Margents and All: Thomas Milles between manuscript and print

Co-written by Heather Wolfe and Bill Sherman

Milles' motto

Thomas Milles’s motto, inscribed at the bottom of the title page in Columbia University’s copy of An Out-Port-Customers Accompt (STC 17935), as reproduced on EEBO. It appears in print on many of his other printed treatises (minus “Margents and All”), but here is supplied in manuscript.

Margins are exciting places, full of possibility. Early modern authors use them to guide readers, emphasize important passages, and add commentary. Early modern readers use them to highlight memorable text and make notes on their reading. Early modern scholars like to hang out in margins in order to witness these interactions, and then draw conclusions about the particular reader(s) or work, or about reading practices in general.

This relationship between author, reader, and scholar works well when we think about marginalia in published works as being primarily about reader guidance (printed marginalia) or reader response (manuscript marginalia). But what happens when early modern margins break the rules, when authors use them in unexpected ways, when the distinction between print and manuscript marginalia is fuzzy at best and when the marginalia threaten to usurp the work itself? 

What follows is some early collaborative thinking for a case study on the works of Thomas Milles (c.1550-1626). Milles’s particular form of self-publication poses some interesting puzzles about text and margin, and manuscript and print. (Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them.)1

Two typical marginal additions in Milles's An Out-Port-Customers Accompt (STC 17935), sig. O2r. The first one is printed on the leaf, and then extended in manuscript by the author. The second one is a printed slip pasted to the margin, with interlineal manuscript insertions and manuscript verse in Latin at the end that extends off the slip, in the hand of the author.

Two typical marginal additions in Milles’s An Out-Port-Customers Accompt (STC 17935), sig. O2r. The first one is printed on the leaf, and then extended in manuscript by the author. The second one is a printed slip pasted to the margin, with interlineal manuscript insertions and manuscript verse in Latin at the end that extends off the slip, in the hand of the author.

In addition to printed marginalia, printed slips of marginalia, and ink marginalia, Milles also added marginal notes in pencil. In this example, he supplements a printed slip with a pencil addition.

In addition to printed marginalia, printed slips of marginalia, and ink marginalia, Milles also added marginal notes in pencil. In this example, he supplements a printed slip with a pencil addition.

In the library where we both did our graduate research—the Cambridge University Library—early printed books are consulted on the first floor while manuscripts are consulted on the third. If we look at the entries for Milles in the Short Title Catalogue or Dictionary of National Biography, he would seem to sit comfortably on the first floor. In his long career as a customs officer, Milles proved to be a prolific author of printed books. The ESTC lists more than a dozen titles printed between 1599 and 1619, in which Milles outlined his schemes for fiscal and religious reform — becoming England’s first, and fiercest, advocate of the early form of mercantilism known as Bullionism. Milles’s position as the “Customer of Sandwich” in Kent gave him an ideal vantage point to witness and diagnose England’s chronic shortage of precious metals. He made a passionate case for free trade through so-called “staple ports” (or outports) rather than monopolies for London’s merchants as the solution to the struggle for a favorable balance of trade.

All of Milles’s “bullion” books are printed in small folio format. His first two publications were most likely printed by James Roberts, and STC assigns the latter ones to the printer who took over Roberts’ business in ca. 1608, William Jaggard (two of the printers, as it happens, most closely associated with Shakespeare). At first glance, they look like most other printed books from the period. But it quickly becomes clear that Milles disseminated his works in a way that bears more resemblance to scribal circulation than print publication.

a "title" page?

The “title page” for a treatise by Thomas Milles, lacking almost everything that normally appears on a printed title page: a full title (it is completed in manuscript), author name, printer, publisher, or date of publication. The title page is preceded by a manuscript dedication to Sir George Calvert. (Folger STC 17932.5)

In fact, he describes his first printed treatise, The Custumers Apology (STC 17928),  as being “not so publikely then printed, as priuately directed” (STC 17935, sig. B2r). It had a print run of fifty, and was evidently distributed by him to members of the Privy Council. All known copies are signed by Milles and dated by hand on the title page. Thomas Egerton’s copy is particularly ornate, with red ruled margins and gold, red, and black manuscript marginalia [Huntington 62639]).

The Customers Apology, sig. B3r, with gold, red, and black ink. All known copies of this work are signed and dated by the author, and were meant to be circulated among members of the Privy Council. This copy belonged to Thomas Egerton.

The Customers Apology, sig. B3r, with gold, red, and black ink. All known copies of this work are signed and dated by the author, and were meant to be circulated among members of the Privy Council. This copy belonged to Thomas Egerton.

Later works also appear to be “privately directed,” rather than disseminated by a publisher. A copy of The Customers Alphabet (STC 17927) at the Huntington is inscribed by Milles to the Earl of Northampton (Huntington 62634), while a copy of the same work, purchased by the Folger this week, is inscribed on the title page to Sir Thomas Edmondes.

The inscription to Sir Thomas Edmondes, signed by "T:M:" This is one of the few treatises with a printed date on the title page, but no place of publication, printer, or publisher. New Folger acquisition, photo courtesy of Quaritch.

