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Title: Shakspere & Typography
Author: Blades, William, 1824-1890
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  _By William Blades_

  NEW YORK: Edited & Reprinted
  by _The Winthrop Press_ for _The
  American Type Founders Company_


In the good old days when printing was better recognized as a mystery than
as an art, one could call a printer 'a man of letters' without being
guilty of a pun. Books were for the few then, and the man who would print
them must be somewhat of a scholar himself.

To-day, amid the whirr of many presses, and the hurrying to and fro of the
printing office, the printer finds little or no time for literary
pursuits, despite the fact that printing is, in very truth, the handmaid
of literature. It is the more admirable, therefore, when a successful
printer attains to a degree of scholarship--particularly scholarship in
matters that enlighten and dignify his own handicraft.

Such a printer was _William Blades_. During fifty years of active
business life he contributed to the history of printing, a goodly number
of books and a mass of miscellaneous articles. Among these is the most
complete and authoritative life of Caxton, England's first printer,
representing an immense amount of study and research.

The book from which the following pages are reprinted is perhaps the least
familiar of Blades' works, and it evidently was written as a literary
recreation. The thought that reading it may afford recreation to those
busied about the making of books, and the comparative scarcity of the only
edition, are the excuses for reprinting the more interesting portion.

The first chapter (merely a resumé of the theories that have been advanced
by various professions and callings to claim Shakspere for their own) has
been omitted; likewise the appendix, which is a suggestion that many of
the obscurities in the text of Shakspere may be cleared up by a study of
the typographical errors in the first editions. With these exceptions, the
work is given here entire, and, it is hoped, in such form as accords with
the spirit of the author, whose tastes were those of the scholarly

  _Editorial Dept.
  The Winthrop Press,
  32 Lafayette Place, N. Y.
  November, 1897_


_The First Chapter of this Tractate is designed to show, in a succinct
manner, the numerous and contradictory theories concerning Shakspere's
special knowledge, the evidence for which has been created by 'selecting'
certain words and phrases from the mass of his writings._

_The Second and Third Chapters, erected on a similar basis of 'selection',
are intended to prove that Shakspere had an intimate and special knowledge
of Typography._

_Old Printers can still call to mind that period of our history when a
stalwart Pressman, on his way to work, ran considerable risk in the
streets of London of being seized by another kind of pressmen, viz., the
Press-gang, and forced_ nolens volens _into the service of the King. Some
readers (not Printers) may think that I have exercised over quotations
from Shakspere's works a similar compulsion, by pressing into my service
passages whose bearing is by no means in a typographical direction. They
may even go so far as to strain somewhat the self-accusation of Falstaff
(Henry IV, iv, 2), and bring against me the charge that_

    _I have misused the King's press most damnably, by printing such

_I can only reply that if, notwithstanding a careful consideration of the
proofs here laid before him, the reader should consider my case 'not
proven', I must submit with all humility to his penetration and judgment._

_At the same time, since my proofs that Shakspere was a Printer are at
least quite as conclusive as the evidence brought forward by others to
demonstrate that he was Doctor, Lawyer, Soldier, Sailor, Catholic,
Atheist, Thief, I would claim as a right that my opponent, having rejected
my theory that he was a Printer, should be consistent, and at once, reject
all theories which attribute to him special knowledge, and repose upon the
simple belief that Shakspere, the Actor and Playwright, was a man of
surpassing genius, of keen observation, and never-failing memory._

W. B.


In November, 1589, the company acting at the Blackfriars Theatre thought
it would be advantageous to their interests to send in to the Privy
Council a memorial, certifying that they had never given cause of
displeasure by introducing upon the stage 'matters of State or Religion'.
The actors who signed this memorial styled themselves 'Her Majesty's Poor
Players', and among them appears the name of William Shakspere. We here
meet the Poet's name for the first time after he had left his home at
Stratford-on-Avon, about four years previously. What his employment had
been in the intervening period is a question which few of his biographers
have cared to ask, and which not one has answered.

It is usually supposed that immediately upon his arrival in London he
became in some way associated with the Stage,--but there is no evidence of
this. On the contrary, we shall give reasons for believing that coming to
London poor, needy, and in search of employment, he was immediately taken
into the service of Vautrollier the Printer.

