University of Virginia Library


Foxon's argument concerning the title page of the first issue of Lyrical Ballads is an outgrowth of other arguments of his, which must also be reviewed briefly, about the printing of the last gathering of the volume, O, and 2π4 andπ. Foxon demonstrates from point-hole evidence that 2π4 (prefatory essay and new table of contents) and π ("The Nightingale") were probably printed together on a single sheet for binding as fours. He also shows that the placement of the point-hole in half-sheet O differs from that of the point-holes in 2π4 and π—implying use of a different press—and that the placement indicates half-sheet (that is, work-and-turn) imposition. The weight of this last conclusion, combined with two other facts, pushes over another domino. The other facts are that when the London-Arch title leaf contains a watermark (as it often does) it is the "YD 1795" portion of the regular watermark of Lyrical Ballads sheets, "LLOYD 1795"; and that when the first leaf of gathering O contains a watermark, it is the same portion of that same watermark. Thus the "YD 1795" portion of the watermark could not possibly appear in a London-Arch title leaf that had been printed as O4. Since the Bristol-Longman and London-Arch title pages are identical except for publisher's imprint, one might have been tempted to suppose incorrectly that the London-Arch imprint was an alteration made while O4 was in press.

Other evidence drawn by Foxon from paper indicates to him in turn, however, that the Bristol-Longman title was not printed on O4. No example of the title leaf in the eight Bristol-Longman copies investigated by him contained a watermark at all—an unlikely circumstance, by "the laws of chance," if this title had been printed on O4 (p. 227); and the paper in its own right seemed different from that of the printed sheets generally, or "odd"


Page 235
(p. 238). Having shown that neither the known Bristol-Longman title nor London-Arch title was printed as O4, he concludes—his conclusion is stated both with qualification (in various places) and absolutely (once)—that O4 contained an earlier title page.[9] This title page would have contained an imprint of the sort that Cottle intended for the book when arranging plans for the volume with Wordsworth and Coleridge in the spring: one naming him as publisher. The Bristol-Longman title should accordingly be regarded as an intermediate or "trial" printing used for a small number of advance copies. The London-Arch title was the permanent, or "true," cancel that replaced the Cottle title.

Foxon finds further indication of the probable content of O4 in the visible content of O1, 2, 3—respectively the conclusion of "Tintern Abbey," the errata list, and the publishers' advertisements—reasoning that had the printer not by then expected to receive materials additional to the title and contents, he would scarcely have printed the "quite gratuitous" leaf of publishers' advertisements on O3: he would have printed the title and table of contents on the remaining two leaves and so finished off the book. The presence of the publishers' advertisements shows him killing time and space: not improbably held up in particular by the prospect of the introductory essay or because the need to cancel "Lewti" was realized, he finished off O "as best he could" (p. 237); that is, he printed the Cottle title and postponed printing the contents leaf in hope of combining it with the introductory essay.

Briefer attention is given by Foxon to the printing of the other preliminary leaf, which contained the table of contents that included "Lewti," but he remarks that none of the three examples of the "Lewti" contents leaf known to him contained a watermark, and that the opinions of unprompted independent witnesses confirmed that the paper of these leaves differs from that of the body of the book. The status of this leaf, thus, appears to resemble that of the Bristol-Longman title—basically, that of a stop-gap—and the leaf was printed probably so that a few copies of the first-state printing might be bound up at once for inner-circle distribution.

Foxon summarizes his inferences as being "on the following lines":

The body of the book was printed by mid-August, and Southey warned Cottle that it would be a failure. Cottle offered it to Longman and printed proofs of the Longman title-page. Then "Lewti" was cancelled and the preliminaries printed; and copies were made up with the Longman title-page, since the Wordsworths were about to leave Bristol and wished to see the book completed. (pp. 240-241)
This picture has been enriched in various ways since Foxon wrote, especially by Butler, and Green, and Boehm, but has not been basically altered nor in most respects is likely to be. Our present concern is with the limited subject of a bibliographic presumption that Foxon will have supposed that his reader, having reached this late point in his essay, would regard as implicit


Page 236
in the sentences just quoted: that the printing of Lyrical Ballads as accomplished by mid-August included a title page antecedent to the "proof" Bristol-Longman title page. This presumption is inextricable, however, from another also implicit: that the "Lewti" contents page did not make part of the original printing and was not intended for publication.