted we have unfortunately had to put up with the stupidity and stinginess of the printers. For they are accustomed to work for profit, they only following a mercenary trade. And so they load waggons and carts with two-penny ha'penny garbage. They have no taste for serious things. Latin writings are not read, and as for Greek, they exclaim against them as if they were heretical."[9] This


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vituperous preface is a fair indication that conditions in the London printing-houses were not those of the University Presses even when the commercial houses were in fact printing learned works. In George Blackwell's Declaratio motuum ac turbationum, printed at London in 1601 by Thomas Creede (probably), we find "another complaint that an author had to use a printer who was not very good at Latin," and in John Vicar's Decapla in psalmos (London: Robert Young, 1639) there appears "a comment that errors have occurred in Syriac and Arabic words because the printer is not accustomed to them."[10] Montagu, Blackwell, and Vicars, like Laud, saw that the London workmen did not always possess the knowledge, skill, and expertise to print books in foreign languages; worse, Montagu found them altogether unconcerned about their failings because they did not take important books seriously in all cases. And the culprit, as Montagu saw it, is again the profit motive. The workmen at the Learned Presses were carefully selected precisely to combat the "stupidity" and the "mercenary" considerations which so plagued the production of books in the city. It is unlikely that the printer of Montagu's book went to the expense of securing learned compositors and correctors versed in the classical languages; if he hired temporary help, his employees did not much care to exercise their talents.

The best solution to the kinds of woes that beset Montagu, Blackwell, and Vicars was, of course, for the author himself to attend the press to read the proofs, and there is far more evidence that authors did so for scholarly works, particularly those in foreign languages, than for any other kind of book, whether printed commercially at London or at either University Press. From his first collection of prefaces detailing the trials and tribulations of printing 47 Latin books ranging in date from 1543 to 1638, Binns concludes:

Piecing together the evidence, we may surmise that a typical Latin book passed through the press in the following stages. A fair copy of the work to be printed was first made by a scribe in the employ of the printer. The work was then passed to the compositor or compositors, who might number as many as four, who set the book up. The author was usually present during the printing of the book, and proofs, both first and second, were read by the author and the press corrector. Errata which were subsequently discovered were then listed for the reader's attention, a distinction between major and minor errors, or substantive and non-substantive variants, often being drawn, the authors in particular displaying a precise awareness of the difference that the omission, addition, or transposition of even a single letter or mark of punctuation can make to the meaning. The author and/or printer then gave vent to some final comments on the quality of the printing and the difficulties encountered, whilst, after the book was printed, any remaining errors in the body of the text might be corrected in ink before the book was issued (Binns, 32 [1977], 1-2).
One cannot help noticing the high proportion of responsibility for getting things right that falls on the shoulders of the author. And indeed it is from these books and books like them that we get most of our apologies for authors' having failed to attend the press to read proofs, with the result, as Bennett