THOMAS VAUTROLLIER, entitled in his patents 'typographus Londinensis, in
claustro vulgo Blackfriers commorans', was a Frenchman who came to England
at the commencement of Queen Elizabeth's reign. He was admitted a brother
of the Stationers' Company in 1564, and commenced business as Printer and
Publisher in Blackfriars, working in the same premises up to the time of
his death, which occurred in 1588. His character as a scholar stands high,
and his workmanship is excellent. He had a privilege, or monopoly, for the
printing and sale of certain books, as all the chief Printers then had.
Shortly before his death he married his daughter to Richard Field, who for
this reason, and because he succeeded to the premises and business of the
widow, is erroneously supposed by Ames to have served his apprenticeship
to Vautrollier. But why bring in the name of Richard Field? The reply is
important. Field was Shakspere's own townsman, and being of about the same
age and social rank, the boys probably grew up together as playfellows.
Field's father, Henry Field, was a Tanner at Stratford-on-Avon, and
Halliwell says 'a friend of Shakspere's family'. Early in 1578 young Field
came up to London, and at Michaelmas was apprenticed for seven years to
George Bishop, Printer and Publisher. Being in the same trade as
Vautrollier, Field would naturally become acquainted with him; and in
1588, a year after he was out of his time, he married Vautrollier's
daughter. Here, then, we seem to have a missing link supplied in the chain
of Shakspere's history. In 1585 Shakspere came up to London in a 'needy'
state. To whom would he be more likely to apply than to his old playmate
Richard Field. Field, a young man nearly out of his apprenticeship, on
terms of intimacy with Vautrollier, could do nothing better than recommend
him to the father of his future wife. Once introduced we may be sure that
Shakspere, with his fund of wit and good humour, would always be a welcome
guest; and that this friendly feeling was maintained between him and the
Vautrollier-Field families receives confirmation from the fact that
Richard Field, who succeeded to the shop and business soon after the death
of his father-in-law, actually put to press the two first printed works of
the great Poet, the 'Venus and Adonis', 1593, and the 'Lucrece', 1594.

Here then, in Vautrollier's employ, perhaps as a Press-reader, perhaps as
an Assistant in the shop, perchance as both, we imagine Shakspere to have
spent about three years upon his first arrival in the metropolis. Placed
thus in Blackfriars, close to the Theatre, close to the Taverns, close to
the Inns of Court, and in what was then a fashionable neighbourhood,
Shakspere enjoyed excellent opportunities of acquiring a knowledge of men
and manners.

Field did not succeed Vautrollier immediately upon his death. His widow
endeavoured for some time to carry on the business alone; but for some
unknown reason the Stationers' Company withheld their license; and after a
fruitless effort to obtain it, she was succeeded by her son-in-law. These
business changes would probably be the occasion of which Shakspere eagerly
availed himself to join the Players at the neighbouring theatre.

The Sonnets, although not printed until 1609, are generally acknowledged
to be among Shakspere's earliest efforts, and we cannot help imagining
that Sonnet XXIV was written while in the employment of Vautrollier; or
at any rate, while the shop, hung round with prints, was fresh in the
Poet's memory. May be some of their warmth was inspired by the charms of
the buxom widow herself who was apostrophised by the Poet when wishing her

    To find where your true image _pictured_ lies,
    Which in my bosom's _shop_ is hanging still,
    That hath his _windows_ glazed with thine eyes.
                                _Sonnet_ xxiv.

At any rate, we have here in three lines as many metaphors, and all
derived from just such employment as we suppose Shakspere at that time to
have been engaged in.

Then, again, to a Printer's widow, not over young, what more telling than
the following reference?

    Or what strong hand can hold Time's swift foot back?
    Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
    O, none, unless this miracle have might,
    That in _black ink_ my love may still shine bright.
                                _Sonnet_ lxvi.

Note here, that the jet black ink which everybody admires in old
manuscripts was much too thick for a running hand, and had long been
superseded by a writing fluid which, in the 16th century, was far from
equalling the bright gloss of Printing Ink.

Before turning to the internal evidence supplied by Shakspere's writings
in support of our theory, let us glance at the list of works printed and
published by Vautrollier, and see if Shakspere reflected any trace of
their influence upon his mind.

From Herbert's 'Typographical Antiquities' we find that in the 'Shop'
would be the two following works:

    _A brief Introduction to Music. Collected by P. Delamote, a Frenchman;

        _London_, 8vo., 1574.

    _Discursus Cantiones; quæ ab argumento sacræ vocantur, quinque et sex
    partivm. Autoribus Thoma Tallisio et Guilielmo Birdo. Cum Privilegio._

        _London_, oblong quarto, 1575.

Delamote's Introduction, as well as the Sacred Songs by Tallis and Bird,
were Vautrollier's copyright, and we have already seen how intimate an
acquaintance Shakspere had with music. Might not the above works have been
the mine from which he obtained his knowledge?

Of religious works, Vautrollier printed and published several, all in
accordance with the principles of the great Reformation, and the writer
who argued that from his intimate knowledge of the tenets of Calvin,
Shakspere must have been himself a Calvinist, would have found sufficient
explanation of his special knowledge in the following books from
Vautrollier's press:

    _The Neu Testament, with diversities of Reading and profitable
    annotations. An epistle by J. Calvin, prefixed._

        4to., 1575:

    _Institutio Christianæ Religionis, Joanne Caluino authorè._

        8vo., _London_, 1576: and

    _The Institution of Christian Religion_ [not in Herbert's Ames]
    _written in Latine, by Mr. John Calvine, and translated into English
    by Thomas Norton. Imprinted at London, by Thomas Vautrollier._

        8vo., 1578.

