Books and Bookmaking

It is often stated that textual criticism of the Bible ends when theera of printed books begins; from that time on, there is no new evidenceavailable. This is largely true -- but not entirely.It is true enough that the first printed New Testament, Erasmus'sedition which eventually led to the Textus Receptus,is derived from manuscripts we know, and thus it has no value. Theearliest printed Latin Bible is almost equally useless; while the source manuscriptsare not known, the text is late.

And yet, there are occasional reasons to care about printed editions, sometimesof the Bible and more often of other ancient writings. Early editions of works suchas Josephus or Chaucer frequently take us back to manuscripts we no longer have.Indeed, even the Textus Receptus had value of this sortfor a time; 1r, the manuscript used to compile the Apocalypse, waslost for many years. In addition, some of theearly critical editions refer to manuscripts which are now lost -- some of them,indeed, quite interesting, such as 1518 (a member of Family 2138, which hasprobably but not certainly been recovered) or the Latin codex Demidovianus(never recovered).

Plus there is the matter of patristic and versional sources. If theTextus Receptus became the New Testament, makingit effectively impossible to create another edition based on othermanuscripts, there was no such restriction on the editing of other materials,such as the Church Fathers. For these, the early editions can bea key raw material for the compiling of criticaleditions; they too are are based on manuscripts we no longer have available.(See the appendix at the end of this entry for a list of some importantworks for which this is true.)

It should be kept in mind that the making of printed books was actuallythe result of a converging of technologies, none of them sufficient ontheir own. An early example of printing: Chinese book, reportedly published1162 C. E
Early Chinese printed book

For example, printing -- as in the use of stamps to apply letters --had been known for at least a thousand years before the so-called "inventionof printing." In fact, the Chinese seemto have mass-produced such stamps -- the first step toward movable type.For many years before the production of printed books, they were stampingsheets of silk with customized symbols -- the logo of the company.And the Phaistos Disk -- widely dated to c. 1700 B.C.E. --is a clay disk with the symbols stamped in, though there is no evidencethat the stamps were mass-produced.Playing cards seem to have been copied repeatedly from woodcut panelsby the late fourteenth century (if you think about it, playing cards thatare not mass-produced are nearly useless. Hence the fact thatgambling in the Middle Ages was based almost entirely on dice). As withprinting itself (credited in China to one Feng Tao), the cards seem to havebeen made first in China, in the tenth century or earlier -- and some suspectthat this promoted the use of woodblock printing in Europe.Even in Europe, there are indications that individual documents may have been runthrough a sort of a hand press using a single hand-carved stamp. Thusall the concepts needed for a printing press were in existence beforethe actual press came to be. Why, then, did it take so long for printingto be developed?

Douglas C. McMurtrie, The Book: TheStory of Printing & Bookmaking, third revised edition, Oxford,1943, p. 93, offers an interesting speculation: All the technologies wereavailable in the Far East, but to reach the Christian world, they would haveto pass through the Islamic world -- and Islam disliked the idea of mass-producingthe Quran. The preference was for hand copies, and memorization. So thetechnologies were not known in Europe.

Europe eventually bypassed that bottleneck -- but only after somecenturies. This even though printed patterns in cloth seem to go backto before the Christian era. So why the delay in adapting printing tothe written word?

Part of it is the lack of material on which to print. Until paperbecame widespread, printing was pointless. There are, it is true, ahandful of books printed onvellum. But if vellum had been the only writing material, there reallywould have been no need for a printing industry; the supply was simplynot sufficient to allow large press runs, and if one is producing only adozen or so copies, hand copying is economically competitive (sincethe effort of setting the plates -- backwards! -- and producing testruns and proofreading and organizing the results is far greater thanthe effort needed to produce a single manuscript).

Paper took a long time to come into its own. Chinesehistory says that the invention was first licensed by one Tsai Lungin 105 C.E. (McMurtrie, p. 61). This was, probably, linen paper, still amongthe best types available because the cellulose fibres are especiallylong, making for a firmer, longer-lasting material -- though the earliestsurviving Chinese papers are really too thin and light-weight for printing;they were written on only one side because the ink showed through. It wouldbe hundreds of years before heavier paper became the standard. Even inthe fifteenth century, many paper mills supplied inferior grades; the MainzVulgate was printed on imported Italian paper rather than local Germanstocks. A second invention also helped to improve paper. This was the useof sizing -- a chemical bath which filled the gaps between fibers and absorbedink. A typical early size was starch; sometimes glues were used instead. Thevery best paper eventually came to use the glues produced by rendering deadanimals (so even paper manuscripts involved some animal products, thoughfar less than parchment manuscripts). Later, sizes might be replaced bytrue modern coatings, which might include casein (a sort of milk protein),sugars, clay, or many other materials.

Paper is thought to havearrived in Japan around 610, and we are told of a mill at Samarkand in751, another at Baghdad in 793. The Moors seem to have introduced itto Europe around 1150 at Toledo; Italy's first mill was apparentlyfounded at in Fabriano in 1276. Even then, the paper trade was slowto grow; England, for instance, apparently did not have a a papermill until around 1493, when John Tate set up the first -- meaning thatall of Caxton's early English books were printed on imported paper,with perhaps a few on vellum (but no vellum copies survive; we do havean indulgence on vellum that seems to have been printed by Caxton).

Indeed, it was not until after the invention of printing that paperbecame fully respectable -- though, contrary to some reports, early paperwas quite long-lasting and durable. (It was made of vegetable cellulose, withlonger fibers and less acid than wood-based papers, both of which made it morelong-lasting than wood paper.) But it hadn't the reputation of vellum.Printing changed that; paper proved a better surface for press work, becausethe ink soaked in rather than just staying flat on the surface, making thebooks printed on paper much more tolerant of damp and wear, which caused theink to flake off vellum manuscripts.

The result was an explosion of paper production; according to Warren Chappell,A Short History of the Printed Word, Alfred A. Knopf, 1970, p. 14, morethan 16,000 distinct watermarks have been identified on European papers of the sixteenthcentury or earlier.

We observe also that mass-produced documents came into being well before whatwe usually call "printing." To restate some of what was saidabove, it is believed the Chinese wereprinting books from hand-carved wooden originals by the ninth century.They were not printed on presses; the forme was inked and paper placedon it and rubbed. This was not an easy form of printing, since a singleaccident in carving the woodblock could destroy the whole work.Still, large numbers of copies could be made by this means(though most early block books were printed on only one side).Movable type formally goes back to ancient China also, wherepottery letter stamps were produced (this was credited to one Pi Sheng,according to McMurtrie, p. 95). This technology, however,never went anywhere; Chinese ideograms were just too complicated -- and,according to McMurtrie, p. 100, the Chinese preferred a hand-lettered look,which could be achieved with woodcut printing but not with movable type.And while it's easy to produce large stamps out of ceramic, it'sby no means easy to make the small blocks required for movable typeout of clay. Still, the Koreans seem to havemanaged almost all the tricks needed for modern printing by the fifteenthcentury: They had presses, ink, paper, even interchangeable letters.But, again, the complexity of the ideographic languages of the east defeatedthem: there were simply too many letterforms to cut and mold, and too fewsymbols were re-used. (Some printers tried to replace the ideograms with asyllabary, but apparently this proved unpopular; McMurtrie, pp. 98-99).Plus the water-based inks they used were runny and didnot produce attactive results. So Europe had to re-invent the technology.And, just as in the East, block printing seems to have come first.

