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The second issue that must be settled is the printing sequence of the four sections of Complaints. Muiopotmos, the fourth section (T-Z), bears an imprint date of 1590, while the earlier three sections are all dated 1591. Various theories have been offered to explain this apparent anomaly. It is worth noting that, given the fact that Complaints was entered on 29 December 1590, it is not unlikely that a compositor setting up a title-page in 1590 would date it thus. But Johnson rejects the view that Muiopotmos was printed first, concluding that “the probable explanation of the date of Muiopotmos is that when the printer reached that point, he realized that the volume would be completed and ready for sale in 1590 (Old Style) instead of 1591, and changed the date on the title-page accordingly.”[26] Since Johnson's arguments have not been previously refuted, some discussion is necessary.

First, Johnson correctly assumes that the continuous, unbroken sequence of signatures from A to Z demonstrates that the four sections were considered parts of a single volume from the outset. The beginning of a new alphabet for Daphnaida, conversely, probably indicates that it was not intended as part of the volume, although the fact that Complaints ends on Z creates some uncertainty: frequently enough, compositors begin a second alphabet in a single volume without doubling the signature (i.e., Aa, Bb, etc.). The fact that only three copies of Daphnaida are extant, one bound together with Complaints, is a clear enough indication that it was not considered part of the volume. However, the assumption that the continuous signing demonstrates that the Complaints was printed seriatim (i.e., sheet A, then B, then C,


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and so on to Z) overlooks the realities of textual processing in the Elizabethan printing house, particularly in regard to the different challenge presented in preparing for the press a prose manuscript as opposed to a verse manuscript. As Joseph Moxon explains at great length, the prose manuscript can present considerable difficulty in the process of casting-off, especially if the hand is uneven. Nonetheless, in describing three methods of casting-off copy, he assures the reader that a compositor is able to perform this complicated process with sufficient accuracy to estimate that 127 pages of manuscript copy containing 191,135 pieces of type (including both letters and spaces) would transfer into 123 quarto pages set in english (94mm) roman type, or fifteen sheets of paper with three type-pages remaining for the sixteenth sheet.[27] In contrast, a novice could cast-off a verse manuscript provided that he kept in mind that blank lines between stanzas had to be included in the count. The task of predicting the signatures of the three internal title-pages was rendered easier because of the editorial decision to place each on the recto of the first leaf of their respective sheets (or “gatherings”), leaving the verso blank. Similarly, each of the other texts begins on the recto side of a leaf. An experienced publisher's savvy is apparent in the grouping of poems which produced this attractive layout and yielded but one “wasted” type-page (X2v was left blank so that Visions of the worlds vanitie could commence on X3r). In short, assuming that Ponsonby had not cast-off the manuscripts himself in arranging them into their final order (as he probably did), a compositor could have accomplished the necessary analysis in about an hour to determine that the title of Muiopotmos would occur on signature T1. As noted earlier, the placement of the internal title-pages on the recto of the first leaf of their respective gatherings probably resulted from a marketing strategy rather than purely aesthetic concerns; that is, the three internal sections could be marketed separately.

Moreover, Johnson does not consider the implications of Orwin's ownership and use of two presses. In a one-press shop, “seriatim” can only mean two or more sheets in sequence, one after the other, usually accompanied by a distribution of the type from one or both formes of the previous sheet in order to replenish the cases for the setting of the first forme of the next sheet. However, in a two-press shop using the concurrent production method, work is shared between the two crews and presses. Hence, “seriatim” does not necessarily apply in its strict denotative sense. For example, Orwin could have assigned sheet A to press 1 to begin the job, but because the manuscript had been cast off, he was free to assign any other sheet to press 2. There was no compelling necessity to assign sheet B to press 2, nor did press 1 have to begin the job with sheet A.[28]


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Second, Johnson's assumption “on a priori grounds” that “the book was printed in... logical order” undergirds his interpretation of “the typographical make-up of the four title-pages” as the “key to the final solution of the problem.” He cites the movement of the “four hands” ornament and “London” upward in three steps from the crowded #1 title-page setting to the position in title-page #4 in arguing that, had the sections been printed in reverse order (i.e., #4, #3, #2, #1), “it seems most unlikely that the printer, having achieved a satisfactory spacing of the matter... in #4 and #3... would have quite unnecessarily disturbed this arrangement in #2.” Obviously, he overlooks the logical implication of his observation that the large amount of matter in #1 forced the crowding in the lower part of the compartment: this crowding was necessary regardless of whether #1 was printed first or last. In any event, the main problem is Johnson's failure both to visualize these spacing variations from a compositor's perspective and to appreciate the process of re-imposition. Such adjustments were unavoidable given the sequence of resettings and re-impositions. All of the type, including the blanks, in the upper portion of the compartment had to be removed and reset in the stick with the new texts, and then re-justified both horizontally and vertically each time it was imposed in the compartment formed by the vertical and horizontal rules abutting the four border pieces.[29]

Consequently, the notion that a compositor would actually be concerned about preserving a “satisfactory spacing” ignores the simple reality that a given spacing could not be preserved in these circumstances even if the text reflected only a quite minimal change. Indeed, the compositor's primary concern was simply to pack the compartment space with types and blanks which, when locked up in the furniture, would firmly remain in place despite the downward thrust of the platen during the many hundreds of pulls on the bar. In short, the perception of a sequentially evolving layout is illusory.[30]


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Moreover, taken as physical evidence of changes in a typographical setting, spacing variations simply cannot prove sequence even when the changes occur during a single imposition. The direction of change is always ambiguous in itself: one state of the setting can be declared as the earlier setting (or, vice versa, the later setting) only if other evidence that is capable of demonstrating direction is present.[31] In reality, sequence can be proven conclusively only by progressive damage to an identifiable typographical entity such as an ornament, initial, border, rule, or type which reappears in a sequence of states of an impression or in a sequence of impositions. In this case, the imprint provides such typographical evidence. The first “r” in the pica roman setting of the line “Churchyard at the signe of” exhibits a few characteristic dents which can be observed at high magnification (30X) in all title-pages except #4 on T1 where it is nearly perfect. However, the “r” exhibits new damage which is observable even without magnification in title-page #3 on L1. Just below the junction with the shoulder the vertical member has been severely dented by a blow to the left side, producing a pronounced arc to the right of the vertical member. Similarly, the “a” in “at” is undamaged on T1, but the shoulder is battered downward toward the body on E1 and L1. In short, the title-page #3 (L1) was the last title-page to be printed. The order in which the title-pages #1 (A1) and #2 (E1) were printed cannot be determined conclusively, but the condition of the types on T1 indicates that it was first. Admittedly, this seems a quite strange method of printing a book. Nonetheless, when a group of key types is examined across six copies and consistently noted as “perfect” or “good” (i.e., no discernible


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damage), and these occur in the context of other identifiable types which indicate “same setting of types,” the evidence contradicts the logical expectation of what is normal. In conclusion, since Muiopotmos was not printed in the logical order suggested by the sequence of signatures, there seems little reason to reject the correspondence of the entry date and the “1590” imprint date for Muiopotmos as the external basis for confirming that it was printed first, with its title-page being set in 1590.[32]