This last contains an Epistle to the Reader by John Calvin, as well as an
address headed _Typographus Lectori_. Of each of the above works several
editions were published.

In one of his pedantic speeches Holofernes exclaims:

            Venetia! Venetia!
            Chi non te vede non ti pretia.
    Old Mantuan! Old Mantuan! who understandeth thee not, loveth thee not.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, iv, 2.

Where did Shakspere learn his Italian, which, although then a court
language, he quotes but rarely, and in an awkward manner? Surely at
second-hand, and probably quoting the phrases current at the period, or
still more probably from conning in his spare moments:

    _An Italian Grammer, written in Latin by M. Scipio Lentulo: and turned
    into Englishe by Henry Grantham. Typis Tho. Vautrolerij._

        _London_, 16mo., 1578.

This was put to press again in 1587. In Vautrollier's 'shop' he would also
have often in his hands:

    _Campo di Fior; or else the Flourie field of foure Languages, for the
    furtherance of the learners of the Latine, French, English, but
    chiefly of the Italian tongue. Imprinted at London, by Thos.
    Vautrollier, dwelling in the Black Friers by Ludgate._

        16mo., 1583.

Here, again, we have a very extensive Italian vocabulary upon all common
subjects quite sufficient for an occasional quotation; as to the plots
taken from Italian sources, such as 'Romeo and Juliet', it seems to be now
generally admitted that Shakspere in every instance followed the English

But Shakspere knew also a little French, and uses a few colloquial
sentences here and there. In one play indeed, _Henry V_, iii. 4, there is
a short scene between the Princess and her attendant, in alternate French
and English, which reads almost like a page of a Vocabulary. Shakspere's
knowledge of Latin was apparently about the same in extent; and for the
uses to which he has applied both tongues, the _Flourie Field of Four
Languages_, already quoted as the source of his Italian, would be quite
sufficient. If not, he had the opportunity of consulting under his
master's roof

    _A Treatise on French Verbs._

        8vo., 1580.

    _A most easie, perfect, and absolute way to learne the Frenche

        8vo., 1581; and

    _Phrases Linguæ Latinæ._ 8vo., 1579;

the last compiled from the writings of that great Printer, Aldus Manutius.

Some of Shakspere's biographers have maintained that he must have been
acquainted with Plutarch and other classical writers, because he quotes
from their works. Dr. Farmer in his masterly essay on the learning of
Shakspere, has shown that the Poet took all his quotations, even to the
blunders, from the edition of Plutarch, in English, printed and published
by Vautrollier, a year or two before we suppose that Shakspere entered
into his service:

    _Plutarch's Lives, from the French of Amyott, by Sir Tho. North.

        Folio, 1579.

Moreover, Vautrollier, who was a good scholar, appears to have had a great
liking for Ovid. He printed _Ovid's Metamorphoses_, _Ovid's Epistles_, and
_Ovid's Art of Love_. Now it is a notable fact that although Shakspere,
unlike contemporary writers who abound in classical allusions, scarcely
ever mentions a Latin poet, and still more seldom a Greek poet, yet he
quotes Ovid several times:

    As Ovid, be an outcast quite abjured.
                                _Taming of the Shrew_, i, 1.

    _Tit._ Lucius, what book is that she tosseth so?
    _Luc._ Grandsire, 'tis Ovid's Metamorphoses.
                                _Titus_, iv, 1.

      I am here with thee and thy goats as the most
    capricious poet, honest Ovid was among the Goths.
                                _As You Like It_, iii, 3.

    Ovidius Naso was the man.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, iv, 2.

Of _Cicero's Oration_ Vautrollier issued several editions, and had the
privilege 'ad imprimendum solum' granted him; and to this work also, on
at least two occasions, Shakspere refers:

              Hath read to thee
    Sweet poetry and Tully's Orator.
                                _Titus_, iv, 1.

    Sweet Tully.
                                _2 Henry VI_, iv, 1.

The fact to be noted with reference to these classical quotations is this:
Shakspere quotes those Latin authors, and those only, of which Vautrollier
had a 'license'; and makes no reference to other and popular writers, such
as Virgil, Pliny, Aurelius, and Terence, editions of whose works
Vautrollier was not allowed to issue, but all of which, and especially the
last, were great favorites in the sixteenth century, as is shown by the
numerous editions which issued from the presses of Vautrollier's

Among other publications of Vautrollier was an English translation of
_Ludovico Guicciardini's Description of the Low Countries_, originally
printed in 1567. In this work is one of the earliest accounts of the
invention of printing at Haarlem, which is thus described in the Batavia
of Adrianus Junius, 1575. 'This person [Coster] during his afternoon walk,
in the vicinity of Haarlem, amused himself with cutting letters out of
the _bark_ of the beech tree, and with these, the _characters_ being
inverted as in seals, he printed small sentences.' The idea is cleverly
adapted by Orlando:

            these trees shall be my _books_,
    And in their _barks_ my thoughts I'll _character_.
                                _As You Like It_, iii, 2.