In Europe, the main early uses for block prints seem to have been quitedifferent: One was the production of playing cards, the other the productionof religious art. Block printing for the first time raised a serious possibilityof "art for everyone," just as ordinary printing raised the possibilityof "books for everyone."

It is possible -- even likely -- that some of the single-page art was doneby metal block printing (McMurtrie, p. 112). Larger books, though, almostcertainly were done with wood, since the material was cheaper and could becut more quickly.

By the fifteenth centuryin Europe, some quite large "block books" books werebeing produced with hand-carved wooden plates; theHistoria Sancti Johannis Evangelisque ejusque VisionesApocalypticae appeared in several editions, of 48 or 50 pages.These usually cannot be dated precisely; few early woodblock prints containedmuch text, because of the difficulty of cutting the fine lines involved(see the example at right, from a book about thetorments a dying sinner could face; note both the lack of uniformity ofthe lettering and its ragged appearance); the few surviving specimens with textall appear to be be more recent than the earliest specimens made withmovable type. Still, there is a single-sheetwoodblock print from 1423. McMurtrie, p. 114, estimates that some 33 differentblock book publications have survived, in roughly 100 different editions, andobserves that in a few cases we can even tell the manuscript from which thewoodcut edition was taken.

Chappell, p. 12, agrees with McMurtrie that all surviving block books are later than the earliestbooks printed with movable type. He suggests that this was because the plates of blockbooks, which were not re-usable, would have been preserved and used for many, manyyears. Metal type would have beenbroken up for re-use, making the printer less likely to reprint the book. So it ispossible that the block books were used to produce higher numbers of copies over alonger period. (To use modern terminology, the startup cost of a block book was higherthan that for a typeset book, but the incremental cost of an additional copy was lower.)So the technology could perhaps be older but have been retained.

To go from woodblock printing to modern printing, in any case, needed anotherinvention: A good ink. Ordinary fourteenth and fifteenth century inkswere just too volatile -- and too runny; they would soak throughpaper pages. Printer's ink was adevelopment from oil paint, popularized earlier in the fifteenthcentury by Jan van Eyck (many authorities think van Eyck invented oil paintings,but McMurtrie, p. 128, offers evidence that at least some aspects of oil paintshad already been invented. Certainly linseed oil had been used as a substrate forsome centuries. Van Eyck can at least be credited with showing whatsuch paints could do -- unlike tempera paints, they can be mixed on thecanvas, or overlaid, achieving delicate shades impossible with tempera --and very likely improved the recipe).Early oil paints started with a so-called "drying oil" -- socalled because they dry and harden (in other words, have volatilecomponents). Other common oils, such as olive oil, were non-drying andso not suitable for oil paints -- indeed, they could ruin them. The bestdrying oils were linseed or walnut oil; also poppy oil. To these mightbe added amber resin, turpentine, and mastic; printersapparently added soot (ideally, lampblack, though wood soot was oftenused because it was easier to get) to this varnish to produce a blackink. It is just possible (though this cannot beproved) that this was adapted for printing by one LaurensJanszoon Coster (or Koster), or perhaps some other printer (severalfirms seem to have been seeking ways to mass-produce books in themid-fifteenth century). Coster may also be responsible for the printingpress as such; some believe that he was actually producing bookson a press by around 1450, though probably withwooden type, at least initially; only fragments of thesepublications survive, and the date is uncertain. The arguments on behalfof Coster continue, but he seems to have fewer proponents now than acentury ago. Some sources now view Coster as little more than a localattempt to claim credit for Gutenberg's invention (see John Man'sThe Gutenberg Revolution, Review Books, 2002, pp. 117-121).

The new ink also had the advantage of being darker, and of lasting longer.One of the problems with the old block books is that they have faded. Mostseem to have been used iron/gall inks, perhaps mixed with alum,which if water-based can be expected toturn brown over time (although modern formulations are black and verypermanent). The replacement of the water with oil reduces oxidation,while the use of lampblack produced a darker black which was less likely to fadeanyway.

Colour inks also came into use early -- indeed, there is somered print in the Mainz Vulgate (pages 1, 7, 9, 257, and 258, the lasttwo regarded as printed on two different presses), though most of thecolour work was hand-drawn by the purchasers after the books wereprinted. (It appears that the effort ofcreating two-colour pages was simply too great; after trying two-colorprinting on pages 1, 7, and 9, the process was abandoned in favourof hand rubrication, and the second attempt, on pages 257-258, alsowas given up.) The red of the Mainz edition came from cinnabar (mercurysulfate); earlyblue inks used ultramarine (lapis lazuli) or smalt (a cobalt compound).For more on these materials, see also the article onChemistry.

Metallurgy also offered a crucial advance as it finally produced amaterial suitable for the casting of type, which must be hardenough to be usable but melt at a low enough temperature to beconvenient and not change size too dramatically as the temperaturechanged. The final compound included lead, tin, and antimony --the latter an element unknown to the ancients, and also highlypoisonous. (Yes, antimony is mentioned in some translations ofIsaiah 54:11, and references to antimony compounds occur, e.g. in2 Kings 9:30. But these are probably mistranslations referring toantimony compounds such as the cosmetic khol, not to elementalantimony.) The best mix was about 65% lead, 25% antimony for hardness,and about 10% tin for flow andease of melting, though the price of tin caused many type foundariesto reduce the proportion, producing significantly cheaper but moreragged-looking type.

(There is argument about whether antimony was in fact included inthe earliest cast type. McMurtrie, p. 233, thinks the earliest typewas cast in a lead-tin alloy without antimony, because antimony is notmentioned at this stage. But printers had their secrets, just likeeveryone else; it seems likely that there was some sort of hardeningagent. Also, John Emsley, The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison,Oxford Univeristy Press, 2005, p. 23, points out that antimony, unlikemost metals, expands as it solidifies. This makes for much better castings.Given the consistency of the type in the Mainz Vulgate, it seems likely thatantimony was indeed used.)

The press as such was not new, and indeed had been involved inpaper-making since at least the fourteenth century: Presses were usedto squeeze the water from the sheets as they came from the vat.Similar devises had been used to squeeze seeds for oil for centuriesbefore that. The trick came in finding a way to assure that theforme was applied to the paper in exactly the right place and absolutelyflat; a major failure in either department would ruin the page, andeven a minor failure would result in blurred type or a crooked-lookingpage. Unfortunately, because information from the period is so lacking,we do not know with certainty how this advance was achieved -- butobviously they managed somehow. It is theorized that the presses hada series of pins which fit through holes in the paper; this method,at least, was used in later books, and such holes are found in earlyprinted volumes. Indeed, they are more obvious in those early books,which may have as many as ten holes per sheet, and those holes locatedsometimes in highly obvious places; by the early seventeenth centuryand the time of the King James Bible, the number of holes was down totwo, and they were placed in such a way that they disappeared intothe binding of the book.

