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The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries The 1928 Sandars Lectures by R. B. McKERROW edited by Carlo M. Bajetta
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The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries The 1928 Sandars Lectures
R. B. McKERROW edited by Carlo M. Bajetta [*]

Editor's Introduction

1. The 1928 Sandars Lectures: Their Occasion and Significance

Having been called to review the contribution to English studies of his late friend and fellow bibliographer Ronald Brunless McKerrow, Sir Walter Wilson Greg observed that “the whole significance of his teaching” lay in “the importance he attached to the derivations of the text.”[1] McKerrow's celebrated Introduction to Bibliography (first published in 1927)[2] considers


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the investigation of the mechanics of printing chiefly as a means to illuminate the question of how nearly a printed book may represent the author's original manuscript. The opening of the third part of the Introduction clearly states the raison d'être of the volume:

All that has been written hitherto in this book has been, or should have been, directed, immediately or remotely, to the elucidation of the single problem of the relation between the text of a printed book and the original MS. of its author.[3]

It is interesting to note, however, that the discussion of this topic occupies only a slender section of the book, covering a total of twenty-five pages. But the reason McKerrow dealt with the subject at all is essentially that his mind was never content to rest on what was already a great achievement. He was able to use the occasion of the 1928 reprint of his Introduction to make “a few corrections and small additions” (p. viii), while his election as the prestigious Sandars Reader in Bibliography in 1928 allowed him to explore at length the textual questions he had sketched out in the book.[4]

In the course of three memorable lectures, he presented to his audience, as he stated with characteristic modesty, “a little more methodical survey of the whole subject than, so far as I know, exists at present, and one which may perhaps make the problem of emendation, in certain respects, a little clearer.”[5] What McKerrow did not emphasise on this occasion was that, after he had laid down the principles in the Introduction, he was starting to move on, and to show the practical applications of his teaching. In so doing, he would, in fact, overthrow much current dogma on the editing of Elizabethan dramatic texts.[6] He had to advance his argument by degrees, with clear, wellstated evidence at each step. The lectures could not see the press as they had been delivered. Even if apparently neutral, much of their content (his rehabilitation of Elizabethan printers in particular) was a direct attack on contemporary textual criticism, and McKerrow's exposition had to be as judicious and precise as possible. When, in 1930, he sent a copy of his talks to the Cambridge University Library, in compliance with the readership terms, he enclosed a note to Alwyn Faber Scholfield, then librarian to the University, that spoke of his delay:

Dear Mr. Scholfield,

It occurs to me every now and then that never having sent you my Sandars Lectures for 1928 I have never received the fee for them. As I think I told you the Syndics of the Press kindly offered to print them, but I was not altogether satisfied with them as delivered and wanted to do some more work on certain points. This, however, has


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never been got done, so I had better send them to you [...] as they are. A copy has been deposited at the British Library and I enclose the official receipt which you will presumably need to have as evidence that the requirements of the Readership have been complied with.[7]

Yours sincerely
R. B. McKerrow


The letter, undated, is now enclosed with one of the carbon copies of the typescript, Cambridge University Library 860.b.87 (see below). The British Library copy, to which McKerrow refers as having been handed in already, was presented by the author on 1 January 1930, as witnessed by a librarian's note on the first flyleaf. The Cambridge University Library copy was bound (according to the top of the first flyleaf) by “John P. Gray and Son” of Cambridge in 1930.

Certainly at least some work had already been done before these sheets were sent, as witnessed by the corrections and afterthoughts inserted in this and in the other two copies of the typescript. More work was to be done later: as Greg observed, the papers which derived from these lectures constitute his friend's “most important contribution to what I should have annoyed him by calling the bibliographical criticism of dramatic texts.”[8] During his talks at Cambridge McKerrow had touched points that he clearly considered of great importance. One in particular was a topic on which he had dared to disagree—and disagree in public—with some close friends and important scholars such as Alfred W. Pollard and John Dover Wilson, namely type-setting from prompt-book. This was much more than a merely theoretical discussion, since it involved a new way of looking at the printing of Shakespeare's plays and, most importantly, a new way of editing them.

McKerrow was later to make his disagreement public again. In 1931 he read a paper on “The Elizabethan Printer and Dramatic Manuscripts” before the Bibliographical Society.[9] While using some material from the Cambridge lectures, on this occasion McKerrow avoided the more general parts and focused on dramatic manuscripts, and in particular on “foul papers” and “prompt-book.” Another paper, “The Treatment of Shakespeare's Text by his Earlier Editors, 1709- 1768,” read as the Annual Shakespeare Lecture before the British Academy in 1933,[10] went back to an important point touched at the beginning of the first Cambridge lecture. This was the debt, for good or bad, that twentieth-century textual editors owed to earlier editors from Rowe to Capell, a theme also dealt with briefly in the Prolegomena for the Oxford Shakespeare of 1939.[11]

One may or may not want to read between the lines and look for the polemical accent in these papers. At any rate, it was with the Cambridge talks


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that McKerrow started to react openly against some of the most influential trends in editorial theory and practice. Greg, whose Calculus of Variants had appeared in 1927, was privy to his friend's ideas and shared his projects, including his emphasis on bibliographical investigation. One may detect in these lectures some movement from essentially a “best-text” approach that McKerrow had employed twenty-four years earlier in his edition of The Works of Thomas Nashe (where he had coined the term “copy-text”) and that was to receive classic exposition the same year as his talks when the romance philologist Joseph Bédier published his notes on editing the Lai de l'ombre and thereby posed perhaps the most durable challenge to Lachmannian principles.[12] Occasionally McKerrow can now be seen as pointing to the position he would take eleven years later in his Prolegomena, where he foreshadows Greg's point about authority being divided between an early and a later edition.[13] Greg concluded his obituary of McKerrow with the observation that “had he ventured more he would have been greater still.”[14] While McKerrow's cautious attitude may ultimately have restrained his role in the development of twentieth-century editorial theory, his distrust of excess not only was salutary but also was accompanied by radical innovation. His Sandars lectures testify vividly to the temper of his work.

Even if outdated on certain specific points, McKerrow's teaching, especially on Elizabethan printing, is in many respects still valuable, and certainly fascinating. Later accounts such as Percy Simpson's Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1935) or Charlton Hinman's famous study The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) have contributed to casting a new light on the practice of Elizabethan and post-Elizabethan typographers, and Philip Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972; repr. with corrections, 1974) has taken the place of McKerrow's book as a classic account of printing methods. More recent publications, including Peter Blayney's The Texts of “King Lear” and their Origins (1982), J. K. Moore's Primary Materials Relating to Copy and Print in English Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1992), and H. R. Woudhuysen's Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts 1558-1640 (1996) may help to answer questions that McKerrow's lectures left unresolved.[15] But for a present-day audience these lectures are still a joy to read. While preserving the freshness of a talk, they are of historical importance in providing a concise survey and a vivid picture of bib-


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liographical studies in the late 1920s. These thoughts of a great scholar also offer an inspiring vision of what bibliographical analysis might achieve.

2. A Note on the Present Edition

In 1930 McKerrow deposited carbon copies of the typescript of his talks in the British Library (MS Add. 41998; henceforth L) and Cambridge University Library (860.b.87; C).[16] The original typewritten pages came to Trinity College Library, Cambridge (MS Add. b. 111; CT) probably at a later time.[17] All copies consist of three groups of leaves, 103 folios in total, 260 x 210 mm. Each set has a general title-page as well as three section titles (each containing the general title and the appropriate lecture number). The text pages are numbered 1-37, 1-28 (with 5a following fol. 5), and 1-33, and the paper is watermarked “Rymans Linen Bank.” The typescripts are double-spaced, and single catchwords (followed by a virgule) occur at the bottom of each page.

McKerrow did not type these pages himself. Mistakes like “Fucioss” for “Furioso” (II, par. 17) and “Euphnes” for “Euphues” (II, par. 15), as well as blank spaces left in the typescript and later filled in by hand (e.g. with “poetaster” on II, par. 29, or “worst” on III, par. 27), suggest that the typist sometimes had difficulty with his handwriting. McKerrow corrected all three typescripts, quite probably on more than one occasion, overlooking a few misprints in one or the other and sometimes inserting minor revisions, especially in CT. [18] CT also preserves marks that seem to indicate it was the copy McKerrow had in front of him when he read the paper—stresses on words he did not feel confident that he would pronounce correctly (e.g. “compénsatory” on I, par. 15), indications regarding the duration of the lecture (such as “¼” or “½,” visible at various points in this copy), and underlinings (as of the word “can” on II, par. 16) to stress emphasis when speaking. The carbon copies (C, L) do not preserve any such marks.

In editing these lectures, my goal has been to present the text as revised slightly by McKerrow on the surviving typescripts. Even if some of the alterations were made, as is likely, after the delivery of his talks, the lectures with those modifications incorporated still reflect his thinking in 1928, with a little stylistic polishing, and in any event do not affect the substance of what he had to say. The current text generally adheres to that presented by the CT typescript and its manuscript markings, with some small changes incorporated from the other typescripts and with some minor editorial emendations.[19]


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Such editorial adjustments are few, but they occur as early as the title. On the general title-page of all three copies, the name of the lecture series appears—without correction—as “The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” (my italics). Because “during” is the reading on the three section titles, and “The Relationship of English Printed Books to Authors' Manuscripts during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” is the expression used at the beginning of the talk when referring to its title, one may assume that this is certainly what McKerrow intended.

Although most of the changes by McKerrow and by the current editor are recorded in the notes, certain alterations have been made silently. Among these are the correction of misprints, the insertion of punctuation necessary to the sense (especially dashes or commas needed to end parenthetical statements), and the addition of italics. The typescript is inconsistent in whether it places single letters and diphthongs in quotation marks when they are referred to separately (the variability may have to do with the weariness of the author or typist in recording all of them in sections dealing with spelling). For clarity these too have now been provided, without further note. Other irregularities, however, have been allowed to stand. No further effort has been made to regularize the typescript's alternating use of single and double quotation marks, its idiosyncratic punctuation—especially the varying position of punctuation with respect to quotation marks—or abbreviations such as “M.S.” and “MS.” that are used indifferently throughout.

McKerrow's own notes are printed here at the foot of the page, while variant readings and editorial observations on specific issues have been included respectively in the “Textual Notes” and in the “Editorial Commentary” at the end of the text. The articles McKerrow derived from the lectures have been compared against the talks themselves; given the purpose of the present edition, only some of their passages (those most clearly taken from the text of the lectures) have been quoted in the Editorial Commentary, where significant differences have been discussed.

C. M. B.


Greg, “Ronald Brunlees McKerrow 1872-1940,” 9.


Published as “The Elizabethan Printer and Dramatic Manuscripts,” Library, 4th ser., 12 (1931), 253-275; repr. in Ronald Brunlees McKerrow, ed. Immroth, 139-158 (the text subsequently cited, as “Elizabethan Printer”).


Published as “The Treatment of Shakespeare's Text by His Earlier Editors, 1709-1768,” in Proceedings of the British Academy, 19 (1933), 89-122, and as a separate (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1933, 35 pp.); repr. in Ronald Brunlees McKerrow, ed. Immroth, 159-188 (the text cited here; henceforth “Shakespeare's Text”).


Prolegomena for the Oxford Shakespeare (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1939).


Joseph Bédier, “La Tradition manuscrite du `Lai de l'ombre': réflexions sur l'art d'éditer les anciens textes,” Romania, 54 (1928), 161-196, 321-356; published separately (with an edition of the Lai) Paris: Champion, 1929, repr. 1970.


For an overview of McKerrow's position in his 1939 Prolegomena, see the first eighteen pages of that book as well as Greg, “Ronald Brunlees McKerrow 1872-1940,” 18-22.


Greg, “Ronald Brunlees McKerrow 1872-1940,” 23.


Some of Simpson's discoveries first appeared in an article (published in the Oxford Bibliographical Society Proceedings, 2 [1928], 5-14) that McKerrow knew and cited in the 1928 reprint of his Introduction, 218 n. For the development of bibliographical scholarship after McKerrow, also see McKitterick's introduction, pp. xxiv- xxviii, and Woudhuysen's book.


For the dating of C, see note 7 above and Editorial Commentary.


No precise information is available as to when exactly CT, the ribbon copy, reached Trinity College. Some of the corrections unique to it, however, may suggest some later (even if slight and mostly stylistic) emendations, for which see below.


That all such corrections are in McKerrow's hand can be confirmed by comparison with his holograph letters (e.g. British Library Add. MS. 47687B, fol. 132, and Ashley MS 5755, fol. 104).


For some similar textual cases see Fredson Bowers, “Notes on the Theory and Practice in Editing Texts,” in The Book Encompassed, ed. Peter Davison (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 244-257, especially 256-257 and the sources cited in his note 10.


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The subject which has been announced for the three lectures which I shall have the honour to deliver before you is “The relationship of English printed books to Authors' manuscripts during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” and, frankly, the title is not a good one, but in spite of all my efforts I have failed to find a better. It is too ponderous, it suggests a weight of dullness which I trust is not inherent in the subject itself, though, indeed, I cannot claim that it is of the lightest; and it does not really explain what the point of the lectures is meant to be. It is therefore necessary that I should begin by giving you some idea of what I propose to talk about, and, if possible, convincing you that the subject is worth your attention. It is perhaps one which most directly concerns those who undertake to edit for modern readers the work of our earlier writers, but its importance is in reality hardly less for those who have to use the result of their labours; for without an understanding of what a modern edition attempts to be, and can be, it is hardly possible to use it aright.