Lastly, it would be an interesting task to compare the Mad Folk of
Shakspere, most of whom have the melancholy fit, with

    _A Treatise of Melancholie: containing the Causes thereof and Reasons
    of the Strange Effects it worketh in our Minds and Bodies._

        _London_, 8vo., 1586.

This was printed by Vautrollier, and probably read carefully for press by
the youthful Poet.

The disinclination of Shakspere to see his plays in print has often been
noticed by his biographers, and is generally accounted for by the theory
that reading the plays in print would diminish the desire to hear them at
the theatre. This is a very unsatisfactory reason, and not so plausible as
the supposition that, sickened with reading other people's proofs for a
livelihood, he shrunk from the same task on his own behalf. His
contemporaries do not appear to have shared in the same typographical
aversion. The plays of Ben Jonson and Beaumont and Fletcher were all
printed in the life-time of their authors. Francis Quarles had the
satisfaction and pride of seeing all his works in printed form, and showed
his appreciation and knowledge of Typography by the following quaint
lines, which we quote from the first edition, literatim:

    _On a Printing-house._

    The _world's_ a _Printing-house_: our _words_, our _thoughts_,
    Our _deeds_, are _Characters_ of sev'rall sizes:
    Each _Soule_ is a Compos'ter; of whose faults
    The Levits are Correctors: Heav'n revises;
    _Death_ is the _common Press_; fro whence, being driven,
    W' are gathered _Sheet_ by _Sheet_, & bound for _Heaven_.
                            From _Divine Fancies_, 1632, lib. iv, p. 164.


Nature endows no man with knowledge, and although a quick apprehension may
go far toward making the true lover of Nature a Botanist, Zoologist, or
Entomologist, and although the society of 'Men of Law', of Doctors, or of
Musicians may, with the help of a good memory, store a man's mind with
professional phraseology, yet the _opportunity_ of learning must be there;
and no argument can be required to prove that, however highly endowed with
genius or imagination, no one could evolve from his internal consciousness
the terms, the customs, or the working implements of a trade with which he
was unacquainted. If, then, we find Shakspere's mind familiar with the
technicalities of such an art as Printing--an art which, in his day, had
no such connecting links with the common needs and daily pleasures of the
people, as now--if we find him using its terms and referring frequently to
its customs, our claims to call him a Printer stand upon a firmer base
than those of the Lawyer, the Doctor, the Soldier, or the Divine; and we
have strong grounds for asking the reader's thoughtful attention to some
quotations and arguments, which, if not conclusive that Shakspere was a
Printer, afford indubitable evidence of his having become at some period
of his career practically acquainted with the details of a Printing
Office. We propose, then, to carefully examine the works of the Poet for
any internal evidence of Typographical knowledge which they may afford.

But here, at the outset, we are met by obvious difficulties. Would
Shakspere, or any poet have made use of trade terms and technical words,
or have referred to customs peculiar to and known by only a very small
class of the community in plays addressed to the general public? They
might have been familiar enough to the mind of the writer, but would
certainly have sounded very strange in the ears of the public. Shakspere
was too artistic and too wise to have committed so glaring a blunder. His
technical terms are used unintentionally, and with the most charming
unconsciousness. Therefore, when we meet with a word or phrase in common
use by Printers, it is so amalgamated with the context, that although
some other form of expression would have been chosen had not Shakspere
been a Printer, yet the general reader or hearer is not struck by any
incongruity of language.

What simile could be more natural for a Printer-poet to use or more
appropriate for the public to hear than this:

    Your mother was most true to wedlock, prince;
    For she did _print_ your royal father off,
    Conceiving you.
                                _Winter's Tale_, v, 1.

Here, surely, the Printer's daily experience of the exact agreement
between the face of the type and the impression it yields must have
suggested the image.

Printers in Shakspere's time often had patents granted them by which the
monopoly of certain works was secured; and unscrupulous printers
frequently braved all the pains and penalties to which they were liable by
pirating such editions. It is this carelessness of consequences which is
glanced at by Mistress Ford when debating with Mistress Page concerning
the insult put upon them by the heavy old Knight, Sir John Falstaff:

      He cares not what he puts into the Press when he
    would put us two.
                                _Merry Wives_, ii, 1.

What printer is there who has put to press a second edition of a book
working page for page in a smaller type and shorter measure but will
recognise the Typographer's reminiscences in the following description of
Leontes' babe by Paulina:

                    Behold, my Lords,
    Although the _print_ be little, the whole _matter_
    And _copy_ of the father ...
    The very _mould_ and _frame_ of hand, nail, finger.
                                _Winter's Tale_, ii, 3.

Is it conceivable that a sentence of four lines containing five distinct
typographical words, three of which are especially technical, could have
proceeded from the brain of one not intimately acquainted with Typography?
Again, would Costard have so gratuitously used a typographical idea, had
not the Poet's mind been teeming with them?

