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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespearean history’

By Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger

 

A title page on a Shakespearean printing press. (Image: Folger Library)

A title page on a Shakespearean printing press. (Image: Folger Library)

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate in a printing workshop at Folger using a replica of a printing press like the ones used in Shakespeare’s time. The invention and popularity of the printing press changed the way books were produced, increasing the output and cutting the cost of making a book. This was a technological revolution of its time, initiating an “information revolution” like the internet did in our day. Participating in the printing workshop reminded me of the power of the book.

 

Several months ago, I visited Maggs Brothers, a dealer of rare books in London. There I was able to see and handle several rare books. There’s something amazing about being in a room full of books that may have been a special possession of someone who lived in London while Shakespeare was there. Perhaps someone saved and carefully selected this volume, took days to select a particular binding, and kept it in a place of honor in her home. The value of any book includes a history of ownership, of discovery, of excitement. While I was in Maggs, one of the dealers had a package of books delivered. His delight at the receipt of these books was fascinating. He called his colleagues to watch him open the box and unwrap the books, showing each one and sharing the story of how he had discovered it.

 

In our day of desktop publishing and printing on demand, as well as tablets, the value of a book as an object is sometimes hard to remember. My experience at the printing workshop was a great reminder of how much effort went into the creation of a single volume.

 

First, we apprentices had our orientation. As all the participants were women that day, none of us would have been involved in printing in Shakespeare’s day when all compositors, printers, and publishers were men. But we forged ahead.

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