All posts by Brittany Adams

Shakespeare on Display

ShakespeareAngle800As part of the E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Collection in the College Archives and Special Collections, Buswell Library is pleased to have a copy of Henry the Fourth, both the first and second parts. These plays are taken from the fourth folio edition of Mr. William Shakespear’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1685) and were donated to the College in honor of Dr. Batson’s retirement from the English Department about 25 years ago. This month, thanks to the generous donation of a custom-made case, our folio has found a new home on permanent display in the lobby of Buswell Library.

In preparation for this display, I had the opportunity to research this special book, and the findings were rather surprising.


At first, all we knew about this volume was contained in an inscription written in an unknown hand on one of its back fly leaves: ShakespeareNote800


“Extracted from the / Fourth Folio of 1685 / Bound in Cambridge calf / antique style by / Bernard Middleton. / hole in the leaf Hh”

I was able to locate the publication information for the “Fourth Folio of 1685” through the English Short Title Catalogue, a database of antiquarian English books hosted by the British Library. A combined author and date search returned three entries:



Without a title page, it was impossible to tell which of the three imprints our plays contained. Therefore, as “H. Herringman” was the only constant between the three, he was the obvious starting point for further research.

The British Book Trade Index and CERL Thesaurus list “H. Herringman” as Henry Herringman, who worked from 1653-1693 as a bookseller and publisher in London. He specialized in producing fine literature and dramatic texts, which is unsurprising considering his relationship with the poet John Dryden and his many copyrights for Shakespearean works.[1]

To publish Shakespeare’s fourth folio, Herringman employed three printing houses to each produce a section of it. The plays in our copy are taken from the second section, which is particularly interesting due to its errors in layout. More specifically, there were many mistakes made in labelling the signatures. These combinations of letters and numbers in the bottom right corners of certain pages determined the format of the book, and so it was important that they be precise. Our copy of The First Part of Henry IV features an example of such an error on folio 41:  the signature “Ee3” had been mistakenly left off the page, but here someone (likely from the printing house) has corrected it by hand with ink.


Scholar Giles E. Dawson examined nearly 40 copies of this folio, and in the majority of them “Ee3” was added in this way. He notes that the handwriting is the same in all the copies he examined, and that it is most distinctive in this particular signature.[2]

Having read Dawson’s assessment, I wanted to compare our signature to that in others copies and see if it matched. The ESTC linked to three examples of this text, one with each of the different imprints, in the Early English Books Online database and it seems Dawson was correct: in all of them, there is a forward slant in the uppcase “E” and the crossbar of the lowercase “e” is tilted upwards.


Ours, however, appears different:


The uppercase “E” has no slant to it (although it certainly has some ungraceful serifs), and the crossbar on the lowercase “e” is flat. Was it written by someone else? Or could the corrector have been experimenting, perhaps using a different pen?


In another place in the book, we find more markings and they, too, highlight some strange particularities.

Folio 47 features parts of two scenes from The First Part of Henry IV which someone has marked up to note typographical and editorial issues. For example, the “S” in “Scena Tertia” is incorrectly printed in roman, while the rest of the heading is italicized:



On the other side of the page, a misspelling is noted, where the “e” in “sedden” is crossed out and the correct letter, “u”, is written in the margin:



And below that, a pound sign in the margin corresponds to a marking within the text:


This was a convention with which I was unfamiliar. One of the pound sign’s many purposes over time has been to signal the need for a space, which seems to be the significance here. In an attempt to date these notations, I tried to research the history of the pound sign as an indicator of a missing space. While the history of marginal and typographic symbols has been the topic of several books and blogs in recent years, writers have focused on the pound sign’s capacity as an abbreviation for, well, “pound” rather than as an indicator of a lacking space. As a result, I’m uncertain as to when this became common in proofreading, which makes it difficult to determine when these notations were added.

That said, there are two remarks that can be made with certainty. The first is that all of the Shakespeare folios were printed at a time when the English language was yet unstandardized and undergoing continual changes in spelling and punctuation. Each was edited differently, although compositor’s mistakes were to blame as well as emerging conventions.[3] The marks in our volume illustrate one person’s engagement with his or her text in a period where readers, writers, and compositors were experiencing a dynamic evolution of language.

A second certain remark is that none of the other aforementioned copies of the fourth edition have these mistakes on this page. The books at the Bodleian Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, and Cambridge University Library all have the italic “S” instead of the roman, the correct “u” in sudden, and while the quality of the EEBO scans makes it tricky to determine for sure, it seems as though all also have a space between “Henry” and the colon.