    I will do it, sir, in print.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, iii, 1.

The deep indentation made on the receiving paper when the strong arm of a
lusty pressman had pulled the bar with too great vigour is glanced at

    Think when we talk of horses that you see them
    _Printing_ their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth.
                                _Henry V_, Chorus.

The frequency with which the words _print_ or _imprint_ are used is very

    The story that is _printed_ in her blood.
                                _Much Ado about Nothing_, iv, 1.

    I love a ballad in _print_.
                                _Winter's Tale_, iv, 4.

    She did _print_ your royal father off conceiving you.
                                _Winter's Tale_, v, 1.

    You are but as a _form_ in wax, by him _imprinted_.
                                _Midsummer-Night's Dream_, i, 1.

    His heart ... with your _print impressed_.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, ii, 1.

    I will do it, sir, in _print_.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, iii, 1.

    This weak _impress_ of love.
                                _Two Gentlemen of Verona_, iii, 2.

    To _print_ thy sorrows plain.
                                _Titus Andronicus_, iv, 1.

            Sink thy knee i' the earth;
    Of thy deep duty, more _impression_ show.
                                _Coriolanus_, v, 3.

                        Some more time
    Must wear the _print_ of his remembrance out.
                                _Cymbeline_, ii, 3.

    The _impressure_.
                                _Twelfth Night_, ii, 5.

    He will _print_ them, out of doubt.
                                _Merry Wives of Windsor_, ii, 1.

    We quarrel in _print_, by the book.
                                _As You Like It_, v, 4.

    Let it _stamp_ wrinkles in her brow.
                                _Lear_, i, 4.

    His sword death's _stamp_.
                                _Coriolanus_, ii, 2.

Hear how deftly Title-pages are treated:

          _Sim._ Knights,
    To say you're welcome were superfluous.
    To place upon the _volume_ of your deeds,
    As in a _title-page_, your worth of arms,
    Were more than you expect, or more than's fit.
                                _Pericles_, ii, 3.

Hear, too, Northumberland, who thus addresses the bearer of fearful news:

    This man's brow, like to a _title-leaf_,
    Foretells the nature of a tragic _volume_.
                                _2 Henry IV_, i, 1.

Evidently Shakspere had a good idea of what a Title-page should contain.

From Title to Preface is but a turn of the leaf, and its introductory
character is thus noticed:

    Is but a _Preface_ of her worthy praise,
    The chief perfections of that lovely dame.
                                _1 Henry VI_, v, 5.

We must not forget a well-known passage about the introduction of Printing
to England, which has caused much discussion. It is where Jack Cade
accuses Lord Saye:

    Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in
    erecting a grammar-school: and whereas, before, our forefathers had no
    other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to
    be used; and, contrary to the king, his crown, and dignity, thou hast
    built a paper mill.

        _2 Henry VI_, iv, 7.

The early-invented fable of Faustus, and the assistance given him by the
Devil in the multiplication of the first printed bibles (certainly a most
short-sighted step on the part of his Satanic Majesty) had got fixed in
the minds of the populace, and created among the ignorant a prejudice
against the Printing-press, and it was to this feeling Jack Cade appealed.
All our Chroniclers place the erection of a Printing-press in England some
years too early, but no one except Shakspere has put the date so far back
as 1450, the date of Jack Cade's insurrection: it is simply a blunder; but
it was the Printing-press and its introduction to this country that was in
the Author's brain, and the _exact_ date of that event was unknown, being
probably as difficult to arrive at then as it is now.[1]

We have already noticed in how simple a manner originated that grand
discovery which, instead of one perishable manuscript, produced numberless
printed books, and thus enabled mankind to perpetuate for ever the
knowledge they had gained. The real superiority of the Press over the pen
was the easy multiplication of copies, and this was the idea in the Poet's
brain when he wrote:

    She carved thee for her seal and meant thereby
    Thou shouldst _print more_ nor let that copy die.
                                _Sonnet_ xi.

Type-founding has in these days arrived at such perfection, that most of
the blemishes and faults common in Shakspere's time are now unknown. Under
the old system of hand moulds a type founder was sure when commencing work
to cast a certain number of imperfect letters, because until the mould by
use got warmed, the liquid metal solidified too soon, and the body or
shank of the type was shrunk, and became no inappropriate emblem of an old
man's limbs whose hose would be

    A world too wide for his shrunk shank.
                                _As You Like It_, ii, 7.

The names of the various sizes of type in the sixteenth century were few
compared with our modern list; Canon, Great Primer, Pica, Long Primer, and
Brevier almost complete the catalogue; and however familiar Shakspere may
have been with their names, it is difficult to imagine any scene in which
these technical names could be introduced with propriety. Yet, of one,
Nonpareil, a new small type first introduced from Holland about 1650, and
which for its beauty and excellence was much admired, Shakspere seems to
have conceived a most favorable idea. Prospero, praising his daughter,
calls her 'a Nonpareil' (_Tempest_, Act iii, Sc. 2); Olivia is the
'Nonpareil of beauty' (_Twelfth Night_, Act i, Scene 5); and Posthumus
speaks of Imogen as the 'Nonpareil of her time' (_Cymbeline_, Act ii,
Scene 5).