I need not remind you that in the historical study of our literature, just as in any other historical study, the attitude of students has changed very greatly during the past century. We are not now content to see the material relics of earlier times restored and repaired in accordance with the fashion of our own day, and we are not content to read the works of our earlier writers re-arranged, respelt, repunctuated and generally tidied up. We may for our own pleasure read Shakespeare in modern spelling and set out with all the apparatus of scene- division and stage-directions which the editors of the eighteenth century thought necessary to accommodate him to the taste of their own days, but no sooner do we begin to study his work, or that of his contemporaries, historically, than we feel the need to get back to that work in the form in which it actually came from the pen of its authors. From the modern-spelling, rearranged text, we have gone back to the old-spelling text, and from that to the so-called facsimile reprint, and from that again to the photographic facsimile, in our attempt to put ourselves in the position of contemporaries of the authors and to see, and, so far as we can, understand their work as they saw and understood it. And, so far as what I may call the external view of literature is concerned, this suffices. It is becoming possible even for those who have not access to great libraries to read the work of many sixteenth and seventeenth century writers in what is practically the form in which it was read by their contemporaries. But we may want to do


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more than this. We may want to study the works of these writers in relation to the authors themselves. We recognise that in many respects the printed texts do not reproduce what the authors actually wrote; in some cases because they have been intentionally altered by revisers or editors, in all cases to some extent because errors have been introduced since the manuscripts left their authors' hands. When we are dealing with the works of earlier periods—before the introduction of printing—we have always to recognize the possibility of their having been transcribed by persons who spoke a different dialect from that of their authors or whose language belonged to a later period, and who consciously or unconsciously transformed or modified them in the process of transcription. A text that has been printed is—apart from actual errors—subject to very much the same kind of alteration, though for a variety of reasons it may be much more difficult to ascertain to what extent it has been altered and in what direction the alteration has taken place.

It is this question which I wish to discuss, for these lectures will be mainly an attempt to discuss the problems involved, to suggest what has been done and what remains to do, rather than to solve them—the question how closely we are entitled to assume that the printed texts of the later part of the sixteenth and earlier part of the seventeenth centuries, of that hundred years which including as it does the life-time of Shakespeare may vaguely be called the Shakespearian period, correspond to what the authors wrote.

Much work has of course been directed in recent years to problems of this kind, especially as regards the text of Shakespeare. In particular, much has been done in the admirable edition of his plays now in course of publication at the press of this University; but the problems dealt with have been mainly of the larger sort, questions of revision either by Shakespeare himself or by others, particularly stage-managers and the like and the early editors or printers, including such matters as the responsibility of Shakespeare for division of his plays into scenes or acts; while what I more especially wish to bring to your notice is the minuter, but in a way more fundamental, question of the text itself, not especially of Shakespeare, but in the printed books of his time in general. How close a reproduction of what the author actually wrote in his original manuscript should we expect the printed books of the time to give us? What, according to the current practice of the day, did the printers attempt to do, and what did they succeed in doing?

Now it is quite obvious that such questions would not admit of easy or simple answers even if we were to ask them in respect of work of our own day. The same issue of a newspaper may contain a statement of policy by an important political leader and an account of a serious fire


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contributed by some occasional correspondent who happened to witness it. It is quite likely that the politician's speech as printed will be a very accurate reproduction of the copy supplied, even to the minutest details of punctuation, whereas the account of the fire may have been so rewritten and improved in the newspaper office that the original writer would be hard put to it to recognize it as his own composition at all. Or again, an eminent member of the University, known to have strong views as to punctuation and matters of style in printing, may have a work printed at the University Press. It is not to be doubted that the result will be in a hundred matters of detail—even apart from the mere correctness of the pording—far closer to the author's manuscript than would, say, a pamphlet by an author of no particular importance printed by the average printer of a country town.

To-day, however, the divergence between M.S. and printed text—apart from anything due to intentional revision by an editor or proof-reader—is limited as a rule to punctuation and certain details of spelling in words which may be spelt in more than one way—such as `advertize,' spelt either with -se or -ze, in which the compositor will ordinarily follow the custom of his particular printing-house—and consequently are seldom of importance except when, as sometimes happens, the printer's punctuation obscures the author's meaning. In earlier times, however, printers seem often to have taken much more upon themselves, especially when the author was not actually supervising the work himself, and the possibilities of departure from the manuscript were far greater. We have to consider of what kind and how great these were.

There is evidently a very wide range of possibilities. On the one hand a printed text might follow the M.S. in all details of arrangement, spelling, use of capitals and punctuation, with the minute accuracy which we find nowadays, say, in a print of an M.S. for the purposes of palaeographic study; on the other the printed text may represent an elaborately edited version, perhaps broken up into chapters and sections, re-paragraphed, perhaps with side-notes added and with certain words or passages italicized or printed in larger or smaller type to give them greater or less prominence,—and throughout respelt and repunctuated. Between these extremes there are many possible degrees of exactitude without the text having in any case been subjected to deliberate falsification.

But it may well be asked, why does it matter to us to know exactly how closely a printed book corresponds to the author's M.S. in things which do not affect his meaning? Would not a text which gives us the words which he used, in the spelling and with the punctuation of our own day, such a text as we might suppose to be taken down by a well-


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trained shorthand writer from the lips of a medium inspired by Shakespeare's ghost, or, we might say, such a statement as would be compiled by a police sergeant from the utterances of a foreigner speaking broken English—would not such a text—a normalized and modernized text—give us who are of the twentieth century the best and most easily assimilated form of what the sixteenth century writers had to say? And if that is so, what do these questions of exact form matter?

Well, for what may be called the purely literary or aesthetic reader perhaps they do not matter much. It is arguable that if we are considering a piece of great literature simply by and for itself, we may obtain as true—or at least for ourselves as forcible—an impression of it from a modernized text as we should from an exact copy of its author's manuscript—perhaps even a truer and more forcible impression because our attention is in no way distracted from the thought itself by extraneous and non-essential difficulties due to unfamiliarity in the method of presentation. It is at least arguable: I do not say it is the truth. But even if it is the truth, it does not alter the fact that this modernized text has had to be constructed, and, as we live in the present day, it must, to satisfy us, have been constructed according to modern critical methods. And these modern critical methods demand the use of every scrap of knowledge that we can obtain as to the transmission of the text from the author's own M.S. downwards, in order that we may be as near certainty as possible that the text which we offer does actually represent what the author intended.

Let us just glance for a moment at the history of editorial methods in dealing with the English classics, or for the sake of simplicity, with the text of Shakespeare. It is of course well known to you all that the methods of his earlier editors differed very widely from those of the present day. Such men as Rowe and Pope had as their object rather the production of what they regarded as a good text than one in any sense accurate. They did their best to produce the text which they themselves thought Shakespeare meant to write, or—we might almost say—which in their view he ought to have written. Rowe, besides with great care attending to the scene-divisions and locations, stage directions and other furnishings of the text regarded as necessary in his day—and so successfully that his work in this direction has almost come to be regarded as Shakespeare's own—introduced a number of slight trimmings in the text and corrected many obvious errors. Thus in the first act of Coriolanus the Cambridge editors accept some 15 emendations from Rowe, mostly in punctuation and in minor matters of form such as `Who's' for `Whose', `stands' for `stand'st' (it is at least doubtful if they are right here), `o” for `a' (=of), `they've' for `th'have', and so on. Rowe, and even more


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Pope, did not indeed so much emend as regularize and modernize, though Rowe attended more particularly to minor details of grammar, while Pope tinkered the verse. This, however, is not the point. What we have to notice at present is that in the alterations made by them they paid little regard to authority; Rowe had, one may guess, a somewhat better sense of Elizabethan English than Pope had, and in many cases his corrections are more likely, but neither seems to have bothered himself much whether a reading was or was not to be found in a quarto or folio, and not at all as to the probable authority of the particular quarto or folio if it happened to be found in one.

With the next group, including Theobald, Stevens and Malone, we find a real intention of getting back to what Shakespeare actually wrote, and a very considerable knowledge, derived from the study of the work of his contemporaries, of what he is likely to have written; and at the same time a desire to show wherever possible an authority in some early text for their readings; but as yet there is little serious attempt to determine the respective values of the early texts, nor indeed any clear conception that such determination was possible.

This attempt to settle the respective authority of the texts—in those cases where there exists more than a single early one—was the next step, taken by such men as Dyce, the Cambridge Editors and Furnivall. Among the editors of this period there was much discussion of the merits of the quarto texts versus the folio—as if the editorial history of all the quartos was one and the same, and as if the various plays printed in the folio had all gone through identical vicissitudes and their texts were of equal authority. There is of course no reason for any such supposition. In fact, so far as the quartos are concerned we now recognize—thanks to Mr. A. W. Pollard—a very distinct division into good quartos and bad ones, though even so this does not mean that all the good quartos are equally authoritative, or all the bad ones equally to be rejected, and thanks to Professor Dover Wilson and others, we are able to classify the folio plays on the basis of their relationship to the copy used in the theatre and at the same time to detect—or shall I say to suspect—the revisions to which some of them have been subjected by their authors or other persons.

The next phase—the one in which we are at present—is not only to work out very carefully the relations between the extant early texts, in order that we may choose one as representing most nearly what Shakespeare wrote, but to attempt in every case where the reading of this text seems to be faulty, to reconstruct the history of the fault, so that by showing how it occurred, or at least how it may have occurred, we can justify our proposed emendation. The problem of error has been at-


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tacked mainly from two sides. On one the question of handwriting has been studied in order to show how words in the manuscript may have been misread by a copyist or compositor; on the other the processes of printing have been closely investigated in order to ascertain what, if any, mechanical causes might result in errors of text.

It is this attempt to explain and justify the readings which are adopted that is the outstanding feature of modern textual criticism. The present day editor is somewhat in the position of a detective who is called in to investigate a burglary, and who thinks it probable, let us suppose, that the burglar entered by a certain first-floor window; but who, before he can assume this as a step in the history of the crime, must for his own satisfaction and credit construct a plausible theory of how the burglar managed to reach that window. He cannot assume that he flew there! He must at least be able to show that the burglar might have climbed by the help of such and such a tree or trellis, or what not, traversed along such and such a ledge, clinging to such and such hand-holds, and so gained his objective. If he is lucky he may be able to prove by marks left during the transit that it was actually thus that the burglar gained entrance, but whether he can do this or not he will at all events have rendered his theory much more convincing to himself and to others by making clear that the method in which he supposes the crime to have been committed is a possible one; and though he may never catch the burglar, he will at least be looked upon as a competent detective.

Unfortunately the traces left by a heavy material object such as a burglar are, as a rule, far easier to detect than the development of an error in a text, and we must not press our comparison too far. But nevertheless our textual detective may be able to show at what point in the transmission of his text an error is likely to have entered, the stages of its progress and even in some cases the marks left on the neighbouring phrases, in the form of compensatory adjustments, by its passage and development. It will indeed usually be but a theory—a possibility, but it will certainly render the emendation which he proposes far more satisfactory and convincing, both to himself and to his readers, than if he had put it forward as a mere unsupported guess.

Now in order that an editor may be in a position to form a reasonable theory of how what he considers to be an error in the text before him may have arisen, it is evidently necessary that he should have as exact and minute a knowledge as possible of the various stages through which the text is likely to have passed from its first being written down by the hand of its author until its appearance in a printed book, and of all the circumstances by which it may have been affected during these stages. He must know, that is to say, so far as possible, what relation his


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printed text was intended to bear, and is likely to have borne, to his author's M.S. He must consider whether there are any rules which will assist him, or any limitations to which he must conform, in his attempts to justify his proposed readings. He may find that in textual criticism neither rules nor limitations are of universal application or of universal validity; he may indeed find that in the particular case under investigation neither rules nor limitations can be formulated; but until he has investigated the matter, he cannot be said to have done all that modern critical methods require of him.

Now in these lectures I have nothing very new or very remarkable to put before you. Everyone who has given much time to the study of sixteenth and seventeenth century texts must already be familiar with a great part of the ground which I have to cover. All I hope to do is to offer you a little more methodical survey of the whole subject than, so far as I know, exists at present, and one which may perhaps make the problem of emendation, in certain respects, a little clearer. I cannot claim that the investigation which I propose to make will lead to any immediate and positive results of great importance. It will certainly not lead us to the discovery of any new and startling emendations of obscure passages. On the other hand I am not without hope that it will suggest certain new factors which must be taken into account in textual work and certain new lines of investigation which may eventually bring us nearer to the truth. Perhaps also it will suggest that the problem of emendation is very different in different classes of texts; that on the whole sixteenth and seventeenth century printers were not nearly so unreliable as some critics have supposed and that the evidence of the printed book is not lightly to be set aside; and that, in short, emendation is a risky business and that in most cases it is best to let well, or even moderately well, alone. We are all of course far less given to reckless emendation of early texts than critics were a century ago, but I cannot help feeling that we still at times expect from writers of the Shakespearian period a standard of correctness in grammar, of clarity of thought and precision in statement that we certainly do not always find in the writers of our own day. There is, I think, no evidence whatever to justify us in any such expectation, and we must always before assuming that a text is erroneous do our utmost to interpret it as it stands. It may often seem to us that quite a small change would greatly improve the grammar of a passage or give it a new and much more effective point, and we are sorely tempted to emend it accordingly; but there is of course not the slightest ground for so doing. We may often find exactly the same thing in the work of our own day, when we have every reason for believing that the printed text was carefully revised by the author and represents


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what he intended. Anyone who has had to read other people's proofs in the capacity of a sub-editor or printer's reader will recall many instances where he has felt certain that his author had intended to say something else—so obvious did a correction seem—and then on being challenged the author has refused the suggested alteration and maintained the passage as it stood. It must therefore always be our first rule to go as far with the printed text as we possibly can, only assuming it to be wrong when we can find no sense in it by any reasonable interpretation, or—in a play—by any method of enunciation or by the interpolation of any imaginable stage business.

From such general considerations we must now pass to the question of the transmission of a text from the original M.S. of its author to the printed page. It is evident that there may be several stages in this transmission, for we can seldom, if ever, be certain that the compositor who set a work in type had the author's original M.S. before him. He may equally well have worked from a transcript, possibly made by a professional scribe, and perhaps prepared by the latter for press. It is, therefore, necessary that, before we come to the actual process of composition in type, we should consider the nature of the copy which the printer is likely to have had before him—I am using `copy' in the technical sense of the M.S. from which a compositor works—and how closely this copy is likely to correspond with what the author originally wrote.

There are three principal ways in which copy given to a printer may vary—in legibility, in correctness, and in the extent to which it has been prepared for the press. The last might include division into chapters, sections and paragraphs, the marking of passages for special type and such matters, and in the case of plays the careful and consistent insertion of speakers' names and the like, which an author is usually content to give in very much abbreviated forms. It is obvious that the copy which was brought to the printing houses might vary much in these respects according to the carefulness of the author or to other circumstances.

