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In the last lecture we were considering the kind of copy from which books of the Elizabethan period were set up, and we found reason for thinking that in the case of most classes of work the fact that a book before being printed had to be submitted to the licensers would ensure the production of a good and legible copy and that this copy would as a rule be the copy from which the compositor worked. It might be in the author's own hand, or it might be in that of a copyist. In the latter case, especially if it was written by a professional scribe, it would probably be even easier for the compositor to work from than if it were in the hand of the author, but we cannot count on its preserving the author's spelling or punctuation or following it in minor details.

In the case of one class of work, however—the popular play—the compositor instead of having a carefully written fair-copy to work from, might, because it was not necessary that the work should be submitted to the licenser before printing, be given a rough or careless transcript, or much more probably the author's original manuscript, in some cases much revised. If this were done the compositor would naturally be at a


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great disadvantage and would be likely to produce work of the unusually low standard that we often find in the texts of such plays.

In to-day's lecture we shall have to consider the work of the compositor and must enquire how closely we should expect him to follow the MS. before him, not only in matters of general arrangement, but in the details of spelling and punctuation.

As regards matters of general arrangement, by which I mean the division of the work into chapters or sections, the marking of portions intended to be given special prominence by the use of large type or italics, the provision of side notes intended to summarize the matter of the text or to act as a running commentary, and the like—in fact the sort of sub-editing which often has to be done nowadays in publishing-houses for authors devoid of technical knowledge—of all this, as regards the Elizabethan period, we know very little. The indications, such as they are, seem to point to all such work as this being done in the preparation of the fair copy, before the MS. went to the licenser or the printing- house. As is well known, in the larger Continental printing-houses scholars of eminence were often employed as correctors of the press, and it seems reasonable to suppose that their duties may have included a good deal of work that we would call editorial, but so far as I am aware there is no evidence of anyone being connected with a sixteenth or seventeenth century press in this country in what we may call an editorial capacity, or even, save in the King's Printing-house, as a proof-reader. We can only suppose that whatever was done in the printing-house towards putting a work into final order for the compositor was done by the master-printer and was in the main of a technical nature.

We may therefore turn at once to the question of spelling and consider what the compositor's practice was likely to be as regards this. Did he attempt to follow the MS. before him in spelling, in the use of capitals and italics and in punctuation, exactly, or did he re-spell, recapitalize, and repunctuate in accordance with general rules obtaining in all printing-houses of the date, or with special rules peculiar to the printing-house in which he worked—as was done in later times—or lastly, did each compositor follow a system of his own? One thing alone is certain, that a man who spent his life in composition must have had some system. If he did not follow the text before him he must have had some regularly established practice in his mind—whether the rule of the craft, or of the house or one peculiar to himself. No one who works long at any particular task can avoid the establishment of a routine—to hesitate over every word in order to select one out of a variety of possible spellings would have meant an intolerable waste of time.

The history of English spelling has yet to be written and I certainly


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do not propose to try to write it, but there are, I think, one or two things which may be said about it as concerns my particular subject. In the first place although in the sixteenth century there was certainly nothing of the nature of a printers' standard spelling, yet on the whole the spelling of printed books seems at all times to be more regular than that of manuscripts of the same date, or perhaps I should say we meet in printed books fewer seriously abnormal forms. Especially towards the end of the century, after about 1580, do we find a tendency to greater regularity, at least in the work of the better printing houses; and after about 1600 save for certain conventional variations in the use of mute `e' etc. which, as I shall explain later were necessary for technical reasons, spelling becomes in such houses almost regular.

Now there are two things which would prevent a compositor of the Elizabethan period from following his copy exactly. The first is, I believe, imaginary, but I must nevertheless say a few words about it; the second is quite real and important but is limited in its effects.

As to the first. It has been argued that it was the custom for compositors in the early printing-houses to have the copy read aloud to them. Of course, if they set up in this way, from dictation, there could be no possibility of their following the spelling of the copy, for they would never even see it. But what is the evidence? Frankly little more than that we find a certain number of errors in early books which can be more easily explained as due to mishearing than to misreading. I have mentioned some of these elsewhere and need not repeat them now: the most striking is perhaps the heading of one of Harington's epigrams which, as first printed, appeared as:

To Bassifie, his wife's mother, when she was angry.

whereas the heading should read, as it does in later editions, and, I believe, in some copies of the original one:

To pacify his wife's mother, when she was angry.

