On Printing a Shakespeare's Quarto at the Wolverine Press

Magnesium dies replicating the outer forme of the first gathering of John Dryden & William D’Avenant, editors. The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690). The press is a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Magnesium dies replicating the outer forme of the first gathering of John Dryden & William Davenant, editors. The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690). The press is a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

As part of our upcoming exhibit "Shakespeare on Page and Stage: A Celebration" (Audubon Room, January 11- April 27), we decided to include a facsimile version of a quarto gathering based on a real seventeenth-century quarto edition of a Shakespeare's play  held at the Special Collections Library: The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690), edited by John Dryden & William Davenant. Please read the rest of this blog post if you wish to learn more about what a quarto is and how the folks from the Wolverine Press printed this replica.

In collaboration with the Wolverine Press's Director Fritz Swanson and Dr. Rebecca Chung (Ph.D., University of Chicago and UMSI intern), we experimented with using the Press's unique resources to reconstruct and better understand the process of printing a  Shakespeare's quarto gathering as it would have been imposed and printed more than three hundred years ago.  

Title page of John Dryden & William Davenant , editors. The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690)
Title page of The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690), edited by John Dryden & William Davenant

In the hand-press period, the format of a book described how the metal type for each page of a sheet of paper was arranged in a pair of iron chases (formes), and how the sheets printed from these formes were subsequently folded. For instance, a quarto like this 1690 edition of the Tempest is a book printed on four-page formes, with each of the printed sheets folded twice to create four leaves and, consequently, eight pages. Our facsimile was not printed by composing each page with individual types (movable-type printing) but by using magnesium dies replicating high-resolution digital images taken from our seventeenth-century quarto.  The following images depict Fritz Swanson printing the outer forme followed by the inner forme.

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Fritz Swanson operating a a Vandercook 15, made in the 1950s. It was donated to Wolverine Press by Quick Carlson, a UM Alum (LSA 1949)

Facsimile quarto sheet, outer forme, from the first gathering of  John Dryden & William Davenant, editors. The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690)
Facsimile quarto sheet,  showing printing from the outer forme, and based on the first gathering of The tempest, or, The enchanted island. A comedy. As it is now acted at Their Majesties theatre in Dorset-Garden (London: H. Herringman, 1690), edited by John Dryden & William Davenant

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