graphic Shakespeare and the Book

Publishers, Printers, and the Printed Book
Notes on Printing

Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1633): K4r

Although printers were absolutely crucial to the book trade, their work was not always applauded. Errors always found their way into the text, and correcting errors after a significant run of pages had been printed was expensive. So, many pages stayed uncorrected, leading some authors to insert notes apologizing for these errors as a way to prevent criticism of their and the printers' work.

In 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (1633), John Ford asks his readers to excuse him for "such few faults, as are escaped in the Printing." He reasons that, assuming his readers know how to spell-a safe assumption for most readers of books-then "a secure confidence assures that hee [an interesting assumption about the sex of his readers-compare it to the comments of Humphrey Moseley in the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio] cannot ignorantly erre in the Application of Sence."

Nabbes, Microcosmos (1637): A3v

Thomas Nabbes appended a similar note to Microcosmos (1637). But instead of worrying about the ability of his readers to figure out the correct readings, he worries that they will accuse him of ignorance: "The errours escap't in the Presse are not such, but that the apparent oversight of the Correctour may prevent thy taxing me of ignorance. I therefore have omitted expresse them." Not many errors should have escaped into text, thanks to the "apparent oversight of the Correctour," but those that have should not be attributed to the ignorance of Nabbes. Or, don't blame the author for the faults of his printer.

Beaumont and Fletcher Folio, Postscript: g2r

In the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio (1647), Humphrey Moseley inserts a postscript, in which he relates information that he mistakenly left out of "The Stationer to the Reader," such as that Beaumont and Fletcher did not write some of the Prologues and Epilogues for the plays. He also explains the varied appearance of the forty-two pages of "the Gentlemens Verses," some of which are printed in very large type, others very small: "we were forced (for expedition) to send the Gentlemens Verses to severall Printers, which was the occasion of their different Character." Books routinely shared multiple printers "for expedition" and for economic reasons, but sometimes with a loss of typographical uniformity. As for the plays themselves, they are printed in "one continued Letter, which (though very legible) is none of the biggest, because (as muche as possible) we would lessen the Bulke of the Volume."

Images: Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Technology: Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning