All posts filed under “Quires & Clasps

STC 2875, sig. Bb8v

The Trouble with Translation (w/ Errata)

2011 marked the quadricentennial of the King James Bible’s first edition, and it saw the publication of entirely too many books and essays on English Bibles. For one of these, Hannibal Hamlin and Norman W. Jones’s The King James Bible After 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic, and Cultural Influences (Cambridge: CUP, 2011), I contributed to the madness in the form of a chapter I coauthored with John N. King: “Bibles as Books: The Materiality of English Printed Bibles from the Tyndale New Testament to the King James Bible.” The title is more than a mouthful, and the chapter itself may not make for the most exhilarating read—there’s a lot of detail—but writing it proved very important to my own development as a scholar. In fact, the research that went into it was, perhaps more than anything else, what got me into both “hardcore” technical bibliography and the history of the English book trade. Because of this, I have long been thankful that John trusted me, a lowly MA student at the time, to take on the project with him. The skills I began to develop while writing the chapter have paid dividends.

I remain proud the 2011 chapter itself, too, but it’s not perfect. (What piece of scholarship is?) Most significantly, I soon came to realize that the differences between early editions of the Bible and New Testament were so many that the prevailing paradigm of thinking about the history of the English Bible in terms of translation is woefully insufficient—especially if we want to understand how early modern readers actually interacted with Scripture. One response to this realization will be the new bibliographical resource that I have slowly been working on since. Titled BEME: Bibles of Early Modern England, it will provide authoritative records for Bibles and New Testaments published in the English language, records that include but move beyond basic bibliographical information and account for (virtually) every piece of paratext present. I am excited about the new research this resource will facilitate once it is online in the form of a free website, which will probably be in mid-to-late 2019.

After I had tabled work on English Bibles for several years to write a dissertation on drama, Thomas Fulton and Kristen Poole presented me with a timely opportunity to revisit my earlier research and gear up for serious work on BEME: they invited me to write a chapter for The Bible on the Shakespearean Stage: Cultures of Interpretation in Reformation Englandwhich is now out from Cambridge University Press. My contribution, “The Trouble with Translation: Paratexts and England’s Bestselling New Testament,” focuses on a line of octavo New Testaments that was in print from around 1553 until at least 1619. Known to its contemporaries as the “Cheke” New Testament, it was likely the single bestselling book of Scripture in English under three monarchs: Edward VI, Elizabeth I, and James I. And, yet, it is all but unknown today. Its title and title-page marketing, along with its paratexts, stay remarkably consistent, making it possible to identify as a distinct series, but the book has largely flown under the radar for two main reasons: 1) few have paid attention to specific Bible and New Testament product lines as such, and 2) it has been hard to see the Cheke Testament as a product line because the translation included in editions shifts from one to another around 1568, from the Tyndale to the Bishops’.

Naturally, I’d love for everyone to read the chapter. I think its local intervention in highlighting these specific New Testaments and its broader argument about the importance to early modern Christians of paratexts and the product lines they generated are both important. The centrality of translation in existing histories of the English Bible and in broader accounts of confessional identity in the period has created both blind spots and distortions. I’ll be totally honest, though: there are a few particulars that are either wrong or that I would now consider at least potentially misleading. A couple were proofing mishaps, and others, well, are just on me. So, in the spirit of an early modern printer (or just a slightly embarrassed scholar), here are some errata (with explanations) to accompany “The Trouble with Translation: Paratexts and England’s Bestselling New Testament”:

  • p. 35, l. 38: for “print” read “publish”. In this sentence, the published version says that Richard Jugge secured a patent to “print” New Testaments in English in 1551. This doesn’t create too much of a problem, because “print” in this context almost certainly means “cause to be printed” rather than “print when hired by someone else,” but I think it’s useful to be precise whenever possible. So-called printing patents issued by the State granted the recipient an exclusive right to publish a given title or class of books; patent holders had the ability to hire whomever they wanted to execute the actual printing.
  • p. 36, l. 14: for “printing rights” read “publishing rights”.
  • p. 37, l. 3: for “secured a license to print” read “secured a license to publish”.
  • p. 37, ll. 11–13 : Here, I write with confidence that Christopher Barker agreed to honor Richard Jugge’s monopoly on sixteenmo New Testaments and quarto Bibles when he began publishing Bibles and New Testaments himself because he “wanted to curry favor with the organization […] probably anticipating his future membership”. This speculation is almost certainly too strong: there are any number of possible reasons.
  • p. 37: l. 37: In 1584, Barker donated the right to publish new editions of the Cheke New Testament to the Stationers’ Company, “Provided that [he] himselfe print the sayde Testaments at the lowest value.” I write in the essay that the stipulation that Barker print any future editions means that he was still setting himself up for profit, but this may be misleading. Since the stipulation makes it clear that Barker had to take the jobs at a low rate—”the lowest value”—it may be that the Stationers’ Company itself asked him to agree in advance to printing editions because his large shop was the only one around that could comfortably tackle editions of the sizes that Cheke Testaments saw, which were apparently up to 6,000 copies. Barker’s team would still see work in these cases, and Barker himself would presumably still see a profit, but the reason for the stipulation may have been to ensure that those initiating new editions could get them printed, not to ensure that Barker still saw income from the book. Or maybe there’s some other backstory. I consider myself a careful scholar, but the attractiveness of an unambiguous narrative seduces even me on occasion.
  • p. 241, n. 24, l. 5: before the sentence beginning “On the messy issue”, add “Prior to 1559, though, Jugge did not print his own books; he served only as their publisher.” This relates to my first change: Jugge, with his patent under Edward and at the very beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, was only acting as a publisher. He contracted out the printing.
  • p. 43, ll. 6–7: for “by his final edition, from around 1575” read “by the mid-1570s”. What appears to have been Jugge’s final edition, STC 2875a ([c.1575]), drops the table. This and the following corrections are largely the result of having missed this edition.
  • p. 43, l. 2: for “Jugge editions” read “All but what appears to have been the final Jugge edition”.
  • p. 43, l. 8: for “Barker dropped this” read “Jugge eventually dropped this”.
  • p. 43, l. 35: for “in the Jugge editions” read “in all but the final Jugge edition”
  • p. 43, l. 38: for “Barker borrowed” read “Jugge ultimately borrowed”.
  • p. 242, n. 42, ll. 2–3: delete “Notably, it was introduced by Barker, not when Jugge first replaced Tyndale’s translation with the Bishops’ text.”
  • p. 243, n. 49, l. 2: for “Editions with the Bishops’ text” read “Beginning with STC 2875a ([c.1575]), editions with the Bishops’ text”. In this note, I write that Cheke Testaments printed with the Tyndale translation employ an alphabet—A, B, C, D, etc.—to help divide chapters into citable chunks and those with the Bishops’ retain that system while adding in verse numbers. This isn’t entirely correct: although Richard Jugge introduced the Bishops’ translation to the series, it wasn’t until what appears to be his final Cheke edition that he added in the verse numbers; the other Bishops’ octavos include only the alphabet system. (The image above is from an earlier edition in the Cheke series with the Bishops’ translation: see, no verse numbers.)

