University of Virginia Library

Dedication, Vision, and Revision:
The Poet in the Printing House

While the computer-aided statistical work upon which the analysis of com-
position in A Textual Companion is based has undoubtedly added significantly to
our understanding of the printing of The Faerie Queene in 1590, the rest of the
analysis of Yamashita et al. perpetuates some of Johnson's unfortunate errors,
and adds new mistakes both of omission and commission, to our picture of the
use of the four skeleton-formes. These mistakes substantially cloud the evidence
of the order of imposition of the gatherings, which, it turns out, were not printed
sequentially. Yamashita et al. similarly stepped back from offering an interpreta-
tion synthesizing the various types of bibliographical evidence they had assimi-
lated from Johnson, and newly supplied themselves. As the following discussion
will make clear, there is a great deal of significant bibliographical evidence to
suggest that Spenser was intimately and presently engaged in the printing of the
text; that he substantially interfered with and delayed Wolfe's press run; that on
many substantial points of layout and composition, including the position of the


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'prefatory' material and the dedication to the Queen, Spenser and the printer
remained unresolved until the last moment; and that many of the latest altera-
tions to the 1590 text (as would again be true in 1596) concerned contemporary
political allusions, and particularly the allegorical representations of Elizabeth.

One of the most ambitious and useful expansions of Johnson's work provided
in A Textual Companion to The Faerie Queene 1590 is in the form of a large table
that records in meticulous detail the disposal of the various running-titles, regu-
larly associated with one of the four skeleton-formes, throughout the volume. On
the basis of this table (a similar version of which Johnson must have generated in
his own research, though he did not publish it), the pattern of skeleton-forme use
can be reconstructed; correctly documenting the deployment of running-titles is
thus crucial to understanding the precise use of the skeleton-formes, and basic
to any interpretation of the order of imposition.[18] In all, Yamashita et al. identify
nineteen distinct running-titles, each of which is reproduced in facsimile in their
study. Distinguished by their typographical features, sixteen basic variants exist,
four to each skeleton-forme; for various reasons during the printing of the text,
according to these scholars, three new running-titles were composed and used in
the place of three originals. The two skeleton-formes regularly used from gather-
ing C to print the outer sheet of each gathering (II and III) remained remarkably
consistent throughout the press run. All of the changes to running-titles took
place in skeleton-formes I and IV, used to print the inner sheet of each gather-
ing, and were made in gathering V and after; the imposition of the inner sheet
became increasingly troubled after gathering Bb, and most of the changes to
running-titles took place between this point and the end of the job (Pp). These,
and further observations on the pattern of use of the running-titles, can be fol-
lowed in table 1, a corrected version of that compiled by Yamashita et al., which
also (for reasons that will become clear later) includes their findings on com-
positors' stints; for ease of reading the table, I have also reproduced analyses of
skeleton-forme construction (figure 1).

The first serious mistake, though it seems minor, in this presentation is that
these scholars have distinguished two running-titles—16 and 17—that are in fact
the same setting of type, and thus the same title; the printing of this title, used
regularly in gatherings C to Bb to print the recto of the sixth leaf (i.e. position 6r),
became intermittently corrupt during the course of the print run, such that by
the time of the later gatherings the terminal 'ne' of 'Queene' in 'The Faerie
Queene' seems regularly to have split and recombined, and appears deformed.
Yamashita et al. distinguish the damaged presentation of this title from the sound


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FIGURE 1. The initial disposition of running-titles in the four skeleton-formes. The introduc-
tion of running-titles 11 (a modification of 10) and 19, along with the exchange of skeleton-
forme I for IV and the reversal of orientation of skeleton-forme IV, can be traced in table 1.
A similar figure appears in Yamashita et al. (1990).