As `Bassifie' has a capital and is in roman type, whereas the rest of the heading is italic, there can be no doubt whatever that the printer took it for a proper name. It is certainly hard to see how such a mistake could arise from misreading the MS., whereas it might easily be due to mishearing, especially if the person dictating the passage happened to suffer from adenoids or a heavy cold.

Another, less comic, example of the apparent result of dictation, but one which is perhaps equally good as evidence is to be found in Shakespeare's Richard II, I.i.139, which two copies of the first quarto give as

“Ah but ere I last receiude the Sacrament”.


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The “Ah” with which the line begins is obviously an unwanted addition and as Mr Pollard has remarked, “could hardly have crept in from any other cause than our English habit of making strange noises, now generally “Er”, between our sentences.” It seems indeed hardly likely that it should have arisen through a compositor's misreading. At the same time it is but fair to say that Mr Pollard's explanation has not been universally accepted, for it has been suggested that the writer of the original MS. may have been going to write “And” in place of “But” and have then changed his mind and struck out the word “And” in such a way as to make it look like “Ah”. This also is possible, though personally I doubt it, for in that case he would probably have written “But” with a capital, and his intention would thus have been made clear to the compositor.

To the evidence derived from a few passages such as this—some half-dozen in all, I think, have been put forward in support of the dictation theory—must be added one definite statement of an early eighteenth century writer, J. C. Zeltner. But there is no indication of the source of his statement and I see no reason for thinking that Zeltner in 1716 was much better placed for knowing the practice of the early printing-houses than we are today. It seems at least possible that his account of the reading of copy aloud to compositors may be due to some confusion with a practice which we must suppose, from its obvious convenience, to have been common in the offices of scriveners and copyists of the fifteenth century as it was in those of the writers of news-letters in the seventeenth and eighteenth, of dictating matter to a large number of writers working simultaneously, in order to obtain many copies of a document in the shortest possible time—but this of course is a very different thing.

It is, indeed, hard to see of what use dictation would be as a general rule. It would take up the time of two workmen instead of one and it is very doubtful if it would have enabled the compositor to make more rapid progress. No doubt in special circumstances, when the light was bad or a compositor had imperfect eyesight, help might have been given by reading the MS. aloud to him, and such occasional assistance would, I think, amply account for the few apparent instances of errors due to mishearing that we find. Had dictation been anything like a universal practice it could hardly have failed to leave some trace in the early drawings of compositors at work, whereas in every one that is now known the compositor appears to be working from a MS. set up in front of him. I think, therefore, that we may definitely reject composition from dictation as a possible obstacle in the way of a compositor following his copy exactly.

There was, however, one very important consideration which did


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actually make it impossible, at any rate in a work printed in prose, for a compositor to follow the spelling of his copy exactly, however much he desired to do this. As you are of course aware, the lines of print in a prose text, in all but the earliest printed books, end evenly, whereas in all but a few languages such as Chinese, the length of words and syllables is quite irregular. The compositor has therefore so to arrange his lines of type, by varying the spacing between the words, that the end of a word, or of a syllable (plus a hyphen), shall fall at the end of each line. In recent times this has been effected by the provision of spaces of various breadths, for it is possible to vary the space between words very greatly without their looking either too close together or too far apart. In early printing, however, where fewer different widths of spaces seem to have been used, and where the spacing in general was much closer than it is at present, other methods of making the lines of type end evenly— justifying them as it is called—were necessary. In Latin books a variety of contractions, borrowed from the M.S. practice, were available, and a printer could make so much use of these that he had little difficulty in justifying his lines. When, however, it came to the printing of vernacular languages, the printers were faced with the difficulty that only a few of the Latin contractions—such as the long mark over a vowel to indicate the omission of a following `m' or `n', and the contractions for con- and per-, were applicable, and there were hardly any vernacular ones recognised apart from the contractions for a few small words such as `the,' `that,' `which' (ex.: ye, yt, wh). Fortunately, however, unlike Latin, English had no fixed spelling. Such a word as `man' might either be spelt with three letters as we spell it now or as `manne' with five; the termination -less could either be -les or -lesse; `change' could be spelt either with `a' or `au,' and so on. Here, obviously, was a means ready to hand of filling out their lines to the right length, and the printers took full advantage of it. All through the early period of printing, say till the middle of the seventeenth century, this variation in spelling, principally by the omission or use of mute `e' (with a doubled consonant before it when the preceding vowel was short) was the printer's chief method of justifying his lines, and to this extent he was of course obliged to ignore the spelling of his copy. When, therefore, we talk of a printer following the spelling of his author, or failing to do so, it must be understood that we are not referring to such things as the use or omission of mute `e,' contracted forms, or simple alternative spellings such as change with `a' or `au,' which were necessary to enable him to fill out his lines to the correct length; any more than we should now charge him with failing to follow his author's copy exactly because he had paid no attention to the varying amount of space which the writer had left between his words.