Now as regards legibility, I think we may take it for granted that an author who himself sent his M.S. to be printed would take some care that it could be read. If his own hand was too bad he would no doubt get a fair copy made. He would do as Fulke Greville did when he had a secretary write to his friend, Michael Hickes in 1600, remarking “I write in another mans hande for feare my owne will not be understood;” and it is reasonable to suppose that when the fair copy was made, he would read it over to see that it was correct—though we do at times find excuses made for errors on the ground that they crept in when the work was copied and made ready for the press.


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On the other hand it seems not infrequently to have happened that books were printed from MSS. which had come into the possession of publishers without their authors' knowledge or consent. There undoubtedly existed a trade in M.S. copies of unprinted works. Nashe refers to a pamphlet of his as progressing from one scrivener's shop to another and growing at length so common that it was ready to be hung out for one of their signs, like a pair of indentures. Whereupon he thought it as good to reap the fruits of his own labours, by having the book printed, as for the copyists to make their profit out of it. One can easily understand that a work copied and re-copied in this way might in the course of time become seriously corrupt, but it would be quite a mistake to suppose that such trade copies would either be badly written or contain passages of unintelligible nonsense. The fact that they were the work of professional scribes would ensure that they were clear and legible, and unless they afforded a readable text they would not easily sell. However much the publication might be surreptitious and unauthorized, and however they might misrepresent the author's original, such professional copies would from the printer's point of view be excellent, and we should expect a text set up from them to be quite free from errors due to misreading.

Again we must remember that the majority of books had to be licensed before publication. The licensing regulations varied from time to time, and there is some obscurity as to the details of the working of the system, but it is, I think, fair to say that, with a very small number of exceptions, all books openly printed during the reigns of Elizabeth, James 1st. and Charles 1st. had been read or at least looked at by some person representing the licensing authorities, though we must not forget that it was religious and political works about which these authorities principally concerned themselves, and that it seems likely that, at certain periods, books regarded as safe might be allowed by the Master and Wardens of the Stationers Company without reference to any other authority. Now we can surely assume that no one who wanted to get a book licensed would present it to the licenser, whoever he might be, in an illegible form. If he could not write decently himself, he would get it transcribed. Thus Henry Chettle tells us that he transcribed Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, which had been left by Greene at his death. As he says, `it was ill written, as sometimes Greene's hand was none of the best: licensed it must be, ere it could be printed, which could never be if it might not be read. To be brief, I writ it over, and as near as I could, followed the copy.' Here we have an admirably plain statement of what happened in one particular case. A fair copy was required for the licenser, and though this is not actually stated, it is im-


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plied that this was the copy which was afterwards printed from, for Chettle's purpose is to make clear that he had no share in the work save as copyist, and that though he omitted a few passages, he added not a word of his own. It all seems very reasonable and natural, and I think we may take it as a general rule that a legible copy would be submitted to the licenser and that this legible copy would afterwards be used by the compositor for putting the work into type.

Now, as everyone knows, a compositor in the course of his employment becomes extraordinarily skilled in deciphering handwritings, even when these are very difficult to an ordinary reader. There is, so far as I can see, no reason for supposing an Elizabethan compositor to have been less skilled in reading the MSS of his own day than a modern one, or to have been less skilled than the licenser. I cannot help feeling that because we cannot read an Elizabethan M.S. as easily as one in a present day script, we are sometimes a little inclined to imagine that it would have presented difficulties to an Elizabethan. Of course it would not, and taking into account the necessity of the licenser being able to read it, I think we may fairly assume that as a general rule a MS. sent to a printing house in the sixteenth or seventeenth century would present less rather than more difficulty to the compositor than would the average handwritten MS. sent to a printer at the present day.

Was there an exception to this general rule of the goodness of the copy sent to the printer? I think there was, a most important one, and one which, besides giving infinite trouble to students of English literature ever since, is mainly responsible for the very low opinion which is generally held of the work of the Elizabethan printer. This exception was the text of a certain class of popular plays. I believe that the copy supplied to the printer in the case of such popular plays is likely to have been far less satisfactory from his point of view than the copy supplied for any other class of book, for a very simple reason, namely that he would not, as a general rule, get the licenser's fair copy to work from.

What I suggest was the history of most plays of the popular kind—plays which did not get into print until some time after their original performance on the stage—is this. The author produced a MS. If he was a bad writer, like Robert Greene, or in any case if the MS. showed the ordinary traces of revision and correction during composition, a copy was written out professionally for the licenser to pass. When this was passed by the licenser it would be used by the theatrical producer as what I may call the official copy. It would in fact become the prompt copy, and would be provided with the usual prompter's notes, to which I shall refer later. It would of course be essential that the prompter should have a copy which was both correct and legible, for he could not


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afford to be puzzling over it when an actor had forgotten his lines, and, with the frequent variation in repertory, prompting must have been very necessary on the Elizabethan stage.

Now, if a theatrical company decided to let a play be printed, and there is at least some reason for thinking that a good many plays were actually sold to the publishers by the companies that owned them, it is not to be supposed that as a general rule they would hand over the prompter's copy to the compositor, for this was valuable to them both for use in the theatre and as their authorization for acting the play. On the other hand it does not seem to have been necessary for a play which had been licensed for acting to be separately licensed for printing. Consequently there would be no question of producing a fresh fair copy for the licenser. It seems therefore highly probable that if the company still possessed the author's original MS. they would hand over this, which might easily be full of corrections, not too legible, and altogether bad from the point of view of the compositor. Now if this were done it would at once give us a reason why the texts of the popular drama are often so much below the general level of printing of their time.

Dramatic texts claim so large a share of the attention of students at the present time that I must be permitted to consider them a little more closely, though we must always remember that, important as they are to us to-day, they were regarded by the Elizabethan book-buying and book-selling public as essentially a rather low-class kind of literature, and that the better publishers and printers concerned themselves hardly at all with such work. This, however, is by the way; what concerns us at the moment is the copy which would be supplied to the printer of a dramatic text. Naturally it varied a great deal. Certain plays, especially those intended for the study rather than for the theatre, such as those of Samuel Daniel, would no doubt be printed under the author's supervision from MSS. which he had himself supplied, and there is no reason to expect any different degree of correctness in the printing of such plays from poems or even sermons. In other cases an author took an evident pride in his work, and though the plays were written for the theatre, saw to the publication himself—such as Ben Jonson. But it is not such as these which give trouble to an editor, but the more popular class of play which came into print after, and because of, its success on the boards, and with the publication of which the author seems to have had nothing to do. The importance of this class entirely overshadows that of the others because it happens that the plays of Shakespeare as well as those of most of his predecessors and earlier contemporaries are included in it.

It may have struck you that in suggesting, as I did just now, that the texts of this class of play—or at any rate the inferior texts—owe their


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inferiority to their not having been printed from licensers' copies, which were retained by the theatrical companies as prompt-books, I am entirely at variance with much recent critical work which has been directed to showing that certain plays of Shakespeare were actually printed from these prompt-books. Thus of the first quarto of A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1600, Prof. Dover Wilson says:

“The Fisher Quarto was beyond doubt printed from a theatrical prompt-book. Stage directions, for example, such as `Enter the King of Fairies, at one doore, with his traine; and the Queene, at another, with hers,' transport us at once from the forest of Shakespeare's Attica to the boards of his play-house; while in others like `ly doune,' `sleepe' and `winde horne' we hear the managerial voice giving real `directions' to the players. Further, seeing that the Quarto contains a number of irregularities strongly suggestive of an author's manuscript, it seems not unnatural to suppose that here, as with Much Ado, 1600 and Love's Labour's Lost, 1598 we are once again confronted with a text printed directly from the prompt book just as Shakespeare left it.”

Now without wishing to deny that certain of the early quartos do contain things, such as an occasional mention of an actor's name in a stage direction, as in Much Ado and the second part of Henry IV, which undoubtedly seem to indicate that the MSS from which they were printed had a very close connection with the actual performance at the theatre, I think that we must be careful in assuming that such occasional notes as these prove them to have been the official copy used by the prompter; and still less need we assume that the mere presence of a few stage directions written from the theatrical point of view proves this. Although I hesitate to differ from so sound and careful an editor as Professor Dover Wilson, I cannot but think that he has not given quite sufficient consideration to the essential nature of a prompt-book. Surely, as I have said already, a book used by the prompter to hold in his hand while directing a performance, must have been correct and easily read or it would have been useless. And yet unless we are to assume an altogether abnormal carelessness or stupidity on the part of the compositor of the quarto which he is discussing, the copy from which it was printed cannot have been by any means clear and legible. To take a single example, there is at the end of the first scene a passage which is consistently rhymed. In the course of four lines of this we find two obvious errors in the rhyme-words: `sweld' rhyming with `meet' where `sweet' is evidently needed, and `companions' rhyming with `eyes' where `companies' seems a certain correction. Both these errors Professor Wilson puts down, no doubt rightly, to misreading of the copy. But of what use, in the uncertain lights of a theatre, would have been a prompt-copy in the decipher-


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ing of which a compositor constantly employed in the reading of handwriting could make such blunders.

For my own part, I quite fail to see that the occurrence of occasional stage directions such as Professor Wilson cites, implies a prompt-copy in the sense of a copy to be actually used on the stage. All it does seem to me to imply is a play written for the stage by a man who knew his job, and who continually regarded it as a play to be performed and not one to be read in the study. Shakespeare, as any other competent dramatist does, would see in his mind's eye his characters moving on the stage of his theatre, and would, I think, quite naturally and instinctively add such occasional notes as would serve to make his intention clear to a producer, without intending anything like a full set of directions. I am not sure that he might not even sometimes have accidentally slipped in, for the name of a character, that of the actor by whom he knew—as he well might—that the character was to be played.

And, besides, we do occasionally find plays which seem really to have been printed from prompt copies, or from exact transcripts of them, and here we find quite another sort of stage direction. Thus in the Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647, The Spanish Curate seems to have been printed from a prompt-copy. But here we get directions in advance which are quite clearly intended as warnings to the producer. Thus in Act IV, scene 5, at the head of the scene is `Diego ready in bed, wine, cup,' though Diego does not enter until 40 lines later, where the direction reads, rather quaintly, `Enter Diego (in a bed)' with the addition a line later `Bed thrust out,' the actual process evidently being that the curtain of the inner stage was drawn revealing Diego in a bed, and the bed was then pushed forward on to the stage itself. Later in the same play we find such directions as `Chaire and stooles out,' `A Table ready covered with Cloath Napkins Salt Trenchers and Bread,' and `Dishes covered with papers in each ready.' These two last directions have nothing whatever to do with the matter in hand at the moment, and refer to a meal which is to take place in the following scene. Now such directions as these are real prompter's notes. Further, in texts of this kind we always find that entries of characters are given two or three lines before their actual appearance on the stage. At the same time we may observe that such texts printed from undoubted prompters' copies show few, if any, of the kind of errors which indicate an illegible or corrupt manuscript. They belong of course to a later period when plays were no doubt regarded as a more important branch of literature than at the end of the sixteenth century and were printed with more care, but even with all due allowance for this the fact is perhaps not without significance.

The case of the M.S. of Massinger's Believe as you List is perhaps


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rather late to afford much evidence in this connection but it may be mentioned in passing. Here we have a play which was fair copied by the author himself and was evidently prepared for actual stage-use by a theatrical producer and directions added on the MS. itself by a prompter. Among these are such purely prompters' notes as `Gascoigne and Herbert below ready to open the Trap doore for Mr. Taylor' and a little later Antiochus, the character played by Mr. Taylor, is to be `ready: under the stage.' Elsewhere an actor and a boy are to be `ready: for the song at the Arras' and so on, while at the end of the play is added a short list of certain properties required for the different acts; thus a writing out of the book with a small piece of silver for Mr. Swantton (i.e. Swanston) is required for the first act, and so on. This then is clearly a copy to be actually used by the producer or prompter, and it is noteworthy that it is well and very legibly written and a perfectly good text. It seems to me evident that the copy from which A Midsummer Night's Dream was printed was a very different sort of thing from this, not a prompt-copy at all but far more probably Shakespeare's own original draft.

Now what should we expect a sixteenth century playwright's copy of a play as supplied to a theatrical company to be like? Let us remember its purpose. It was not written to be printed. It was not a document intended for the study or for the minute discussion of students three hundred years away in the future. It was not a literary document at all. It was merely the substance—or rather the bare bones—of a performance on the stage, a thing to be interpreted by expert actors used to declaiming blank verse, and, we may presume, understanding thoroughly what was required of them. With actors so well trained by constant change of repertory as the Elizabethan actors were, it is quite likely that in the less important scenes a good deal of extemporization would be allowed and expected—as it certainly was on some of the foreign stages—and it is even possible that for such scenes a mere direction as to what was required to happen might sometimes have been regarded as sufficient. If so, it would perhaps explain the exceeding crudity of some of the comic scenes of the popular drama which may have been hastily written up from such directions at the time of printing. And even in those scenes where the author expected the actors to utter his language word for word as written, the fact that he was writing for skilled exponents would, I think, inevitably lead him to be satisfied with a much lower standard of exactness than if he had been writing for print. When an actor has to speak a passage of blank verse he will, in the first place, so utter it that it scans. He will make such a word as `blessed' either two syllables or one as the verse seems to require. He will make his own punctuation. He will run lines together or split them in the middle as the rhythm of


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the speech demands. He will, in fact, speak his author's words as he thinks they ought to be spoken, rather than exactly as the author has set them down, and in this he will be fulfilling the author's intention. The author, for his part, would be concerned merely with giving him things to speak, and this being so would not attempt an exactitude and finish in his MS. which would at best be useless. So far as accurate division into lines of verse, or punctuation, was necessary at all, this could be attended to in the fair copy which, in my view, would generally have to be made for the censor of plays and to serve as a prompt-copy. The production of such a fair copy from the author's draft was, I take it, the business of a man like Ralph Crane, who was scrivener to the King's Players. He had, no doubt, just the kind of experience necessary to decipher and put into order the playwright's untidy and often much revised draft and if only such fair copies of the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries had gone to press, we should all have been spared a vast deal of trouble.