FIGURE 2. Damage to running-title 16 in position 6r of gathering P (a) is similar to that
apparent in the same running-title in position 3r of gathering Ll (b). While the running-title
occasionally appears sound, as in position 6r of gathering K (c), or indeed in position 6r of
gathering T (not shown), it is clear from the regular fluctuations throughout die printing pro-
cess that a clean-state 16 is not to be distinguished from a foul-state 17. The copy illustrated
here is Cambridge University Library, Sel. 5. 101. Reproduced by permission of the Syndics
of Cambridge University Library.

presentation, and thus note repeated transitions from running-title 16 to 17 and
back again, particularly in the period of printing after gathering Dd, substantially
cluttering and confusing the course of events in this difficult area. While it is true
that the type in running-title 16 shows various and shifting states in this part of
the text, the range of distinction between its cleanest and its foulest presentations
here is no larger than, for example, its appearances in the inner forme of the
inner sheet in gatherings K to M. As is obvious from the illustrations presented
in figure 2,[19] the occasional deterioration and subsequent improvement in this


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Table 1. Running-titles and compositorial stints in The Fearie Queene, 1590

Outer forme  Inner forme  Outer forme  Inner forme 
1r   2v   8v   7r   2r   1v   7v   8r   3r   4v   6v   5r   4r   3v   5v   6r  
12  12  10  10 
13  16  13  16  14  15  14  15 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
18  12  14  15  10  13  16 
14  15  14  15  10  13  16 


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18  12  14  15  11  13  16 
18  12  14  15  11  13  16 
18  12  14  15  11  13  16 
18  12  14  15  11  13  16 
Aa  18  12  14  15  11  13  16 
Bb  18  12  14  15  11  16 
Cc  18  12  14  15  11  13  11 
Dd  18  12  14  15  16  13  11 
Ee  18  12  14  15  19  13  11 
Ff  18  12  14  15  16  Y+  13  11 
Gg  18  12  14  15  16  13  11 
Hh  18  12  14  15  16  Y+  13  Y+  Y+  11 
Ii  18  12  14  15  16  Y+  13  Y+  Y+  11 
Kk  18  12  14  15  16  13  11 
Ll  18  12  14  15  16  13  Y+  11 
Mm  18  12  14  15  16  13  11 
Nn  18  12  14  15  16  Y+  13  11 
Oo  18  12  14  15  19  13  Y+  11 

NOTE. Arabic numerals represent running-title, keyed to the scheme divised by Yamashita et al. (1990), with correction; blanks in the numer-
ical columns indicate pages where no running-titles were used. The letters X, Y, and Z record compositorial stints hypothesized by Yamashita
et al. (1990); Y+ represents Y working with limited support from another compositor, probably X; ? denotes apparently collaborative work, by
two or more compositors; blanks in these columns indicate pages where no text appears.


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FIGURE 3. The substitution of a swash 'C' in 'Canto' in running-title 13 between position
5r of gathering Ll ((a), above) and 5r of gathering Mm (b) leaves a telltale marker providing
evidence of the sequence of imposition of gatherings. Because the swash majuscule appears
in position 5r of gatherings Dd (c), Ee, Mm, Nn, and Oo (not shown), but not in gatherings
Ff to Ll, it is obvious that Dd and Ee were printed out of sequence; the coincidence of the
introduction of running-title 19 (for 16) in gathering Ee, combined with its (only) reappear-
ance in gathering Oo, suggests that gatherings Dd and Ee were printed between Nn and Oo.
This pattern is confirmed by the substitution of a colon (for a full stop) at the end of running-
title 13 in position 5r of gathering Nn; this colon also appears in the same running-title in
gatherings Dd ((c), above), Ee, and Oo. The copy illustrated here is Cambridge University
Library, Sel. 5. 101. Reproduced by permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University

particular running-title, both between extant copies of the same gathering, and
between gatherings, is a usual feature of the work well before the period after
Dd, and we should therefore not distinguish between running-titles 16 and 17;
in short, 17 does not exist.[20]

Yamashita et al. make a related mistake in the same sequence of gatherings,
with respect to their documentation of running-title 13; this time it is an error of
omission repeated from Johnson's analysis. In gatherings Dd, Ee, Mm, Nn, and
Oo, running-title 13 appears in a slightly modified state on the recto of the fifth
leaf (position 5r) of each gathering; as will be immediately obvious from figure 3,
the italic majuscule 'C' of 'Canto' has been exchanged, in these gatherings, for
a swash majuscule. Given the near-absolute regularity with which running-titles