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All such variations then as `man' and `manne' are merely mechanical devices of no significance and in our further discussion will be ignored.

It may of course be said that many other variations of spelling besides those which I have mentioned, vary the length of the word, and I may be asked whether all such variations might not be similarly used in justification and be equally non-significant. The answer is that they might be so used, but as a general rule they were not. To refer again to a word which I mentioned in my former lecture as having several spellings in sixteenth century English, namely the word `friend,' the four spellings in comon use, namely those with `i,' `e,' `ie' and `ee' differ in length, and there is no doubt that the choice of one rather than another might occasionally be due to the necessity of fitting the word into the line. But if we examine a text for this word we shall, I think, almost always find that one form predominates greatly over the others. For example in Robert Greene's Euphues his Censure to Philautus, printed by John Wolfe in 1587, we find `frind,' `frindship' and `frindly' used almost exclusively throughout, these spellings being at least ten times as frequent as the `ie' form, while so far as I have observed the word does not occur at all with double `e.' On the other hand in the same author's Mirror of Modesty, 1584, the spelling of this group of words appears to be invariably with double `e,' while in the majority of his other works, including the two parts of Morando printed by Wolfe in the same year as the Censure to Philautus, the spelling `friend' is the usual one. Here then I think we can confidently say that we have a definite variation in spelling which has nothing to do with the length of the line and is not a mere mechanical device of the printer. It remains to see whether we can discover who was responsible for these varied spellings, the authors or the printers.

Now evidently if we could find even a few MSS. of different dates which had actually been used as copy for the printers, we should only have to compare them with the printed texts to settle the matter at once; but unfortunately such MSS. are very few indeed. Up to 1600 I only know of a single one, that of part of Harington's translation of the Orlando—I shall have to refer to this later—and even after 1600 there are far too few to found a general rule upon. An alternative method of settling the question would be by comparing the spelling of autograph MSS. letters or other documents, with the spelling of the same man's printed works, but here again we are met by difficulties, though in one case the method has been used with good results. The total amount of known autograph MS. in the hands of writers earlier than the 18th. century is very small—of the hands of some we have no example whatever and there are many others of whom we only have fragments which throw little light on their ordinary spelling—either mere signatures or


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notes which are too hasty or too formal to give us much information. And even if, as in a few cases, we can form an idea of an author's own spelling, there is the further difficulty that, as we have already seen, the copy which was used by the printer may not have been in his own hand and that if it was a transcript it is likely to have been entirely re-spelt by the transcriber.

Let us begin our enquiry by considering what evidence on the point we can derive from the one Elizabethan MS. which is known to have been actually used as copy for the printer, and which consists of a portion of Sir John Harington's translation of the Orlando Furioso printed by Richard Field in 1591. With luck this MS. might have given us a great deal of information, but unfortunately Harington's spelling is far from remarkable. It is in fact, save for a few small points to which I will refer later, merely a good commonplace spelling such as we meet with in many printed books of the time, and the printed text therefore throws little light on how a compositor would treat any spellings which were out of the ordinary. There is, I may say, no doubt that the MS. is in Harington's own hand and there is abundant evidence in the directions to the printer which it contains, and the printer's own marks on it, that it was actually used in the printing-house. A full account of it, with a transcript of certain parts was printed some years ago by Dr. Greg in the Library.

