Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The First Piracy. Part 4. Analysis

updated June 29, 2020
Part three of this series looked at gathering A of the first piracy of Hoyle's Whist. I described differences in the half-title, the title, and the advertisement. It would be useful for you to have that essay open in another window alongside this to be able to see all the photographs there. To recap:
  • The half title (A1r) is frequently not present in surviving copies. Ignoring one odd copy, almost certainly a later facsimile, two settings of type survive and initially there is no way to determine their priority. 
  • The title page (A2r) occurs in four variants, but sequencing is clear. Some type shifted between variants 1 and 2 leaving an oddly-spaced word "Treatise". Variant 3 improved the spacing in "Treatise". Variant 4 is like 3, but adds a line "second edition."
  • Some type shifted at the bottom right margin of the Advertisement on A3r. The earlier variant is is correct, while variant 2 has some inadvertent oddities. 
I have seen more than half of the surviving 44 copies and received reports on the others. There is regularity in how the four variants of the title page combine with variants of the half title and the advertisement:

Variation in gathering A

I said I have data on 44 copies and the chart shows only 43. One copy at the Bodleian Library, shelf mark Jessel e.640 lacks gathering A altogether, so one cannot say which title page it might have had.

With the title page variant 1, we always have the first variant of the half title and the first variant of the Advertisement. This includes 31 of the 44 surviving copies of which 6 no longer have a half title.

It seems that after these were printed,the half title was reset to variant 2. At the same time, there was some rightward movement of type in "Treatise" at the top of the title page, but no change in the Advertisement. I would have more confidence in the regularity if there were more than 4 copies of variant 2.

Why was the half title reset at this point in printing? One possibility is that the compositor needed the type from the half title to print some other work. The shop would have had fewer pieces of the larger letter forms that were used in the half title than those used for the text. You could imagine that the printing was interrupted, the type for the half title distributed and used elsewhere, and then the half title was reset. In the course of making this deliberate change, accidental changes were introduced on the title page while the type was unlocked. Speculation, to be sure, but it does account for the variation we see. 

The third variant of the title page moves the "T" in treatise to a more pleasing position, perhaps a deliberate change. At the same time, there is accidental type slippage in the lower right margin of the Advertisement. Only three copies survive with the variant 3 title page.

Finally, variant 4 adds the line "second edition" to the title page. There are five survivors from with two missing half titles. The motivation for this is, I think, clear. The printer/publisher James Mechell wanted to make his piracy appear to be a popular seller. Likely, he wanted to have a second edition to compete with the authorized second edition published by Francis Cogan.

To repeat, the counts vary greatly between variant 1 on the one hand (31 surviving copies) and the later variants (4, 3, and 5 survivors) on the other. That makes conclusions about the later copies more tentative than those about the earlier ones.
Note that by looking at many copies, we can determine the priority of the half titles--variant 1 always occurs with the earliest title page and variant 2 with one of the later title pages. This is a matter of how the book was printed--in gathering A the half title was in the same forme as the title page.

Similarly, we can play the same game with the variants in other other gatherings and determine priority. The rules are a bit different. Here are the counts of setting 1 and 2 for each phase of printing of gathering A:

Setting of later gatherings grouped by title page variant

In general, you can see that title page variant 1 has the setting 1 of all the gatherings, while title page variants 2-4 have setting 2. In part 2 of this series of essays, where I showed to settings of each gathering side-by-side, I conveniently put setting 1 on the left and 2 on the right.

We were able to determine the priority of gathering A (and in particular of the half title) because all the pages (the half title, title, and Advertisement) were in the forme at the same time. The priority of the title page and Advertisement were clear and we were able to infer the priority of the half title.

The story is a bit different with the other gatherings. They were not in the press at the same time as gathering A; indeed each was a distinct unit of printing. It was the binder who stitched all the gatherings together to form a book. It is logical that early versions of gathering A were sewn together with early versions of B, C, D, and so on, and that lets us infer the priority in printing the later gatherings. What I have called setting 1 was printed before setting 2.

The data is quite consistent, but there are exceptions. For example a variant 1 title page at the Newberry Library (shelf mark V 1639.42) has a second state gathering E, while another (reported to me by a bookseller) has second state gatherings B and K. There is also an odd copy from title page variant 4 at the Bodleian Library (Jessel e.641) which has the first setting of all gatherings except B.

Recall Jessel e.640 that lacked gathering A, so we couldn't identify which printing phase it belonged to. It has second states of all later gatherings.

Another observation is that for each later gathering, about 32 of the 44 copies have first settings. This suggests that Mechell decided to increase the print run by roughly a third when it was nearly done.

This was a quite detailed look at one book. With many surviving copies and many variants, we could infer a great detail about its printing history. If you enjoyed this, you may want to look at a much, much more sophisticated example: see Stephen Tabor, "James Shirley's Triumph of Peace: Analyzing Greg's Nightmare" in Studies in Bibliography 60:107-212 (2018) available online.

There is one issue I'd like to take up in the next essay. How does the printing history we have seen work with the cornerstone concepts of bibliography: edition, issue, and state?

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