The exactitude and precision of everything connected with the arrangement
of printing from types is curiously hinted at by Touchstone, when
describing the preciseness of the Courtiers' quarrels:

    We quarrel _in print by the book_.
                                _As You Like It_, v, 4;

that is, no step was taken except according to acknowledged rules.

It often happens when a book comes to its last sheet that the text runs
short, and two or three blank or vacant pages remain at the end. In the
middle of one of these it is usual to place the typographer's imprint.
What compositor is there who has rejoiced in such _fat_ pages[2] but will
not at once recognise the following allusion:

    The _vacant_ leaves thy mind's _imprint_ will bear,
    And of this _book_ this learning mayst thou taste.
                                _Sonnet_ lxxvii.

People with a grievance write now-a-days to the Newspapers, in hope of
redress. In Shakspere's time the only method to make wrongs public and to
show up abuses was by the _Broadside_, in prose or rhyme, passing from
hand to hand. Many of these have survived to the present day, and are
treasured up as curious relics of a by-gone age. They were frequently
libellous and grievously personal, and hence the point of Pistol's remark:

    Fear we broadsides?
                                _2 Henry IV_, ii, 4.

We must not think here that the naval 'broadside'--a volley of guns from
the broadside of a ship--is meant. Shakspere does not use the word once in
that sense, nor was it a conversational word in his time. That Pistol was
indeed thinking of a printed broad sheet is evident from the whole
sentence, which, although composed of disjointed exclamations continues
with the following expressions, both strongly suggestive of the Composing
room or Reader's closet:

      Come we to full points here? and are etceteras
                                  _2 Henry IV_, ii, 4.

'Come we to full points here?' This question is often a puzzler for both
Compositor and Reader. Indeed, few things cause more disagreements between
Author and Printer than the very loose ideas held by the former concerning
punctuation. Some writers, like Dickens in his early days, insist upon
ornamenting their sentences with little dashes and big dashes, with colons
where commas should be, and with

    _Points_ that seem impossible.
                                _Pericles_, v, 1.

In vain does the Printer declare that in altering the Author's unregulated

    No levelled malice infests one _comma_,
                                _Timon_, i, 1,

the irate Author exclaims, that he

    Puts the _period_ often from his place,
                                _Lucrece_, l. 565,

and adds, 'Follow

    My _point_ and period ... ill or well.
                                _Lear_, iv, 7.

    You find not the apostrophes, and so miss the accent.
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, iv, 2.

    Wherefore stand you on nice points?
                                _3 Henry VI_, iv, 7.

The Printer has no resource but compliance, which, however, unless the
affront be very severe, will soon

    Stand a comma 'tween their amities,
                                _Hamlet_, v, 2,

and thus heal the breach, and end all happily with mutual

    Notes of Admiration.
                                _Winter's Tale_, v, 2.

'And are etceteras nothing?' What a typographical question! and probably
the only occasion on which so unpoetical a figure has done duty in any
drama. The &c. makes an insignificant appearance in either MS. or type,
and yet how often it stands for whole pages of matter. Hence the point of
the question.

If a book is folio, and two pages of type have been composed, they are
placed in proper position upon the imposing stone, and enclosed within an
iron or steel frame called a 'chase', small wedges of hard wood termed
'coigns' or 'quoins' being driven in at opposite sides to make all tight.

    By the four opposing coigns,
    Which the world together joins.
                                _Pericles_, iii, 1.

This is just the description of a forme in folio where two quoins on one
side are always opposite to two quoins on the other, thus together
joining and tightening all the separate stamps. In a quaint allegorical
poem, published anonymously about the year 1700, in which the mystery of
man's redemption is symbolised by the mystery of Printing, the author
commences thus:

    Great blest Master Printer, come
    Into thy Composing-room;

and after 'spiritualising' the successive operations of the workman thus
touches upon the quoins:

    Let the Quoins be thy sure Election,
    Which admits of no Rejection;
    With which our Souls being joined about,
    Not the least Grace can then fall out.

Here, the idea of joining together by quoins so that nothing shall fall
out, is just the same as in the couplet quoted from Shakspere.

The tightening of these quoins by means of a wooden-headed mallet,

    (There is no more conceit in him than is in a mallet,
                                _2 Henry IV_, ii, 4),

is called 'locking up', an exclusively technical term. The expression,
however, occurs in 'Measure for Measure', IV, 2,

    Fast locked up in sleep,

where the idea conveyed is the same.

