- The book was printed by the piratical James Mechell.
- It is an octavo gathered in fours, collating 8o: [A]4 χ2 B-M4.
- 44 copies survive, by far the largest number of any of the early Hoyles.
- The printing would have started with the B gathering and continued through to M. Gatherings A and χ would have been printed last.
The text is identical, word-for-word, but there are many typographical differences:
- The example at left lacks a page number; the right is numbered "".
- The drop-title "A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist" is completely different. Look at the line breaks, the use of capitals and the use of italics.
- On the last line, the word "One" is capitalized in the first example but not in the second.
- On the left, the "A" in "Author" on the first line of text appears above and slightly to the left of the "d" in "did" on the line below. On the right, it appears above the space betwee "tise" and "did".
- Look at the "e" in "Attention" 4 lines from the bottom. On the left, it seems to me that there is a break in the top part of the letter suggesting some damage to the type. On the right, the "e" looks fine. For a different broken "e", look at "Payment" on the last line.
If you picked up a random copy of Hoyle's Whist, printed for W. Webster (1743), you could find either of the two variants. That is odd, even in the hand press era. Many questions come to mind. Why did this happen? Which was printed first? Were both printed in the same shop? I'll return to the "why" question at the end of this essay. The question of priority will have to wait for a later essay--it requires a lot more evidence and discussion.
We can conclude with reasonable certainty that both settings were printed in the same shop. Note the identical woodblock ornament at the top of both settings. Ornaments are lovely decorative elements from books of this period, and can be useful in identify anonymous printers. The fact that both pages share an ornament is a strong indication that both were printed in the same shop. It is theoretically possible that the ornament was loaned from one printer to another and each printed a page, but that strains credulity. Both were printed in the shop of James Mechell.
We could have as easy compared copies of page 2:
- A different break between lines 2 and 3: "upon Pay-" versus "upon".
- Different spacing between paragraphs.
- A decorative woodblock ornament on the left, versus a line of type ornaments on the right.
- Below the decoration, the type is different in every way--the use of capitals and italics, line breaks, the two-line initial "I" on the right, different catchwords...
Some of the many differences are:
- The spacing before and after the page number.
- The woodblock ornament at the top
- The line break in the chapter title and the spelling of "observ'd" versus "observed".
- The position of the signature mark C2 with respect to the text.
- The spacing before and after the page number.
- The woodblock ornament at the top.
- Line breaks in the chapter title.
- The capital S in "Suppose is a different piece of type in the two examples.
You can make your own (long) list of difference by now. I let my eye run down the right margin and note differences in the line breaks beginning on the fifth line. The woodblock tail pieces differs as well. The next two examples are an exercise for the reader:
There is only one setting of type for gathering I; gathering K has two, and gatherings L and M have one only. As mentioned above, when there are two settings, we are not yet prepared to discuss which of them might have been printed first.
Gathering A with the half-title, title page, and Advertisement has only one setting of type, but there are fascinating and revelatory variations of a different sort. Please be patient until the next essay.
Why are there two settings of type of some gatherings and only one of others? Here is how I envision the workflow in Mechell's shop. The compositors--as discussed below, I suspect there were at least two--started setting the type with the text in gathering B. As each gathering was finished, the pressmen printed a fixed number of each sheet. The compositor(s) would then distribute the type and beginning setting another gathering.
When the book was about two thirds finished, Mechell decided to increase the print run, expecting more demand for the book than he originally supposed. The pressmen printed a larger number of I, L, M, A, and χ. Then, the compositors went back to reset gatherings B-H and gathering K. Enough copies of the resettings were printed off to make complete books for the larger print run of the later gatherings.
Why do I think there were two or more compositors? If there were only one, there wouldn't be the oddity that the earlier gathering I had only one setting while the later gathering K had two. I suspect that one compositor was setting gathering I and another gathering K. Gathering K was printed and the type distributed while I was still in the press. At the point Mechell decided to increase the print run; therefore I did not need to be reset, while K did. Speculation, yes, but it explains the pattern of reset gatherings.
It is amazing and interesting how much we can learn Mechell's thought process and workflow by looking at lots of copies of Whist.
Next: Gathering A