University of Virginia Library


To be remarked first and generally is that anyone who examines a number of copies of Lyrical Ballads will readily discern variations of color, weight, and texture in the Lloyd sheets. The Bristol-Longman title leaf of the Harvard-Widener copy, for example, is of paper distinctly heavier than that of 2π4 just following it, but the paper of gathering O in the same volume is also distinctly heavier than that of 2π4, and much like that of the title leaf. But with regard to the title leaf specifically, if Foxon had been able to examine the copy of the Bristol-Longman Lyrical Ballads at the Alexander Turnbull Library, he would have seen that its title leaf contains the watermark "YD 1795," in the same position in which such marks appear in the London-Arch title leaf and elsewhere. While this watermark supplies secure proof of his contention that the Bristol-Longman title was not printed on O4, it contradicts his contention that the paper of the Bristol-Longman title leaf was not as much suited for the market as was the London-Arch. Although in the end not many such leaves can have been printed, Cottle plainly planned that the remainder of the run, when printing it became prudent, be of title leaves identical with the ones already printed.

To show so much, however, does not deductively eliminate the possibility that, nonetheless, a Bristol-Cottle title, at first equally suited for a general public, was printed on O4, and superseded by the Longman title. External evidence of such a Bristol-Cottle title is of course very slight: it consists of little more than the facts that Cottle in the spring of 1798, to his credit, wanted to be publisher, and years afterward, not surprisingly, regretted that he had not been. The only sign of his having held that intention at any time in 1798 after spring is his absurdly disingenuous assertion to that effect in a letter to Joseph Johnson of 2 October 1798, just two days before publication of the book by Arch; and even decades later he did not say that he published the book, merely that "the volume of the 'Lyrical Ballads' was published."[10] Also, if any question existed when printing first concluded as to who the publisher was to be—and plainly such a question did exist—Cottle and all concerned would have appreciated that by printing the table of contents on O4 all the run of the book except for an easily-attached first leaf, the title leaf that would identify the publisher, could be made ready for boarding without further delay. But only internal evidence of a kind not yet found—specifically, a leaf O4 physically intact and conjunct with O1, and printed with title or something else (probably a table of contents)—would settle matters beyond dispute.[11] With all respect to Foxon and his advisors I will


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say that the paper of the four "Lewti" contents leaves known to me is not distinguishable from paper to be found elsewhere in the same and other copies of Lyrical Ballads; and if a "Lewti" contents leaf could be found containing a watermark appropriate for O4—that is, a "LLO"—it would establish a very strong probability that the "Lewti" contents were printed on that leaf. Unfortunately, none of these four surviving leaves contains any watermark; but a copy of the London-Arch issue of Lyrical Ballads at the University of Virginia brings us very close to one.

This volume, which is in the McGregor Library of the Special Collections Department of Alderman Library (E 1798.W67), is uncut and unrestored. It measures 17.2 x 10.8 cm., is bound in boards covered with greyish brown laid paper (chain-line intervals 2.9-3.2 cm.), and has a backstrip that was probably once brownish white but has become aged and worn to dark greyish brown. The front and rear covers retain inscriptions, respectively "Wordsworth" and "Southey | poems | Southey," apparently in one hand and reflecting suppositions of the authorship of the anonymous book. Another early inscription possibly in the same hand has been erased at the head of the front pastedown. End papers are of white laid paper (chain-line intervals 2.6-2.7 cm.). Collation is that of ideal second-Bristol-Longman-collation copies and of London-Arch copies as described above, gathering π and leaves E7, 8 having been incorporated as usual. But the preliminaries—π and 2π 4—reveal a troubled history. The front free end paper has been slit down the fold to separate it from its conjugate the front pastedown; it has been tightly pasted to the title leaf; the title leaf has been in turn tightly pasted to 2π1; and the whole ungainly assemblage has been stitched in as a single gathering. The gap between pastedown and free end paper allows sight of upper sewing, where one may observe that the stitching-in of this gathering required the binder to stretch and loop thread abnormally. Additionally, following 2π, a stub remains attached to the recto of [A]1. The stub, varying in width from .5 cm. at head to 1.2 cm. at foot, has been torn vertically along its inner and outer edges. The tearing was done neatly, that of the inner edge (which is somewhat roughened by effects of binding) probably with the aid of a straightedge, that of the outer edge certainly so.

Only one explanation seems readily apparent for these contrivances: the preliminary leaves were changed after the original binding had been completed. At least part of the purpose of the change must have been to insert 2π4; had that gathering already been present, the binder would not have needed to remove and reattach it in order to deal as he wished with the only other leaves that could imaginably have been present, the title leaf and the contents leaf. Whether a Bristol-Longman title was replaced here by the


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present London-Arch title cannot be told; but inasmuch as the book is elsewhere competently bound, some title leaf and some contents leaf were probably originally present. That the stub now attached to the recto of [A]1 remains from anything except a leaf of the kind that immediately precedes [A]1 in every complete copy of the 1798 Lyrical Ballads—a contents leaf—is improbable in the extreme. And quite impossible is that this sometime contents leaf can have listed "The Nightingale," for "Nightingale" contents leaves are part of 2π4, the gathering here sewn in late and rather painfully. A last feature to be noted of this stub is that it contains at the fold near the foot a watermark letter "O." Its height is the same as that of the "O" of "LLO" elsewhere in the volume, 1.35 cm., and so is its position, 1.9 cm. up from the deckle edge. This watermark letter makes certain that the paper of the stub is that of the rest of the book, and its location is where such a mark would be found on the fourth leaf of a folded half sheet of which the first leaf contained a watermark "YD 1795"—as O1 often does. Alternative explanations might be devised somehow, but no serious doubt can be possible either that the stub belonged to a "Lewti" contents leaf or that that leaf was printed as O4 of a half sheet as illustrated in the following diagram:[12]
illustration [Description: illustration of half sheet]


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How a "Lewti" contents leaf came to be bound into a copy containing the cancel "Nightingale" is not hard to imagine. Binding, as Foxon explains, was done from stacked folded sheets and cancels.[13] The somewhat complicated transition from a collation containing "Lewti" and the "Lewti" contents leaf to one containing 2π4 and π, and the substitution of one title for another, would have entailed stack rearrangements leading easily to temporary confusion. That the binder afterwards chose to remove the "Lewti" contents leaf by tearing it out on a straightedge, leaving a stub, rather than by pulling the leaf out entirely, can I suspect be attributed to caution, consequent on earlier oversight: when he stitched in folded 2π 4 the "Nightingale" table of contents would have been hidden from view on the recto of 2π4, and most likely the thought did not strike him that a proper-looking table of contents right before his eyes needed removal. Later, when extracting that leaf, he (or whoever did so), conscious of the over-elaboration of the stitching, wished to avoid tugging at the fold.