If then, as I have suggested, when the theatrical companies sent their plays to be printed, they did not send them official prompters' copies, but the—to them—far less valuable original manuscripts, should we not expect to get just the sort of muddle which we actually find? The compositor faced with a MS. which was not—as most MSS. to some extent were—prepared for press, and without the experience which would enable an actor, or a theatrical copyist, at once to decide which words were intended to stand in contracted forms and which to be expanded, which passages were prose and which blank verse, how the lines were intended to be divided up, and so on, would no doubt do the best he could, but especially if the copy were hastily written and much revised would in all probability make at times a sorry hash of it.

Of course, such a theory will not explain everything. It will not explain, for example, the apparent omission of essential scenes in Peele's Edward I, though this may be due simply to parts of the copy having been lost or damaged; but, as I shall hope to convince you, the sixteenth century printer had a far higher standard of accuracy than one who had only studied the texts of popular plays might suppose, and it seems necessary to attempt to account in some way for the extraordinary difference in correctness between the printing of such plays and the printing of most other kinds of work. The mere fact that a compositor had a play before him cannot have caused his work suddenly to fall so far below its usual standard. The fault must have been in the copy rather than in the compositor. And if all other work sent to the printer was in the form of fair copies sufficiently good to have been submitted to the licenser, whereas these popular plays came to him not in fair copies but in the author's


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MS. as originally supplied to the theatrical manager, with all the author's corrections and alterations upon them, we do seem to have at least a possible explanation of the difference in the printed results.

After this long digression, let us get back to the ordinary copy which would be supplied to the printer of non-dramatic work. For reasons that I have given, I think this would be as a general rule decently and clearly written whether in the hand of the author or of a copyist. There is no need to suppose that the average author employed a copyist to put his work into order and transcribe it for the press, but it is likely enough that some did this, and as such a fair copy is a possible step between the author's MS. and the printed book, it is necessary to deal with it briefly here. The fair-copying, just as the printing, might of course introduce errors. Thus, Robert Cleaver in his Brief Explanation of... the Proverbs of Solomon, 1615, apologises for faults which were committed “some when the copie was written out and made ready for the presse, and other committed in the printing.” But besides the introduction of errors a copyist might influence the transmission of the text in another very important way, namely, by varying the original spelling.

Perhaps I ought to apologize for the fact that I shall have to talk at some length about spelling. It sounds a dull subject, and I fancy that most people's—indeed most English students'—idea concerning the spelling of the Shakespearian period is simply that it was quite irregular and therefore does not matter. It was irregular, but we are finding out that it matters a great deal, and of late much work has been directed to investigating it. The enquiry has generally been made in connection with printed texts—whether or not, or to what extent, the compositor followed or tended to follow, consciously or unconsciously, the spelling, and incidentally the punctuation of the copy before him. I shall have to refer to this question in connection with the compositor when we come to him, but at the moment we are only considering the work in its manuscript state and our problem is, if one Elizabethan—professional scribe or not—copied another Elizabethan's MS. would he naturally and normally follow his spelling and punctuation, or would he follow his own habits as regards these things?

It is a great mistake to suppose that because sixteenth century spelling was apparently haphazard, and most words can in different books be found spelt in a great variety of ways, that therefore the spelling of any particular sixteenth century writer was necessarily haphazard. The spelling of a man who had occasion to write but seldom, might indeed be haphazard—as it often is to-day—but in anyone who spent a great part of his time in such an occupation it must always have become a matter of more or less fixed habit. We should expect a professional author's spell-


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ing to become as individual a peculiarity as his style, while it is of course far more easily detected and described. We have only to look at any MS. of some length to see that this is the case. The spelling will, no doubt, not approach in regularity that of the present day, especially in the less common words, but we shall as a rule find that in all those which are of frequent occurrence one or other of the alternative spellings will be given the preference throughout. Thus, towards the end of the sixteenth century, there were at least four ways of spelling the word “friend;” namely `frend,' `frind,' `freend,' and as we spell it at present; there was also an occasional form “freind.' We shall, I think, generally find that a writer chooses one of these forms and sticks to it. Other common words of which the same thing may be said are `her', spelt either with `e' or `i,' and `these' which may be either `these' or `theis,' but I shall have to refer to such test-words later and this must suffice for the present. The point is that at a period when spelling was not fixed by general consent it was, in practice, fixed for the individual, and indeed as characteristic as handwriting or literary style. In fact I think we may say that if instead of printed plays we possessed letter for letter transcripts of the original manuscripts of the authors, we should in most cases be able to assign anonymous plays to their authors, or to divide them up among several authors, on the ground of spelling alone. It is therefore evidently of importance to us to know whether or not we are entitled to argue from the spellings which we find either in MS. copies of works not in their authors' hands or in printed texts, anything as to the spelling of the author's original manuscripts, and hence in the case of anonymous works, anything as to the identity of the author or the respective shares of the different contributors to such works.

But there are other ways in which the textual critic may be concerned with spelling, for it is obvious that the possibility of confusion and error either by miswriting or misreading depends to a great extent on spelling. Let us take one or two simple examples. Among the commonest misreadings, in early times as now, is that of `any' for `my' or vice versa. Now in the later 16th. century `any' was very commonly spelt `anie' but `my' was rarely, if ever, spelt `mie'. If therefore an author was in the habit of spelling `anie' the word `my' in a manuscript copy or text printed from his MS. is not at all likely to be a misreading for that word, whereas if he spelt `any' such a misreading might very easily occur. But in the great majority of cases we have no original MS. of our author from which we can learn his practice as regards spelling, and it therefore becomes important to ascertain what, if anything, we are entitled to infer as to this from the copies of his work in other hands, or from the printed text before us. In this particular case would the fact that `anie'


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was commonly spelt with -ie in the derived text which we are considering, imply that this was the author's customary spelling of the word or would it not?

Or again suppose that we find in a text the word `science' where it seems to us that the correct word would be `silence.' Now the spelling of `silence' with `sc' is by no means uncommon in the 16th. century and we might easily suppose that the author wrote it so. If then our transcriber (or printer as the case may be) were in the habit of keeping the spelling which he saw before him, it would be easy to explain the word `science' by supposing that he intended to write (or compose) `scilence' with `sc' and that an `l' was simply omitted by accident. If, however, he were in the habit of normalizing the spelling and of spelling `silence' as we do nowadays, the presence of the word `science' is much less easily accounted for. It must in fact have been an actual misreading and not a very natural one.

This will, I think, suffice to indicate why we are concerned to know how closely a copyist is likely to have followed his original in matters of detail such as spelling. This particular point has so far received little attention, though as I have already mentioned, the very similar question of whether a compositor followed the spelling of his copy has received a good deal. Fortunately, thanks to the work of Mr. F. P. Wilson, we have recently learnt much about one of these professional scribes, namely Ralph Crane, who was born, in all probability, between 1550 and 1560, and who died some time after 1632. Crane was in his early days secretary to the Clerk of the Privy Council and later served in the Signet Office and the Privy Seal, and as he tells us in 1621 he was employed as scrivener to the King's Players. Up to the present five plays and six other manuscripts have been identified as written by Crane and these, if carefully examined, should give us a fairly good idea of the relationship of at least one transcriber to his text.

The plays existing in transcripts by Crane are the following: The Tragedy of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, believed to be the work of Fletcher and Massinger; Demetrius and Enanthe by Fletcher; The Witch by Middleton, and A Game at Chess by Middleton, the last existing in two different versions.

We have thus four plays, the work of three authors. Whose spelling will the transcripts represent?

Fortunately in Miss Frijlinck's edition of Barnavelt from the Crane MS. we have a very convenient means of studying the spelling of one of these MSS. with a minimum of trouble. This spelling is not unremarkable, and I think it may safely be said that it looks more like the spelling of one who had received his education in the neighbourhood of 1570


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than that of men who were not born until nine or thirteen years after that date as were Fletcher and Massinger. Among spellings that were undoubtedly antiquated or unusual in 1619, the presumed date of the transcript, are `ceize' for `sieze', `falce' for `false', `praire' for `prayer', `speritt' for `spirit', and in perhaps a less degree `ghesse' for `guesse' and `creadit' for `credit', and there are a number of other peculiarities with which I need not trouble you. Now the interesting point is that this spelling is consistent or practically so throughout the play; so far at least as I can see, it is absolutely impossible to differentiate the two authors of the play by any difference in the spelling of their respective portions. Assuming, as I think we safely may, that the spelling of the two authors Massinger and Fletcher was not identical, we must either suppose that Crane transcribed the play not from the original MS. of their separate portions but from a fair copy in which the spelling had been normalized, or alternatively that it was Crane's own. It would be interesting if we could bring the spelling into any relation with either Massinger's of Fletcher's, for obviously one of these might have copied it out incorporating the contributions of the other. Comparison with `Believe as you List' which is accepted as in Massinger's own hand does not show any general similarity in spelling, but we cannot positively say that it is not Fletcher's for we have no autograph of his with which to compare it. On the other hand we have several other plays transcribed by Crane and by a careful examination of these we ought to be able to discover whether he followed his own system of spelling or not. Unfortunately I have not been able to make any thorough investigation of the matter—some of the Crane MSS. are not very easily accessible—but examination of the MS. of the Game at Chess in the British Museum (Lansdowne 690) reveals a considerable number of the peculiar spellings found in Barnavelt, such as the spelling of `sieze' with a `c'—surely a most unusual form, `praire' for `prayer' and `falce' with a `c' for `false.' We find also at least once `safety' spelt `saffetie' as in Barnavelt, while certain less unusual spellings such as `secreat' for `secret', `frend' for `friend' seem to be used consistently throughout both plays. On the other hand there are a few differences. The word `spirit' seems always in Barnavelt to be spelt `sperit'—this occurs at least seven times in the play—whereas in A Game at Chess (about 1624) and in Middleton's Witch (not before 1620) of which there exists a not very accurate eighteenth century print, the word seems to be usually spelt `spirit' as now. Again the spelling of `her' seems in Barnavelt to be always with `i' and in the Game at Chess and the Witch with `e'. It is not easy to account for these variations, and I feel that fuller investigation is required before we can say with complete confidence that Crane entirely


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ignored the spelling of the copy before him and followed his own—but so far as the evidence goes it seems to show that he had at least a very strong tendency to do this. If so, the fact is of some importance for it means that in anything printed from a fair copy made by Crane the spellings will not be those of the author, and if this is true of the work of one professional scribe it may well be true of the work of others.

One final word before we leave the subject of MS. copies. I would suggest for your consideration that in the relation of a transcript to its original, the following general principles are likely to be found valid.—

(1) The more a man writes the more would his spelling tend to become fixed. Therefore a copy made by a professional scribe is likely to be more thoroughly and consistently re-spelt than a copy made by one who was not a professional.

(2) Traces of the author's spelling are always more likely to be found in unfamiliar words, proper names and the like, than in common ones, for the transcriber's notion of how to spell such words is likely to be less fixed.

(3) A transcript made from difficult writing will be more likely to preserve traces of original spellings than a transcript from more easily legible writing, because the more the transcriber's attention is focussed on the actual form of the words which he transcribes the more exactly is he likely to reproduce them.


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.


It should, however, be mentioned that Professor Dover Wilson, who, in his contribution to Shakespeare's Hand in “Sir Thomas More”, dealt in some detail with this question of whether Harvey's peculiar spellings were traceable in his printed works, has in other books of Harvey found a very few instances of these spellings being preserved. For example he has found eight examples of -id, -ist, -ith, for -ed, -est, -eth, the `i' for `e' which is perhaps Harvey's most remarkable peculiarity, but as in order to find these he had to examine more than 200 pages of text, such a small number of obviously accidental occurrences only reinforces the general conclusion that the compositor had no intention whatever of reproducing Harvey's idiosyncrasies in this matter.


It may be worth while to point out that if this is true, and if we are right in supposing that the manuscripts from which some of the Shakespearian quartos were printed were exceptionally bad ones—from the compositor's point of view—there is a greater likelihood of finding traces in them of Shakespeare's own spelling than would be the case with the spellings of those authors whose works were printed from manuscripts more carefully prepared for the press. The point is of some importance in view of the discussion as to whether the famous “three pages” of the play of Sir Thomas More are or are not in Shakespeare's autograph. As I need hardly remind you, one of the arguments by which it has been sought to prove that they are, is that certain spellings found in the Shakespeare quartos suggest that the spellings of the MSS. from which they were printed were similar to those found in these three pages of More.


Having now obtained some idea of the process of transmission from manuscript to print, and of the closeness with which the printed book of the sixteenth century may be expected to correspond with the author's manuscript, let us consider how the transmission actually worked—to what extent it succeeded or failed.

It is clear that all or almost all the older editors of our sixteenth and seventeenth century literature had a very low opinion of the original printers. Whenever they could not understand a thing, they assumed a misprint and tried to amend it, and that this habit of emendation was not confined to the less scholarly is evident from the well-known instances of Bentley's edition of Paradise Lost, a book which has become a byword for unnecessary and absurd tampering with the text. That the


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idea of the unreliability of Elizabethan and Jacobean printers is still prevalent may be seen in the occasional pronouncements of very competent scholars, who when they find any early work printed with care and accuracy seem to have a curious tendency to regard it as exceptional.

The fact is of course that we have all happened to direct our chief attention to that part of the output of the Elizabethan press which is the least correctly printed, namely the drama. I have already suggested what, in my opinion, may be one reason for this strange badness of the dramatic texts, and need say no more about it now. Even the dramatic texts are indeed hardly so bad as a hasty glance at the vast array of variant readings and conjectural emendations which encumber some modern editions would lead one to suppose.

The number of proposed emendations in the text of Shakespeare and his contemporaries which increased knowledge of their time and language have shown to be unnecessary, are certainly hundreds and perhaps thousands; but there still remain a very large number of errors in the early prints, and it is natural enough that those whose acquaintance with the printing of the Elizabethan period is mainly derived from the study of such texts should regard its standard as exceedingly low. I frankly admit that I have held the same opinion myself, though I do so no longer.