What does this indicate? To be honest, I’m not sure. Could these markings signal a printer’s copy used to make changes before sending the book to press? It’s possible, although one would assume that the errors in layout would have been flagged then, too.[4] The general design of the page is consistent with that of the fourth edition and only the fourth edition of the Shakespeare folios, leaving me frankly quite puzzled as to where this copy fits into the larger narrative of the publication. Between the differences in the signatures and now this page, our book contains some mysteries which, until further research is completed, must remain unsolved.


The material composition of this book, on the other hand, is a mystery solved. As stated in the inscription, our copy was specially bound by Bernard Middleton, a renowned British binder who flourished in the twentieth century and literally wrote the book on English bookbinding. The work he did for our copy resulted in an elegant speckled calf leather binding with blind tooling and gilt letters, and he signed his work in the lower left corner of the back cover paste-down using his signature stamp.


Determining the papermaker, on the other hand, was a bit trickier. Such details aren’t listed in imprints and there was nothing in the inscription. Yet when held up to the light, it became clear that, consistent with folios from the era, our book was printed on antique laid paper with vertical chain lines. Upon closer inspection, I saw a watermark:


It was hard to make out the letters and shapes, but I saw something resembling a plus sign, a possible fleur-de-lis, and the letters V, A, and L towards the beginning of the word and A, R, and D towards the end. It looked like “OVALGARD”, but this search returned no results. While browsing the Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Database, however, I discovered the name of a seventeenth-century papermaker from Normandy, Denis Vaullegeard, who sometimes used the spelling “DVAVLEGEARD” in his watermarks. As it happens, Dawson had already credited Vaullegeard’s work on the fourth folio paper in an article published more than 50 years ago. According to him, multiple Vaullegeard watermarks are found on the pages of the folio, all containing elements featured in the image above: the name, the shield, and the loopy ribbon bordering it.[5]


A final clue also appeared on the paper, and while it wasn’t quite as hidden as the watermark, it still originally passed unnoticed. In the top left corner on the back side of the front free endpaper are some tiny words in ink:


Thanks to a quick Google search, what looks like “LOTHERAN. JACKVILLE ST. LONDON” was revealed to be “SOTHERAN SACKVILLE ST. LONDON”. Sotheran’s of Sackville Street is, according to its website, the oldest antiquarian bookshop in the world, founded in York more than 250 years ago.

Since our provenance information for this item is limited, I emailed Sotheran’s for more information and quickly received a reply from the Managing Director. He informed me that they have sold many plays taken from (typically incomplete) copies of all four folios, and while he wasn’t able to locate the information for our particular plays, he was able to tell me that they must have been sold after 1936, the date in which Sotheran’s moved to Sackville Street. Their archives were destroyed in World War II—bombing and looting during this period have created numerous provenance problems—so it may be that our plays were sold in between those events and the record is gone, or they might have been sold later and Sotheran’s records database is incomplete.  Regardless, we now have some insight into the three centuries between our book’s publication and its arrival in the College Archives & Special Collections.


Although many details from our book’s past are still unknown, we were able to find out much about this special copy. Perhaps as more editions are digitized and more scholarship is completed, we will discover exactly why our copy stands unique among its peers, and maybe even find out more about its provenance. In the meantime, if you would like to see Henry the Fourth for yourself, please come visit the display in Buswell Library.


[1] See Sonia Massai, “‘Taking Just Care of the Impression’: Editorial Intervention in Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, 1685,” in Shakespeare Survey Volume 55: King Lear and its Afterlife, ed. Peter Holland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 257-270; and Giles E. Dawson, “Some Bibliographical Irregularities in the Shakespeare Fourth Folio,” in Studies in Bibliography, 4 (1951/1952), 93-103 for more information on Herringman and the production of this folio.

[2] See Dawson, “Some Bibliographical Irregularities,” 94.

[3] See Massai’s article, as well as Matthew Black and M. A. Shaaber’s book, Shakespeare’s seventeenth-century editors, 1632-1685 (New York, Kraus Reprint Corp., 1966), for details on the editorial process.

[4] Dawson notes that these layout errors were indeed noted late into the printing, and corrections were made for a small remaining batch of books which technically comprised a fifth edition; see “Some Bibliographical Irregularities,” whole article for more information.

[5] “Bibliographical Irregularities,” 246.

What Wheaton College Did for Me: Norman Rohrer

Norman Rohrer’s recollection appeared in the March, 1966, edition of Alumni magazine. In addition to writing several books, he was Executive Secretary of the Evangelical Press Association.

God used Wheaton College to pull me off the road where I was wandering aimlessly and set me on a course of Christian service. When I stopped at Unit I Men’s Dorm in the summer of 1949 I intended only to spend the night and then be on my way to Alaska. Mr. Arthur Volle, then living in the dorm with his family, asked if I had come to go to school. I explained that, though I was 20 years old, I had no high school and couldn’t even think about college. But he didn’t give up. He invited me to take a series of aptitude tests which I did in the Wheaton Administration Office. At the end of that time I was given a letter which I took to York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois.

