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.)