The inscription to Sir Thomas Edmondes, signed by “T:M:” This is one of the few treatises with a printed date on the title page, but no place of publication, printer, or publisher. New Folger acquisition, photo courtesy of Quaritch.

Virtually all of the copies are individually enhanced by Milles for his small circle of readers. He is not so much revising as supplementing, using pen, pencil, and printed slips of paper. These additions perform a wide range of functions, offering second thoughts, glossing key words, supplying details left vague in the text, and guiding readers through its argument. While the use of cancel slips and pen corrections by printer, publisher, or author is not entirely unusual, Milles takes these practices to the extreme.

In a 1961 article in The Library, P. H. Davidson described the method of Milles and his printers as “unusual, possibly even unique,” and he created a handy summary of some copies of his works.2

A list of Milles' treatises compiled by P. Davidson and printed in the Library, 1961.

A list of Milles’ treatises compiled by P. Davidson and printed in The Library, 1961.

Davidson’s list, based on a manuscript marginal note by Milles in An Out-Port-Customers Accompt (STC 17935) and on three additional abridgments at the Bodleian, turns out to be the tip of a bibliographical iceberg. There are modified copies of this and other treatises at the Folger, the Huntington, the Beinecke, Lambeth Palace Library, Columbia University, and elsewhere. And as described at the end of this post, the Folger has two additional treatises not listed by Davidson.

Milles lists nine of his works in this marginal annotation, appearing in most, if not all, copies of An Out-Port-Customers Accompt, sig. Q1r (STC 17935).

Milles lists nine of his works in this marginal annotation, appearing in most, if not all, copies of An Out-Port-Customers Accompt, sig. Q1r (STC 17935).

There are countless signs throughout his treatises that the production of a printed text was by no means the final stage in the evolution of Milles’s writing: indeed, it’s not at all clear that Milles ever saw his texts as closed, finishable units. While the majority of copies are supplemented by hand very uniformly, there are occasional, minor differences: the same correction might appear in pencil in one copy and pen in another, and the wording might be slightly different. In some titles there appear to be more significant differences, reflecting his continual tinkering with the text: additions made by hand in one copy can then appear as a printed slip in another copy (and not necessarily in the same place!).

The Lambeth Palace copy of An Out-Port Customers Accompt (STC 17935)—presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury—has the list of works shown in manuscript above as a printed slip (which has then been modified by hand) as well as an apparently unique pair of full-page fold-out extensions bearing both printed and handwritten text. The most elaborate example in the Milles corpus, however, is The Misterie of Iniquitie (STC 17934). All surviving copies of this text are heavily modified with manuscript additions and tipped-in slips of many shapes and sizes that vary from copy to copy. The evolution of sig. K1r is particularly fascinating. There is a half-page printed slip that exists in at least two settings, with an additional note underneath it about the “Conclaues of Lubeck and London” appearing first as a manuscript insertion (in the Beinecke copy) and then as a printed slip (found at the top of the half-page slip in the Quaritch copy and pasted into its proper place in the Huntington copy).

Tipped-in printed supplement to the Huntington Library's copy of STC 17934, and (below) the leaf beneath it.

Tipped-in printed supplement to the Huntington Library’s copy of STC 17934, and (below) the leaf beneath it.

IMG_2683

Folger's newly acquired copy

Quaritch copy, newly acquired by the Folger (and below)

Quaritchsig.K1runderslip

In the Quaritch copy, this large slip covers another text headed “Nil magis” along with four miscellaneous notes not yet cut out and pasted into their appropriate places on four different pages of the book. The “Nil magis” text itself ends up as a sort of free-standing frontispiece in at least two surviving copies (Huntington and Lambeth) and disappears entirely from others—see, for example, Yale’s copy of the book.

This example and others raise many questions, particularly about the printed slips. Is Milles recycling his pasted-on printed marginalia from other previously printed sources? Or is some of his marginalia specifically printed as sheets of marginalia to add to something that is already printed, which may then be modified in manuscript? Why are some of his marginalia printed at the same time as the text, some printed and pasted in later, and some added by hand? What sort of printer would put up with the constant modifications of texts, margins, and the relationship between them—before, during, and after a single print-run? Why did Milles use the printing press at all? Why not just have the texts copied out as manuscript presentation copies? Was it cheaper to do what he did or were there other reasons for doing it? When a printed book is not complete until it has been supplemented with handwriting, doesn’t it start to look like a manuscript? And how much do the sheets that came off the press need to be altered for a book to become a manuscript?

In one final treatise, purchased by the Folger in 2006, Milles pushes the relationship between text and margin and the interplay of print and manuscript to its limits (STC 17932.5; click here for digital images of the entire volume). The volume in which it is bound begins with 13 leaves from de Bry’s Americae pars decima… (1619) and is followed by two previously unknown tracts by Milles, one in print (but not in ESTC) with a long manuscript dedication, and one entirely in manuscript. These tracts appear to be his final words in his bitter retirement, reflecting his disappointment about all the bullion being drained from England’s economy.

