Our first prints revealed a lot of mistakes. We found them by each taking a proof sheet and correcting it in three stages. First, students looked for errors on their own. Next, they referred to the Donne Variorum’s digital images of the first printed edition to learn the editor’s and compositors’ house style, making corrections according to that. Finally, they reread the poems in the Variorum’s images of Houghton Library MS Eng. 966.5, also called H6 by the Variorum editors as well as the O’Flahertie manuscript. And they decided whether they wanted to add any of this manuscript’s readings to the type that was already standing on the press bed. In the proof sheet shown below, one student used three different colors of ink to show these three rounds of correction.
Before using any of the Donne Variorum’s online editions, this student noticed the upside-down comma at the end of line 3 of Holy Sonnet VIII on p. 37. She also spotted the misspelling of the word “Sypmle” in the same poem. Below that, in sonnet IX, she found the made-up words “bwell” and “pierceq,” both caused by the common problem of confusing the type pieces for b, d, p, and q. After consulting the 1633 edition, she noticed that we needed a catch word on the bottom of the page, as well as spaces between the type pieces of “VIII” (we would need to turn each I right-side-up too; that’s why they appear to have sunk). Finally, after looking at H6, she found a question mark to move, some commas to remove, and an important word change, “thee” to “Hee.” Of course, the poem should countenance the possibility, however remote, that Christ’s tongue could “adiudge thee” to hell, not “adiudge Hee” to hell. The student who had originally set the type must have thought the first two letters of the word “thee” in C2 below were a majuscule H (Cambridge University Library MS Add. 5778, fol. 14v; the unpublished image generously provided by the Donne Variorum editors).
It’s an understandable mistake for someone new to such manuscripts. But the student compositor had also set the line to read “adiudge Hee onto hell.” The manuscript above, C2, clearly reads “to.” Where did the student get the longer preposition? It must have come from the other manuscript source that we initially used in class, DT1 (Trinity College Dublin MS 877, Part 1, p. 249; again, the image generously provided by the Donne Variorum). But here too our compositor made a mistake.
To someone new to early modern handwriting, the roundness of the preposition’s first letter might make it look like “onto.” But to anyone with much experience it reads “vnto.” So our sources gave us two sensible options: “adiudge thee to hell” and “adiudge thee vnto hell.” And we came up with the nonsensical phrase, “adiudge Hee onto hell.” At least we didn’t print too many before proofing and correcting. On the proof sheet above, the mistaken preposition did not get corrected. But another student marked both of these errors below.
Together, the corrected proofs gave us a good chance to eventually print something a little more normative, something like “can that tongue adjudge thee unto hell.” More importantly, they also helped the students attend carefully to textual details, using both old and mew media in tandem.