A comparison of the printed text with the MS. shows clearly that the compositor troubled himself very little about Harington's spelling, although Harington seems on the whole to have been a more careful and consistent speller than he himself was. Harington, for example, makes much use of `w,' spelling `chawnge' for `change,' `stowng' for `stung' and so on. The printer changes all these `w's to `u's, spelling `chaunge' etc. Harington spells `slander' `slawnder.' The printer alters this once to `slaunder' and once to `sclander.' He changes `soch' to `such' and replaces the `y' for which Harington seems to have had an especial fondness by `i' in such words as `deuisd' `reuild' and so on. Yet at the same time, I think that if we examine the texts carefully side by side, we shall see that here and there the printer was—no doubt unconsciously—influenced by the copy. There are, for example, rather more `y's than are quite usual; thus in the first twenty-four lines printed by Dr. Greg, we have `mynds,' `wynd,' `mynd,' `kynd,' `fayn,' `byte,' `playn,' `kynd,' all spelt with `y,' though certain similar words such as `vile,' `time' and `birth' which Harington equally spelt wth `y,' have been altered.

The Harington manuscript does not afford sufficient evidence to enable us to solve our problem in any direct manner, but it does not follow that it is insoluble. There are, as I have suggested, other ways in which we may attempt a solution. For example, there are a few authors with


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whose spelling habits we are familiar from autograph manuscripts of theirs which have survived, although it does not happen that these surviving manuscripts include any of their printed works. Assuming, as we certainly may, that they followed the same habits of spelling in the MSS. of those works which were printed, we may see whether we can trace these spellings surviving in their printed books.

The work of the voluminous pamphleteer Anthony Munday has recently been studied from this point of view by Miss Byrne, with results which, so far as they go, are of considerable interest and importance.

We have in Munday's undoubted handwriting two plays, John a Kent and the greater part of Sir Thomas More, and also an autograph dedication to The Heaven of the Mind. The dates of these range from 1586 or a little later to 1602, and they show that although Munday's spelling cannot be regarded as seriously abnormal as a whole, he made regular and consistent use of a few somewhat unusual forms such as a doubled `o' in such words as `doone,' `dooth,' `loove,' `woorthie,' and a doubled `e' in such a word as `freend.'

Such spellings are of course by no means rare—we shall indeed later meet with them in the work of other writers—but we can, I think, say that after about 1580 they were seldom used as regularly and consistently as Munday used them, and that his spelling is, therefore, to a certain extent distinctive. Now, Munday was a prolific author who evidently wrote with the view of selling his work at once to the booksellers, and he wrote, as we know, quite a good and legible hand. It seems therefore probable that most of his work would come to the printers in his own autograph. What trace of his peculiarities do we find in his printed books?

Miss Byrne has carefully examined a large number of his works from this point of view and has found them divisible—mainly on the evidence of the double `o' spellings—into three classes; those printed between 1580 and 1590; those between 1590 and 1600, and those after 1600.

In the first of these groups, especially in A Brief Aunswer made vnto two Seditious Pamphlets, 1580, and A Courtlie Controuersie betweene Loue and Learning, 1581, she finds the double `o' kept almost everywhere.

In the second group, those from 1590 to 1600, she finds the double `o' spellings—though not retained consistently—still much above the average for work of the time.

In the third group, those after 1600, she finds the spelling regularly normalized with only a few stray double `o's here and there retained apparently by accident.

It so happens that several of Munday's books printed between 1580


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and 1590, that is those belonging to the first group, in which his double `o's were normally retained, came from the press of John Charlewood. It becomes, therefore, a point of interest to ascertain whether the spelling in question was not a peculiarity of this press rather than of Munday himself. Miss Byrne accordingly investigated all she could find of books of other authors printed by Charlewood during this period, and has been able to show definitely that the double `o's were not due to his compositors, for in no Charlewood book other than Munday's do they occur in anything like the same proportion, though, as in most printing of the time, they do occur occasionally.

So far as Munday is concerned, it seems therefore clear that to some extent, and to an extent which varies greatly according to the date of the work, his peculiar spellings did certainly get carried over into the printed editions of his works.

There are at least two other Elizabethan writers whose spelling, as shown by their autograph manuscripts, was very distinctive, and who therefore lend themselves to investigation of the same kind, namely, Thomas Churchyard, that most persistent poetaster of the period, who lived until over eighty years of age and long ere that had, according to Spenser, “sung so long until quite hoarse he grew;” and Gabriel Harvey, best known as the enemy of Greene and Nashe. What happened when manuscripts by these men came to the printer?

