Waste not, want not

As all three commenters worked out, this month’s crocodile image is of printer’s waste used as endleaves. You can see the end of the book on the left side of the opening below (note the “finis” marking the end of the text) and the quarto imposition of the scrap paper used as part of the binding on the right side (note the brown-stained holes near the right edge, left by the clasps that were once there):

The last page of Asser's Aelfredi regis res gestae and the recto of the back endleaves of printer's waste from the 1580 Accession Day liturgy.

The last page of Asser’s Aelfredi regis res gestae (on the left) and the recto of the back endleaves of printer’s waste from the 1580 Accession Day liturgy.

The rear endleaves, showing more of the printer's waste.

The rear endleaves, showing more of the printer’s waste.

Printer’s waste is not an unusual thing to see in bindings from this period. Paper was needed to create the binding structure, leftover paper from printing books is available, and voilà! Waste not, want not. Why was there so often scrap paper from the printing process? One reason has to do with the practice of printing by sheets, which are then assembled into gatherings and into the final book: if you want 500 copies of a book, you’ll use 500 sheets of each gathering. But in the printing process, you’d typically print more than the exact number of sheets needed, accounting for errors and overage and the general vagaries of human behavior. So what do you do with those extra sheets? You repurpose them.

This book is fun to consider along these lines because the printer’s waste is of a different format than the book itself, so you get the jarring view of two different texts facing in different directions. It’s also fun because enough of the text of the waste survives that it’s possible to identify it. My process for identifying the text was to start with the headlines: A fourme of prayer. Searching ESTC for “fourme of prayer” as a phrase in the title field turned up 17 results; from there it was fairly straightforward to determine which ones were relevant by considering only those in quarto (thanks, imposition!) with a headline reading “a fourme of prayer” (rather than, say “a fourme of common prayer”). This leads pretty quickly to the Accession Day prayers for Elizabeth (“A fourme of prayer, with thankes geuyng, to be vsed euery yeere, the .17. of Nouember, beyng the daye of the Queenes Maiesties entrie to her raigne.” STC 16479 through STC 16482) and then a quick visit to EEBO to see which version has the history of King Hezekiah in the appropriate location (fol. A6v, which in the quarto imposition is opposite A3r). And there we are: STC 16481, the 1580 printing of the prayer!

And what is the book itself? It’s a sammelband of three different texts: Thomas Walsingham’s Historia brevis (STC 25004; 1574), Walsingham’s Ypodigma Neustriæ vel Normanniæ (STC 25005; 1574), and John Asser’s Ælfredi Regis res gestæ (STC 863; 1574). The three histories were issued as a set, according to the ESTC, and the Folger has three copies of the works bound together.

This copy, unsurprisingly, is my favorite one because of the endleaves we just looked at. But that’s not the only lovely thing about this book! Take a look at the front endleaves:

The front endleaves

Printer’s waste used in the front endleaves

The verso of the front endleaf

The verso of the front endleaf

More printer’s waste! From yet another text! The running title again is a big help—”A treatise against the feare of Death.” I’m pretty sure this must be from an edition of John Bradford’s “A fruitfull treatise and full of heauenly consolation against the feare of death.” I followed the trail of this printer’s waste just as I did with the other: I searched the ESTC, and then set about looking for a match in title and format. But I ran into some obstacles. The versions that I have electronic access to all fail to match: they’re in the wrong format (our copy is 8vo; STC 3481.7 is a 16mo) or the wrong font (ours is in black letter; Wing B4104 is roman type, as well as being from the late date of 1641) or the gatherings don’t match up (our sheet is the H gathering; STC 3493.5 is an 8vo printed in blackletter, but the treatise doesn’t begin until the K gathering and is paginated). There is one remaining possibility listed in the ESTC—STC 21507.5A sweete consolation for all such as are afflicted and oppressed with theweight and burden of their sinnes. Whereunto is ioyned a treatise against thefeare of death. Gathered out of the Fathers. printed in 1580 and in 8vo format. The catalog record isn’t complete however—there’s no collation statement that would help us determine if it’s possible for our treatise to be in the H gathering—and there’s no digital copy available to consult. It is held at Oxford University at All Souls College Codrington Library, according to ESTC, so perhaps if you’re in the neighborhood you can take a look for yourself and report back!

Author: Sarah Werner

SARAH WERNER is Digital Media Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Editor of The Collation, and formerly the Library's Undergraduate Program Director. She blogs about books and reading, writes about modern performance and Renaissance drama, and is known in some corners of the web as @wynkenhimself.

4 Comments

  1. Surprising things do turn up as waste. Although it is very old, see my “F1 _Coriolanus_ Fragment Found in Seventeenth-Century Binding.” _Shakespeare Newsletter_, 16 (1966), 1. (with Louis Marder).

  2. Fascinating. I’ll check on the All
    Souls copy when the library opens next week after Easter, and report back.

  3. Checked 21507.5 in the Codrington Library, All Souls – it’s a match! These leaves of printers’ waste do come from this copy.

    • Fabulous! Thanks for checking, Emma. With this confirmation, perhaps we can update our catalog records to note the printers’ waste source.

      I forgot to mention in my post this detail, but it’s surely relevant: both pieces of waste were printed by Christopher Barker. The books in the sammelband were not printed by Barker (two were printed from John Day and the third by Henry Bynneman), but it’s clear that Barker’s shop got rid of its waste and some of those sheets ended up here!

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