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The Shakespearian Pavier Quartos Revisited

From: Studies in Bibliography
Volume 57, 2005-2006
pp. 151-195 | 10.1353/sib.0.0007

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One hundred years ago W. W. Greg demonstrated that a group of Shakespearian quartos that bore the various title-page dates of 1600, 1608, and 1619 and were attributed to several different printers and publishers had all in fact been printed by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier in 1619.1 Greg casually states that “a happy inspiration led me to examine the paper upon which the quartos are printed”; he eventually distinguished twenty-six different watermarks as well as some unmarked stock and found that in a number of instances paper bearing the same watermarks appeared in quartos with different title-page dates. Suspicion of the Pavier quartos had already been aroused by the existence of several copies in which all nine titles were bound together, notably the copy of the seventeenth-century collector Edward Gwynn (now in the Folger Library) and the Capell copy at Trinity College Cambridge (now bound in two volumes). Additionally curious was the similarity of their title pages, with eight of the nine utilizing the same publisher’s device of “a rose, a gillyflower and another flower on one stalk” and bearing as a motto the Welsh proverb “Heb ddieu heb ddim” (“Without God, without anything”).2 But Greg knew that the watermarks were the clinching evidence. He understood that handmade printing paper was an industrial commodity produced on moulds whose average lifespan was probably no more than a year and that paper was purchased ad hoc and in bulk by publishers and/or printers for more or less immediate use. The earlier dates on the Pavier quartos must then be false.3

A bit more than fifty years ago Allan H. Stevenson published his landmark study “Watermarks Are Twins” in which he emphasized the necessity of identifying and distinguishing the two individuals that make up the watermark pair, “the key” as Paul Needham has observed “to all adequate studies of handmade, watermarked paper.”4 The twinness of handmade laid paper—and unwater-marked papers are equally twins—is the result of the manufacturing process. Two individuals, the vatman and the coucher, worked together using a pair of paper moulds and a single deckle. The vatman dipped the mould fitted with the deckle into the vat of stuff, let it briefly drain, and handed it to the coucher who, passing the twin mould back to the vatman, then turned out the freshly made sheet onto a piece of felt. Thus passing the twin moulds back and forth, a competent team could turn out several thousand sheets a day. For watermarked papers, by far more common than unmarked for the earlier hand press period, each mould had a wireform sewn to its surface, bearing one of many designs that included unicorns, fleur-de-lis, pots, hands, and numerous others. The wireforms of the twin moulds were generally of the same design, though as with all such handmade artifacts, slight variation was inevitable, quite distinct variation not at all unusual. Stevenson also emphasized the mutability of the wireform: “every day of use tends to alter [its] shape,”5 so that “a [water]mark may change in some difficult-to-describe particular while the detective pursues it from gathering to gathering of a pompous folio. Naturally, such changes limit the certainty of recognition when he meets the mark in another book.”6 It should also be noted that watermarks are subject not only to gradual deterioration, but to sudden injury as well, as when a vigorous scrubbing distorts or breaks off a wire, or an accidental cudgeling from an ill-wielded deckle dents the crown of a pot.

Stevenson briefly touches on the Pavier quartos in “Watermarks are Twins,” commenting with characteristic ebullience that “It is pleasant to reexamine the watermarks that Sir Walter Greg discovered in the Shakespearian quartos of 1619”7 —a pleasure I have shared. Although Greg understood that handmade paper was produced on pairs of moulds, he had been unaware that watermarks were twins, though (as I will argue below) he came tantalizingly close to this recognition. Stevenson notes that most of Greg’s individual drawings in fact represent pairs, but that “The RG Shields (Greg 15 & 16) are themselves twins; [and] the RG...



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