* The featured image is from my personal (very ragged) copy of a Cheke New Testament published by Richard Jugge, probably at some point between 1573 and 1575 (STC 2875).

Shakespeare, The Book

Shakespeare, The Book

“Shakespeare, The Book” will be held at Trinity University in San Antonio on Friday, September 30th. It will meet in the Special Collections space in Trinity’s Coates Library from 1:00–5:00pm and has been made possible by the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School and by Trinity University.

As the apposition in the title hopefully hints, this symposium is committed to the central claim that Shakespeare, as we identify and teach him today, has been fundamentally shaped by the book trade and its customers. Print publishers and retail booksellers have marketed and sold Shakespeare’s writing, printers have undertaken the physical and intellectual labor of transforming manuscripts into print forms that are recognizable as books, and readers have been left after all of this to buy, engage with, and preserve—or ignore and discard—the editions that have been made available to them. Individuals connected to the early theater industry in London appear to have supplied manuscripts to begin this process, as well. So, while it is true that William Shakespeare was the the one who died 400 years ago, “Shakespeare, The Book” hopes instead to mark this anniversary year by directing our attention to agents that have been responsible, from the beginning, for shepherding his name and works into the English canon. It hopes to mark the anniversary by reminding us that, to the extent that Shakespeare has been constituted by the books that bear his name, he has never, in fact, been dead.

Please follow and join the conversation on Twitter at #shaxbook.

Friday, September 30th
Opening Remarks: Aaron T. Pratt (Trinity)

Chair: Andrew Kraebel (Trinity)

Alan B. Farmer (Ohio State), “Who Published Plays?: Printers and Booksellers, from Thomas Alchorn to Robert Young, from Leadenhall to Westminster Hall”

Tara L. Lyons (Illinois State), “How and Why Plays were Collected in Early Modern England”

Zachary Lesser (U Penn), “The Pavier Quartos: New Evidence and the Question of Evidence”

Aaron T. Pratt (Trinity), “‘Quod auctor’: Rethinking the History of Dramatic Authorship in Print”

Chair: Willis Salomon (Trinity University)

Adam G. Hooks (Iowa), “Breaking Bard”

Claire M. L. Bourne (Penn State) “‘Enter to the Battell’: Early Modern Playbook Typography & the End of the Scene”

Sarah Neville (Ohio State), “Verse vs. Prose: How Pistol Shoots Holes in Editorial Rationale”


Stab-Stitching in The Library

I am the guy who works on stab-stitching in the early modern English book trade. For roughly two years, I was frankly obsessed with it, and my research into this material practice has shaped the way I approach questions about the meaning of material forms—especially bibliographical ones. It has also changed the way that I understand early modern drama and has provided the impetus for my entire dissertation, which is now a book project.

When printed, the vast majority of early modern plays took the form of quarto editions. They were squarish, around 6″ x 8″; they were slim, with around 36–40 leaves; and they tended not to have covers of the sort we have come to expect. Sometimes a simple paper wrapper was added, but the first and last leaves of the printed edition were often exposed, serving as de facto covers. And because they were slim, they could be held together, not by a traditional binding, but by what I and other bibliographers call stab-stitching. This was essentially the early modern equivalent of staples. Instead of sewing through the gutter folds onto binding supports, which is what “proper” binding required, you could use an awl to poke three or four holes through the thickness of the entire volume, from front to back. Once this was done, all you needed to do was stitch the stack of quires together with a length of thread. Violà, a book. You stabbed, and then you stitched.

For a few generations now, it has been common to use the fact that early modern playbooks were stab-stitched as evidence that early modern drama had yet to become significant as literature. An article of mine that is freshly out in The Library puts the assumptions that underlie this move under the microscope, asking us to reconsider one of the truisms that has shaped our literary histories. The title is “Stab-Stitching and the Status of Early English Playbooks as Literature,” and you can access it through libraries that subscribe to, well, The Library. It is in issue 16.3 of the 7th series (September 2015). If you do not have access to the journal via an institutional subscription, but are interested, please send me an email and I will see what I can do.

* The featured image is from a copy of The london prodigall (1605) at The Folger Shakespeare Library, shelfmark STC 22333 Copy 2. It is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.