All these factors finally came together to produce the so-called"Gutenberg Bible" (named after Johannes Gensfleisch zumGutenberg, c. 1399-1468), which I will hereafter usually refer to asthe "Mainz Vulgate" to avoid prejudging questions aboutits printer. Our knowledge of this work is at onceextensive and incomplete. We do not even know with certainty thatGutenberg was involved; there is clear evidence that he was engagedin printing (in 1458, France's King Charles VII instructed NicolausJenson to study Gutenberg's art) -- but no real data to show that he wasinvolved in the printing of that first Bible. The volume itself islittle help; it does not givethe sort of copyright information we would expect today, and doesn'thave a colphon, let alone a title page -- printers were still thinkingin manuscript terms. The only prologues are to the Bible and the books, notto the edition. It is generallyagreed that the Gutenberg Bible was printed in Mainz, but the dateis unknown. The only absolute evidence we have is that, first,one of the surviving copies contains a comment written August 24, 1456by rubricator Heinrich Cremer of the collegiate church of Saint Stephenat Mainz, and second, that in March 1455 Enea Silvio Piccolimini, thenBishop of Sienna and later Pope Pius II, described a Bible featuring a new"way of writing" -- presumably printing. The printing must therefore have been done by 1456, and at leastunderway by 1455, but we do not know how much before; most estimates forcompletion of the work range from 1450 to 1456 (though Matthias Palmerin 1483 published a chronicle stating that Gutenberg invented printingin 1440 -- this based perhaps on another technology involving pressesthat he was fiddling with at the time. We have no firm data about this atall, though; most of what we know comes from lawsuits involving formerpartners. Certainly we cannot identify anything from Gutenberg's or anyone else'spress prior to 1450.)

The 1450 date may be attributedto Johann Koelhoff the Younger's1499 Chronicle of Cologne, which tells us much about printing butwhich was banned and caused the author to be exiled in 1502; the dateis supported by a statement by Johann Schoffer, theson of Gutenberg's collaborator Peter Schoffer -- hardly the mostunbiased source. But, in 1505, in a German edition of Livy, Schoffer the youngercredited the invention of printing to Gutenberg in 1450, and creditedSchoffer the Elder and Johann Fust -- of whom more below -- withimproving it. To be fair to the Schoffer dynasty, they weren'tin it entirely for the glory or money; Schoffer would in time be oneof the first printers of Tyndale's New Testament -- a task which, atthe time, promised neither profit nor safety. In the earlytwentieth century, most scholars favored the end of thatrange of dates for the invention of printing; in recent years, however,discovery of earlierprinted sheets has inclined many scholars toward an earlier date.The flip side of that is, in 1455, Gutenberg's financierFust sued for repayment of loans. That would seem to imply thatsales of the work were slower than expected, or that printing tooklonger. A late date still seems reasonable to me. And the aftermathof the lawsuit was, in any case, strange: Although Fust won thesuit, and apparently took possession of most of Gutenberg's printingequipment, the single most important element -- the type used toprint the Mainz Vulgate -- does not seem to have passed into hispossession. We do not see it again until about the 1480s.

We can say definitely that broadsheets were emerging from the pressby 1454 (a printed indulgence from that year still exists), and works suchas the "27-line Donatus" are sometimes tentatively dated as early as1449 -- but we don't know if that preceded or followedthe production of the Mainz Vulgate. Indeed, we can't prove thatthey came from Gutenberg's press; they use a different typeface, andthis face appears to have been used both before and after the MainzVulgate. It seems likely that Gutenbergand company first printed smaller works, but it cannot be proved.It is also possible that both projects were going on at the sametime: Gutenberg may have printed some smaller items to raise moneywhile still working on the big project.

Cypriot Letter of Indulgence
The earliest printed document with an absolutely fixed date: Thefirst paragraph of theCypriot Letter of Indulgence (31-line version), from 1454. Note thedistinct difference in typeface from the Mainz Vulgate.

In any case, those practice attempts were really just that: Practice.The history of printing really begins with that first true book,variously known as theGutenberg Bible after its seeming printer, the Mainz Bible after itsplace of origin, the 42 Line Bible after the number of lines of text onthe typical page, and the Mazarin Bible after the library holdingthe first copy to really gain attention. 

The Two Earliest Typefaces
Comparison of the two earliest known typefaces. Top: The Donatus-Calendar face,in use by 1454, a "Bastarda" type. Bottom: The type of the MainzBible, a "Textura" font.

The magnitude of the Mainz Vulgate project, given how little is knownto have gone before, isastonishing. The final product, printed as it was in large type(the price Gutenberg paid for using Blackletter fonts) was 1,282pages long, on pages measuring roughly 40 cm. by 30 cm. (They appear tohave been conformed with the"Golden Ratio" that mathematicianscall φ.) With 42 linesper page, and two columns, and about 30 letters per line, that'sabout 2400 different items of type per page (and each page, ofcourse, is only part of a sheet); in all, the Mainz workshop probablyhad to cast tens of thousands of individual letters to complete thework (it's been estimated that they would have needed three millionletters, and thirteen tons of type, to print it all at once). Although itappears that only one or two presses were used when the process began, itis believed that six were in action by the end (though some woulddispute this). It is believed that four compositors were employedat the beginning, with the total eventually rising to six.(Of course, this too is disputed, but it must be admitted that thereare differences in the styles of contraction, etc. in different partsof the book.)Type, at this time, was created in a very complex way -- a punch, or "patrix," hadto be carved in steel (a delicate art, which explains why the firsttype founders were associated with goldsmiths). The patrix wasthen punched into softer metalto produce a "matrix" around which a wooden frame wasbuilt and into which the molten metal was poured to make the type.This being the case, it is estimated that it must have taken about half a year justto create the typeface (at that, Gutenberg was fortunate in thatgothic types were popular at the time, according to Chappell, p. 38;had Gutenberg had to imitate a fraktur type, it would have takeneven longer). It would have taken many months more to cast the type fromit, and roughly two years to see it all through the press.

Itappears, from the watermarks, that paper from four differentmills, or at least four different batches, was used.

(In one of the endless footnotes to this story, Man'sThe Gutenberg Revolution, pp. 174-175, notes some recentquestions about Gutenberg's type-casting process,based on a computer analysis which arguesthat the letters Gutenberg used were not in fact identical. Based on thedescription in Man, I am not confident that the data is actually strongenough to justify the conclusions, but it hardly matters for thepurposes of textual critics. Even if Gutenberg did not use thematrix/patrix mechanism, printers were using it soon after.)

Even more amazing is how well the type is handled. The majorsurviving printed work thought to predate the Mainz Vulgate is theDonatus, which is rather poor typographically: Letter spacingis inferior and the letters themselves were of uneven heights (thatis, they rose to different distances above the plate of the press),producing badly-inked pages. All these problems were correctedfor the Mainz Vulgate. The type is not actually very legible (it'sjust too tall and thin and spiky), but it certainly presents abeautiful page.

This is more impressive given the complexity of the printingprocess. Today, we are likely to assume that all press machineryjust operates mechanically. Not then. Without going into all thedetails (a full description of the printing process requires manypages), once the assembled forme was in the press, it had to bemanually inked for each page, the paper first dampened and thenplaced in the press, andthe press operated. Little wonder, then, that early books tendedto be large; since the effort in printing a sheet was almost the same whetherit was large or small, and a book printed on large sheets requiredfewer sheets, a large-format book represented a lot less work.The Mainz Vulgate itself is the simplestpossible arrangement, a folio (i.e. each sheet of paper wasprinted to contain four pages, and was folded once, with notrimming or cutting needed; for the most part, it usedfive-sheet, 20-page quires.)But we also see early books which are quartos (pages folded in half,then in half again, with one edge cut), and octavos (folded inhalves, then quarters, then eighths, and cut repeatedly) -- evena few tiny "64mos." Such repeated foldings and cuts werenearly unknown among manuscripts -- parchment would be arranged inquires before it was written, both because it was easier forthe scribe and because there was the risk of destroying a perfectlywell-written page if the trim went awry.