Churchyard's spellings have been investigated in a careful article also by Miss Byrne in The Library for December 1924. I need not trouble you with them beyond saying that their chief peculiarity is an extraordinary use of `ae,' `ie,' `oe,' `ue,' and certain other digraphs, thus `path' is spelt `paeth', `like' `liek', `home' `hoem', `sure' `suer', and so on. That such spellings represented his normal practice is quite clear from autograph letters of his in which they are regularly and consistently used. Now in one poem printed by Bollifant in 1599, Churchyard's Fortunate Farewell to the Earl of Essex, we find Churchyard's spelling kept throughout, or nearly so—evidently as an intentional oddity, possibly at the author's express desire—and in one other book printed in 1575, when the printing-house spelling was much less settled than in 1599, namely the First Part of Churchyard's Chippes, a collection of poems, the peculiar spelling is kept in some pieces—even sometimes in part of a poem —and elsewhere is made normal. In the great majority of his books, the printer seems to have ignored it altogether, though here and there a lapse occurs. It is interesting to note that when a poem in the peculiar spelling was reprinted at a later date, it tended with each reprint to lose more and more of the abnormal forms. This is very clearly shown in the


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three editions of the Chips dated respectively 1575, 1578 and 1593, the spelling of the last of which is normal throughout.

Thus again, in spite of the one poem of 1599 in which Churchyard's spellings were carefully retained, we see that there was a strong tendency on the part of compositors to respell according to their own fancy, though obviously this tendency was stronger in some men than in others and though when an author's spelling was really remarkable, traces of it might be expected to appear from time to time in his printed works.

The second person whom I mentioned just now, Gabriel Harvey, was chiefly remarkable for his great fondness for writing the letter `i,' where `e' was usual, in the past tense of verbs, `usid,' `willid,' `callid,' and so on, and instead of a final `y' in such words as `mi,' `mani,' `ani,' `properti,' `iurni,' and the like. He also dropped the `g' in `niht,' `miht,' `brouht,' `enouh' etc. and the final `e' after `g' in such words as `Colleg' and `Cambridg.' On the other hand he nearly always doubled the final consonant of such words as `hot' which he spelt `hott,' `wott,' `poett,' `fitt,' `worshipp,' etc.

Now in the autumn of 1592 Harvey seems to have been actually resident in the house of John Wolfe, while the latter was printing his Four Letters against Robert Greene. If, therefore, an author ever had a chance of getting his own system of spelling observed in his book, Harvey had it then. But what do we find? Not a trace of any spelling which would be regarded as seriously abnormal. At most we find a rather more frequent doubling of final consonants than was quite usual in such words as `pitt,' `ciuill,' `verball,' etc. but such spellings are, after all, far from uncommon. Of such peculiarities as -id for -ed or the omission of `g' before `h,' I have been unable to find a single example.[*]

But can we infer nothing as to how closely a compositor followed an author's spelling in those very numerous cases in which we have no manuscript of the author from which to ascertain how he spelt? I think we can at least make an attempt, though the process is necessarily less direct, and the results are perhaps more conjectural.

Suppose that we were to find that certain spellings were frequent in


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the works of a certain author printed by different printers, and that the same spellings did not occur with equal frequency in the works of other authors printed by these same printers, we could evidently infer either that the spellings in question were the author's own, or—a possibility which we must not ignore—that the author was in the habit of having his works transcribed for the press by a particular scribe. Now anything like an extended enquiry on these lines would be very laborious, and I cannot pretend to have undertaken it, but for the sake of experiment I have—in, I fear, rather a casual and unsystematic way—looked through some fourteen of the prose works of Robert Greene in order to see what, if anything, could be deduced from them as to the matter under consideration.

Obviously, unless one has an almost infinite amount of leisure at one's disposal, one cannot take all the words used by an author such as Greene, and see how each of them is spelt in each of his numerous works: the only practicable way of working is to take a certain number of words which are in themselves fairly common and which experience shows to have a tendency to vary in spelling, and to limit one's attention to these. We may safely ignore all words which are not likely to occur often enough to give us a useful basis of comparison, and at the same time, for reasons already given, we may ignore all minor variants such as mute `e' inserted or omitted, double or single `l,' `y' or `ie' and so on, which are merely mechanical devices used by the printer for the justification of his lines.