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remarks, "that Elizabethan books, whether first or later editions, often carry a formidable errata list" (p. 286). Once the author was removed, by illness, inconvenience, or business concerns, from the orderly process of the printing, all kinds of havoc was likely to ensue, as the authors never tired of telling the Gentle Reader. At least this was so in the London printing-shops. McKenzie (I, 152) suggests that it was not the case at Cambridge because the learned correctors could fill in more successfully for the absent author than the less well-educated correctors at London could do. It was even more necessary to have capable correctors at Cambridge because the distance from London meant an inconvenience to the authors, who were thus less frequently able to proof-read their own works there than at London. Furthermore, "the existence of the young band of scholars who acted as correctors of the Press may have minimized . . . the primary need for an author to see his proofs at all" (McKenzie, I, 84), the primary need being the absence of an army of scholar-correctors battling the monster Error in London. That the regularly retained correctors in the city were less dependable is clear from what we are told happened to a book when the author was for some reason unable to oversee the printing himself. Montagu was certainly unimpressed with the diligence and care that the workmen accorded his Analecta, and Scipione Gentili, whose In xxv Davidis psalmos epicae paraphrasis was printed in London by John Wolfe in 1584, had some complaints about the workmanship precede his errata list: "Through the great carelessness of the man who set this book up by formes, it has come about that neither the numbering of psalms, nor the page numbers, are correct. Although this carelessness would indeed be intolerable in a major work, it ought to be considered as a triviality in a work as slight as this, which can be read almost at a single glance, and it is not worth reproach. But the errors of commission and omission made by the same man in the poems themselves ought to be corrected and restored thus" (Binns, 32 [1977], 11). Wolfe's compositor would no doubt have cast either Laud or Fell into a catatonic stupor, but it is important to note that the errors in pagination and numbering had nothing to do with the nature of the book being printed; the compositor had simply gotten the imposition wrong. But the same compositor also failed to set the text accurately, and this Gentili is not disposed to forgive; despite his disclaimer that his work is a "slight" one, not worth the intensive scrutiny of correction that a "major work" would command, and despite his attempt to adopt a casual tone, his annoyance over the shoddy production is fairly evident. That Gentili prepared the errata list from final printed sheets which seem to have shocked him indicates that he could not have read proof himself. Whether the book was not proof-read at all, which seems likely considering the grossness of error, or whether it was read by an incompetent corrector, the results did not please the author; it was the occurrence of just this kind of accident which induced Laud to plead for the establishment of a Learned Press.

Binns's translations and interpretations of the Latin prefaces are valuable aids to a better understanding of printing in the period, but Binns, like Simpson and Thorpe, generalizes just a little too far. Having pointed


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out that the printers of Latin works printed English books as well, he avers that "there is, however, no reason to doubt that the same processes applied to the printing of books in English, to those works at any rate that were seriously valued by their author or printer." That is as far as the conclusion can legitimately go; Binns overstates the case slightly when he drops the qualification regarding the "serious value" of the book in question to conclude more generally, "The detailed record of [the Latin authors'] battles with the press and their experiences with the proofs militates against any notion that Elizabethan printing was a slap-dash affair, but accords well enough with the suppositions of common sense and the assumptions about Elizabethan printing arrived at by analogy with eighteenth-century practice" (32 [1977], 24). That is but one more partial truth. Surely Laud, Fell, and Bentley were not tilting at windmills. Just how slap-dash an affair Elizabethan (and seventeenth-century) printing could actually be is everywhere attested to by editors (for whom Bowers, quoted earlier, shall for reasons of scope be allowed to speak) of such works as were not seriously valued by their authors or printers except insofar as they could be turned to commercial advantage. And more importantly, as we shall shortly see, there is evidence from the correctors themselves that some printers were loathe to hire competent proof-readers and to compensate them commensurate with their talents and efforts. The crux, again, was economic; popular books had to be produced cheaply and quickly if a reasonable profit was to be realized.

The empirical data so far reviewed will help to put into perspective the earliest circumstantial account of the proof-reading procedures recommended for use in English printing-houses, Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing (1683-84).[11] Moxon was himself periodically a London printer, though he was never made free of the Stationers' Company and though he occupied himself with other trades as well, spending some of his time on the continent, most frequently in Holland, whence his family had emigrated to England.

In recent years there has been some controversy over the validity of Moxon's discussion of proof-reading, particularly over the related questions of whether Moxon accurately represents the practice of the trade in his own time (especially of the London commercial houses in which nearly all plays were printed), and if he does, whether his description holds true for the earlier years of the seventeenth century. In short, we want to know, once more, the extent to which a piece of evidence can safely be generalized.[12]

Like the promoters of the University Presses, Moxon demanded that the corrector be a learned philologian. In fact, even by the standards of the Learned Presses, the qualifications required by Moxon seem stringent: "A Correcter should (besides the English Tongue) be well skilled in Languages,