Another amazing outcome is the accuracy with which the bookwas laid out. There are strong indications that the quire startingwith page 257 was begun at the same time as the quire startingwith page 1: These are among the handful of pages containing 40lines per page, and both quires use red print. And yet, the copyon page 256 exactly lines up with that on page 257, with no evidenceof expanded or compressed type. (My personal guess, which I suspectis not original to me though I have not seen it elsewhere, is thatthe Mainz Vulgate was based on a manuscript, and in some way followedits pagination. When it was discovered that the early pages were notholding quite as much copy as the exemplar, the leading between lineswas decreased and the line count increased to make the totals match.)

It has been argued that the Mainz Vulgate was not printed in themodern way -- that only one side of each sheet, or possibly even onlyone page on each sheet, was pressed at a given time. This cannotbe disproved -- indeed, at the beginning, when the quantity of available typewas small, it is not an unreasonable assumption -- but the machinerywas almost certainly capable of printing on both sides; we seeclearly two-sided works in fairly short order. And the very beauty ofthe Mainz Vulgate's typography argues, to me, for two-sided printing,because fine typography requires knowledge of just how much text willbe placed on each page. And the more material typeset and pressed at a giventime, the easier such an estimate is, even if (as is likely) theMainz Vulgate was printed using "casting off copy" --a process in which the first and last pages of a quire, which areprinted on a single sheet, are set first, then the second andnext-to-last, etc., with the compositor simply estimating how muchof the manuscript will fit on the typeset page. (Casting-off copywould continue to be the norm for centuries, since it dramaticallyreduced the amount of type a printer needed on hand, and alsoreduced the down time for the actual pressmen: If one waited forall the pages of, say, a four-sheet quire to be printed, oneneeded enough type for at least 18 pages -- the 16 pages ofthe quire, plus two more to keep the compositor working while theprinting proceeded. Using cast-off copy meant that only six pagesworth of type were needed at any given time. Plus, the pressmencould start work as soon as the two sides of the first sheet weretypeset, rather than waiting for the whole quire to be complete.)

Some four dozen copies of the Mainz Vulgate survive, in whole andin part, plus some isolated leaves. It is not known exactly how manywere initially printed;the usual estimates range from about 150 to about 220, with probably30-40 of that total being printed on vellum and the rest on paper.(This sounds like a small run today, but it was fairly large bythe standards of the time; many early books were produced in runs of100-150 copies, and as late as Elizabethan times there was a law limitingmost press runs to 1000 copies -- though this was more to protectthe work of compositors than due to any reasons of demand.)

Not all copies of the Mainz Vulgate, however, are identical. Although it issaid to have had 42 lines per page, the early pages (such as thatof Genesis shown below) had only 40 lines (pages 1-9, plus 257-263). The count was laterincreased to 41 lines, then 42. What's more, it's clear that thesize of the press run changed as the printing progressed. (It's beentheorized that the printers sold subscriptions to the book, and eventuallyended up with more subscriptions than they had anticipated, forcing themto produce more copies, but, again, we can't prove it.) Since morecopies were desired than had initially been planned,there were not enough prints of the early sheets. Type at thistime being naturally in limited supply, the formes used for theprinting of those sheets had been disassembled, meaning that thesepages had to be reset. Thus, although all the final pages are identicalin all copies of the Mainz Bible, there are, in effect, two"editions" of pages 1-63 and 257-316 of the first volume,and also of pages 1-31 and 323 of second volume (one suspects the revisedp. 323 is a result of an error; once it was spotted, the page was modifiedbut the old pages used. As we shall see, this was typical of early printing).

Even if we ignore the changes in the text, no two copies of the Gutenberg editionare identically finished. At this time, books were sold in a sort of unfinishedstate, without a binding and without interior illumination. Thethree photographs below illustrate this point. The King's copywas beautifully illuminated with many colours of ink. The Grenvillecopy has some illumination, but much more limited; it also lackssection heads, making it much harder to actually find passages.Other copies are almost startlingly plain.

Three copies of the Gutenberg Bible
Three copies of the beginning of Genesis in the Gutenberg Bible. Notethe different illuminations, which were individually added to the printedpages. Left: The Grenville copy (British Museum). Center: The King'sCopy (British Museum). Right: Unknown copy (from a black and white photograph;the initial "I" is in multiple colours, and some of the textmay be as well). Observe that the heading "Genesis" was addedby hand in two of the three copies, and that each book has differentlettering colours, etc.

It has been stated (I do not know on what basis; I have a feelingthat it was calculated by dividing the estimated number of copies bythe amount Fust lent Gutenberg) -- that the MainzVulgate sold for 30 florins. A very high price, certainly, equal toseveral years' wages for a craftsman. But hardly exorbitant whencompared against the price of a manuscript copy of a full Bible, andthe rate of errors was presumably lower.

Textually, the Gutenberg Bible is said to have been close to theParis recension of the Vulgate. It is reported to be a good representativeof that type -- but that was still a late recension (thirteenth century).

Incidentally, it was many years before books truly became standardizedin the sense that all copies were identical.In 1572, John Day printed Matthew Parker's De Antiquitate BritannicaeEcclesiae, of which 25 copies are said to survive, no two of themthe same. And the copies of the famous First Folio of Shakespeareare also all different, as various errors were corrected throughoutthe press run but the old sheets retained and used. This is parallel tothe case of page II.323 of the Mainz Vulgate.

If the history of that first full-fledged printed book is obscure,the aftermath is known. It is almost certainthat Gutenberg, if he did produce that first Bible, was financed byone Johann Fust and assisted by Fust's future son-in-law Peter Schoeffer.Fust, unhappy with Gutenberg's practices, apparently eventually calledin his loans, took over Gutenberg's machinery, and wentinto business for himself, retaining Schoefferto handle the technical details. The result of this was the so-called"Mainz Psalter," with a colophon mentioning the two printersand a date of 1457. (Some have thought that Gutenberg did the actualdesign work on this volume, but I know of no supporting evidence forthis.) This volume was noteworthy, among other things,for its use of printed decorative initials in multiplecolours -- a process still not entirely understood; the best guess is that theinitials were done with two-part woodcuts, which could be lifted out so thateach part could be separately coloured. However they managed, the result is veryimpressive: Black and red on every page, with musical notation, andred and blue initial letters.

By 1460, we see our first book with fullbibliographic data, an edition of Balbus's Catholicon, whichhas a colophon stating that it was printed in Mainz in that year("annis Mccc lx") "without... reed, stylus, or pen."

Unfortunately for the people of Mainz, but fortunately for the restof the world, that city had been in the grip of civic conflict for manyyears due to poor management and bad fiscal practices (indeed, Gutenbergseems to have fled for years, returning some time between 1444 and 1448).And though there was calm at the time Gutenberg began his work, thecity was gripped by civic conflict in the late 1450s and early 1460s astwo rivals strove to gain the archbishopric.It appears that this conflict caused several printers to flee from thecity, helping to spread the new technology. Gutenberg himself very possiblydied in exile in the small town of Eltville, where he had relatives andwhere, interestingly enough, printing started very early.

The spread of printing thereafter was quite rapid. By 1460,an exile from Mainz (possibly Gutenberg himself, after the citywas sacked and many residents driven into exile)had started a printing house in Bambergand produced what is known as the 36-line Bible.

