All posts filed under “Quires & Clasps

Front free endleaf from sammelband of 1630 John Grove editions

Sometimes You Want Your Blank Blank

Front cover of sammelband of 1630 John Grove editions

From the outside, this looks like a standard parchment binding. As the inscription on the cover indicates, it brings together two different titles. Yes, it’s what book types call a sammelband. John Grove published both editions in 1630:

In the picture of the front cover, you can see the stubs where there were once two alum-tawed ties at the fore edge, just as you’d expect. (Silk ties would have been another possibility.) And you can see on the left that the parchment case is attached to the bookblock with alum-tawed strips at four points in the front, and if you turned the book over, you’d see that the same four strips are also laced in at the back—again, just as you’d expect.

The main reason I own this book, though, is that the quires inside haven’t been bound, if by “bound” we mean sewn through the folds onto a series of supports. Instead, this is what I call a hybrid structure: the 86 leaves that make up the bookblock have been stab-stitched together at four points, and what look like traditional sewing supports from the outside pass straight through the bookblock just as the stab-stitching does. You can see part of the stitching and a couple of the alum-tawed thongs in the featured image at the top of this post. As in a standard parchment binding, the covers are laced on, but as in an early modern pamphlet, it’s stab-stitched and not sewn. The combination makes it a hybrid, and hybrids were very common in the period. In fact, they appear to have been just as common as sewn bindings when it came to English quartos that weren’t especially thick. If you’ve spent a decent amount of time working with early English books in special collections libraries, there’s a good chance you’ve come across one of these and not noticed.

As in many examples of hybrids I’ve seen, this one has pastedowns, and the pastedowns are attached to the bookblock by the volume’s primary stab-stitching. You can see this pretty well at the back:

Added blank pastedown in sammelband of 1630 John Grove editions

At the top and bottom, the stitching is in part exposed where it has pulled through the pastedown, but you can see that at least some of the thread remains sandwiched between the glued-down pastedown and the parchment cover. Here’s a detail of the bottom section:

Stab-stitching pulling through rear pastedown in sammelband of 1630 John Grove editions

When the book was first put together, the stab-stiching would have been almost completely hidden from view. Hybrid structures can fail, and they can fail in ways that cause severe damage to the inner margins of leaves, but most hybrids would have been functional and pretty sturdy in their time. A hybrid volume was one that could look and mostly behave like a standard sewn book without the time commitment required for attaching each and every one of the quires onto supports more or less separately. (I write “more or less separately” because there were corner-cutting techniques available that allowed binders to sew multiple quires onto supports at the same time.)

So, although I’ve just gone on about it a good bit, the hybrid status of the volume isn’t what I’m interested in here, per se. My main goal is instead to explain the presence of the blank free endleaf pictured at the top of this post, in the featured image—the blank free endleaf where Richard Day and Arthur Russell Malden have claimed ownership. As you could probably guess, that endleaf is at the very front of the book.

Seems straightforward enough, yeah? You might be thinking, Surely, Aaron, I’m not reading this just for you to tell me that some books had blank endpapers that people wrote on, right? Right. Here’s where things get atypical:

"Blank" initial leaf, sig. A1, of A Compleat Parson (London: John Grove, 1630)

The front pastedown is the very first leaf in the A gathering of the first work in the volume, The compleat parson. The printing ink you can see in the picture faces the parchment—we’re seeing show-through. At a basic level, I think it’s kind of cool to see what is known as an “integral blank” used to form a pastedown, but when I first saw images of this book, I was most interested in the truly blank leaf next to the pastedown, the one with the inscriptions on it. The compleat parson does begin with a so-called “blank” that has a large “A” on it between two rows of ornaments, but that second leaf is supposed to be the title page, A2, and, sure enough, the leaf after the title-page in this copy has “A3” at the bottom. Just to be sure, I shined my Cliplight though A3 and the title page and was able to confirm that the two leaves are conjugate as they should be. Our blank endleaf, it turns out, is an added interloper.

In the case of the second and final work in this volume, Star-Chamber cases, the text proper ends on the recto of H3, with H4 being a blank leaf that has no printing on it. Below, you can see the blank verso of H3 on the left and book’s rear free endleaf on the right. Unlike in the front of the book, where the free endleaf has been added, here we’re indeed dealing with that integral blank, H4:

"Blank" final leaf, sig. H4, of Star-Chamber Cases (London: John Grove, 1630)

Turning over that blank H4 gets us back to the rear pastedown:

Added blank pastedown in sammelband of 1630 John Grove editions

Here, the pastedown and not the free endleaf is the one that’s been added. This would have been the easiest way to go: the binder (or maybe an apprentice or family member) folded up the sheets that are part of Star-chamber cases, put them in order, and then tacked on a single quarto-sized leaf at the end.

In the front, on the other hand, the person did something that’s not quite as obvious: at some point in the process of folding and putting the sheets of The compleat parson in order, they inserted a single blank leaf into the A gathering. With Star-chamber cases placed after it, they or someone else in the shop then stab-stitched away. Going with a stab-stitched structure in general made it pretty easy to add in extra leaves: you could just put them in place, stab, and then stitch, with no need to create a spine fold for sewing or use adhesive to attach it to an adjacent leaf.

That said, putting the extra leaf in the front between A1 and A2 may have been at least a tiny bit more inconvenient than adding the pastedown at the very end. Before the edges of the leaves were trimmed to a uniform size after they’d been stab-stitched together, A1 and A2 were joined to each other by a fold at the top edge. This wouldn’t have created a major problem, of course, but would have meant that the inserted leaf needed a top edge that was already sufficiently perpendicular to the edge facing the spine so it could fit in fairly snugly—unless, that is, the binder opened the fold between A1 and A2 before inserting the leaf. Either way, getting a properly blank free endleaf at the front required a little more effort.

How then to explain the difference in practice at the front and the back? It’s pretty easy, I think: someone wanted a truly blank free endleaf at the front of the book and not the not-so-blank printer’s blank that came with The compleat parson. We see evidence in this book of a bookmaker modifying their practice for an aesthetic reason, one that may run slightly at odds with what we’re increasingly being told about premodern binding practices and aesthetic tolerances. Yes, it’s absolutely true that early modern readers were used to seeing recycled endleaves and covers with printed and/or manuscript texts all over them. But it’s also true—and worth pointing out, I think—that sometimes early modern readers preferred a clean appearance of the kind we take for granted in today’s bibliographical landscape.

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: “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.

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. 242, n. 45, l. 1: for “STC 2875a” read “STC 2875a.5.”
  • 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”