Now among the most useful test-words, for such an examination as I had in view, seem to be the following:

1. The word `friend,' the four spellings of which I have already mentioned.

2. The word `beauty,' which is conveniently frequent in Greene's work, and which is often found with a `w' instead of `u'—`beawty.' With this, of course, go such words as `beautiful,' `beautify,' and we shall probably find that a text which uses a `w' in `beauty' uses it also in such words as `flourish,' `fraud,' `laudable,' `plausible' and so on.

3. The word `her' in some texts is spelt `hir,' and the same texts tend to use `i' for `e' in `together,' and a few other words.

4. Words ending in -ire may also be spelt with -ier; `fire' or `fier', `desire' or `desier,' `fair (faire)' or `faier.'

5. The group of words already mentioned in connection with Munday which may be spelt either with a single or a double `o', such as `worth,' `worthy,' `sword,' `move' etc.

6. There is a peculiar spelling of the present participle or gerund of verbs which, in the infinitive, end in `y'. Thus, instead of writing


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`obeying,' `saying,' `lying,' `carrying' etc. with `yi' as we do now, it was not unusual to write `ie,' thus `obeieng' (or `obaieng'), `saieng,' `lieng' `carrieng'—making the termination `-eng' instead of `-ing.' These spellings look at first sight very odd, but they are fairly common, and a text which uses them at all seems to have some tendency to use them consistently.

Now what I naturally hoped and expected to find in my little investigation of Greene's spellings was either that the majority of his books showed a tendency to the same spellings, which, as they are the work of several different printing-houses would presumably show that these spellings were the author's, and incidentally that the compositors—and copyists when copied manuscripts were used—retained at least some of the author's spellings; or alternatively, I expected to find that the books issuing from one printing-house showed a certain uniformity among themselves, which would have shown that they had been respelt by the compositors.

As a matter of fact, I found neither of these things. Indeed so far as I can see, the only thing which results from the enquiry is that, on the whole, the spelling of any one book is fairly uniform throughout.

I do not propose to analyze my results in detail. This is not the occasion for such an analysis, nor can I pretend that my investigation has been sufficiently thorough to warrant anything of the kind, but the following points may be worth mention.

The most remarkable of Greene's works from the point of view of spelling is Euphues his Censure to Philautus printed by John Wolfe in 1587. I have already mentioned that this uses `frind' with an `i,' but it has many other comparatively unusual forms, such as `beawty' with `w,' `fier' for `fire', while it also has a strong tendency to double `o' in `swoord,' `woord' and the like. Both `i' and `e' are used in `her' but the former is much more common.

Now while `beauty' with a `w,' and the double `o' occur occasionally in Greene's other works, `frind' with an `i,' is, so far as I have noticed, confined to this book. This, at least, therefore, can hardly be a trace of Greene's own spelling.

It so happens that there are two other books of Greene printed by the same printer, John Wolfe, in the same year 1587, namely the two parts of Morando or the Tritameron of Love. Naturally I turned at once to these, expecting to find the same spellings there; but there is not a trace of them. They spell `beauty' with `u,' `friend' as we spell it now, `fire,' `desire' etc. with -re, not -er; `her' with `e,' and so on. In fact the spelling of both these books is, for their date, distinctly `modern'


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and normal. The same is the case with another book, not by Greene, printed by Wolfe at about the same time, namely the translation of Castilio's Cortegiano.

Further, one other book of Greene's printed by Wolfe in the following year, 1588, namely Perimedes the Blacksmith, resembles those which I have just mentioned in most of its spellings but differs in generally using “i” instead of `e' in the word `her'.

It seems therefore that we can say definitely that the peculiar spellings which occur in Euphues his Censure are not due to the custom of Wolfe's printing- house.

When we turn to Greene's other books we find a similar absence of any sort of regularity in spellings.

In one book, namely the Mirror of Modesty, printed by Roger Ward in 1584, we find the word `friend' regularly spelt with two `e's—`freend,' but in the Spanish Masquerado, printed by the same printer five years later, the form with `ie' is used throughout. We may notice in general that the spelling of this second book is very much more modern than that of the Mirror, which contains several unusual forms.

