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English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton

Valerie Hotchkiss

Publication Year: 2008

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 & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the Elizabethan Club of Yale University. The study nearly mirrors the chronological parameters of Pollard and Redgraves famous Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640), beginning with William Caxton, Englands first printer, and ending with John Milton, the English languages most eloquent defender of the freedom of the press. William Shakespeare earns his central place in this study because Shakespeare imprints, and Renaissance drama in general, provide a fascinating window on English printing in the period between Caxton and Milton.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This survey of early English printing draws upon the collections of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Elizabethan Club at Yale University. These libraries hold two of the most remarkable English Renaissance collections in America. The Elizabethan Club, founded in 1911, contains over three hundred outstanding volumes of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, ...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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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, ...

Catalog of the Exhibition

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1. Early English Printing

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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, ...

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2. A World of Words

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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 ...

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3. “For the Regulating of Printing”

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pp. 83-106

The effort to control the distribution of texts predates printing. In 1401, the De 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 ...

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4. The Place of Translation in Early English Printing

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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. ...

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5. From the Stage to the Page

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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. ...

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6. Making English Books

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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, ...


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pp. 201-206


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pp. 207-218


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pp. 219-234

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252091537
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252033469

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 811408981
MUSE Marc Record: Download for English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Printing -- England -- History -- Exhibitions.
  • Early printed books -- England -- 16th century -- Bibliography -- Exhibitions.
  • Early printed books -- England -- 17th century -- Bibliography -- Exhibitions.
  • Incunabula -- England -- Bibliography -- Exhibitions.
  • England -- Imprints -- Exhibitions.
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