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are generally retained throughout the printing of the text, the way this swash 'C'
seems to appear, disappear, and then reappear, should be treated with extreme
suspicion: there is no other place in the sequence where a change to a running-
title is subsequently changed again, and certainly no place where this correction
is then changed anew, in the same way. The fact that the introduction of this
swash 'C' to running-title 13 is coincident with another change to skeleton-forme
IV—the substitution of running-title 19 for 16 in gathering Ee—makes it all too
obvious what took place. This part of the text was not printed sequentially. Fol-
lowing the printing of gathering Cc, the compositors moved on to gathering Ff,
then proceeded through to Nn before returning to Dd and Ee; after completing
Ee, they finished the printing of the main part of the text of the poem with gather-
ing Oo. This sequence is confirmed by another minor change made to running-
title 13 in the printing of gathering Nn, where a colon was substituted for the full
stop after 'Queene'; this colon also, and only, appears in the same running-title
in gatherings Dd, Ee, and Oo. It is crucial to note that this pattern of imposition
was not immediately apparent in the analysis of Yamashita et al. because of the
confusion created by the false distinction of a supposed running-title 17.

There are three further pieces of evidence that confirm this non-sequential
pattern of imposition in the final gatherings of the volume, again information
overlooked or not collected by Johnson or Yamashita et al. The compositors
obviously had to adjust the running-titles every time they were used, updating
pagination and, less frequently, canto headings for all running-titles, and, on
two occasions, altering the book headings. Generally speaking the compositors
were conservative about changing the running-titles between formes, making as
few substitutions as possible. Thus, in an instance where 'Cant. II.' was to be
changed to 'Cant. III', the compositor might simply replace the full stop with
an 'I', to avoid unnecessary adjustment of the type spaces between the central
and peripheral elements of the headline. A result of this conservatism is that the
spaces between the pagination and the central element of the running-title, and
between the central element and the canto heading, tend to remain fairly con-
stant, but not perfectly constant, in width, from gathering to gathering. Measur-
ing these distances in each headline, from gathering to gathering, thus produces
a suggestive indication of the order of imposition of gatherings. Table 2 reports
the distances between the pagination (i.e. the outer element) and the central ele-
ment in the headline for running-titles 2, 3, 5, and 8 in gatherings Aa to Oo in
the Cambridge University Library copy (Sel. 5. 101). The evidence of running-
title 3 is probably too erratic to construe, and that from running-title 5 too
regular; but the patterns in the spacing of running-titles 2 and 8 are suggestive.
Running-title 2, in particular, is extremely conservative in the spacing of this part
of the headline, changing by only a single space between the printing of gather-
ings Ff and Oo. That this space was added when the running-title was used to
print gathering Ee, and retained for gathering Oo (following immediately after-
wards) seems the likeliest explanation for this pattern. In running-title 8, too, the
spacing in this part of the headline shows a clear pattern of consistency between
gatherings Aa/Bb and Ff/Gg, on the one hand, and Dd/Ee and Ll/Mm/Nn,
on the other. The pattern of spacing in these running-titles across gatherings,
then, tends to support the idea that gatherings Dd and Ee were printed between


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Table 2. Distance between pagination and central element of running-title

Running-Title 2  Running-Title 3  Running-Title 5  Running-Title 8 
Cc3v   2.0 cm  Cc5v   1.90 cm  Aa3v   1.05 cm  Aa5v   1.60 cm 
Cc4v   2.0 cm  Cc6v   1.80 cm  Dd4v   0.85 cm  Bb5v   1.90 cm 
Dd3v   1.3 cm  Dd5v   2.0 cm  Ee4v   0.85 cm  Dd6v   1.75 cm 
Ee3v   1.4 cm  Ee5v   1.65 cm  Ff4v   0.85 cm  Ee6v   1.75 cm 
Ff3v   1.3 cm  Ff5v   1.55 cm  Gg4v   0.85 cm  Ff6v   1.90 cm 
Gg3v   1.3 cm  Gg5v   1.60 cm  Hh4v   0.85 cm  Gg6v   1.90 cm 
Hh3v   1.3 cm  Hh5v   1.65 cm  Ii4v   0.85 cm  Hh6v   1.55 cm 
Ii3v   1.3 cm  Ii5v   1.55 cm  Kk4v   0.85 cm  Ii6v   1.55 cm 
Kk3v   1.3 cm  Kk5v   1.65 cm  Ll4v   0.85 cm  Kk6v   1.55 cm 
Ll3v   1.3 cm  Ll5v   1.60 cm  Mm4v   0.85 cm  Ll6v   1.75 cm 
Mm3v   1.3 cm  Mm5v   1.60 cm  Nn4v   0.85 cm  Mm6v   1.75 cm 
Nn3v   1.3 cm  Nn5v   1.60 cm  Oo4v   0.85 cm  Nn6v   1.75 cm 
Oo3v   1.4 cm  Oo5v   1.60 cm  Oo6v   1.60 cm 
Nn and Oo, a pattern consistent with, if not supported by, the patterns of spacing
in running-titles 3 and 5 across the same gatherings.

Two other pieces of evidence are more conclusive. Both relate to mistakes
in the running-titles not collated by Johnson or Yamashita et al. Running-title 8,
used in position 6v as part of skeleton-forme IV in gatherings Dd to Oo, includes
(like running-title 5) as its central element the phrase 'The third Booke of'. In
gathering Aa, which includes the latter part of canto xii of Book II of the poem,
this running-title naturally reads 'The second Booke of'. The compositor respon-
sible for updating this running-title for its first use in printing Book III of the
poem—in position 5v in gathering Bb—accidentally removed the space between
'The' and 'third', such that the running-title presents a central element reading
'Thethird Booke of'. By the time this running-title appears in gatherings Dd
and Ee, it has been corrected; but, crucially, it appears in its uncorrected state
in gatherings Ff and Gg (see figure 4). Given the patterns already noted in the
use of running-titles 3, 5, 13, 16, and 19, it is obvious that the correction to run-
ning-title 8 was made between the imposition of gatherings Gg and Hh, and that
it appears corrected in Dd and Ee because these gatherings were printed there-
after. Similarly, Johnson and Yamashita et al. failed to notice a substantial and
coincident error in running-title 6, used in position 1v between gatherings C and
Oo. The compositor charged with updating this running-title between Books II
and III neglected to change 'second' to 'third' in the transition between books;
the central element in running-title 6 thus appears incorrectly in gatherings Cc,
Ff, and Gg as 'The second Booke of', but appears correctly in gatherings Dd
and Ee (as in Hh through to Oo) as 'The third Booke of'. Again, given what we
know about errors in and changes to the other running-titles in this part of the
printing, it is obvious that this mistake was noticed and corrected between the
imposition of gatherings Gg and Hh, appearing in its corrected state in Dd and
Ee because these gatherings were not printed until after Nn.

The coincidence of so many mistakes and irregularities in this part of the
print job may have been due to fatigue, but it certainly had something to do with
the need to skip gatherings Dd and Ee, an obstruction to the regular printing that


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FIGURE 4. The central element of running-title 8 in position 5v of gathering Bb reads
'Thethird Booke of' (a); this mistake in spacing also appears in running-title 8 in position
6v of gatherings Ff (not shown) and Gg (b), but appears corrected in all other gatherings,
including Dd (not shown) and Ee (c). This evidence suggests that the spacing in running-
title 8 was corrected between the imposition of gatherings Gg and Hh, and corroborates the
hypothesis that Dd and Ee were printed at some point after Ff and Gg. The copy illustrated
here is Cambridge University Library, Sel. 5. 101. Reproduced by permission of the Syndics
of Cambridge University Library.

no doubt threw the compositors off. It would not be particularly safe, at least at
this point, to speculate too nicely on the reasons why the press-men went directly
from gathering Cc to Ff, but a number of elements attending this decision should
be noted. First, the most likely reason for skipping the material contained in
these gatherings was that the manuscript— or an authorized manuscript—was
not available at the time that the printer needed it. Regardless of the speed or
expedition with which we suppose the job to have advanced, the only likely
explanation for this, if we assume that Wolfe had not mislaid some of his sheets
(and we will have cause, shortiy, for believing that he did not), is that Spenser had
taken the relevant parts of the text away. It is further obvious that Wolfe's press-
men would not have skipped two gatherings, or those exact gatherings, unless
the material withheld or unavailable spanned them both; if the missing material
had been in Ee, Wolfe might have printed Dd as normal, and then gone to Ff
or, if it had been in Dd only, he might have skipped Dd and begun again with
Ee. Given that canto iii of Book III is the only canto entirely contained within
these two gatherings, it seems likely that it was this canto to which Wolfe's men
did not, mid-run, have access.