If however we omit for the moment from our consideration the whole body of dramatic literature, I believe that we shall come to a very different conclusion as to the general level of Elizabethan printing. Indeed if we allow for the less degree of legibility of black letter and for the comparative inferiority of much of the roman type owing either to bad casting or to wear, which must often have made letters difficult to distinguish from one another in proof, I do not think that we shall find the better-class printing of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries very much below the standard of accuracy of the nineteenth. One has only to take any of the more serious books of the time, works of history, of divinity, of science, or even those large translations from the classics such as North's Plutarch, or Holland's Pliny, and read a few pages carefully, as one would read a proof for press, to see that, inferior as they may be in their press work to what we are accustomed to nowadays—and even in press work some of them are not so bad—on the score of textual accuracy there is very little to complain of. Let us consider a few non- dramatic books of our period from this point of view.

To begin with one of the largest books of the first half of the sixteenth century, the edition of Malory's Morte d'Arthur printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1529, a book which I choose because we have a definite statement concerning the printing of it by one who collated the


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whole text. This was done by Dr. Oskar Sommer in the course of his work on the Caxton edition. He has listed the whole of Wynkyn de Worde's departures from Caxton's text, amounting to nearly 10,000 in number, and remarks that these were obviously introduced with the intention of modernizing the text, and of rendering it more readable. Though, however, as he says, Caxton's text was occasionally misunderstood and wrongly rendered, he “can hardly call to mind a misprint.” Actually, there were of course a few. Sommer's own collations show the omission of five whole lines in different parts of the book, all presumably accidental, but as the Morte d'Arthur contains not far short of 400,000 words, this is certainly not a high proportion of errors. On the whole, considering that this is a romance, and not any sort of work of divinity or statecraft or science to the correctness of which we might expect special attention to be paid, and that it cannot have been read in proof by its author or anyone to whom its accuracy was a matter of great personal importance, considering, in short, that it was apparently an ordinary trade reprint, it is surely by no means a discreditable production.

The Morte d'Arthur is a large folio. As a contrast let us next take the three small octavo volumes by Thomas Lupset, scholar and divine, of which the original editions were printed by Thomas Berthelet in 1533, 1534 and 1535, and which, I think, are fairly representative of the better-class printing of their time. Lupset died in 1530, so here again there is no question of any personal supervision of the printing by the author. The recent careful edition of Lupset by Dr. J. A. Gee of Yale makes it easy for us to examine the correctness of these texts and I think that whoever does so will admit that there is very little to complain of. The editor has, it is true, found it necessary to depart from the original punctuation in a number of places, but in many of these it is, I think, rather a matter of loose sentence construction than of actual misprints. In the Exhortation to young men of 1535 which the editor describes as “the most carelessly printed of all the first editions of Lupset's works” there appear to be about 19 errors in 80 pages, and it must be admitted that these are very small pages consisting of only about 130 words each. But of the 19 errors it cannot be said that there is one which causes any serious disturbance of the text. We find `this' for `thus,' `he' for `the,' `his' for `this,' `my' for `mo' (i.e. more), and `this' for `these', practically all correctable at first sight. The others are, I think, all errors of a single letter, or of the accidental dropping out of a letter or two, `ensampe' for `ensample,' `phylosothers' for `phylosophers' (`t' for `p') and so on. And this is the least correct of Lupset's three books. In the best of the three the most serious mistakes are no more than an `and' repeated, the word `god' once omitted in a passage where it occurs several times, and an `h'


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misprinted for a `b' in `neighbour,' an error which would be very easily overlooked in a black letter proof.

It would perhaps hardly be fair to take the large folio volume of the English Works of Sir Thomas More printed in 1557 as one of our examples, for since the time of Dr. Johnson, the volume seems to have enjoyed a reputation for especially accurate printing. Examination certainly shows it to be indeed a very careful piece of work, with few errors and those, as a rule, of little importance.

When we come to the Elizabethan work, we find, I think, in the output of all the more important presses, very much the same state of affairs. There is, for example, very little wrong with the text of such books as the 1587 edition of Holinshed's Chronicles or Holland's translation of Plutarch's Morals, to mention two which I happen to have used a good deal at different times; but I need not linger over these. Let us take, as an example, of a different class of work, Spenser's Faery Queene. In the one-volume Oxford edition of Spenser the text of the Faery Queene is based on the 1596 edition printed by Richard Field, one of the better, though by no means the best, of the Elizabethan printers, in which edition books IV to VI appear for the first time. If we examine book IV, the first of these new books, we shall find that the editor has thought it necessary to depart from the text as printed only in 21 places. Now of the 21 errors three at least, and probably four, must, I think, be misreadings of the original MS.—whether by a copyist or by the compositor we of course cannot say—`bravelike' for `beamlike,' `nearest' for `meanest,' `guest' for `quest' and `virtues' for `virtuous.' One, namely `three' for `seven' is probably a slip on the part of the author or copyist, as may be a `her' for `his.' Of the others, 11 consist of a single letter wrong, omitted or superfluous, such as `worst' for `worse,' `said' for `sad,' `repayred' for `repayed.' In passing we may note that, with a single exception, all these errors form real words, or in the case of the four proper names included among them, what may seem to be real words, a fact which indicates, I think, careful but not very intelligent proof-reading, and suggests a doubt whether Spenser read the proofs himself, although as he was apparently in England at the time he may have done so. Now these 21 errors are perhaps not quite all. In some half-a-dozen cases besides these, emendations have been proposed and some of them may be correct, but the text as it stands is nowhere else so evidently corrupt that the Oxford editor felt compelled to emend it. Further, there may be a few errors of punctuation and possibly some other trifling mistakes which the editor has not thought it worth while to notice, indeed three or four such minor errors are noted by Grosart, but even if we allow that there may be in all some 30 or 35 errors, we still have the remark-


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able fact that, in the whole of this book consisting of 5391 lines of verse, there are not more than two passages which contain such serious faults that an editor who had before him no other text than this first edition of 1596 need have had any real doubt as to the correct reading; and even in these two he might have guessed without any very great risk of error. And this, as I have said, is in a text of 5391 lines, whereas, I need hardly remind you, the average length of Shakespeare's plays is only some 2,800 lines—little more than half as much, the longest, Hamlet, having under 4,000.

Lastly, for the purpose of comparison with the First Folio of Shakespeare, it seemed well to look at some book from the same printing-house, and not far off in date. I therefore took the second volume of the prose compilation entitled The Treasurie of Anncient and Moderne Times which was printed by William Jaggard in 1619, and as an experiment read ten pages with as much care as I am capable of, noting down every misprint, however trivial, that I found. The book is a large folio and 10 pages contain some 7500 words. In the pages chosen I noted 18 errors of which only one is at all serious. The others consist of such trivial errors as the omission of commas in series of names, so that Suidas Strabo appears to be a single person, of single erroneous letters in Latin names so that we have `Titesias' for `Tiresias' and `Nenius' for `Neuius,' an `n' for `u' in `seuenth,' and the apparent mistaking of the English word `seaside' for a Latin place name `Seasia.' Considering the large number of classical and foreign names in the book, we have I think little cause for complaint here.

There is another and perhaps easier way in which we can estimate the accuracy of some at least of these early books, namely by examination of the lists of errata which many of them contain. When, as sometimes happens, such lists are long, we often find that an excuse is given. I am not thinking of those lists of errata compiled by an author which, as so many do, excuse the mistakes on the ground of his absence for some cause or another from the printing house, and inability to supervise the work as it went through the press, for such errata-lists often include corrections which are evidently afterthoughts on the part of the author, but of those lists which seem to include only actual departures from the MS. due to the fault of the printer. Some of these lists are quite worth looking at. There is, for example, one in John Whitgift's Defence of the Answer to the Admonition, as it is called, the official reply on behalf of the Bishops to the puritan Cartwright's Reply to the Answere against the Admonition to the Parliament. This, which was printed by Bynneman in 1574 is a folio of 812 pages. As an official work and one likely to be subjected to the minute scrutiny of the Bishops' opponents it would


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no doubt be printed with especial care, but we know that the work was put through as rapidly as possible. The printer apologizes for the errors in it on the ground that `it could not be but that in so great a volume some things should escape even those that are diligent and carefull, especially considering the speedie dispatch and other circumstances.' But yet the whole list of corrections for this volume of 812 pages only amounts to 33. The most serious is the omission of a whole line at the beginning of a page, the compositor having evidently missed his place. The others are mostly verbal, i.e. real words but the wrong ones, and, save for one or two which are due to the dropping of a letter—such as `paynly' for `playnly' and `eternal' for `external'—seem mostly due to misreading of the copy. Thus we have the common mistake of `any' for `my,' `more' for `move' and `service' for `sorowe,' the last two of which are in a secretary hand, not so different as one might suppose. There are probably a few other literal errors not thought worth pointing out, as they did not form words and could not therefore lead to any misunderstanding, but I have looked through a good many pages without finding any.

But I need not weary you with further discussion of particular books. What I have already said will, I hope, be enough to convince you that we cannot lump together all the work of all the early printing houses in one condemnation. We must distinguish, and I think, though I cannot go into the matter now, that investigation would show a very considerable difference of standard between the larger printing-houses, such as those of Day and Bynneman, which did their own publishing, and the smaller, so-called trade printers, who seldom if ever published books themselves but worked for the smaller publishers or book-sellers. It was these smaller publishing-houses which handled most of the popular literature such as pamphlets and plays and it was consequently the trade printers by whom they were produced. But even these trade printers, even those from whose presses came some of the worst play quartos, were capable of turning out far better work in other classes of literature.

It will have been gathered that in my view too great a share of the blame for the errors which we find in certain sixteenth and seventeenth century books has been laid on the printers and that in most cases when we get a really bad text the fault lies mainly in the copy supplied to the compositor and not in the carelessness or want of skill of the latter. Nevertheless there were then, as there are now, errors in printed books and it is part of the duty of the textual critic to make such study of these errors and their causes as may enable him to form some idea of how they may have occurred and thus place him in a better position to defend his own emendations of them. I propose therefore now to say something as


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to the common causes of errors in printed books—such errors I mean as are due to departure from the MS. before the compositor, for of antecedent errors due to mistakes in copying and the like I can add nothing to what I have said already. The obvious groups into which we can divide errors on the basis of their causation are as follows:

(1) Misreading of copy.

(2) Foul case, i.e. the presence of wrong type in the various divisions of the type- case.

(3) Failure of muscular co-ordination or of memory on the part of the compositor.

(4) Mis-correction.

At the present time, and especially with modern mechanical methods of type-setting, the commonest cause of misprints is, I suppose, misreading of the MS., at any rate in the case of books set up from a handwritten copy. The number of these which will appear in the proof sent to the author of a modern book depends of course mainly on the legibility of his writing, but it will also depend to a great extent on the intelligence of the printer's reader. It is, by the way, curious how insensitive readers at even the best presses become on the question of meaning or good sense, and what absurdities they will sometimes allow to pass, while at the same time correcting or querying the smallest abnormality in spelling or in grammar. A wrong word however nonsensical in its context, seems to be much more easily overlooked than a wrong spelling—a point of very great importance in textual criticism. As an example of what I mean, I may mention that a few weeks ago I happened to be reading the proofs of an elementary biology. These proofs were almost entirely free—so far as I remember quite free—from errors in spelling or `misprints' of the ordinary kind, but within a few pages I came across the statement that water was `incomprehensible,' where the author had written `incompressible,' and a reference to the habits of mice in `perpetrating' their kind, where the word should of course have been `perpetuating.' Now the author's MS. was by no means bad and the words were perfectly legible. The compositor had, I suppose, not really looked at them and the proof-reader had evidently not been thinking of the sense. But if the compositor instead of setting `incomprehensible' and `perpetrating' had set, say, `incompressable' with `able' instead of 'ible,' and `prepetuating' instead of `perpetuating' I have not the slightest doubt that the errors would have been noticed by the reader and corrected.

There is, I think, not much of a general nature that can usefully be said about errors which seem to arise from the misreading of copy,


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though a good deal of work has been lately directed to the question of what misreadings are most likely to occur in setting up from MSS. written in the current hands of the Elizabethan time. As you are doubtless aware, during the later part of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the traditional English script was giving place to an Italian script of the kind now used. Manuscripts of a more formal kind—such as those written by professional scribes—between say, 1580 and 1620, are normally in English script with proper names and quotations from foreign languages in the `Italian' hand, this differentiation corresponding to that ordinarily made in printed books by the use of black-letter, roman and italic types. The usage of the average non-professional writer was less fixed. Latin quotations and foreign names were, I think, almost invariably written in Italian script, but the practice as regards English names varied and only the more careful writers seem ordinarily to have written these in Italian. Now it is evident that, in order to judge what misreadings are likely to have been made by a compositor, it is necessary to know whether the particular word before him would be in the English or Italian hand, for the confusions possible in the two are quite different. For example in the English hand confusion is particularly likely between `d' and `e,' `p' and `x,' `r' and `v,' and `o' and `e;' while with Italian the most probable are perhaps `di' and `ch,' `ol' and `d,' `h' and `li.' Both in English and Italian, long `s' may be confused with `f' and it is often difficult to read correctly groups of minims such as `in,' `ui,' and `m,' especially when the `i's are not carefully dotted.

It is therefore essential that before we assume a misreading on the part of a compositor we should consider and come to some conclusion on the question of the script in which the particular word is likely to have been written in the copy. It is hardly necessary to say that if we are going to assume errors in reading the MS. they must be errors which could reasonably have arisen, a thing which seems generally to be forgotten by amateur textual critics. Further, the misreadings must be consistent with one another. Unless we have reason to suspect that the writing of the MS. was especially irregular or mixed, we must not assume in one line a misreading which could only arise from an Italian hand—say a misreading of `di' for `ch'—and in the next a misreading of `p' for `x' which could only occur in an English one—unless of course the words are such as would normally be written in different scripts.