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especially in those that are used to be Printed with us, viz. Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriack, Caldae, French, Spanish, Italian, High Dutch, Saxon, Low Dutch, Welch, &c. neither ought my innumerating only these be a stint to his skill in the number of them." He even suggests that the corrector should know the language of the work in hand more thoroughly than the author himself, who "has perhaps no more skill than the bare knowledge of the Words and their Pronunciation, so that the Orthography (if the Correcter have no knowledge of the Language) may not only be false to its Native Pronunciation, but the Words altered into other Words by a little wrong Spelling," with the resultant distortion or destruction of the sense. He must furthermore "be very knowing in Derivations and Etymologies of Words" (to distinguish spelling variants from substantive errors?) and be as well "skilful in the Compositers whole Task and Obligation." Despite these apparently impossible qualifications, Moxon seems to think that finding a man so blessed ought to be no great matter, for he casually refuses to discuss the matter further: "But I shall say no more of his Qualifications; but suppose him endowed with all necessary accomplishments for that Office" (pp. 246-247). It is a remarkable supposition. One feels that either University Press would have been pleased to have had such a corrector, and indeed Clarke seems to have filled the bill nicely before being reduced to a supernumerary; even he, however, did not come to the job with these kinds of qualifications.

For several reasons we cannot suppose each London printing-house to have retained a corrector of this calibre. Just on the face of it, it seems impossible that many men of these achievements would have contented themselves with unsteady, low-paying work in an unpredictable trade. There is good evidence that expense was a major obstacle to printers' maintaining full-time learned correctors. In 1578 Christopher Barker set forth to the Queen the subscription terms for his Bible, and in them he explained the price and his means of arriving at it:

Your said suppliant hauing bene at great charge aswell in preparing furniture [i.e., type, &c.] as in retayning Journeymen and three learned men for a long time for the printing of the said bibles, and correcting such small faults as had escaped in the former prints thereof, so as if it were prised at xxxs. it were scarce sufficient, (his labour and cost being well considered) yet he is content for present money by this meane to take for euery of the same bibles bound xxiiij.s. and for euery of the same vnbound xx.s.[13]
It is costly to retain three learned men to correct "small faults," and Barker is making it clear that he is not inflating the price of the books in order to realize an unreasonable profit; no doubt the price is above cost, but the explicit mention of the expense of correction indicates that it was no small consideration in the printing of a book the accuracy of which was so vital.

A few years later, when Barker reviewed the status of all current printing patents and grants, he raised the issue of correction again. In December 1582 he complained on behalf of the Stationers that the publishers and booksellers


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had all the best of the trade since they owned copies and patents but bore no expenses beyond the hiring of a printer. Increasing numbers of patents had worsened conditions so far that "Booksellers being growen the greater and wealthier nomber haue nowe many of the best Copies and keepe no printing howse" and have not, therefore, the expenses attendant upon them. The printers' costs continue to rise, "so that the artificer printer, growing every Daye more and more vnable to provide letter and other furniture, requisite for the execution of any good worke; or to gyve mayntenaunce to any suche learned Correctours as are behouefull, will in tyme be an occasion of great discredit to the proffesours of the arte, and in myne opinion preiudiciall to the comon wealth" (Arber, I, 114-115). And the time when such discredit would raise an outcry was not far in the future; the pleas for Learned Presses were prompted by just such a state of affairs as Barker describes, and among the contributing factors is the expense of maintaining learned correctors. Given the consequences Barker outlines, one must suppose that for many printers the cost was prohibitively high.

The situation evidently had not improved by as late as 1634, for at about that time the four correctors of the King's Press petitioned Laud because the salaries of correctors had been reduced, and the four sought to recover the salary level of previous years; they explain that

your Peticioners haue bene for some yeares Correctours in the King's Printhouse Conditioned with to haue the pay and priuiledges which formerly the Correctours had; The ffarmers there haue abated almost 80li per annum of their paie, and abridged the number of Correctours intending a yet further Diminution: The worke notwithstanding is greater than euer and they exact from your peticioners the [expense of] the reprinting of such faults as escape (Arber, IV, 20).
One could understand reducing salaries or laying off workers if demand were down, but the petitioners claim that the demand is "greater than euer" for their services. It appears, then, that throughout the period correctors demanded pay commensurate with their abilities but that the profits of printing were not sufficient to meet those demands. The printers therefore hired less qualified men who were content with lower pay or they coped with correction matters as best they could on their own.

