Monday, June 13, 2011

it's not the end but a new beginning

Updated below: there's no need to subscribe to a new feed! If you already subscribed to this one, it will now pull from the new site, so you're all set!

My dear readers:

For some time I've been feeling a bit hamstrung: I love this blog and I want to keep its focus on early modern books and book history. But I'd like to have room to write beyond that mandate as well, as the mood hits. Rather than start a second blog, I've decided to create my own website, where I can not only blog about books but blog on other subjects and do all sorts of other things as my very own domain name.

So with this post I bid farewell to blogger and announce Wynken de Worde's new home at my new online home, At the new site you can continue to read only the Wynken de Worde posts by viewing only that category of posts or by subscribing to its feed. Posts on topics other than early modern books will be in a different category, "In other words," which will have its own feed. Of course, you can just read everything by visiting or subscribing to the general feed. simply staying subscribed to the feed that originated with this site; I've updated it so that it now pulls from the new site, so there's no need for you to do anything if you're already subscribed! (This is how much I love that you read what I write and how much I hope you will continue to do so.) I'd be mightily surprised if I blog with any greater frequency there than I do here, so you certainly won't be swamped!

I'm going to leave this blog up so all your old links to it will continue to work, but I am shutting down comments. I've ported over all my old content from here so you'll be able to find it at my new site (albeit undoubtedly with some glitches). All new content will appear only at, there's a new post there right now waiting for you--so I will look forward to seeing you over there!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

an armorial binding mystery

Another book from my students' projects, this one with a curious binding:

At first glance, what you might see is an armorial binding: a binding in which an owner has stamped his arms in gold tooling. No big deal, really; there are plenty of books like those in libraries. But this one is more complicated: there are TWO coats of arms, one stamped on top of the other. Here's a close-up of the center of the binding, where the arms are:

And here's the picture again with one of the two arms outlined:

A close-up of the top portion, in which you can see that there are two crowns juxtaposed and the heads of two faintly visible supporters:

Looked at in raking light, you can see that the supporter on the right looks like an antlered stag:

And the supporter on the left looks like a horse:

I can't make out the details of the arms themselves, but you can see the motto on which the supporters are standing:

My student deciphered it as "fidei coticula crux" and that looks right to me.

If you look closely at that last picture, you can see that the arms with the supporters and motto was done second: its lines cross on top of the other arms. And if you look at the original arms, you might recognize them as James I's arms: there's the harp on the bottom left of the shield, the lions and fleur-de-lis quartering the right, and the motto "honi soit qui mal y pense" circling the shield. (This gives you some sense of the arms, though that harp is a bit excessive.) (And I should point out, although it's surely obvious by this point, that I'm not particularly knowledgeable about arms and that my vocabulary choices might not be quite precise. But this is why we need help.)

So whose coat of arms is on top of James's? Is it possible it's James's favorite, George Villiers, aka the first Duke of Buckingham? According to the Burke I was looking at, not only was the family's motto "Fidei coticula crux", but he used the supporters of "a dapple grey horse" and a stag. But, as I said, I'm not super confident of my ability to deal with armorial and geneological crap, so does someone want to confirm or deny this? I'm drawn to it because if someone WAS going to stamp their arms on top of the king's, wouldn't it be great if it was him? (If you're not familiar with this period, you might want to know more about Villiers; this link should, I hope, get you into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography's article on him for the next few days [though April 27th]. If it no longer works, well, this would be a good time for you to do some scouting about on your own! If you know of some reliable open access information about him, please leave it in the comments. Or go edit the Wikipedia page, which could use improvement!)

I should say something about what book this is, I suppose. It's John Smith's 1624 The generall historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. It's a very interesting book, and there's some great marginalia in it, but that will have to wait until another post, especially since my student is still in the middle of her research! But the arms thing is tricky to decipher and the Folger catalog record identifies only one of the two crests (James's, of course), so I wanted to lend her a hand in getting it sorted out. And I certainly didn't want to lead her astray with my desire for it to be Buckingham! So please leave me a note telling me what you think and I'll pass it on to her.

Friday, March 11, 2011

O rare!

I've been looking at another book that a student was working on. It's unprepossessing on the outside, just a small, worn brown leather binding, with the remains of ties that have long since disappeared. But the book is much more interesting on the inside. Take a gander at some of the photos I snapped (I did these with my cell phone, so they're not super high quality, but they're not too bad either):

The whole book is like this, covered with marginalia. There are manicules, trefoils, asterisks, notes more and less extensive. It's a seriously used book.

And do you know who used this book so seriously? He inscribed his name right there on the title page:

O rare Ben Jonson! And while Jonson's book when he used it might seem unprepossessing, later owners certainly valued it for its association and house it accordingly, in its own locked box.