As I have said, a good deal of recent textual criticism has been concerned with the possibility of misreadings by the compositor. By far the fullest exposition of the view that the great majority of misprints—at any rate in Shakespeare—are due to misreading of his writing, is to be


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found in the important book by Professor Leon Kellner, published in 1925 under the title of Restoring Shakespeare. Of this it need only be said that it is a most careful and elaborate piece of work, but that it seems to seek to prove far too much. Suppose that we were familiar with an author's handwriting, we might quite well observe in it peculiarities which might cause certain combinations of letters to be confused with certain others—for example, in the hand of a man who was careless about dotting his `i's, `un' and `im' might be quite indistinguishable, and knowing this, we might feel confidence in emending `unparted' to `imparted.' Perhaps I may be excused for mentioning a personal experience of my own which shows that we might sometimes go even further than this. A certain friend of mine used habitually to write the second limb of the capital `K' as an upstroke from the foot of the first, so that the letter looked like a capital `V' with an insignificant tail to it. Coming across in an anonymous review a reference to myself in which my name was printed as McVarrow, I was able at once to guess that this particular friend was the writer of it, as indeed he admitted when asked. We cannot of course expect to be often able to identify an anonymous author by the occurrence of a single misprint, but it is obvious that the study of an author's handwriting—if we can obtain specimens of it—may be of the greatest importance in textual criticism, and indeed there is nothing new in so using it. Even if we do not know an author's hand, but can be reasonably certain that his work, or at any rate that part—it must be a considerable part—of his work which we are studying was printed from his own MS. in the hand of a single copyist, we may from the occurrence of frequent errors which show the same confusion of letters and the emendation of which is obvious—suppose for example we find a proper name, the correct form of which we must have known, frequently misspelt—infer that in his, or the copyist's, hand certain particular letters might easily be confused, and assume the same confusion as possible in emending other errors. In the case, however, of work such as that of Shakespeare, where the history of the MSS. is so various, it is difficult to get much definite result from such studies, for it is quite possible that in some plays one or more copyists have intervened between Shakespeare and the compositor, and errors may be due to peculiarities of their writing and not of the author's. Proof of a misreading by the compositors due to their writing, would be of course no argument that a similar confusion is likely to occur in another play. It is therefore evident that though there are certainly, and have always been, words that can easily be confused in handwriting, as for example `any' and `my'—words which —as everyone who has had to do much proofreading knows—are con-


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stantly even now getting misprinted for one another, and though we must of course always take account of handwriting in considering an emendation, it does not seem likely that intensive study on the lines laid down by Kellner is likely to be very fruitful.

A second sort of error is due to what is called “foul case”—namely the presence of wrong letters in the divisions or `boxes' of the type case. That wrong types would occasionally get into the boxes by careless distribution of previous work or in other ways is obvious, and unless such a type was markedly thicker or thinner than the one intended, a compositor would not notice the error in putting it into the composing stick. An attempt to show that certain particular errors were likely to be due to this cause was made as long ago as 1872 by William Blades in his Shakespeare and Typography, where he pointed out that, seeing that the type-cases stood on a slope, there was, if the type-boxes happened to be at all over-filled, a certain likelihood of letters slipping down from their proper box into the one below; thus `o' might slip down into the `a' box, `b' into the `l' box, `l' into the `v' box, `d' into the `n' box, and so on. This would render such mistakes as `forced' for `farced,' `book' for `look,' `low' for `vow,' particularly likely. This is no doubt true enough, and there may be cases of error due to this cause, but it does not in itself carry us far and a little careless distribution of type from an earlier job would probably lead to many more wrong letters in the boxes than would arise from such a cause as this.

A few points we may, however, note. The letters `e,' `c,' and `o,' `b' and `h,' and `u' and `n' are very commonly interchanged in black letter, and `u' and `n' in roman. These confusions are probably due to mistakes in distribution and might easily be overlooked in a rough proof.

The very frequent cases of the use of an inverted `u' in place of an `n,' or an inverted `n' for a `u' are more difficult to account for. They may be due to an original error of a `u' set in place of an `n,' or vice versa, which being noticed in proof has been corrected by turning the letter instead of substituting the proper one. The difference in many founts is indeed so slight that in the case of worn type it may be very difficult to say what the letter really is. Occasionally the wrong matrix may have been used in casting.

More interesting than these purely mechanical matters are the errors due to failure of muscular co-ordination on the part of a compositor or to failure of his memory. By failure of co-ordination I mean the unconscious failure of the hand to make the movement intended, so that the fingers when moving across the case to pick up a type do not go exactly where they should and one is picked up from the wrong box; just as


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when in typing one, without knowing it, strikes the wrong key. Errors of this kind of course tend to increase with fatigue or when the attention happens momentarily to be diverted.

As is well known to those who have occasion to read many typewritten manuscripts, a large proportion of typists when tired or inattentive tend to interchange neighbouring letters, especially in common words, writing `hwen' for `when,' `hte' for `the,' `won' for `own' and so on, and the same error seems to be frequent in matter set with the modern type-setting machines worked by a key-board of the same kind as that of a typewriter. I had occasion recently to read the proofs of a book of passages from French authors. This was as a whole extremely well set, but it was noticeable that transpositions of the kind that I have mentioned were comparatively frequent. In the course of some 250 pages I counted at least 31 errors which could only be put down to this cause: `plien' for `plein,' `suele' for `seule,' `linge' for `ligne,' `etrre' for `terre,' `sceret' for `secret,' and so on. Such transposition errors were indeed as frequent as all other mistakes put together. Of course the proof that I read was not a first proof, so I cannot say anything as to the number of errors made in the original composition. No normally careful modern printer would fail to correct the majority of such errors in an English text before sending out a proof to his customer; but it might be worth while trying to discover before hand-setting disappears altogether, whether there are any special tendencies of what may be called a psychological character to certain errors or not. For example, it might be—I am only uessing—that when a man is tired the movement of the hand across the case might tend to be shortened, so that his fingers are likely to pick up a type from a division nearer to the centre or possibly lower than he thinks he is doing. If this is so, we should perhaps be able to make out a special tendency to the occurrence of certain misprints; thus we might find the long `s' ligatures substituted for the `f' ligatures (because they come nearer to the centre of the case) more commonly than the reverse error, or `c' might be used for `b' for a similar reason. But here again I doubt if we should get much positive result. On the other hand it does seem not impossible that investigation would show that the frequency of certain combinations of letters might cause them to be substituted by a careless or tired compositor for other less usual ones. It would at any rate be interesting to know whether or not any such tendency is to be detected.

It might seem that the kinds of error which I have been discussing—the simple substitution of one letter for another—are of no importance, because before a text is finally printed such obvious errors generally get corrected, or if not put right by the corrector they can be instantly


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emended by the reader. This is to a certain extent true. If one meets with the word `hte' where the sense obviously required `the' the error is of no importance whatever, one corrects it automatically in reading; possibly indeed one may not even notice it. But in the first place there are many words which by an error of a single letter are transformed into other words (especially was this the case when spelling was not as fixed as it is at present), and sometimes these words will give a kind of sense, so that the error is not noticed by the proof-reader; and secondly an error of a single letter may cause a corrector to correct in a wrong way altogether. Thus, suppose the word `obscured' to be printed `obseured' a corrector careless of the sense may alter it to `obserued' taking the fault to be in the transposition of `u' and `r' instead of in the `e'—or suppose we have the word `trueness' printed in error as `tureness' a corrector may alter it mistakenly to `sureness'—these, by the way, are genuine cases and not imaginary ones.

But seeing that in textual work our difficulty is nearly always with words which while being genuine words are the wrong words, rather than with collections of letters which are not words at all, the other sort of compositor's error which I have mentioned, due to failure of memory, is of more importance to us, when instead of unconsciously setting a wrong letter under the impression that it is a right one, he sets an altogether wrong word. It is, and presumably always has been, the practice of a compositor to read several words of his copy at a time and to keep them in his memory while setting them up. If he is not careful, he may very easily substitute a wrong word—especially a word of the same meaning—for what he ought to set, or a false analogy may lead him astray. To give a single instance of this sort of error, there occurs in Nashe's Unfortunate Traveller a reference to a person who had the beginnings of a beard `a sable auglet of excrements in the rising of the anckle of his chinne.' Now `anckle' is of course `angle'; the spelling has no authority and may itself be a mere slip on the part of the compositor, but having set up `ankle' his mind apparently began to run on feet and legs and instead of `chin' he set up `shin,' making the person described have a beard `on the ankle of his shin.' As the mistake was corrected in the errata of the book we know that it was a simple mistake and not any kind of intended jest.

The most famous examples of error attributable to the compositor's failures of memory occur, however, in the Faery Queene, where in nine places we find substituted for a rhyming word a metrically equivalent synonym which does not rhyme. Thus we have `chace' where the rhyme requires `prey;' `play' where `sport' is required; `make' (a feast) where rhyme requires `hold,' `vpreare' for `vpheaue,' `times' for `age' and so


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on. It has, I may say been regarded as questionable whether these readings are really errors or not. Some have regarded them as an intentional freakishness on Spenser's part, perhaps intended in some way to follow the precedent of the incomplete lines of Virgil, but it seems at least equally likely that they are due either to carelessness in copying or, yet more probably, to this failure of memory on the part of the compositor which we are discussing. In several of the cases the phrase printed is slightly more usual than the one required by the rhyme, while in one or two the previous rhyme word may have suggested the word printed, as when `spyde' in place of `saw' is printed immediately after a line ending `sight.'

It may be remarked that as Spenser's lines average eight words or more it might be not unreasonable to suppose that there may be seven times as many mistakes in words other than rhyme-words arising in a similar way, and in general we should, I think, expect a certain amount of vitiation of all texts, both MS. and printed, to arise from this kind of substitution of synonyms, which is of course, if the synonym is at all a reasonable one, exceedingly hard to detect. It is not at all unlikely that certain of the apparently pointless alterations which we sometimes find in reprinted texts are due simply to this failure of memory on the part of the compositor and have no significance whatever. Thus of the two editions of Nashe's Unfortunate Traveller, one of which is printed from the other, the first has `the campe or the court, or the court and the camp,' the second `the court or the camp, or the camp and the court,' simply interchanging in each phrase the words `camp' and `court;' one text has `ancenstrie' the other `ancestors;' one has `carelesnes' the other `forgetfulnes;' one has `rashly' the other `hastely' and so on. In such cases it is hardly possible to suppose deliberate correction, for the one phrase seems to be just as good as the other. On the other hand, it is easy to suppose that a careless or hurried compositor having read from his copy the first rather involved phrase would get it wrong way round, or that for the rarer form `ancestrie' he should set `ancestors.' So long as such deviations from the original appeared to make decent sense it is unlikely that a proof-reader would notice them, or if he did notice them would bother to correct them in work in which minute accuracy did not seem to him of especial importance.

We now come to what is, I believe, probably the most important cause of seriously bad texts—that sort of text, I mean, which is obviously corrupt, and in such a way as to defy emendation, namely bad correction. I cannot help believing that if we only possessed the first proofs of such things as the Shakespeare quartos, or of the First Folio, with all the mistakes of the original composition in them, we should be able without


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difficulty to construct a much better text than we now can compass. I believe that many of the worst difficulties in the text are the result of stupid and unintelligent attempts at correction rather than of the illegibility of the copy or the carelessness of the compositor. If one has before one simply a bad but honest attempt to decipher a difficult word, one can usually, or at any rate very often, make a better attempt oneself, or if a word has simply a letter or two wrong or out of place one can usually guess the right word, but when a fool has already been at work on these errors and has corrected them into something much more erroneous, emendation at this second stage is a far more difficult affair. I have drawn attention elsewhere to an example of this sort of erroneous correction which occurs in Nashe's Pierce Penniless but it is so exactly to the point that I must be pardoned for using it again. In three editions, each printed from the one before it, we have in a certain side-note the readings:

The confutation of Citizens obiections against Players.

The confutation of Citizens against Players.

The coniuration of Citizens against Players.

Now it is obvious that the first of these is correct. The second made nonsense of the note by omitting the word `obiections' whereupon the compositor or proof-reader of the third, seeing that the note was wrong, but not seeing wherein the error lay, altered rather ingeniously, `confutation' to `coniuration.' Supposing that we had only the second and third of these texts we should, I think, have little difficulty in guessing that some word similar in meaning to `obiections' had dropped out after `Citizens,' but if we had only the third edition, with `confutation' emended to `coniuration', he would be, I think, a critic of real genius who could guess what the original reading had been. I cannot help believing that in unintelligent correction we have the explanation of many of the obscure passages of sixteenth century dramatic literature. The compositor makes an error of some sort—perhaps merely a trivial one—the proof-reader sees something is wrong and not troubling to refer back to the copy makes the words into real words with little or no regard to sense or context, and thus transforms a little and probably easily corrected mistake into one which has defied generations of critics to put right.

But it will perhaps be said that the traditional method of proof correction is for a boy to read the manuscript aloud and for the corrector to follow the proof word by word at the same time, and I may be asked how, if this was done, such miscorrection could occur. This method is carefully set forth in Moxon's Mechanic Exercises of 1683, and a reading boy may be seen in the famous—though, I think, somewhat imagina-


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tive—engraving of a Dutch printing-house by Johannes Stradanus dating from about 1600. It is also described in most of the later treatises on printing.

No doubt such a method of proof-reading would be the ideal, and it is quite probable that it was used in good printing-houses when important work was in progress, but I confess that I have great doubts whether it was at any time much employed for the ordinary day by day printing of the smaller printing-houses. Serious errors and especially omissions are practically impossible by this method, for the chances of the compositor and the reading boy both missing the identical words is of course negligible, while even the same misreading is hardly likely to be made by two independent readers. But I cannot believe that any such care as this was taken over ordinary work such as pamphlets or plays. The obvious course was for a corrector to read the proof itself, only referring to the MS. when he found something that he could not correct by the light of nature, and I think that this is what was usually done and that the correction was often merely the most casual guess work, the corrector contenting himself with replacing evidently erroneous words by real words, neglecting the sense, and as I have said, often correcting the words into wrong ones.