Much more importandy, from a bibliographical perspective, it should be im-
mediately obvious that this sequence of events following on from gathering Cc al-
most certainly has something to do with the considerable anomaly of the printing
of that gathering. As noted by Johnson, and remembered above, skeleton-forme I
was used to print both the outer and the inner formes of the inner sheet of gather-
ing Cc. In the context of the regular and efficient four-skeleton-forme/two-press
system used to print The Faerie Queene in 1590, this doubling of a single skeleton-


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forme to print both formes of the same sheet strongly suggests that printing in
this gathering slowed, and proceeded with only one press. After the printing of
Cc, as Johnson also noted, the pattern of skeleton-formes used for the inner sheet
was reversed, with skeleton-forme IV used to print the outer forme, and skeleton-
forme I the inner forme. The compositors working on The Faerie Queene would as
a matter of course have been imposing at least one forme while another was in
press, and would have taken up whichever skeleton-forme was to hand, as soon
as another had been laid on the press. Given that skeleton-forme I was used twice
in this gathering, it must therefore have been alternated, on a single press (i.e. not
necessarily on one actual press, but at single press power), with skeleton-formes II
and III. Because the type from this skeleton-forme—regularly used at this point
to print the outer forme of the inner sheet—had been distributed while the inner
formes of Bb were still being printed on two presses (outer formes, as Yamashita
et al. determined, were regularly printed before inner formes throughout the
volume[21] ), it was available, as usual, for the outer forme of the inner sheet of Cc.
At this point, too, skeleton-forme II, as usual, was available to set the type for
the outer forme of the outer sheet. When it became obvious that printing would
have to slow, the press-men moved to a one-press system, and skeleton-forme II
was printed first, followed by skeleton-forme I, now in sequence rather than, as
was usual, in tandem; when I was laid on the press, the type from II was redis-
tributed, but there had been plenty of time, already, to get on with setting the
inner forme of the outer sheet, using skeleton-forme III. After that had gone to
the press, the type from skeleton-forme I was redistributed. At this point, because
the compositors were working with a one-press system, there had been no need to
rush the setting of the inner forme of the inner sheet, and so skeleton-forme IV
had not, as was usual, yet been set out; because skeleton-forme I was now avail-
able, and contained the correct canto markings in its running-titles, it was re-
used. This process of imposing gathering Cc and the adjacent gatherings can be
summarized as follows:

Press 1  Press 2 
Cc  II→I 
Ff–Nn  II→III  IV→I 

The lack of urgency apparent in this slow process—the compositors would
have been comparatively idle, with respect to the Spenser job at least,
during the printing of the outer forme of the inner sheet—suggests that the decision had not
yet been taken to skip gatherings Dd and Ee, and return to a two-press system
with gathering Ff. The psychology of the slow-down in the printing of Cc, when
coupled to the subsequent events in Dd-Ee and Ff-Nn, seems difficult to ignore:
Wolfe and his press-men probably slowed down in Cc because they knew, at the
end of the gathering, they were going to hit a problem. That problem was a lack
of text. While it is of course possible that the reduction in power in gathering
Cc was unrelated to the decision to skip gatherings Dd and Ee—the demands


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of some concurrent project may have required an extra press at the same time
that Wolfe's compositors hit a snag with copy in the following gatherings—on
balance, the coincidence of these unusual events suggests that they were related.
In the light of these telltale marks of non-sequential printing, it does not seem
surprising that the only reversal in the orientation of a skeleton-forme during
the whole press run—the reversal of IV between its use for the inner forme of
the inner sheet of Bb and its use for the outer forme of the inner sheet of Ff (see
table 1)—coincided with the slowing of the printing in Cc and the decision to
skip Dd and Ee. Of course, no signature appeared in the usual place (position 4r)
in skeleton-forme IV in gathering Bb, as this page between Books II and III of
the poem was left blank; but where a compositor might normally have judged
the orientation by eye without the signature, the gap occasioned by the double
use of I in Cc meant that the type from IV was probably distributed some time
before, rather than when, it was reimposed with new pages.