Perfectly capturing the untethered nature of some of Milles’s marginalia is the title of the final treatise, written entirely in manuscript and dedicated to Sir George Calvert: “A marginall Note upon the worde (Almost) in the Text of the synopsis touchinge Bullion Myntes and Money at free-Staples.”

A marginal note that is 27 pages long, with its own marginalia.

A marginal note that is 27 pages long, with its own marginalia.

Final leaf of Milles' treatise, "A marginall Note upon the worde (Almost)...

Final leaf of Milles’ treatise, “A marginall Note upon the worde (Almost)…

Gone is the pretense of relegating marginalia to the margin. The hand is shaky and tired. The whole treatise is one long marginal note to a single word, “almost,” which he highlights with a hopeful marginal manuscript note on the fifth page of the preceding treatise in the volume:

The passage and manuscript marginal note that inspired an additional, treatise-length marginal note.

The passage and manuscript marginal note that inspired an additional, treatise-length marginal note.

It seems fitting that Milles’s last word is a 27-page manuscript presenting itself as a marginal note on the word “almost” from an 8-page printed treatise.

But perhaps it isn’t his last word—we would love to hear about other examples of Milles’s handiwork, if you come across them!

 

BILL SHERMAN is Professor of Renaissance/Early Modern Studies at the University of York. He is the author of Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England, and is now working on a study of visual marginalia called The Reader’s Eye.

(Please see below the notes for Heather Wolfe’s bio.)

  1. This case study is for a larger concept-in-progress, “Beyond Marginalia,” which focuses on the hybridity of many surviving early modern codices and on printed works as sources to be mined for manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books. We are grateful to Jeffrey Todd Knight, Stephen Tabor, and David Vander Meulen for their assistance with this post. []
  2. “The Annotations to Copies of Thomas Milles’ Books in the British Museum and Bodleian Libraries,” The Library (1961): 133-139 []

Author: Heather Wolfe

HEATHER WOLFE is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and teaches early modern English paleography for the Folger Institute and Rare Book School.

7 Comments

  1. It’s always a blessing when margins survive the savagery of re-binders. Amazing that all of Milles’s marginalia in that page of Customers Accompt is still there, for example. Goran Proot explained to me the profit motive of the binder to trim off as much of the margin as he could get away with, in order to recycle the trimmed paper.

    Thanks for this post, and thanks to Bill Sherman for his wonderful Used Books. I’m curious if he ever ran across a book like the Folger’s STC 2106, where each of the 14 marginal manuscript manicules in the Whole Booke of Psalmes is unlike any other. I recall he wrote that most early readers used a manicule that was as distinctive as their signature.

    And, while I’m on manicules, does anyone have any influence with the OED? Every time I’ve asked, they’ve said “manicule” hasn’t yet been used enough for them to include it. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    • Thanks, Richard. Yes, in some cases people use more than style for their manicules and in others it’s clear that more than one reader is at work. And a few years back a great blog called “languagehat” (http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003319.php) made an appeal to get “manicule” in the OED. No success yet….

  2. My note on the Beinecke copy of The Misterie of Iniquitie says: ‘cancelled (presentation?) inscription on title page; MS and printed insertions in text; printed Latin motto (‘Nil magis’ etc) pasted to blank leaf following title’.

  3. Thanks to Arnold for his notes about the Beinecke copy: this seems to be yet another variation!

    And thanks to Richard for his kind words about my work. I’ll reply to him directly about the manicules. And yes, Milles’ marginalia have been spared the binder’s razor: this is partly because they were unusually generous to begin with and partly because these were presentation copies sent to important people and survive in at least two cases (Huntington and Lambeth Palace) in their original bindings–a uniform limp vellum with traces of green ties.

  4. Thank you for this insightful posting! I’m wondering about a Milles book in my collection, the Catalogue of Honor (1610), and the restored (?) state of its infamous mutilation. (The mutilation is discussed on Adam Hooks’s “Anchora” blog.) Some scans of my copy can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dicksonkenwin/.

    Your posting has me wondering if there might be a way we could determine, judging from the processes used in the insertion of the slip, or from other features present, whether the work was done by Milles himself?

    I located another “restored” copy (#2) on the ABE site. The description of the “repair” on that one is written with such subtlety: “ . . . pp.493/4 are mutilated in most copies, as they show signs of having been in this copy, but the scurrilous passage concerning children out of wedlock, has been let-in to complete the page once again.” By contrast, the note penciled in on my copy states that it is “unmutilated” – but surely that is false and misleading!

    I’m eager to hear your thoughts . . .

    KD

    • Thanks for your question, KD! The type face of the insert suggests that your copy was restored at a much later date, perhaps in the nineteenth century. For insertions like this, you would also want to check if the paper was hand-made or machine-made. It looks like Milles had nothing to do with the afterlife of this particular copy, but it is still interesting that someone went to the trouble to restore the missing text, many years later.

      • Thanks so much for your expertise! It’s kind of a letdown — but great to know the facts. I suppose this restoration is ‘marginally’ better than having a hole in the page or a blank slip, as some of them seem to have (e.g., copy #3 in French on that same ABE page):

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