Bamburg was responsible another innovation: The first illustrated bookprinted with movable type. Albrecht Pfister of Bamburg produced multiple editionsof several illustrated books, starting in 1460, and using the same type as wasused for the 36-line Bible (though he probably is not responsible for that book).The first illustrated book is believed to have been Edelstein.The illustrations seem to have been woodcuts -- copperplate engraving was alreadyknown, according to McMurtrie, pp. 264-265, but this presented technicaldifficulties extreme enough that such intaglio printing was rarely attempted by printers,and no printer seems to have tried it twice. The problem was that, whereas ink wouldadhere to wood, so that it was sufficient to simply engrave the wood and print with it,ink did not adhere to metal, so there was no easy way to make ink print from onlythe raised portions. Even the earliest woodcut illustrations clearly were not printed atthe same time as the text, since what is believed to be the earliest of Pfister'sbooks has blank areas in the spot where the woodcuts would go in othercopies (McMurtrie, p. 239), and there are also instances where the illustrationand the text are overprinted when the paper mis-aligned (McMurtrie, p. 242, showsan example). These earliest woodcuts were apparently designed to have additionalcolors added by hand (a primitive form of paint-by-number),and most copies have been so colored (McMurtrie, p. 241). McMurtrie, p. 242,says that the first book with text and illustrations printed at the same timewas published in 1472. (Amazingly, the first colour illustrations were printed asearly as 1487, according to McMurtrie, p. 244 -- though this is a lesser innovationgiven the earlier use of multi-colored lettering; it was merely a matter of combiningthat technique with the techniques for printing woodcuts.) Interestingly, textualornaments (or "dingbats") seem to have come into use after the use of woodcutillustrations; the earliest samples of type ornaments seem to have been printed inVerona in 1478, in a style still in use today; these elements could also be usedas page borders. The obvious advantage of ornaments is that they could be cast intype and used repeatedly.

(McMurtrie, p. 283ff., notes another problem of this early period: The printingof mathematical texts. A volume of Euclid simply had to be illustrated -- and witha mixture of graphics and text. This made it hard to use woodcuts. Erhard Ratdoltof Venice seems to have published the first printed edition of Euclid in 1482; Irather suspect that the need to illustrate such books pushed the development ofengraved printing of artwork. It is possible that Ratdolt's Euclid was not thefirst book with mathematical diagrams, but it was among the first, and the trendsetter.Ratdolt, incidentally, shows how quickly typography had advanced in the third of acentury since Gutenberg. A specimen sheet he put out in 1486 features 14 fonts,representing four different faces -- including a nine fonts of a rotunda,three of a Roman, and a Greek; all, except for the smaller sizes of the rotunda,are beautifully clear.)

We gradually see innovations in these early years. The first title page seems to have beenproduced by Fust and Schoffer in 1463. The first instance of numbered folios was in a1470 edition of De Civitas Dei produced by the brothers Johannes and Wendelinde Spira.

Strasbourgalso seems to have housed a printer by the 1460s, Johann Mentelin (possibly anassociate of Gutenberg in his wanderings -- Gutenberg, if we canfollow his many aliases, lived in Strasbourg before 1444), whoproduced his own Bible by 1460 and who also earns credit for thefirst vernacular printed Bible (a German edition regarded as avery poor translation, full of silly errors, but it was stillin German rather than Latin). Augsburg saw books producedby Gunther Zainer probably from 1468. Anton Koberger wasprinting books at Nuremberg around 1470. Arnold Ther Hoernenand Ulrich Zell were in business in Cologne by about that time.Charles VII of France tried to set up a press operated by NicolasJenson; the attempt failed and Jenson went to Venice, butFrance managed to attract a group of German printers in 1470.There were already presses in Rome and Venice and other partsof what is now Italy. It is not really possible to establishwhen printing came to the Netherlands, because of the work ofCoster, but it was certainly by 1473. The Spanish had theirfirst printing houses soon thereafter. In 1476, Ulrich Hanpublished the Missale Romanum, richly endowed withmusic notation -- though McMurtrie, p. 286, says that woodblockswere first used to print music in 1487; Han's method wasto print text and music in separate impressions (and so complex ismusical typesetting that, though fonts were eventually developed for it,it continued to be set primarily by hand right into the 1980s!). And, some time before1475, William Caxton (in order to meet the demand for histranslation of Raoul Le Fèvre's history of Troy),opened the first English printing shop. (Some sources, including McMurtrie, p. 216)say that this first book was printed in the Netherlands. This seems likelyenough, but Caxton certainly ended his career in England.)William Caxton's Printer's Mark

Caxton was a veryconservative printer, usually technologically behind the times --e.g. that first English book, the Recueil des histoires de Troies,puts line breaks in the middle of words, just as the early uncial manuscriptsdid! Caxton's successor Wynkyn de Worde was equally out-of-date (McMurtrie, p. 222,declares "Caxton could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a fineprinter... his work was, technically and artistically, below the standards of hiscontinental contemporaries"), but they did make atleast one advance: They published books, usually in thevernacular, for popular rather than scholarlyconsumption. (Not only did Caxton publish the first English secular works,the first secular French works are thought to have been printed by Caxton incooperation with Collard Mansion, according to George D. Painter, WilliamCaxton: A Biography, 1976/first American edition, Putnam, 1997, pp. 72-79.)The scholarly market was quickly overcrowded; ithas been estimated that the number of printers more thanquintupled from 1470 to 1480 (from about 16 to 85 or so),causing saturation of the market for learned books -- McMurtrie, p. 313, saysthat there were over 300 editions of the works of Thomas Aquinas publishedbefore 1500, and on p. 318, he says that there were more than 300 printingsof Cicero. Based on the figures on p. 323, there were over 40,000 differenteditions released by 1500. If we estimate that 75% of these were scholarly (surelya low estimate) and that the standard print run was 200 (also low),then that means that six million scholarly volumes were in circulation -- obviously anoversupply in a world where few except monks werescholars. The inevitable result was a collapse in the price of scholarly books --meaning that there had to be something else published. There had been vernacular works before Caxton (in fact, we have a fragment of a Sybilline Prophecy in German in the Donatus-Calendar type, so Gutenberg may havebeen printing in German even before the Mainz Vulgate), butthese had all been incidental. For example, McMurtrie, p. 202,says that 98 books printed by Jenson are known. Of these, 29 weretheological books of some sort or other, 25 were classics, andmost of the rest seem to have been references; only one, Boccaccio'sFiametta, could be considered a work for general consumption. McMurtrie, p. 320,estimates that 45% of books printed before 1500 were on religious topics, 10% werelegal, 10% involved what passed for science, 30% were (presumably mostlyclassical) literature, and only 5% were general or popular.Whereas Caxton early on published an edition of Chaucer, andthe Morte d'Arthur, and, frankly, a lot of things moreinteresting than the obscure Bible commentaries everyone elsewas churning out. (Though some, like The Game and Pleye ofthe Chesse, despite its title, were "edifying" books --Caxton's Chesse was not about chess, but a sort of moral instructionin which the various classes in society were equated with chess pieces.)

The first book unquestionably published in England wasThe Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophers, which seems to havecome off the press in 1477. It was not a particularly long orambitious book -- 76 leaves, or 152 pages. Here Caxton seems to have been trying fornoble patronage -- the book was compiled by Anthony Woodville, EarlRivers, the oldest brother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. But Caxton'sedition of Chaucer followed the next year, and the popular book tradeseems to have become established as a result.