The 'Forme' worked off and the metal chase removed, leaving the pages
'naked', affords the Poet the following simile, which although not
carrying to the popular ear any typographical meaning, was doubtless
suggested by Shakspere's former experience of the workshop:

    And he but _naked_ though _locked up_ in steel.
                                _2 Henry VI_, iii, 2.

The primary idea of 'locking up' had, doubtless, reference to 'armour';
the secondary to printing, as shown by the use of the word 'naked'.

The forme then went to the Press-room, where considerable ingenuity was
required to make 'register'; that is, to print one side so exactly upon
the other, that when the sheet was held up to the light the lines on each
side would exactly back one another. The accuracy of judgment required for
this is thus glanced at:

    _Eno._ But let the world rank me in _register_
           A master-leaver and a fugitive.
                                _Antony and Cleopatra_, iv, 9.

When the green-eyed Othello takes his wife's hand and exclaims:

    Here's a young and sweating devil,
                                _Othello_, iii, 4,

we fail at first to catch the idea of the Poet in calling a hand a
'devil'; but take the word as synonymous with 'messenger', and we see at
once how the moist plump palm of Desdemona suggested to the intensely
jealous husband the idea of its having been the lascivious messenger of
her impure desires. In this sense of 'messenger', the word 'devil' has a
special fitness; for it is, and always has been among Printers, _and
Printers only_, another word for 'errand-boy'. In olden times, when speed
was required, a boy stood at the off-side of the press, and as soon as the
frisket was raised, whipped the printed sheet off the tympan. When not at
work, he ran on messages between printer and author, who, on account of
his inky defilement, dubbed him 'devil'. All Printers' boys go now by the
same name:

    Old Lucifer, both kind and civil,
    To ev'ry Printer lends a Devil;
    But balancing accounts each winter,
    For ev'ry Devil takes a Printer.

Moxon, in 1683, quotes it as an old trade word, and it was doubtless the
same in Shakspere's time, a century earlier, as it is now two centuries
later. But where could Shakspere have picked up the word if not in the

Any one accustomed to collate old MSS. must have noticed how very seldom
the copyist would, in transcribing, add nothing and omit nothing. If what
the scribe considered a good idea entered his mind while his pen was
travelling over the page, he was a very modest penman indeed, if he did
not incorporate it in the text. From this cause, and from genuine
unintentional blunders, the texts of all the old authors had become
gradually very corrupt--a source of great trouble to the early Printers.
With this in his mind Shakspere defines it as one of the qualities of Time

    To blot old books and alter their contents.
                                _Lucrece_, l. 948.

Many of Vautrollier's publications must have been printed from discolored
old manuscripts; and these papers Shakspere, if he read 'proof' for his
employer, would have to study carefully. Does he call this to mind in
Sonnet XVII?

    My papers yellowed with their age.

Was it, after admiring some beautifully illuminated Horæ, that he wrote:

    O that record could with a backward look,
      E'en of five hundred courses of the sun;
    Show me your image in some antique book,
      Since mind at first in character was done.
                                _Sonnet_ lix.

Does the Poet refer to its wonderfully burnished gold initials, and the
red dominical letters which he must often have seen in the printed
calendars, when he exclaims in tones of admiration:

    My red dominical--my golden letter!
                                _Love's Labour Lost_, v, 2.

The old calendar had a _golden number_ and a _dominical letter_, but not a
_golden letter_, which last must refer specifically to the practice of
gilding important initials. 'Golden Letters' are mentioned in 'King John',
III, 1, and in 'Pericles', IV, 4, while the red initials, which were
common to both manuscripts and printed books of the fifteenth century, are
made by Shakspere the death warrant of the unfortunate Clerk of Chatham,
against whom is brought the fatal accusation that he

    Has a book in his pocket with red letters in 't.
                                _2 Henry VI_, iv, 2.

In Shakspere's time, as we have already noticed (p. 41, ante), the press
laboured under great restrictions. All books with a profitable
circulation were monopolised by favored stationers or printers who held
special patents or licenses from the Crown. Thus Reynold Wolfe, in 1543,
held a monopoly of all books printed in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Seres was
privileged to print all psalters, primers, and prayer books; Denham might
print the New Testament in Welch; others held grants for scholastic or
legal books, for almanacs, and even for broadsides, or as the grant says
'for any piece of paper printed on one side of the sheet only'. In these
favored books it was customary to place the patent granting the monopoly
at the end, as a 'caveat' for other printers, and occasionally the phrase
'Cum privilegio ad imprimendum solum' would appear in a conspicuous part
of the title. Among the printers in London, who secured such special
privileges, was Vautrollier, Shakspere's presumed employer. 'In the
sixteenth year of Elizabeth, 19th June, 1574', says Ames, 'a patent or
license was granted him which he often printed at the end of the New
Testament'; this was a monopoly of Beza's New Testament which Vautrollier
had the privilege 'ad imprimendum solum', for the term of ten years. We
have already seen the curious connection between the products of
Vautrollier's press and the writings of Shakspere, and we now plainly
perceive what was floating in the Poet's brain when he placed the
following speech in Biondello's mouth, who urges Lucentio to marry Bianca,
while her father and the pedant are discussing the marriage treaty:

    _Luc._ And what of all this?