In the Mirror, 1584, in Arbasto printed in the same year by another printer, Henry Jackson, in Perimedes printed by Wolfe in 1588, and in Ciceronis Amor, printed by Robinson in 1589, we find `her' always, or, at least, generally, spelt `hir;' in othe other books always or nearly always `her.'

Thus, save in so far as some of Greene's later books, those printed in 1588-90, show an absence of any spellings that strike us as archaic or in any way remarkable—a thing which in view of the general tendency of printers' spelling at the date is natural enough—there is, so far as I can see, nothing whatever to suggest that either Greene himself or the customs of the different printing-houses from which his books came determined the peculiar spellings which we find in many of them. And yet since their spelling is not haphazard, since in fact each of the books is very fairly consistent in spelling within itself, there must be some determining factor. We seem to be reduced to two possible explanations, either that Greene's MSS. or many of them, were transcribed by different copyists, each of whom spelt the work according to his own fancy, a thing which is quite possible as we know that Greene's hand was none of the best, or, alternatively, that the spelling in each case is that of the particular compositor who set it up.

Perhaps the latter is the true explanation. Nowadays, of course, even quite a small book is generally set up by more than one compositor, but sixteenth century methods were different. The matter was not first set up in long columns and divided afterwards into pages as is done now,


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but each page was divided off as the compositor went along. As it was impossible without elaborate calculations, which would in any case almost invariably work out wrong, to say in advance where in the copy the end of a page would fall, it was not in ordinary circumstances advisable to employ two men to work simultaneously at different parts of a MS. Sometimes no doubt two compositors would work alternately, one composing while the other distributed matter which had already been printed, but when there was no great haste there would have been no particular gain in this, and I expect that most frequently a single compositor saw the job through. There is therefore no fundamental objection on this score against the spelling of a printed book having been as a rule that of the compositor who set it up. To prove that it was so, we should have to find a number of books from one printing-house spelt in the same way—not of course all his output, as he might employ several compositors, but a reasonable proportion of the whole. So far, I have failed to find this, but there are several considerations which make the search not altogether an easy one.

The evidence that I have been able to put before you is far from being as consistent and conclusive as might be desired, but I think that taking together all that is afforded by the work of Harington, Munday, Churchyard, Harvey and Greene, we may fairly say that up to about 1590 a certain number of compositors were strongly influenced by the text before them, especially if it was clear that the spelling of the author was systematic and careful, and might even follow such spelling consistently, but that even then many re-spelt what they were setting up according to their own ideas. After 1590 normalization became quite definitely the general rule. Even after that date it might of course often happen that a compositor—especially perhaps one of the older men—in cases where he regarded two spellings as equally correct might tend to follow that of the MS. before him; and occasionally, as in the 1599 book by Churchyard which I have mentioned, a manuscript spelt in a really remarkable manner might be reproduced exactly, but such things would be rare. It would at any rate, after 1590—perhaps after 1580—be quite unsafe to take the spelling of any ordinary printed book as representing that of its author, or to deduce from the spellings of any anonymous printed work anything as to the identity of its author, or even as to his age, education, or the part of the country from which he came.

I suggested in my last lecture that the closeness with which a copyist followed his copy in details might depend a good deal on the nature of the MS. We can probably make the same inferences with regard to the compositor. The less closely a compositor's attention is drawn to the spelling of the MS. before him, the more likely is it that he will normal-


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ize perfectly. That is to say that, other things being equal, a text set up from a plain and legible MS. will be less likely to contain any abnormal spellings taken over from the MS. than one set up from a difficult MS. over which the compositor has to puzzle, for the extra attention which he has to give the latter is more likely to fix particular spellings in his mind and to cause him to reproduce them.[†] Similarly we may expect common words with which the compositor is very familiar to be normalized more regularly than those less well known to him, and the spelling of which before his eyes is therefore more likely to influence him. In words which he does not understand or cannot make out— and only in these—are we likely to get an exact reproduction of what he saw, or thought he saw, in the MS.