Just as cities like Venice and Basel had quickly been mobbed by printers,Caxton soon had competition; Theodoric Rood began printing at Oxford in 1478,and apparently someone was in business in St. Albans by 1480. Printing alsobegan in London in that year (McMurtrie, pp. 222-224). But Caxton is stillconsidered the most important, both because he was the first and because heprinted more important books. He was able to stay in business until his deathin 1491, and Wynken de Worde (who joined the company in 1480) kept the companyin business for many more years. De Worde's output was often even more popularthan Caxton's -- e.g. he produced one of the two earliest printed versions ofthe very popular Gest of Robyn Hode, the first printed tale of England'smost famous outlaw.

The heavy competition which Caxton largely dodged by producing popularworks produced a sort of an arms race in the scholarly book tradeas each printer struggled to make books cheaper ormore attractive. In this case, Jenson took a crucial stepand, in effect, rediscovered the alphabet. The desire toproduce manuscripts more quickly had led to the developmentof a vast collection of contractions, suspensions, and ligatureswhich made things faster for a trained scribe but which reallydid nothing for legibility -- and which made it much harder tocreate good type fonts, as they needed to include hundreds ofsymbols with no real meaning. The illustration below showsthis point:

Gutenberg's and Modern Versions of Acts 1:1
The Excesses of Early Printing: The first nine words ofActs 1.1 as it appears in the Gutenberg Bible and as we would writeit today. Note the suspended "m" at the end of "primum"and "quidem," the single ligature for "de,"the suspended "n" in "omnibus," and theabbreviation used for "quae." To set this line usinga true alphabet requires 18 symbols. Gutenberg, even if we ignorethe initial fancy letterforms, required 23 different symbols.(It is calculated that the Mainz Vulgate used 290 different letterforms --some of them simply different widths of the same letter to allowlines to be fully justified. The complete set included 47 capital letters,63 minuscules, 92 abbreviations, 83 ligatures, and five punctuation marks.)Early Greek printing used even larger character sets.

Jenson's innovation, in addition to making it easier to create a font,also made the type case a much more practical item. In assessing printedworks, however, we should be aware that the type case was not much like amodern typewriter or word processor or much of anything else. The diagram belowapproximates the type case shown on p. 53 of Chappell (some of the charactersare not found in the modern character set; other printers used somewhatdifferent cases).

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&ÆŒ æœ___&ÆŒ
AB CD EFG ABCDEFG
HI KL MNO HIKLMNO
PQ RS TVW PQRSTVW
XY ZJU ]) XYZJUffl
ffifl_____ ke  12345 678
jbcd is fgff9
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!l mnh oypw ,
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xv ut ___a r;: 
q˙-

The mechanics of typesetting have affected out language in several ways.Note, for instance, that there are two cases of type. The one on top -- whichwas generally the upper case of the two -- contains the CAPITAL LETTERS; thecase on the bottom contains the small letters. Hence the terms UPPER CASEfor what might otherwise be called uncial letter forms, while forms derivedmore from minuscule writing are called lower case because they were in thelower (type) case.

Note that these cases had to be filled with type, and the person responsiblefor filling or refilling the case might make a mistake. This resulted in whatwas called a "foul case," and is one possibly source of typographicalerrors.

In addition to being rationalized,Jenson's type also had a much more even "color" than hiscompetitors -- that is,Jenson's pages all had about the same amount of ink per unit area. Thissounds relatively minor, but it really does produce a much more attractivepage. A page in Jenson's type is also lighter than the pages of the GutenbergBible, which again makes it more attractive.

Jenson is sometimes credited with producing the first Greek publication.This, however, seems to be an exaggeration; Jenson may have producedthe first full font of Greek type, but experiments had been done earlier. The first attempts to print Greek seem to have been made in1465. Peter Schoffer was one of the first to try it; it was a simpledisaster. McMurtrie, p. 279, concludes that Schoffer did notknow Greek; he cut perhaps a dozen Greek letterforms and used Latin lettersfor the rest. In 1470 he reportedly simply used the Latin letter which lookedthe most like the Greek letter, which naturally produced very strange results.

In the same year, however, an edition of Lactantius was produced by Sweynheynand Pannartz, which required substantial amounts of Greek. When they beganprinting, they evidently were not ready for the task they took on, and simplyleft space to include Greek words. By the time they finished the book, though,they had managed to cut many attactive letters of Greek type. (The overall feel isquite similar to that of theComplutensian Polyglot, thoughsome individual letterforms were distinct.) The one thing this font lackedis accents, which had to be added by hand.

Then, in 1470/1, Jenson created the first complete Greek font. He seems tohave used this for an edition of Cicero. A similar face was used for whatMcMurtrie, p. 279, believes to have been the first full book printed in Greek,Thomas Ferrandus's edition of the Battle of the Frogs and the Mice, printedabout 1474. Lascaris's grammar is the first printed Greek textbook, publishedby Dionysus Paravisinus in 1476. This uses a very strange font -- the section headingsare printed in a style similar to the very latest uncials such as S, but the bodycopy is in a very messy semi-minuscule style; when I first glanced at the sampleon page 281 on McMurtrie, I frankly thought it was hand-written by a not verygood scribe. I suspect the person casting the typle was not especially familiarwith Greek. Certainly there isn't much Jenson influence in that face.

Jenson's own Greek fontwas -- like most of his work -- simple andquite elegant. Sadly, his example in this regardwas not followed; the next great printer of Greek works, AldusManutius of Venice, used typefaces similar to hand-written Greek,meaning that he needed over 500 separate symbols. (McMurtrie, in fact, sayson p. 280 that Aldus's first Greek font contained over 1400 glyphs. The result,he comments acidly, was that "one of the most beautiful of all theworld's languages continued to appear in an almost illegible and hideousprinted form for some two hundred and fifty years." This is surely oneof the reasons, though only one, why the first edition of theTextus Receptus was so disastrously error-ridden.)This excess of typographic detail is ironic,given that Manutius's goal was to produce relatively inexpensivehand editions of the classics. But the Aldine fonts were more compactand used smaller point sizes than Jenson's works, so the savings inpaper probably offset the additional typesetting costs. The problem wasthat future typesetters followed Aldus, not Jenson. (According to McMurtrie,pp. 280-282, this was actually mandated by law in France, where the typeface to be used for Greek was specified; the Greek font used by Robert Estiennecontained 430 different glyphs.) The ComplutensianPolyglot was one of the few early works to use a Jenson-likealphabet rather than imitate the Aldine press in all its needlesscomplexity; McMurtrie, p. 282, says that it was not until 1756 that adecent Greek font became widespread.Albrecht Durer Engraving

This shows the curiously convoluted way in which printing advanced.Printing in Greek should have been easy, while it should have been hardto create fine art in print. But Greek in fact took decades, whereas by the1490s, Albrecht Dürer was producing fine engraved images of aquality that has not been exceeded to this day -- see, for instance,the Dürer engraving at right, "St. Hubert praying beforea Cross borne by a stag."

Hebrew printing seems to have arisen shortly after Greek printing, and tookoff much faster. The first Hebrew printed book, according to McMurtrie, p. 282,was produced in Venice in probably 1484-1485. This was much more similar to modernprinted Hebrew than the early Greek books were to modern Greek publication.

(For those who really care, the font models used by both Jenson and Aldushave been perpetuated. Jenson, of course, inspired the modern Jenson face.Aldus, who is largely responsible for italic type, provided models for suchfaces as Bembo and the original Garamond, though most versions of the latterare now much deteriorated. Aldus also has the curious distinction, according toMcMurtrie, p. 213, of being the first to seek to have his typefaces protectedby law -- not exactly copyright, but getting there. He also tried to get whatamounted to a trademark on his company's name -- apparently printers in othercountries were making cheap knock-offs of his publications and sticking Aldus'sname on them. Manutius understandably wanted to protect the reputation of theAldine name.)