It is of course impossible as a rule to be certain that an error was due to wrong correction, though many authors have at one time or another complained of incorrect alterations having been made in their work after they had passed the final proofs; indeed such well-meaning but unnecessary tampering with the text is not unknown even at present. I will venture to give you what I think is probably an example, and a somewhat curious one, of miscorrection from the advertisement columns of a London newspaper of some four years ago. It occurs in a series of advertisements of the firm of J. Lyons & Co. the caterers, written by a rather well-known literary man. He had occasion—I need not explain, indeed I do not think I could explain, the connection with his subject—to quote from Swinburne's famous `hounds of spring' chorus in Atalanta, in which occur the lines:

`And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire,
And the oat is heard above the lyre,
And the hoofed heel of the satyr crushes
The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root.'

Now that second line—`and the oat is heard above the lyre'—must, I think, have puzzled someone in the printing office. You can imagine him expostulating `But you can't possibly hear oats. There must be something wrong there!' and running over in his head the words for which


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`oat' might be an error, `mat,' `rat,' `fat,' etc. no doubt rejecting `cat,' though indeed audible, as unlikely in high-class poetry, until at last the word `bat' occurred to him, and he perhaps remembered that the cheep of a bat on summer evenings is not without poetical associations—though indeed Swinburne was not writing about summer evenings—so down it went in the proof and the line appeared—

`And the bat is heard above the lyre.'

I wonder, by the way, if that advertisement version of Swinburne's lines had alone survived whether any textual critic would ever have guessed the correct reading, and if one did, whether others would have accepted it.

There is one frequent fault of correction which is not uncommon even at present and which is especially hard to notice. This is when a word in the proof is rightly marked to be corrected, and the compositor corrects the wrong one. Thus a certain word occurs twice within the space of two or three lines. In one case it is wrong in the other right. The corrector notices the error and duly marks it, but the compositor by inadvertence makes the correction in the wrong place. When the corrections come to be checked, the reader notices that the marked word has not been corrected, and marks it again in the revise, but unless he reads the whole passage through (as one always should do when one finds a correction apparently ignored), he will not notice that the correction has been made elsewhere. The result is that the correction gets made in two places, one of which is wrong. All who have had much to do with proof-reading will have met with instances of this annoying accident in work which they thought they had read with the utmost care.

Then of course there are the cases where a correction is misunderstood. I recall an amusing instance of this which happened to a friend of mine. He chanced to prefer a somewhat unusual spelling of a word—I think it was that disputed word `rhyme' which at one time it was the custom of many English scholars to spell `rime.' It happened that this occurred twice or thrice in a particular page and the printer's reader had carefully queried all the instances. The usual way of indicating that the text is correct as it stands is of course to strike out the query and write the word `stet' in the margin, but as there were several instances, my friend, perhaps somewhat pedantically, thought the plural should 7be used, and wrote `stent' in the margin—a word unfamiliar to the compositor, who promptly substituted `stent' for the word `rime' wherever it occurred, with very comic results. And there are cases too of comments of other kinds getting into the text in this way. I cannot, I regret to say, give you any certain example of this from early work, but one which


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was pointed out to me by the Librarian of the Taylor Institution at Oxford, Mr. L. F. Powell, as occurring in a book printed only three years ago is so nice that I cannot refrain from quoting it. It is to be found in Professor Ashton's translation of Mme de la Fayette's Princesse de Cleves published by Routledge in 1925, page 216. It seems that the printer's reader had annoyed Professor Ashton with constant queries as to his translation, until at last in exasperation the Professor added in the margin of the proof a somewhat forcibly expressed request to the proof-reader to desist from his interpolations. The result was the following curious passage. I need hardly say that as Mme de la Fayette was the author of the romance in question her own name does not occur in the narrative.

“As soon as this journey was mentioned, Madame de Cleves, who was still at home feigning illness, begged her husband to permit her not to go to Court, but to leave for Coulommiers, in order to get into the open air and care for her health. He told her that he did not want to pry into the question of whether it was her health that obliged her not to go on this journey, but that he consented to her not going, but for God's sake to stop bobbing up between Madame de la Fayette and me. He had no difficulty in consenting to something that he had already decided upon.” etc.

The translator's remark `for God's sake stop bobbing up between Madame de la Fayette and me' is so neatly inserted in the text that one cannot help suspecting that the compositor was not merely a simpleton!

But the possibility of error in a printed text is not limited to errors of actual composition or of corrections though these are undoubtedly the most important from the point of view of the textual critic. There are one or two errors of a larger kind which sometimes occur and of which a word may be said in conclusion.

Firstly, a compositor may get the leaves of his MS. in the wrong order, or he may overlook one or more leaves. I do not know of any book which has actually got printed with the whole of the matter inverted so that it began with the closing paragraphs, and ended with the opening ones, but there is a famous instance of a book being sent out in proof in that form, namely Goldsmith's Traveller, originally called `A Prospect of Society.' Presumably Goldsmith did not number the leaves of his MS. but simply handed them to the printer as written or fair copied, with the last on the top. The printer, who perhaps did not expect a poem to make sense, set them up as he found them, and the proof, a copy of which may be seen in the British Museum, began accordingly with lines 353-400 of the poem, these being followed by lines 311-352, these by 277-310 and so on, the whole thing being in a series of chunks of some 35 to 40 lines, no doubt each representing a page of MS. put together in


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the reverse order. It may be mentioned that Goldsmith made very extensive alterations in the poem in proof besides restoring the lines to their correct order, but it is clear on careful examination that the original setting of type was used.

Omissions of passages due to the loss of portions of text are, however, not uncommon. They are of course generally discovered and corrected by means of errata. What is perhaps the most important instance of this occurred in the first Quarto of 2 Henry IV in which, as first issued, the opening scene of Act III was omitted altogether. On the discovery of the error the sheet which should have contained the scene was reprinted with two additional leaves. There are also a few instances of blocks of matter which presumably represented an original page of MS. being inserted in the wrong place, but such gross errors are as a rule easily detected and give little trouble to the textual critic.

Secondly, in making up his pages into formes, i.e. in arranging them so that paper printed from them may, when folded, form sheets of the printed book, a compositor may get certain pages out of the proper order. This mistake is a rare one, for the arrangement of the pages in a forme is at the same time so important and so elementary a part of the printer's training, that error here must mean the greatest possible carelessness. Owing to the presence of catchwords in most early books it is also an error which as a rule can very easily be detected. It does, however, at times occur.

Lastly, there is a not uncommon fault due to what is called wrong perfecting, namely placing sheets one side of which has been already printed, on the machine the wrong way round. This results in confusion in the order of the pages. Thus in a quarto the pages, instead of running, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on, will run 1, 6, 7, 4, 5, 2, 3, 8. This is a very simple error which occasionally is found even in modern books, and though perhaps puzzling to those entirely ignorant of the way in which books are printed will trouble no one with the most elementary knowledge of the subject.

In concluding these lectures I cannot but feel that to some of you whose interest in literature is purely aesthetic—and ultimately what interest can there be in literature save the aesthetic?—much of what I have said must have seemed irritatingly trivial. To a great extent I sympathize with such a view. It is indeed irritating that we should have to go such a long way round and spend so much time in apparently irrelevant matters, in order to approach work which was written in order to be enjoyed, and which only in so far as it can be enjoyed is worth our attention to-day. It would have been so much better if impeccable texts of our


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early writers had been handed down to us together with all necessary biographical and other information to enable us to appreciate them to the full. Unfortunately none of Shakespeare's contemporaries saw the need of doing this. It is annoying, and I fear that some of the annoyance has been diverted from those careless people who neglected their duty to those of us who are doing the best we can to restore the damage due to their neglect.

But at least such detailed study of the transmission of a text as has been the subject of these lectures does no harm. There is a very real pleasure in the pursuit of truth, in whatever way and in respect of whatever subject we seek it; and there is certainly this to be said that although too much study of other peoples' opinions about a great writer may easily lead to boredom and to loss of interest in the writer himself, one's own investigations and attempt to form one's own opinions never do this. Rather, the further one goes, the more interesting does the subject of one's enquiry become.

Lastly, do not let us in the pursuit of truth be afraid of the charge of pedantry. It is, as a rule, a charge brought against a man who knows his job by one who is conscious of not knowing it and is secretly ashamed of this. But let us as editors and as textual critics, having learnt our job as well as we can, be humble about it; for knowledge is not everything in matters of this kind. As the most successful researcher in scientific matters is held to be the one who, having thoroughly mastered all the available data of his subject so that they have become a part of himself, then—and not till then—proceeds to use his imagination; so, I think, the most successful textual critic is one who having first thoroughly familiarized himself with what I may term the mechanical side of his subject, then, with this relegated, as it were, into the background, uses his literary judgement, and that alone. The really successful and convincing emendation of a corrupt passage, such an emendation as Theobald's famous `a babbled o' green fields' is indeed a form of inspiration; but such inspiration comes seldom to anyone save as a result of prolonged and intensive study of his problem, and of the careful consideration of every factor, however seemingly unimportant, which can in any way contribute to its effective solution.


10.33 ought to have written] In “Shakespeare's Text” (159-161), McKerrow displays a more cautious attitude, apparently sympathising more both with the needs of what he calls the “aesthetic reader” and with the work of Rowe and Pope. He takes a similar stance in Prolegomena, 33-36.

10.41 `stands' for `stand'st'] Cf. Coriolanus I.v.25, “Oh noble fellow / Who sensibly outdares


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his senseless sword / And, when it bows, stand'st up!” In his 1709 edition Rowe emended the Folio reading “stand'st” to “stands”. (This, incidentally, seems to confirm the word order given above, “`stands' for `stand'st'”.) McKerrow did not re-use this example in his later essays and in the Prolegomena.

11.35 other persons] See A. W. Pollard, Shakespeare's Folios and Quartos (London: Methuen, 1909) and, by the same author, Shakespeare's Fight with the Pirates (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1920; repr. 1937); J. Dover Wilson, “Bibliographical Links Between the Three Pages [of Harley MS. 7368] and the Good Quartos,” in Alfred W. Pollard, W. W. Greg, E. Maunde Thompson, J. Dover Wilson, and R. W. Chambers, Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1923). Wilson and Arthur Quiller-Couch's New Cambridge Shakespeare had begun to appear as early as 1921.

13.26 some critics] While, as attested by “Elizabethan Printer,” 139, and “Shakespeare's Text,” 161-183, McKerrow was here referring to Shakespeare's earlier editors from Rowe to Capell, it should be pointed out that contemporary hearers may have also thought of later—and perhaps even recent—editors, such as Sidney Lee, whose edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare (London: Caxton) had appeared in 1910-14, and Dover Wilson. One wonders if this statement was left in its ambiguous form by chance, or if this was meant as a polemical hint. (See also the present editor's introduction.)

14.36-37 “I write... understood”] McKerrow is apparently quoting from Greville's original letter to Hickes of 18 January 1600/1 in British Library Lansdowne MS 88/1 (the manuscript reads, however, “annother”).

15.5 a pamphlet of his] The pamphlet in question is The Terrors of the Night; cf. The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. R. B. McKerrow (5 vols., 1904-10), rev. Frank Percy Wilson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), I, 341; cp. also IV, 450.

15.35-16.7 Thus Henry Chettle... into type] McKerrow re-used this section (the quote is not modernized) on p. 145 in “Elizabethan Printer,” where he provides the source for this passage: “`To the Gentlemen Readers' prefixed to Kind-Harts Dreame” (note 1, p. 156). The only significant variant in “Elizabethan Printer” is the smoothing of the passage “this was the copy which was afterwards printed from” to “it was from this copy that the work was afterwards printed”.

16.31 licenser's fair copy] For a recent account (still agreeing, on the whole, with McKerrow) of licensing and prompt-books in this period see David Bradley, From Text to Performance in the Elizabethan Theatre: Preparing the Play for the Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991), 62-63. See also H. R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts 1558-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996) 109-115, 137- 138.

18.6 Prof. Dover Wilson] See the textual note in A Midsummer Night's Dream, ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch and John Dover Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1924), p. 80.

19.14 name of a character] McKerrow again discussed characters' names in his influential “A Suggestion Regarding Shakespeare's Manuscripts,” Review of English Studies, 11 (1935), 459-465. On this article, which has sometimes been considered the basis for Shakespearean textual criticism ever since, see Paul Werstine, “McKerrow's `Suggestion' and Twentieth-Century Shakespeare Textual Criticism,” Renaissance Drama, n.s., 19 (1988), 149-173.

24.21 Mr. F. P. Wilson] The reference is to Frank Percy Wilson's seminal article “Ralph Crane, Scrivener to the King's Players,” Library, 4th ser., 7 (1926-7), 194-215.

24.31 plays existing in transcripts] Some additions can be now made to this list, most noticeably the transcript of Ben Jonson's Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue. For an updated bibliography see T. H. Howard-Hill, Ralph Crane and Some Shakespeare Folios (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1972) and Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 189-195.

24.38 Miss Frijlinck's edition of Barnavelt] The Tragedy of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, ed. Wilhelmina P. Frijlinck (Amsterdam: H. G. van Dorssen, 1922).

27.23 proof-reader] Cf. also McKerrow's Introduction, 206-208. To understand to what


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extent McKerrow's observations on this point have been influential, cf. Gaskell, New Introduction, 110-116.

28.24 elsewhere] Introduction, 241-246.

28.30 To pacify... angry] The source for the quotation is given in Introduction, 242, as “Sir John Harington's Epigrams, ed. 1618, bk. ii, epigram 23”.

29.2 Mr. Pollard has remarked] “See [...] Professor A. W. Pollard's introduction to the facsimile of Mr. A. W. White's unique quarto of Richard II, 1916, p. 35” (Introduction, 244 n. 2).

29.11 I doubt it] The question marks together with the “a<nd>” found in the margins of CT may suggest that McKerrow had also thought of another explanation, namely that the manuscript originally read “and” but blotting or damage made it impossible for the compositor to discern the letters after the initial “a”.

29.17 J. C. Zeltner] “John Conrad Zeltner, in his book entitled C. D. Correctorum in Typographiis eruditorum centuria speciminis loco collecta, 1716, pp. 408-9” (Introduction, 243; see 244 for the text of the excerpt referred to here).

32.21 Dr. Greg] W. W. Greg, “An Elizabethan Printer and His Copy,” Library, 4th ser., 4 (1923), 102-118. On Greg's article cf. also Introduction, 217, 240- 241 and 247.