It would be interesting if we could find any similar evidence as to the more or less close following of the punctuation of a MS. at different dates, but I doubt if this would be possible. The study of early punctuation is in its infancy and we cannot say at all definitely whether the average sixteenth century writer had any clear ideas on the matter at all. While of course it would be absurd to declare that the punctuation of printed books of the Shakespearian period is quite haphazard, it would be equally absurd to claim that it is in the majority of cases strictly logical. With MSS. the case is, as we should expect, rather worse. No doubt, writers intended to place a full point at the end of every sentence, but they often forgot to do this, while within the sentence the punctuation seems often to consist of no more than occasional commas used perhaps as much to mark the breath-pauses, though less consistently than in earlier times, as to indicate the logical relationship of parts of the sentence. Certainly in printing Harington's Orlando Furioso the printer paid little or no attention to the punctuation of the MS. On the other hand as has been pointed out by Mrs. Percy Simpson, there is abundant evidence that John Donne punctuated carefully, and his punctuation was in general carefully followed both by copyists and by printers. Donne, however, was of course a scholar, and it is quite likely that he would use exceptional care in a matter of this


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kind. At the same time it may fairly be argued from the example of his work that when copyists and printers found that a MS. before them was systematically punctuated they were quite ready to let the punctuation alone.

So much for actual composition, but there were of course other persons beside the compositor who were concerned in the correctness of a text. At all times proofs must have been taken and these must have been read either by someone in the office or by the author and the type corrected in accordance, or more or less in accordance, with their directions. It is well known that, certainly during the Elizabethan period, and probably from the earliest days of printing until late in the eighteenth century the author of a book often attended in person at the printing-house in order to read proofs. There is abundant evidence of the usualness of the practice in the numerous notes affixed to errata and elsewhere apologizing for errors on the ground of the author's inability for some reason or other to attend to his duty. Now we may assume that, as a general rule, an author would know what he meant to say and that, provided that the corrections marked by him on the proof were properly carried out by the compositor, serious errors would not be left in the print—though it is surprising what serious errors an author can overlook in his own work—errors which, as a rule, he would detect at once in the work of others. But at the same time there must have been many books the proofs of which were not read by their authors. Thus we may, I think, assume that as a rule reprints would not be so read—in many cases the author was himself dead, and it is only very occasionally that we can find evidence of editorial supervision of any kind. Presumably the same thing would apply to all such manuscripts as were published by booksellers into whose possession they had come without their author's knowledge or consent, as well as to all plays sold to the booksellers by theatrical companies. Nevertheless for all these books proof-reading of a sort would be needed, and it would be interesting to know how and by whom it was done. As I have already mentioned, there seems in England to have been nothing at all corresponding to the Continental custom of employing scholars in an editorial capacity at the chief printing-presses. Indeed, there is, so far as I am aware, neither in the records of the Stationers Company nor elsewhere any evidence of the employment of a single person in connection with the printing-houses other than that of the King's Printer in what we may call a literary capacity,—i.e. other than as an actual printer, compositor, type-caster or binder. And yet it seems improbable that the compositors or press-men should have carried out this task themselves—can we assume that the master-printer read and


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corrected all the proofs himself? This is, perhaps, less impossible than might be supposed, for the output of even the largest houses was small, but it certainly suggests rather a higher level of general education in the master-printers than one would have expected—even if special readers were sometimes found for special classes of work. At the same time it does perhaps suggest a contributory reason for the badness of the texts of many plays, which were probably regarded as a low class of work unworthy of serious attention. It is difficult to believe that a proof-reading employee whose duty it would be to see that all work which passed through his hands was correctly printed, would have allowed such nonsense to pass as is often found in these texts. It is much easier to suppose this to be due to correction being really the master's job and to his thinking—the MS. being in all probability itself a bad one—that the work was not worth troubling much about. Here, again, there is a little point which seems worth investigating—at least for those who are keen to obtain every scrap of knowledge which may contribute to textual criticism—namely whether the standard of accuracy differed, as a general thing, in different printing-houses; or whether in all we find some books correct and others incorrect. I imagine that we might be able to say of a certain dramatic quarto that this was printed at a house where the work was generally very correct, and that therefore we must be very careful in rejecting what we find in it; and of another that the reader of the press from which it came was apparently only on the watch for literals, and, provided that a word was spelt correctly, seems to have cared little whether it made sense or not, and therefore that in emending this text we might use much greater freedom. This is a point to which I believe that little attention has yet been paid.