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“Some may helpe with their purses, some with their persons”

As Dylan Ruediger’s new editions of the book show, Edward Waterhouse ended his narrative of the Virginia colony and the 1622 Powhatan assault by appealing to his fellow citizen’s “purses” or “persons.” He implored “euery good Patriot” to consider carefully “how deeply the presecution of this noble Enterprise concerneth” the king, the nation, the economy, and even “the propagation of Christian Religion” (despite the fact that he had just endorsed a violent colonial policy that left no room for any more missionary work). Any good patriot could help. Some could help with their “purses” and some with their “persons”; some by investing, in other words, and some by going personally to Virginia as settlers. Some could help with their “fauour” and “some with their counsell”; that is, some by approving the effort, and others by advising the company. You can find this passage and its complicated context by downloading the photo facsimile here, and searching in your PDF reader for “purses.”



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Correcting the proofs

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.


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Replicating manuscripts

Before we could reenact the process of first printing some of Donne’s poems, we needed to reenact the process of copying the first printers’ most likely manuscript sources. So the class divided into groups. We called one group the Cambridge group, or “the Coote group of Bow Street, Covent Garden”—so named for the earliest recorded owner of Cambridge University Library MS Add. 5778 (manuscript C2, according to the Donne Variorum sigla). Like the original printers, the VCU students tended to rely on the text derived from this manuscript when they were typesetting. But neither relied on it entirely. Both occasionally took a word or something from a second text (before taking more from a third, introduced late in the process). No exact match for this second source survives. But one of the artifacts that matches it most closely is Trinity College, Dublin MS 877, Part I (DT1). Here’s a peek at the work of one student in the Dublin group, or “the apprentices of the Puckerings’ scribe”—since this part of the Trinity College Dublin manuscript seems to have been written in the same hand responsible for a manuscript once owned by members of a family by the name of Puckering (Trinity College, Cambridge MS R. 3. 12 (CT1)). So here’s one page spread from a VCU student’s replica of DT1, in Dublin:


This may look impressive (pun intended), but it can’t immediately looks as impressive as it is. First, the students in the Dublin group fabricated their manuscript using information from both Mark Bland’s published comments about the book and correspondence with Estelle Gittins at Trinity College, Dublin—in addition to the images available on the Donne Variorum website. You can see printouts from on the left hand side of the image above. So you’re seeing here a partly digital means of reproducing analog media. More impressive is that the student whose work is shown here made her own ink, using both imported Aleppo oak gall and one of the early-modern recipes available here (the one beginning, “Take a quart of strong wine”).


This student also foraged the goose quills in nearby Byrd Park, named for the 17-18th-century British-Virginian planter and slaver, William Byrd II. She then cleaned, hardened, and cut the quills herself before writing with them.


As if this weren’t enough, she had to write left-handed, making it very difficult, and time consuming, not to smudge the ink as the writing hand trails the written word.



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Virginia perfected

And on the rack:IMG_2500

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Printing Virginia

The master printer in action.IMG_1993

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Proofreading Virginia

IMG_1832 - Version 2

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New, improved

While this blog has lain dormant, several potential British Virginia editions have gotten underway; VCU Libraries has moved British Virginia publications to Scholars Compass; and we there have replaced our inaugural editions with corrected versions and new, much more informative abstracts written by Kevin Farley, VCU Humanities Collections Librarian and British Virginia Advisory Board member. If you have already downloaded a photo facsimile of the Symonds sermon, please replace it with this new and improved version. Here’s Kevin’s abstract of the Symonds editions.

British Virginia is a series of peer-reviewed, open-access editions of original documents related to the colony. British Virginia publications illustrate both the enduring ideological discourse of English settlement in and around the James River, and the unique historical artifacts that record the area’s modern colonization. Editions derive from original sources and original research on them. The first two publications in the series, by Professor Joshua Eckhardt (VCU English), are each documentary (or, in other words, single-witness) editions of the Virginia Historical Society’s copy of a printed sermon preached by William Symonds to the Virginia Company of London in April, 1609 (VHS Rare Books F 229 S98). One of the two editions is a type facsimile: a retyped reproduction of the VHS copy that retains original spelling and layout. This edition offers the advantages of sharp visual contrast and a small file size. The other is a photographic facsimile. It offers searchable, full-color images of the VHS copy. Symonds’ sermon is the first of “The Virginia Company Sermons,” which different preachers addressed to both the company and the London public, in some cases from the pulpit and in each case from the bookstall. Reexamining these scarce or seldom-read works reveals the subtle arguments for colonization, as well as the indirect presence of opposition voices seeking to question the moral and political assumptions behind the colonization of Virginia.

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Some time ago, Les Harrison graciously reviewed British Virginia for Common-place. We only now came across it (and responded to his gentle pointers).

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Please download the corrected version of the Symonds photo facsimile. The previous two iterations inadvertently revealed the secret of our searchable images: Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 4.35.49 PM

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British Virginia at The Charleston Conference

Kevin Farley (VCU’s Humanities Collection Librarian, a British Virginia Advisory Board member, and an expert on both digital library publishing and the English Renaissance) recently spoke about British Virginia at The Charleston Conference, an annual meeting that focuses on library collections, especially the increasing role of digital collections in academic libraries. He is publishing a revised version of his talk in The Conference Proceedings of the Charleston Conference, due out from Purdue University Press in late 2014. Click here to read an exclusive preprint of his essay.

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