COMPOSITOR STUDY OF SIXTEENTH- AND SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY BOOKS
The idea that physical characteristics of a printed text can reveal information about the production methods of the shop or shops where that text was typeset and printed had occurred to Henry Bradshaw by the 1860s, and thereafter he regularly noted idiosyncrasies in layout and compositorial practice. But it was another half-century or so before anyone offered a detailed proposal for how the identification of individual compositors (typesetters) might be systematically conducted. On June 3, 1920, the Times Literary Supplement published a letter on “The Spelling of the First Folio” from one Thomas Satchell, dated from Kobe, Japan, nearly a year earlier (July 9, 1919). Satchell, noting the spelling variations in the Shakespeare Folio of 1623, began with a fruitful assumption: “One might expect that if the Elizabethan compositors spelled according to their own inclination we should find a sequence of variations in spelling corresponding to the portions of the manuscript set by each compositor.”
He proceeded to examine the variant spellings in the Macbeth portion of the Folio and found that, while some of the variants fell into no discernible patterns, others formed neat groupings that (with the exception of one scene) divided the text into two halves. The first half was characterized by the use of a final “e” in do and go (“doe,” “goe”), the presence of a double “e” in here (“heere”), and the preference for a final “ie” rather than “y” (“merrie,” “plentie”); in the second half the final “e” is not used in do and go, the spelling of here does not contain a double “e,” and the “y” ending is preferred to “ie.