There's much more to be said about Jonson and his books but I wanted to get these pictures up before they burned a hole in my pocket. You can find the catalog record for this book here and I'll try to follow this up with a bit more Jonsonia.

(Oh, I suppose many of you got the title of the blog post, but just for clarification's sake: Jonson is buried in Westminster Abbey under a plaque that reads, "O rare Ben Johnson"--and yes, that's how it's spelled on the plaque, even though Jonson didn't spell his name that way.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

that thei they thnt

My students are in the process of choosing the books they're going to work with this semester, so I've been looking at lots of books I haven't seen before. One of them is an English translation of Nicholas Monardes's Historia medicinal, a 1577 book with one of those glorious long titles: Ioyfull newes out of the newe founde worlde, wherein is declared the rare and singuler vertues of diuerse and sundrie hearbes, trees, oyles, plantes, and stones, with their aplications, aswell for phisicke as chirurgerie, the saied beyng well applied bryngeth suche present remedie for all deseases, as maie seme altogether incredible: notwithstandyng by practize founde out, to bee true: also the portrature of the saied hearbes, very aptly discribed: Englished by Ihon Frampton marchaunt. (Want more info? Check out the record on Hamnet.)

In doing her description of the book, my student noticed something funny about the headlines. They are set up to do something fairly typical: the book is divided into three parts, and the headlines tell you which part you are reading, as shown here:

"The first parte of the thynges that" is on the left-hand side of the opening, with the conclusion of the phrase on the other side of the gutter: "thei bryng from the West Indias."

The fun part is what happens on the left. On most of the pages, this part of the phrase appears as you would expect:

But sometimes, it goes a bit askew:


or even:

All these mistakes happen only in the first part of the book (although there are other errors in the headlines in the second and third parts). "Thei" is obviously a slip from the phrase's continuation and appears on signatures A1v, D1v, and F1v. "They" is a similar mistake; it appears on D3v and F3v. It's not connected to "thei"--by which I mean, it's not some sort of correction of "thei", which wouldn't make sense anyway, because "thei" is spelled perfectly acceptably according to early modern standards, as evidenced by the fact that it's spelled that way on the other side of the gutter. No, I know it's not a correction of "thei" because both mistakes appear on the outer formes of the D and the G gatherings: "thei" on D1v/G3v with "they" on D3v/G3v. In other words, they were both in use at the same time. (If this doesn't make sense, go back and practice your quarto folding again.)

My favorite, though, is the last one--"thnt"--which appears with the greatest frequency, on signatures B2v, C1v, G2v, and H2v. What in the world is "thnt"? It's "that" when someone has accidentally put an "n" in with the "a"s when he was redistributing the type. A good compositor would touch-set, just as a good typist touch-types. You don't look at where your fingers are on the keyboard; you look at what it is you are typing. If you're copying something (typing notes up from a book, for instance), you're looking at the book, not at your fingers or your typewriter computer screen. When you're grabbing type from the case and reading the manuscript that you're setting, you're not only not looking at each letter as you put it in the composing stick, even if you were to glance at it, it'd be a mirror image.

And that, my friends, is one of the reasons you proof your work.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

the small joys of looking at books

Take a gander at this book I was looking at today:

Boyer's The compleat French-master, 1699, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q
Can you see what's going on here? It looks at first glance like the top page has been folded back, revealing the text of the previous leaf. But that's not it. You're looking at the verso side of sig. H4 and nothing else.

Can you see now that it's only one leaf?

Here's an image of what this leaf looks like in other copies of this book:

The Huntington's copy, as in EEBO

And now do you see what's happened? During printing, this leaf got folded over in the press, and the inside of the fold missed the type (that's the blank streak) and the outer part of the fold was, once unfolded, misaligned. Print the image off and fold it to see for yourself!

Here's the recto side of the leaf:

Boyer's The compleat French-master, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q
You can see the crease from the fold, but since this side was already printed, there's no misalignment of the text.

I love this detail in this book. It's not really significant, it's just a tiny reminder that the book is a made objects, and that in making objects, things happen and sometimes leave their traces. It's one of the tiny joys I find in looking at books--not reading them, but looking at them.

That's it for my post. My new theory is to stick with the short and sweet. Now that the Folger allows readers (and staff) to snap their own photos, I'm determined to share more of the tidbits that I come across. I'll still do the longer posts, but at least this way I won't have such long periods of silence in between!

(A shout-out here to the cataloger who created the entry for this book. As with many items in the Folger's collections, this has a wonderfully detailed record, including the information that this fold was to be found. You can see the record for yourself--you'll notice that the book is full of other nice details. And the next time you encounter a cataloger, make sure you buy them a drink. Or chocolate. Or both.)