restricted access Chapter Five. Fists and Filiations in Early Chaucer Folios (1532–1602)

From: Out of Sorts

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c h a p t e r f i v e • Fists and Filiations in Early Chaucer Folios, 1532–1602 The preceding chapters of this study have considered typography as a matter of typesorts and letterforms. The following chapters deal with extratextual aspects of typography. Here, I consider a once obscure aspect of sixteenthcentury typography, one brought into prominence by William Sherman’s Used Books.1 That is what Sherman calls the ‘‘manicule,’’ that is, the pointing hand found in the margin of many manuscripts and in manuscript notations in early printed books. These marginalia seem to mark sententiae of some kind—something the readers of these books found worth noting. In the following chapter, I will look at the printed version or transformation of these hands, fists, or manicules. What did the printers have in mind in reproducing these marks so common in late medieval manuscripts? Sherman’s introductory disclaimer is worth repeating: Anyone who turns to marginalia with high hopes of easy answers quickly discovers that the evidence they contain turns out to be (if not always thin, scattered, and ambiguous) peculiarly difficult to locate, decipher, and interpret. (xiii) There are no easy answers to understanding what a reader’s particular annotations may mean, nor are there obvious guidelines on how they should be interpreted. For printing, we have an even more complex situation: we are not dealing with the idiosyncracies of a reader, but the idiosyncracies of those 106 chapter five who produced the material basis for that text; we don’t know whether they typeset what they intended, or whether what they intended to typeset had any relation to the content of the annotated text. Yet these actions, whatever their source, are not left as mere personal quirks; they are legitimized by virtue of being reproduced throughout the print-run, and often, as we shall see here, throughout subsequent reeditings. The subject matter here is the series of Chaucer folios produced during the sixteenth century. The first section of the chapter focuses on the matter of filiation: how to determine the copytext of each successive edition, and in particular, the extratextual elements that bear on these questions—their page layout, line composition, and so on. The prominence of these elements in determining the relations between versions of the same text is of course contrary to some of the accepted tenets of classical and postclassical textual criticism . The second section focuses on the mysterious marginalia typeset in the texts of the House of Fame and the consequences of the transmission of those marginalia. Examination of these extratextual elements first provides evidence for printer’s copy used in the various editions (a question often obscured by editorial concentration on textual matters), and second, illustrates a process of rationalization whereby printers reinterpreted details of their tradition that they understood no better than we do. Filiations William Thynne’s 1532, double-column folio edition of Chaucer is the first of the series of blackletter folios constituting the early ‘‘vulgate’’ Chaucer. The interest of Chaucerians in these editions has been two-fold: for some, they provide a record of canon formation, with each subsequent edition adding to the canon as defined by its predecessor. For others, the interest is almost exclusively textual-critical, with the value of these late and obviously derivative editions based on the off chance that they may in particular cases serve as independent witness for manuscript readings now lost. The history of this series of editions was sketched as early as the eighteenth century, and finally presented with uncommon clarity by Thomas R. Lounsbury in 1892.2 There are a series of editions: 1532 (the Thynne edition) STC 5068 (⳱ TH) 1542 (two variants) STC 5069–70 (⳱ TH2) Fists and Filiations in Early Chaucer Folios 107 [1550] (four variants) STC 5071–5074 (⳱ TH3) 1561 (the Stow editions; three? variants) STC 5075–5076.3 (⳱ ST) 1598 (the Speght edition) STC 5077–79 (⳱ SP1) 1602 STC 5077–79 (⳱ SP2)3 What is generally accepted today is the following. The 1542 and 1550 editions (TH2 and TH3) are set from the 1532 edition; the Stow edition of 1561 (ST) is set from the 1550 edition; the Speght edition of 1598 (SP1) is set from the 1561 edition; the Speght edition of 1602 (SP2), although a reprint of 1598, is to some extent based on the 1561 edition as well. This simplified description shows that the relation between the various editions is not strictly linear, but sometimes ‘‘leapfrog,’’ although...


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Subject Headings

  • Transmission of texts.
  • Bibliography, Critical.
  • Printing -- History.
  • Incunabula -- Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Type and type-founding -- Historiography.
  • Printing -- Historiography.
  • Early printed books -- Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Bibliography -- Methodology -- History.
  • Type and type-founding -- History.
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