Despite his ugly fonts, Manutius deserves great credit for establishing standardsfor the printing of Greek -- as well as other languages. From 1494,he printed works of Aristotle, Vergil, Dante -- and, of course, theLXX. The Aldine press was noteworthy not just for its innovationsbut its scholarship -- establishing, arguably for the first time,the standards which we now consider necessary for a published work.A printed book, after all, exists in many copies; it should beprepared with extra attention compared with a single manuscriptcopy -- especially since it is much harder to set, since hand-set typemust be placed in the forme backward.

Printing of course established other standards -- e.g.distinguishing the letters i and j, as well as u and v.S. H. Steinberg's Five Hundred Years of Printing(revised edition by John Trevitt, p. 31) attributes this distinction topoet Giangiorio Trissino and credits the printer Ludovicodegli Arrighi with perpetuating it. McMurtrie, p. 299, credits MatthiasSchürer of Strasbourg with inventing quotation marks and standardizingthe form of the question mark in Latin-alphabet printing.

Incidentally, printing perhaps gave a small boost to women's rights.Charlotte Guillard of Paris married two printers in succession; after thedeath of the second, she continued in business on her own, making herapparently the first independent female printer. She died in 1556,and declared that she had been in the printing business for 54 years (thoughsome of that, of course, was before she took charge on her own).

For all that Mainz gave rise to printing, and Venice did much toperfect it, the most important city for our NT criticism purposes isprobably Basel, where Berthold Ruppel was in business by 1468. AlbrechtDürer, already cited as the first truly great illustrator of books,worked in Basel seemingly from 1492-1494. Alsoworking at Basel was Johann Amerbach, who seems to have goneinto business around 1478. And one of his pupils was JohannFroben.

Froben has a bad reputation in New Testament circlesbecause he hurried the Textus Receptusthrough the press. This is rather unfair; it's true thatFroben produced a hurried edition, but he also producedan affordable edition (which hardly describes thecompeting effort of Cardinal Ximenes), and he did call uponErasmus -- who was, after all, the leading scholar of the time --to produce it. If Froben had not imitated the Aldine typographyin all its intricacies, that first Greek Bible might not havebeen so badly printed (and while the text wasbad, would a Complutensian standard for the New Testamentreally have been any better?). Froben also deserves somecredit for producing an inexpensive octavo edition of theVulgate in 1491; it has been called the "poor man'sBible." (Though it required a poor man with very good eyes;the reproduction on p. 307 of McMurtrie shows a page printed inabout six point blackletter type. It may be the most illegible printedbook I've ever seen.) He also worked hard to produce acritical Vulgate; it is said that his is the only earlyedition to have the original readings at many points.If others made ill use of his New Testament,he nonetheless deserves credit for trying to produce goodand valuable materials.

It is interesting to find the two earliest Greek New Testamentsprinted in Spain and Switzerland; until that time, according toMcMurtrie, p. 321, almost all Greek printing had been done in Italy(where Byzantine refugees knew the language). But perhaps the powerof the Papacy discouraged the creation of Greek New Testaments inItaly.

We should perhaps note that many of the tools used intextual criticism of manuscripts also apply to textualcriticism of books. Not all ancient books survive intact;indeed, most of the earliest ones suffered enough wearand tear that they were good for nothing but to be usedin the bindings of other books. So what survives is a pagehere and a page there, with no date even if the book originallyhad a dated title page (and, as noted above, not all did -- nor werethey reliable when they did).And the value of a book can vary with its date; if an editionof some work can be dated to the beginning of the printingera, then it surely comes from a manuscript source, and thatmanuscript might have been good.

Several indications can be used to date books. Type is oneof these. The Mainz Vulgate, for instance, is printed in aheavy "Textura" type -- the earliest form of whatwe now call "blackletter." The reason for the name "blackletter"is obvious if you look at a page of the stuff: The very narrowletters with the large clubbed serifs mean that a page printedin this style is very dark (and not welcoming to the eye).Textura types eventually evolved into Fraktur letterforms (generallysimilar in shape but with smaller serifs and strokes which narrowon long verticals). A fairly early variation on this was the Humanistica type, with similarly narrow letters but lighterstrokes and smaller serifs (think of Textura written with aball point pen). By 1465, Sweynheym and Pannartz were using a fontwith many aspects of modern type, although it required used an exceptionallylarge character set. Soon after, printers like Jenson evolved ourordinary modern Roman type. The Aldine press gave us italics -- whichwere not originally used to emphasize text; whole books wereset in these fonts. Gothic types were developed around thesame time to save space. This probably isn't the place togo into full details (since little of this is likely to be used inordinary textual criticism), but the data is accessible ifneeded. (Dating-by-typeface worked for about 200 years. After that, thingsbecame a lot more complicated: there would come a time whensome scholarly books would be printed in antique typefacesjust to make them seem older and more archaic. The titlepage would give the actual date, but apparently thepublishers thought appearances more convincing than actualfacts.)

The close links all these books have with biblical scholarshipis shown by the title given to them: Books printed before 1500are known as incunabula, a word connected with the clothsused to wrap Jesus in his infancy (though the Vulgate of Luke 2:12does not in fact use incunabula). We should note that thesingular incunabulum found in some references is a falsesingular.

An interesting problem with early books is the lack ofcopyright. Manuscripts of course were never copyrighted,so the need for protection for printers (let alone payment ofroyalties) was not at first realized. The effect of this wasthat any publication could be pirated -- as, e.g., the 1518 Aldineedition of the Greek Bible is essentially a copy of Erasmus'sNew Testament, right down to the more blatant typographicalerrors. Nor was that the worst case of bad copying known. In thecase of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus," the so-called"second quarto" (Q2) was set from an earlier edition,Q1, which had several defective pages -- and the editors, ratherthan find another copy of Q1, just made up their own version ofthe text. (They couldn't go back to the original plates, of course;as with all books at that time, the plates had been disassembledso the type could be reused.) And if authors were paid for theirwork at all, it was in the form of what we would now call anadvance, such as Erasmus received from Froben.

The first move toward a limited copyright system came inEngland in 1504, when Henry VII created a post of Printer to theKing, with some rights to what was printed. In 1518, Richard Pynsonwas granted sole rights to print the Oratio Richardi Paecifor two years. Over the next several years, protections weregranted for specific books, but no general system was instituteduntil the creation of the Stationer's Company in 1557. Thiswas, of course, still "printer's copyright" -- theprinter had control over the book. And it was a true copyright --so strong that, if a printer registered a book, no one elsecould print it even if the printer never actually publishedit. (This seems to have happened with Shakespeare's "As YouLike It," among others; a copy was registered probably in1600, but it was never published until the First Folio almost aquarter of a century later.)

Unfortunately, if the Stationer's Company provided copyright(which tended to suppress corrupt editions, despite its otherfaults), and if it served as a sort of guild for printers,it also had the right to censor works. (Something much easierto enforce in England, where all the printers seemed to settlein London and Westminster, than in Germany or even France.)Much that might be useful to us now was no doubt stranded inmanuscript form. Though this was nothing compared to the censorshipapplied in other countries later (as, e.g., in Austria-Hungaryin the nineteenth century).