Oddly enough, this was not the first time in the course of printing The Faerie
in 1590 that these beleaguered press-men had had to slow down, and per-
haps even come to a stop, nor would it be the last. As noted above, the dedication
to Elizabeth appearing on the verso of the title page in gathering A was almost
certainly added as a stop-press correction, as several copies survived without the
dedication. The evidence on compositorial stints gathered by Yamashita et al.
supports this hypothesis. As can be verified by comparing the data for gather-
ings A and B in table 1, Compositor X, who would have been expected to set at
least 1r–3r for gatherings A and B, did not have a clear hand in either 1r or 1v of
gathering B, but was helped in both cases. In every other gathering in the volume
(36 in all), Compositor X was solely responsible for setting these first pages. To
understand why X did not set these pages, and to appreciate its relevance to the
stop-press correction of the royal dedication, we must return briefly to another of
the anomalies in the printing of the volume that Johnson did not explain: unlike
the main sequence of regular imposition using the four-chase/two-press system,
gatherings A and B were printed with one skeleton-forme per sheet—i.e. using
the same skeleton-forme for both formes of the inner and outer sheets, for each
of the two sheets in each gathering: II for the outer sheet of A, I for the inner
sheet of A, IV for the outer sheet of B, and III for the inner sheet of B. As noted
above, in relation to the similar problem in Cc, the process of setting the type,
printing off the formes, and distributing the type made it convenient to alternate
skeleton-formes: the same skeleton-forme could not be used efficiently in back to
back press-stints. It is thus very likely that the first two gatherings were printed
in tandem:

Press 1  Press 2 
II (± o A)  I (β o A) 
IV (α o B)  III (β o B) 
II (α i A)  I (β i A) 
IV (α i B)  III (β i B) 

This pattern would have left skeleton formes II and I available, during the impo-
sition of the inner formes of both sheets of B, to be re-set for gathering C, thereby


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setting in motion the regular pattern of one-skeleton-per-forme imposition used
thereafter until gathering T. The absence of Compositor X from the early stages
of setting the type for both of his usual stints in gathering B, then, coincides with
the printing of the inner, and later the outer, formes of gathering A. In both of
these gatherings, substantial stop-press corrections had to be inserted: in the
outer forme, the narrow-spaced date of the title-page on 1r had to be re-spaced
to a centered, wide-state layout;[22] and in the inner forme, the royal dedication
had to be added on 1v. The second correction, in particular, would have taken
a reasonable amount of time; the fact that Compositor X was back on hand to
set the type for 2r of B suggests that (as the low incidence of the blank-state vari-
ant in extant copies suggests) this correction was made relatively soon into the
perfection of A.

The more obvious question to be asked about this scheme for printing the first
two gatherings in tandem is, of course, why it was followed at all. The sensible
pattern for using four skeleton-formes on two presses to set a quarto in 8s is, as we
have seen, the one followed for the majority of the press run—the advantage of
using each skeleton-forme once in each gathering is that it allows the compositors
to work on contiguous pages, rather than skipping from gathering to gathering,
and thus reduces the likelihood of formatting errors (as we have seen, the she-
nanigans of Dd and Ee would later coincide with many such errors). Thinking
narratively about the decisions taken at this stage of the printing, it seems likely
that, to begin with, the compositors intended to follow the same system for the
first two gatherings that they would take up, as soon as possible, in gathering C;
but that some obstacle prevented them from doing so when, having laid skeleton-
formes II and I on their respective presses, they turned to skeleton-formes IV and
III. The likely reason the compositors might have elected not to set the type for
the inner formes of both sheets of gathering A was, of course, the now-familiar
one: a final decision on the text for these formes had not yet been taken. Given
that the royal dedication was later inserted as a stop-press correction to 1v in
gathering A, it seems likely that the obstacle holding up the perfection of gather-
ing A a day or two earlier was this same problem. The dedication to the Queen,
completely in majuscules, would surely have been an element too conspicuous for
Wolfe merely to have overlooked, and subsequently corrected, especially when
he had not, yet, printed any other dedicatory or prefatory material for the vol-
ume; rather, the coincidence of an anomalous use of skeleton-formes, on the one
hand, and on the other a stop-press correction, suggests that Spenser, or perhaps
Wolfe, had not yet decided how, or whether, to incorporate the royal dedication.
Furthermore, the fact that the printing commenced at all, and commenced with
A, suggests that Wolfe was confident of the layout, or had no reason to be uncon-
fident, when the printing began; the indecision seems to have arisen during the
imposition of the outer formes of the outer and inner sheets of A, when skeleton-
formes IV and III were deployed to set gathering B rather than the inner formes


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of both sheets of A. The psychology implicit in this pattern of imposition, again,
suggests not only that manuscript materials, or authorized manuscript materials,
were not available, but that the status of these materials changed suddenly at a
particular, and definable, point of the printing.