On the basis of that letter I was given five two-hour exams called the General Educational Development tests provided by the Armed Forces. I passed those on Friday, got my high school diploma for $4.58 and enrolled the following day for second semester Summer School at Wheaton College. I knew immediately what I wanted to do and went straight to the table marked “Writing.” This became my major. Each summer at Wheaton I traveled abroad in search of stories and experiences. From Wheaton I went to Grace Theological Seminary and earned the B.D. degree and from there into Christian journalism. Today I am a freelance writer serving 14 accounts among mission agencies and service organizations, including my post as executive secretary of the Evangelical Press Association.

I hand much of the credit to Wheaton College. Without its providential intervention I would no doubt have wound up in Alaska with little aim or purpose and of even less usefulness to the Lord. It’s easy to see why I can say, “Thank God for Wheaton College!”

Down This Road Before

Recently a series of emails from the president’s office have explained the budgetary struggles the College will be facing in the coming year. Though these will be trying days for staff and faculty, this is not the first occasion in which Wheaton has seen tough times. For example, the following is quoted from Getting Things from God (1915) by Charles Blanchard, the second president of Wheaton College:

I began work in Wheaton College in September of 1872. Since that time, in the midst of many imperfections and failures, I have given myself to the service of the kingdom of God among the young people of my country and time. Almost all the graduates of the college during these years have, before completing their courses, confessed themselves believers in Jesus Christ. A large number, something like forty per cent of the men graduates, have given themselves to the ministry, to service as Christian teachers in home and foreign lands, to work in the Young Men’s Christian Association, or some other form of Christian service. We began with almost nothing in the way of money, and have never had, from the beginning until now, a wealthy patron who made the college his first care. Our helpers have been broad-minded, large-hearted men and women, who gave what they gave to the college not for personal glory, but for the sake of the work it was seeking to do. They were givers in many directions, and did not feel that they wished to make one institution their chief care. One of them said to me, when I asked him if he would not consider making the college his chief work, I am giving now to one hundred different charities, and I do not dare or wish to cut off one. The result has been that oftentimes we have been in sore need of money. A friend once said to me that he thought it unwise to tell such things as are related above, on the line that such narratives produced the impression that I thought my own prayers better than the prayers of other people…I do not see the slightest reason for such an impression. Ought not a man to give his own testimony? If God has answered his prayers, ought he not to say so?

In 1978, a 1933 alum recollected similar circumstances under the administrative leadership of J. Oliver Buswell, Wheaton’s third president:

My $125 had been promptly put in the local bank on arrival, awaiting the next Tuesday deadline for tuition payments. Not one of us were prepared for the morning headlines: ROOSEVELT CLOSES BANKS! The campus was stunned. Students clustered in bewilderment seeking each other’s comfort in the common disaster. The President had chosen the worst moment of the year to cripple college matriculations here and across the land. Evan the Colleges bank accounts were frozen. There was no money available for us to return home if the College were closed! We needed a miracle and God gave it. Unknown to us the faculty and President Buswell were already praying in an emergency session in his conference room below the Tower. The college was broke. The students were broke. What was God’s advice this morning? God’s answer rang clearly in that hushed room: “My promises are from everlasting to everlasting! I will never fail you. Trust Me to reopen the Banks in my own time. Run Wheaton on faith this is your chance to witness for Me!” I am sure that the faculty grew a foot taller in the next 30 minutes. President Buswell must have turned to Comptroller Dyrness and given an unbelievable order: “God says we stay open! Post notices that we will accept IOUs for tomorrow for tuition and other dues. Notify the faculty that anyone who agrees to stay on will receive vouchers from the College. Put all the students to work on campus projects at 11 cents an hour, payable toward tuition when the banks reopen. Keep the chapel open until midnight all month. We have let God take over this campus!” And so it was that no one went home; no professor left his podium; nor did any campus job go begging! Never were things more spick and span whether lawns, woodwork, windows or bookracks.

In a time when salaries are frozen and an economy is contracting God reveals himself as faithful. God’s faithfulness spurs the faithfulness of women and men. For many of the early decades of the college faculty accepted reduced salaries to enable the college to continue operations. Many faculty had large gardens, chickens and livestock, as well as accepting borders to make ends meet. By 1879 the college had incurred a significant debt finishing Blanchard Hall. Charles Blanchard raised a considerable part of it through faculty giving up their claims for the unpaid salaries. Afterward an arrangement was then entered into with the faculty whereby there would be no further deficits. When possible their modest salaries were paid in full, if not they received a partial salary to allow the college to run debt-free. In more than twenty-five years the faculty contributed over $22,000 (Alumni Quarterly, July 1931, p. 12).