The best evidence we have on the subject details the problem from the corrector's point of view. The Dutchman Hornschuch, in a handbook specifically addressed in 1608 to correctors of the press, describes the attributes of a good corrector in order to stress the point that poorly printed books are not always due to the failure of the proof-readers themselves but to the failure of printers to hire qualified men for the job. At the time he wrote his handbook Hornschuch was himself an unemployed skilled corrector, and it is quite possible that his bitterness has taken the form of hyperbolical complaint, but the substance of his argument fits squarely with the other evidence concerning lack-lustre performance and the expenses to the printer. The printers' failure to hire competent correctors he attributes to the avarice of those who refuse to pay men adequately, with the result that "when they do the correctors' job themselves, they are unskilled, bungling, and inadequate;


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men educated in only the language that they were once taught by their nurses." Unskilled men in such a delicate position are worse than useless, "for since they understand nothing, so they care about nothing; rarely if ever do they check their work, or examine the care taken by the workmen, who naturally become more lax when they know their task-masters are even more careless." Ultimately, such a casual attitude toward proof-reading renders a skilled corrector superfluous anyway, since "mistakes are often discovered which the correctors may have made a note of, but the printers in their carelessness have left alone."[14] It would appear from Hornschuch's account that the employment of learned correctors was by no means commonplace and that the men who filled their places performed their duties in-differently. Moreover, we find here further evidence that the profit motive prevented the London printers from achieving the standards of correction sought by the Learned Presses, since the printers themselves were acting as unskilled correctors to save the expense of hiring skilled ones.

In assessing, therefore, the likely procedures of proof-reading any given book, we would do well to consider the kinds of books for which correctors answering Laud's or Moxon's qualifications would be either necessary or desirable. Obviously, for the "frivolous trifles written in English" of which the Learned Presses complained, a full knowledge of the tongues, derivations, and etymologies would be superfluous. A printer principally engaged in the production of broadsides, pamphlets, and plays in the vernacular would hardly concern himself with securing a corrector knowledgeable in Hebrew or Syriac. Should a work requiring the services of a philologian come to his hands, the printer was presumably at liberty to hire a scholar temporarily to attend to the specific needs of the book or to insist that the author himself oversee the printing and correction, but for the most part a corrector well versed in his native tongue would suffice, if, indeed, any were especially employed at all for such work. And it does seem, despite Hornschuch's unhappiness over the state of affairs, to have been true that in the nature of the business retaining a full-time scholar-corrector was prohibitively expensive to the average commercial printer. In order to turn a profit, the expenses of printing a ha'penny ballad or a six-penny play must naturally have been held to a minimum, especially since the Stationer's Company restricted the size of an edition that could legally be printed from a single setting of type. Hornschuch's unpleasant remarks about the avarice of printers must be kept in perspective; if a printer hoped to earn a livelihood, he could not retain an expensive, learned Architypographus to correct the proofs of The Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, nor, quite plainly, would he have a need to.

As Montagu's and Gentili's experiences testify, Hornschuch's account of the incompetence of untrained correctors probably does not distort the picture at one end any more than Moxon's unrealistic decision to "suppose him endowed with all necessary accomplishments for that Office" distorts it at the


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other. But sweeping generalizations about proof-reading procedures in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries will all be inaccurate to the degree that they fail to take account of the nature of the book being printed and the character of the printing-house printing it. The abilities of most correctors in the period no doubt lay somewhere between the extremes described by the handbook authors, with the Learned Presses aiming more for Moxon's ideal and the commercial houses tending by necessity toward a less exalted standard. In the absence of external evidence, the internal evidence of each book in question must be the witness to the likely proof-reading procedures accorded it in view of the considerable leeway the printers allowed in tolerable correction standards.