We are now in a position to make some limited inferences about the two
interruptions to the sequence of printing so far discussed. In both cases, the
compositors seem to have slowed down—in the case of the first two gatherings,
Compositors X and Z worked without Y on the text of A, while in Cc the printing
seems to have temporarily stalled and to have proceeded at single press. In the
first case, the compositors seem to have encountered an unexpected snag after
they had committed themselves to printing the gathering (beginning with the
outer formes of A), while in the second case, they seem to have slowed produc-
tion of Cc in anticipation of an upcoming difficulty in the following gathering.
With this in mind, it is almost certainly significant that both of these instances of
interruption in the printing correspond to elements in the text particularly closely
associated with Elizabeth herself: the obstacle in gathering A seems certainly to
have been the royal dedication, while the cantos at the center of the ultimately
deferred gatherings, Dd and Ee—Book III, cantos ii and iii—deal with Brit-
omart's vision of Artegall in the magic mirror, and her subsequent visit to Merlin
who, forecasting Britomart's famous progeny, concludes his prophecy with the
'royall virgin', Elizabeth. The pattern and implicit psychology of the slowing, the
ultimate ordering, and the selective skipping of the printing in both of these cases
suggest that Spenser was intimately involved in at least this part of the produc-
tion process (that is to say, intimately involved insofar as he was meddling, and
holding the whole process up!), and that he was particularly anxious about parts
of his text that spoke directly to, or explicitly represented, Elizabeth herself. If the
reason for skipping gatherings Dd and Ee was that Spenser had withheld canto iii
of Book III—and what else could have caused Wolfe to complicate his sequence
in such a way, a way that would lead to the introduction of several errors?—then
it seems likely that Spenser modified the text of this particular canto during the
press run itself. He could not have meddled much, as the canto still needed to fit
precisely into the available 10 leaves—though it is worth noting that, where the
canto ends on Ee8r, the compositors left an unusually large gap at the end of the
page, which they filled with a type ornament rather than commencing (as they
had done for Book III, canto iii itself) with an ornamental box and the first four
lines of the opening stanza of canto iv. Wolfe's hands were already tied at this
point by the extant, fixed state of Ff1r—canto iv had to begin on Ee8v—but the
unusually generous layout of Ee8r suggests that the original casting-off may have
provided for one more stanza in canto iii than Spenser ultimately supplied.


The use of skeleton-forme evidence in determining the order of imposition was estab-
lished by Fredson Bowers in his canonical article, 'Notes on Running-Titles as Bibliographical
Evidence'; see also 'The Headline in Early Books', English Institute Annual 1941 (1942), p. 186.
Along with his skeptical reappraisal of many types of bibliographical evidence, McKenzie
questioned arguments built on skeleton-formes in 'Printers of the Mind' (pp. 23–31; repr. in
Making Meaning, pp. 32–38), particularly when related to observations on timing, compositorial
practice, and edition sizes. The present study does not attempt complex abstractions based on
the combination of such kinds of evidence, though I occasionally offer hypotheses on the pos-
sible or, in some cases likely, causes of discontinuities in the printing process.


The evidence upon which I have based my research, and from which I draw the
illustrations presented here, comes from two copies of the 1590 edition of The Faerie Qyeene
held in the University Library, Cambridge: CUL SSS. 22. 27 and Sel. 5. 101. These are both
comparatively 'typical' representatives of the edition, including the wide-state setting of the
title-page date, the royal dedication, and the cancellans in gathering Pp.


While it is comparatively straightforward to observe that the 'damage' to the terminal
'ne' of 'Queene' in this title recurs and disappears intermittently throughout the press run, it
is less obvious—to me, at least—what originally caused this blot in the printing. Strange as
it may sound, the evidence seems to indicate the repeated superposition of something like a
thread over these particular letters, as the effect created seems to be of a missing line running
at an incline from the middle of the body of the 'n' to the upper right of the counter of the
subsequent 'e'.


See Yamashita et al., A Textual Companion to The Faerie Queene 1590, p. 429.


Emma Unger argued in the third volume of The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library: English
Literature 1475–1700
(New York: Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, 1940), p. 1002, that the wide-
state setting of the date represents the earlier, rather than the later, state of the title page. I have
dispatched Unger's supposals; see Zurcher, 'Getting It Back to Front in 1590'.