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English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton

English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
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    English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton
    Book Description:

    English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton examines the history of early English books, exploring the concept of putting the English language into print with close study of the texts, the formats, the audiences, and the functions of English books. Lavishly illustrated with more than 130 full-color images of stunning rare books, this volume investigates a full range of issues regarding the dissemination of English language and culture through printed works, including the standardization of typography, grammar, and spelling; the appearance of popular literature; and the development of school grammars and dictionaries. Valerie Hotchkiss and Fred C. Robinson provide engaging descriptions of more than a hundred early English books drawn from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the Elizabethan Club of Yale University. The study nearly mirrors the chronological coverage of Pollard and Redgrave's famous Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640), beginning with William Caxton, England's first printer, and ending with John Milton, the English language's most eloquent defender of the freedom of the press in his Areopagitica of 1644. William Shakespeare, neither a printer nor a writer much concerned with publishing his own plays, nonetheless deserves his central place in this study because Shakespeare imprints, and Renaissance drama in general, provide a fascinating window on the world of English printing in the period between Caxton and Milton.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09153-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-44)

    This exhibition explores the history of the book in England from the time of the introduction of printing to the mid-seventeenth century. The books displayed are intended to show the stages by which the printed book evolved from early handpress volumes, which in most respects imitated the characteristics of medieval manuscript books, to the books from the mid-seventeenth century, whose appearance is in most respects like that of books produced today. (There are a few differences, however; for example, modern books lack signatures and catchwords and are printed on paper that is by and large inferior in quality to the...

  6. Catalog of the Exhibition

      (pp. 47-58)

      When printed books became available, scriptoria did not close their doors. On the contrary, manuscripts went on being produced—and sometimes preferred by their owners—throughout the fifteenth century. These two copies of the same text, one a manuscript, the other an early printed edition, exemplify the many continuities between early printed books and their manuscript forebears.

      Both books present the text of theChronicles of England, also known asThe Brut.The Brutis simple to describe—it is a history of England beginning with its legendary founder, Brutus—but its textual history is complex. The earliest versions, the...

      (pp. 59-82)

      This may be the earliest surviving schoolbook written exclusively in English. It is also the only known copy of this pedagogical text for teaching young children their ABCs and simple prayers. These sheets were probably intended to be used for a hornbook since they are printed on only one side.¹ The eight pages of this imprint were long ago pasted together, however, to form a pamphlet of four leaves.

      TheABCbegins with the Sign of the Cross and the alphabet, printed in both roman and black-letter typefaces. Simple prayers in English follow: the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, the Creed,...

      (pp. 83-106)

      The effort to control the distribution of texts predates printing. In 1401, theDe haeretico comburendo, an act of Parliament, threatened anyone found with “books or any such writings of wicked doctrine and opinion” (i.e., Wycliffite or Lollard views) with fines, imprisonment, and even death by burning.¹ Henry VIII followed in this tradition, forbidding the Bible in English and all “erroneous,” “blasphemous and pestiferous Englishe books” in a proclamation of 1530 (STC7775). Though his views on the Bible and the Reformation may have shifted after his divorce, his interest in controlling the press remained steadfast. In November 1538, Henry...

      (pp. 107-136)

      William Caxton began his literary career not as a printer, but as a translator. In the epilogue to the first book printed in English,The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye(1473 / 74), he claims that requests for additional copies of his translation induced him to learn the art of printing in the first place.

      Caxton is credited with over one hundred imprints.¹ About 60 percent of his books were in English, and Caxton himself translated more than twenty of these.² The texts he chose to translate range from romances to histories to practical treatises to religious works.


      (pp. 137-174)

      No monopolies or general patents were issued for the printing of plays, masques, or interludes. This may reflect a certain disregard for such works as literature, at least in the Elizabethan period. Whatever the reason, the lack of royal patents for the genre meant that any member of the Stationers’ Company could register and print a work for the stage. Such a situation engendered a degree of disorder. Printers frequently obtained texts in unorthodox ways, infringing on the rights of acting troupes, playwrights, and other printers. In addition, plays were not well printed as a rule; quick and shoddy in...

      (pp. 175-200)

      This remarkable fragment of a Shakespeare quarto illustrates a sixteenth-century English book in the making. Normally, a quarto is printed as four pages on each side of a sheet and then folded twice to produce four leaves or eight pages of a book. In England, however, it was not uncommon for early printers to use half sheets, like the one shown here, presumably as oddments to add pages, to facilitate work on a smaller platen, or when type was in short supply. Indeed, many Elizabethan plays were printed in quarto on half sheets.¹ Unfolded sheets could serve as proof copy...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 201-206)
    (pp. 207-218)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 219-236)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-241)