    _Bion._ I cannot tell; expect they are busied about a counterfeit[3]
    assurance: Take your assurance of her _cum privilegio ad imprimendum
    solum_: to the church;--take the priest, clerk, and some sufficient
    honest witnesses.

        _Taming of the Shrew_, iv, 4.

These protective privileges, 'ad imprimendum solum', instead of a benefit
were a great hindrance to the growth of Printing. Many master-printers
even then felt them to be so, and by all legal and sometimes illegal
means, tried to procure the abolition of laws which were oppressive and
restrictive. They saw works of merit die out of memory for want of
enterprise in the patentee--they saw folly, in the shape of a
Star-chamber, controlling skill; or as Shakspere himself expresses it,

    Art made tongue-tied by authority,
    And Folly (doctor-like),[4] controlling skill.
                                _Sonnet_ lxvi.

Shakspere abounds in kisses of every hue, from shadowy, frozen, and Judas
kisses, to holy, true, gentle, tender, warm, sweet, loving, dainty, kind,
soft, long, hard, zealous, burning, and even the unrequited kiss:

    But my kisses bring again
    Seals of love, but seal'd in vain.
                                _Measure for Measure_, iii, 1.

The 'burning' kiss might be thought passionate and even durable enough for
any extremity--yet Shakspere prefers, perhaps from an unconscious
association of ideas, the durability of which _Printing_ is the emblem
when he makes the Goddess of Love exclaim:

    Pure lips, sweet seals on my soft lips _imprinted_.
                                _Venus and Adonis_, l. 511.

The same idea of durability is expressed in the cry of Henry's guilty
Queen, when parting with Suffolk:

    Oh, could this kiss be _printed_ on thy hand!
                                _2 Henry VI_, iii, 2.

The idea has been still further developed in the following anonymous


    _Print_ on my lips another kiss,
      The picture of my glowing passion.
    Nay, this wont do--nor this, nor this;
      But now--Ay, that's a _proof impression_.

Many of Vautrollier's publications went through several editions. In the
'Merry Wives', II, 1, Mistress Page says:

    These are of the second edition,

and well can we imagine Shakspere handing volumes to a buyer with the same
remark, or asking some patron with whom he was a favourite:

    Com'st thou with deep premeditated lines,
    With written pamphlet studiously devised?
                                _1 Henry VI_, iii, 1.

as the author entered with a roll of 'copy' in his hand.

In the deep mine from which the foregoing quotations have been dug, many
others would doubtless reward a more careful search. As it is, numerous
allusions, which, though plain to a printer, would seem too forced to the
general public, have been passed over. Enough, however, has probably been
brought forward to justify the belief pourtrayed in the title-page, viz.:
_That Shakspere must have passed some of his early years in a



[1] _The exact date was probably as difficult to arrive at then as now._
The arrival of William Caxton in England may, with a certainty of being
near the truth, be placed in 1475-6, the date 1474 given by most writers
being a misconception of the language used by Caxton in the Preface to the
Chess-book. The Art on its first introduction was looked upon suspiciously
by the people, few of whom could read, its chief patrons being a few of
the more educated among the nobles and the rich burghers of London.
Another mistake is to suppose that Caxton printed in Westminster Abbey.
His printing-office was a tenement to the south-east of the Abbey Church;
its sign was the 'Red-pale', and Caxton rented it of the Abbot. There is
evidence to show that Caxton and the Abbot were on distant terms of
amity--none to show that the Ecclesiastic encouraged or patronised the
Printer, notwithstanding Dean Stanley's assertions in a sermon lately
preached by him in Westminster Abbey. The _only_ occasion upon which
Caxton mentions the Abbot is to this effect--that the Abbot, not being
able himself to read a passage in old MS., sent it to Caxton, with a
request that he would translate it. (See _The Life and Typography of
William Caxton_, by William Blades. 2 vols., 4to. London, 1861-63.)

[2] _Fat Pages._ 'Fat' as a conventional word is not confined to Printers.
'A _fat_ living' is a phrase not unknown among churchmen, and is used in
the same sense by the compositor, who charges the master-printer for the
_fat_ pages, in which no work appears, at the same rate as if they were

[3] This word 'counterfeit' in the sense of 'reprint' or 'duplicate', is
certainly not used now-a-days by English printers; yet I find this in
Marahren's Parallel List of technical Typographical terms:--'Counterfeit,
to, or to Reprint, v., Nachdrucken.--Ré-imprimer.' With Bibliographers the
word is still retained; _e.g._ 'Lyons counterfeits of the Aldine

[4] _And Folly (doctor-like) controlling skill._ It is worth noting, that
in none of the various volumes written to show Shakspere's knowledge of
medicine and medical men, has the truth of this passage been brought
forward in evidence.

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