33.8 Miss Byrne] Muriel M. St. Clare Byrne, “Anthony Munday's Spelling as a Literary Clue,” Library, 4th ser., 4 (1923), 9-23. Cf. also Introduction, 248-249.

33.13 1586] McKerrow's question mark next to the date “1586” may be related to the uncertain date of Munday's John a Kent, perhaps staged by the Admiral's Men in 1589; see Alfred Harbage, Annals of English Drama 975- 1700, rev. ed., by Samuel Schoenbaum and Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim (London: Routledge, 1989).

34.20 Spenser] Edmund Spenser, Colin Clout's Come Home Againe, line 399.

34.24 Miss Byrne] Muriel M. St. Clare Byrne, “Thomas Churchyard's Spelling,” Library, 4th ser., 5 (1924), 243-248.

34.31 Earl of Essex] STC 5234.

39.9-10 a single compositor] McKerrow's own Introduction, at any rate, states that “the whole work may have been executed [...] by two or more sets of compositors and press-men working simultaneously” (129). See also Hinman, The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare, and D. F. McKenzie, “Printers of the Mind,” Studies in Bibliography, 22 (1969), 1-75.

40.16 early punctuation] For a modern history of punctuation, readers can now refer to M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1992).

40.29-30 Mrs. Percy Simpson] Evelyn Percy Simpson, “A Note on Donne's Punctuation,” Review of English Studies, 4 (1928), 295-300.

41.16 his duty] On this theme cf. also Introduction, 204-213; see, however, Gaskell, New Introduction, 110-116 and references quoted there.

42.38 Bentley's edition] Richard Bentley (1662-1742), classical scholar and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. His edition of Milton's Paradise Lost, bearing over 800 suggested emendations, was published in 1732.

44.1 Dr. Oskar Sommer] Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur. The Original Edition of William Caxton, ed. Oskar Sommer, 3 vols. (London: D. Nutt, 1891).

44.24 Dr. J. A. Gee] John Archer Gee, The Life and Works of Thomas Lupset (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1928).

45.16 Spenser] Edmund Spenser, Poetical Works, ed. J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1912). McKerrow re-used the section on Spenser (from “In the one-volume” to “under 4,000”) with minimal variations in “Elizabethan Printer,” 141-142. In the article he added, after this (142-143), an extra example from Robert Greene's News Both from Heaven and Hell, followed by virtually the same text found in the next paragraph (“Lastly... complaint here”; the only significant variant here may be “Titesius” for “Titesias”).

45.41 Grosart] Edmund Spenser, The Complete Works in Verse and Prose, ed. Alexander B. Grosart et al., 9 vols. ([London]: Printed for Private Circulation, 1882-84).

49.18 confusions possible] Cf. Introduction, 253-254.


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51.12 William Blades] William Blades, Shakespeare and Typography (London: Trubner & Co., 1872), 73-78; cf. Introduction, 256.

53.14-15 genuine cases] The case of “obscured” printed as “obserued” is, in fact, found “in the Interlude of Inpatient Poverty, 1560, l. 794” (Introduction, 258).

53.28 Nashe's Unfortunate Traveller] The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. McKerrow, II, 227; interestingly, this edition reads, however, “anckle”, following the second edition of 1594, sig. C1v. One wonders if this is just a coincidence; McKerrow's insistence in these lectures on the errors in later “reprints” (i.e., editions), on the fact that spelling is more and more subject to normalisation as editions continue, and on the unlikely possibility that the authors would have read proofs of reprints, may point to an increasing dissatisfaction with his own practice in The Works of Thomas Nashe. Even when certain that there are authorial revisions in a later edition, that is, McKerrow might be implicitly questioning the theoretical validity of basing the whole text on that edition. For a comment of McKerrow's editorial principles—and on this edition in particular—see Greg, “Ronald Brunlees McKerrow 1872-1940,” 19-23.

55.13 using it again] Introduction, 198.

56.34-37 And fruit... chestnut-root] Algernon Charles Swinburne, “When the hounds of spring” in Atalanta in Calydon, first chorus, ll. 37-40.

58.39 in the British Museum] This set of proof-sheets is now British Library C. 58.g.7.

60.30 emendation] Lewis Theobald's emendation is now included in most editions of Henry V (II.iii.15-16: “For his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a babbled of green fields”). For an excellent discussion of this famous textual crux see Henry V, ed. Gary Taylor, The World's Classics (Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), 292-295.


The following list records alterations made in the text by McKerrow or the editor. The nature of the changes and the criteria for recording them are explained in “A Note on the Text” in the Editor's Introduction, as are the abbreviations used here to designate the sources of readings: C (Cambridge University Library), CT (Trinity College Library, Cambridge), and L (British Library).

Title during] in C, CT, L. See Editor's Introduction

7.4 manuscripts] the final s inserted C, CT, L

7.11 convincing] ing written above convince C, CT, L

7.36 concerned,] the comma inserted C, CT, L

8.22 Shakespearian] the i written above cancelled e CT

8.26 his plays] written above cancelled Shakespeare CT

9.39 author's] authors' C, CT, L

9.41 used,] the comma inserted CT

10.37 own—] own, C, CT, L

10.41 `stands' for `stand'st'] question mark written in margin, 2 written above `stands', and 1 written above `stand'st' C, CT, L. See Editorial Commentary

10.42 (=of)] written in margin CT; written above text after `a' C, L

11.19 those] the o written above cancelled e C, CT, L

11.20 a single] written above cancelled one C, CT, L

11.31 Dover] written in space left by typist C, CT, L

12.23 at least be] be least be C, CT, L

13.3 him,... conform,] the commas inserted CT

13.10 remarkable] written above cancelled startling C, CT, L

13.27 lightly] written above cancelled likely C, CT; typewritten above cancelled likely L

13.34 day] s cancelled at end of word C, CT, L

14.4 seem—] seem, C, CT, L


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14.22 author] s cancelled at end of word C, CT, L

15.33 licenser] the r written above cancelled e C, CT; the r typewritten above cancelled e L

18.40-41 uncertain] written above cancelled changing L; written above uncancelled changing C, CT

19.33 are] followed by cancelled not C, CT, L

20.40 scans] written in space left by typist C, CT; typewritten later in space originally left by typist L

22.39 seldom,] the comma inserted CT

23.1 while] written above cancelled which C, CT, L

23.19 authors,] the comma inserted CT

23.38 our] written above cancelled one C, CT

24.22 much] written above cancelled a great deal CT

24.34 by] altered from of by strikeover C, CT, L

25.26 accessible—] accessible, C, CT, L

25.36 play—] play, C, CT, L

25.36 at] of C, CT, L

26.12 a copy] written above cancelled one C, CT, L

26.36 might,] the comma inserted C, CT, L

26.37 printing,] the comma inserted CT

27.23 save in the King's Printing house,] inserted above text after even C, CT, L

27.30 punctuation,] the comma inserted CT, L

27.34 own?] the question mark altered from a period CT, L

28.6-7 printed books] written above uncancelled them C, CT, L

28.8 1580,] the comma inserted C, CT, L

28.11-12 spelling] written above cancelled it C, CT, L

28.16 and important] written above text after real CT

28.16 is limited in its effects] written above cancelled comparatively unimportant C, CT, L

28.40 Ah] question mark followed by a<nd> written in margin CT. See Editorial Commentary

29.10 This also is possible] question mark in margin CT. See Editorial Commentary

30.22 hardly any vernacular ones] written above cancelled no others C, CT, L

30.23-24 apart... (ye, yt, wh)] not in C, L; apart from the contractions for a few small words such as the that, which ex. ye yt wh written in margin CT

30.30 say] written above cancelled so C, CT, L

31.4 mentioned,] the comma inserted C, CT

31.15 Euphues] the u written above cancelled n C, CT, L

31.15 Philautus,] the u written above cancelled n C, CT, L

31.23 to] written above cancelled of C, CT, L

31.23 Philautus,] the u written above cancelled n C, CT, L

32.2 can] underlined by hand CT

32.10 Furioso] the r written above c and the o written above s C, CT, L

32.36 `mynds,' `wynd,' `mynd,' `kynd,' `fayn,' `byte,' `playn,' `kynd,'] `mynds, wynd, mynd, kynd, fayn, byte, playn, kynd,' C, CT, L

32.37 `vile,' `time' and `birth'] `vile, time and birth' C, CT, L

33.5 those] the o written above cancelled e C, CT, L

33.13 1586] underlined, with question mark written in the margin CT. See Editorial Commentary

33.16 `doone,' `dooth,' `loove,' `woorthie,'] `doone, dooth, loove, woorthie,' C, CT, L

34.4 not] written in margin C, CT, L

34.16 manuscripts,] the comma inserted CT

34.18 poetaster] written across typed pre and in space left by typist C, CT, L

34.24 also] inserted above text after article C, CT, L

34.30 Bollifant] the f written above cancelled p C, CT, L

34.31 Earl] East C, CT, L

34.33 desire—] desire, C, CT, L

35.25 ciuill] written in space left by typist C, CT, L

37.25 Euphues] the u written above cancelled n C, CT

37.25 Philautus] the n written above cancelled n C, CT

37.31 with] written above cancelled and C, CT, L

37.32 with] written above cancelled and C, CT, L

38.9 Euphues] the u written above canceled n C, CT, L

38.25 strike us] written above cancelled sticks C, CT; strikes us written above cancelled sticks L


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39.33 perhaps after 1580—] inserted above text after 1590 CT

40.32 Donne] the first n written over u CT

41.37-38 printing-houses other than that of the King's Printer] houses other than that of the King's Printer written above cancelled trade C, CT, L

42.28 obtained] written above uncancelled formed CT

43.22 however] written above text after If C, CT, L

43.33 Pliny] the y written above cancelled g C, CT, L

43.34 that] followed by cancelled on the whole CT

43.36 bad—] followed by cancelled to convince oneself that C, CT, L

44.2-3 Wynkyn de Worde's departures] written above cancelled the variants C, CT, L

44.3 text] followed by cancelled made by Wynkyn de Worde, C, CT, L

44.10 not] followed by cancelled very C, CT, L

44.10 400,000] written above cancelled half a million C, CT, L

44.36 `these',] the comma inserted CT

46.21 `Nenius'] the n written above cancelled u C, CT, L

46.21 `Neuius,'] the u written above cancelled n C, CT, L

46.32 inability] written above cancelled unable C, CT, L

47.13-14 are... suppose] written above cancelled might easily be confused in an `English' hand CT

47.20 early] written above cancelled Elizabethan C, CT, L

48.20 meaning or good] inserted above text after of C, CT

48.24 very] inserted above text after of CT

48.40 of a general nature] inserted above text after much C, CT, L

49.7 between] inserted above text after scribes C, CT, L

49.20 `r' and `v,'] inserted above text after `x,' C, CT, L

49.22 Italian,] the comma inserted CT

50.10-11 Perhaps... own] written above cancelled Indeed, I can give from my own experience as [sic] example CT

50.35 peculiarities of] inserted above text after to C, CT, L

50.35 their] followed by cancelled illegible C, CT, L

50.36 of] written above cancelled to C, CT, L

51.9 a] inserted above text after such C, CT, L

51.19 `low'] written above cancelled `revive' C, CT, L

51.19 `vow'] written above cancelled `revile,' C, CT, L

51.32 one] question mark written in the margin CT

52.15 `etrre'] the second r written above cancelled s C, CT, L

52.15 `terre,'] the second r written above cancelled s C, CT, L

53.11 obserued] the u written above cancelled v C, CT, L

53.14 mistakenly] written above cancelled again C, CT, L

53.29 auglet] the u written above cancelled n C, CT, L

53.30 Now] written above cancelled but C, CT, L

53.42 `vpreare' for `vpheaue'] written above text after `hold,' C, CT, L

54.5-6 or,... probably,] the commas inserted CT

54.16 vitiation] written in space left by typist C, CT, L

55.2 worst] written in space left by typist C, CT, L

55.13 three] written in margin next to uncancelled these CT

57.2 in high-class poetry] written above text after unlikely CT

58.21-22 for... me] written above text after remark C, CT, L

58.22 in the text] inserted below text after inserted C, CT, L


I am much indebted to several people who have contributed in various ways to the final form of these pages. Among these are Mr. Malcolm B. McKerrow, who has very kindly granted permission to print his father's lectures, and Mrs. Alison Sproston of Trinity College, who has cordially dealt with all my queries on the manuscripts both by mail and during my stay in Cambridge; to Elisabeth Leedham-Green of Cambridge University I owe a lasting debt, both for her support and her friendship. A grant from the U.K. Bibliographical Society has covered part of the cost of the research; I am particularly grateful to the Society's secretary, Dr. Maureen Bell. Finally, the encouragement of Jerome McGann and the help of the editor of Studies in Bibliography have allowed this paper to find not only a place but also a rationale for publication.


See W. W. Greg's obituary account, “Ronald Brunless McKerrow 1872-1940,” originally published in Proceedings of the British Academy, 26 (1940), 488-515; repr. in Ronald Brunlees McKerrow: A Selection of His Essays, ed. John Phillip Immroth (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974), 1-23 (the text cited here and subsequently; the quotation is from p. 17).


An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927; repr. with corrections, 1928; repr. Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, and New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 1994). This book was preceded by McKerrow's “Notes on Bibliographical Evidence for Literary Students and Editors of English Works of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” Transactions of the Bibliographical Society [for 1911-13], 12 (1914), 211-318, which constituted in many respects the basis of his Introduction.


Introduction, p. 239. My point about McKerrow's ultimate concern with textual questions owes much to the introduction written by David McKitterick for the 1994 reprint; see in particular his comments (on p. xxi) on the quotation above and (on p. xx) on a similar statement from McKerrow's Preface.


Cf. McKitterick's introduction, pp. xxi-xxii. On the changes introduced in the reprint see David L. Vander Meulen, “Revision in Bibliographical Classics: `McKerrow' and `Bowers,'” Studies in Bibliography, 52 (1999), 215-245, especially 223-237.


Lecture I, par. 17.


Cf. Greg. “Ronald Brunlees McKerrow 1872-1940,” 16- 17.


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