The Stationer's Company, as mentioned above, also enforced a limit on the sizeof issues, usually to 1000 copies. The purpose of this wasto ensure continued employment for typesetters -- but theeffect was to ensure the corruption of popular books,because, again, the type was broken up after each edition(indeed, usually after each quire) was printed, and on thoseoccasions when the book was reprinted, it was almost alwaysreprinted from a copy of the previous book, meaning thaterrors multiplied with each copy. (To take an extremeexample, there were six consecutive quartos ofShakespeare's "Henry IV, Part I," designatedQ0, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, and Q5, each one printed from the onebefore, with the First Folio and another quarto, Q6,adapted from Q5.)

By the time of Shakespeare, of course, we are past the era when mostclassical works were first printed, so the later history ofcopyright isn't of much interest directly. But we might aswell sketch a little of it. It was in 1709 that copyrightfinally started to apply to authors. Copyright by that timewas granted to the printer for fourteen years, but at theend of that time, ownership reverted to the author, who waspermitted to re-sell his work as he chose. This also prevented any attemptsat permanent copyright -- an unmitigated evil in scholarly fields whichhas effectively come back under current law (current copyrighttypically lasts about a century), but without the compulsorylicensing provisions of the seventeenth century law: Backthen, copyright applied only to people who kept books inprint.

The eighteenth century finally saw a regularization of type andtype sizes; it was Pierre Fournier who introduced the point system in1737 (Chappell, p. 51). This didn't really affect the text of printedworks, but it did help somewhat in dating them.

To sum up our history, it is often stated that the arrivalof printing spelled the end of the need for textual criticism.This is largely (though not entirely) true. But this hardly makesthe invention of printing a problem for textual critics; in truth,it is only the inventing of printing that makes the disciplinepossible -- for it is only now that all scholars can have accessto transcripts of the most important manuscripts, and only nowthat they can publish the reports describing their methods so thatall can adopt or reject them. It has been said, truly, that printingmade modern science possible. Textual criticism isn't really a science.But it benefitted just as much.

Textual criticism of printed works. It's worth notingthat printed books will contain different sorts of errors thanmanuscripts. A manuscript will contain errors of sight and ofmemory (or of hearing, if taken from dictation). These errorscan, of course, occur in printed works, since they derive frommanuscripts. But one sees whole new classes of mechanicalerrors. For example, type was composed backward on a compositor'sstick. (Which, despite its name, was not a stick; rather, it was a boxwith a clamp which allowed it to be set to a specific columnwith, in which the type was placed before being moved as a block;see the graphic below.)So it is perfectly reasonable to see letters set backward.Again, type was taken from a type tray, not hand-written. Thecompositor might pull out the wrong letter -- or, perhaps, theperson who filed the type might have placed a letter in the wrongbin. So one will occasionally see random substitution of letters --an unusual outcome in dealing with manuscripts. One also getspeculiar errors of the press -- as, e.g., when something falls onthe press and prevents the paper from taking an impression (thisfrequently affects only a few copies of the book, but if onlyone copy survives, that's no consolation).

A
Compositing
Stick
A Compositing Stick

Another interesting problem is that of changes in an edition.We mentioned above that corrections were made over the course ofthe press run. In the case of a printed text, the revised versionwas almost certainly more correct than the first impression, sincethe source material was still at hand for consultation -- and whilethat source material might be very bad, a transcription with errorscould only be worse. But the trick then becomes to determine whichimpression is the older and which is newer. Theoretically, if allcopies of a book were bound in order (that is, if the first impressionof sheet one were bound with the first impression of sheet two, etc.),this would be easy enough; one simply lines up all the changes andsees the order in which they occurred. But it doesn't work that way;often an early state of one quire will be bound with a late stateof another. Determining the order of correction can be quite challengingin that case; I know of no absolutely assured mechanical way ofreaching a conclusion (though it is often possible in practicebecause some of the changes will be simple corrections of obviouserrors of the press, which can then be used to indicate the orderof more significant changes).

One important thing to remember is the possibility of printedforgeries. This is rare now, particularly for modern books,because one generally wants the latestpossible date for copyright reasons. It wasn't so in the past; justas a manuscript such as 1505 might have afake colophon, it was notunusual for books to claim an earlier date. The second quartoof Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, printed in 1619,claims to have been printed in 1600 (the actual date of the firstquarto; the publishers, I suppose, might have claimed to beduplicating their source, since they copied the first quarto, butit seems more likely that they were trying to make their book seemmore valuable -- or even, it has been suggested, working to avoid acopyright lawsuit). An even more amusing instance occurs in the case ofthe book that eventually became Elizabeth Browning's Sonnets fromthe Portugese. In the mid-nineteenth century, there was a tendencyfor authors to produce small private runs of their writings. So whena print dated 1847 of the book showed up titled "Sonnets byE. B. B.," it produced a real excitement among rare book collectors.There was only one problem: Although one authority (Gosse 1894)dated the poems to 1847, more numerous and authoritative sourcesshow that Browning did not reveal the poems to her husband until1849 -- so there could be no 1847 edition. The "Sonnets byE.B.B." edition was a modern fake, based on Gosse's date.

One advantage in detecting this sort of thing is the fact thatall copies of a single edition are, in theory, the same.That forged edition of TheMerchant of Venice was discovered by an interesting means derivedfrom astronomy of all things: The blink comparator. Charleton Hinman,weary of hand collating copies of printed editions, thought to overlayphotographs of individual copies and flashing back and forth betweenthem. If the two manuscripts were identical at a particular point,the blink wouldn't be noticed. Where there was a change, one couldsee the page change its appearance. (It took a while to get this toreally work, but the principle is fine -- and is how Pluto anda number of asteroids and comets have been found.) This techniquelet Hinman collate eight copies of Shakespeare's Othelloin about six weeks -- about a twentieth of the time it would havetaken otherwise, and probably with higher accuracy as well. (Thesedays, we can do even better, subtracting one image from another inPhotoshop or something similar; the only parts of the page that willeven be visible are the parts that have changed.)

In the process of collating, Hinman discovered the Merchant of Veniceforgery. This story is worth telling even though it isn't properly atextual problem simply because it shows us some potentially usefultechniques.

The quarto editions of Shakespeare's plays were sold unbound --they were small enough that the usual practice would be for thebuyer to purchase several such small books and bind them together.Thus most of the surviving quartos were bound up with other books,not necessarily by Shakespeare. And yet, several volumes were knownwith the same nine Shakespeare quartos, with widely divergent dates:The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and theinauthentic Sir John Oldcastle dated 1600; King Learand Henry V dated 1608; and Pericles, The Merry Wivesof Windsor, and the inauthentic A Yorkshire Tragedy dated1619; plus the undated The Whole Contention (a bad conflationof Henry VI II and Henry VI III). The logical conclusionwas that these nine plays were being sold at the same time -- hardlypossibly if they were printed over a span of 19 years. William J. Neidig thenset to looking at the nine quartos. Among other things, he superimposedthe title page of Pericles (which admitted being printed in 1619)with that of The Merchant of Venice (which claimed a date of 1600).

The two layouts matched. The titles were different, of course, butthe bottom part of the plates were identical except for the dates. Thisincluded even such details as the nicks in the type. There was noquestion: The title pages of Pericles and The Merchant ofVenice were printed at the same time. In 1619, obviously. Thedating on the Merchant of Venice quarto is false.

Early Printed Editions from Lost Manuscripts

The following list (which is very far from complete; if youknow of other books meeting this description, pleaselet me know!) describes some of the various ancient documents forwhich printed editions are essential tools of textual criticism.

Church Writers

Other Works of Significance to Biblical Criticism

Secular Works