Intermediating the Book Beautiful:
Shakespeare at the Doves Press

Abstract

This essay combines the arguments of present-day neuroscience about “hard-wired” letter-recognition in the brain and theories of “intermediality” or movement among aesthetic methods of sensory communication with the mystical early twentieth-century theories of bookness, reading, and vision propounded by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson, cofounder and codirector of the Doves Press, in order to propose a theory of modern Shakespeare reading as a distinct kind of experience. Specifically, I will argue for the early twentieth-century fine press edition as a critical, as well as an aesthetic, intervention that intermediates public playgoing and private reading. Moreover, I will suggest, specific qualities of bookness, and particular quiddities of type, enable this intermediality. During the process of preparing Hamlet for publication, Cobden-Sanderson—a proponent and developer of the Arts and Crafts movement’s concepts of the Book Beautiful and the Ideal Book—came up with a unique visual solution to its textual irregularities. The history of Shakespeare at the Doves Press; Cobden-Sanderson as an editor; and his type, layout, and editorial interventions in the Doves Hamlet demonstrate the exigencies of what Harry Berger Jr. has called the “imaginary audition” of a printed playtext that we read and of the modern Shakespeare edition.

Figure 1. Jenson type, detail from "Virorum illustrium uitae ex Plutarcho," vol. 2 ([Venice]: [Nicholas Jenson], 1478), sig. A1r. Folger Shakespeare Library Shelfmark: INC P758. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Figure 1. Jenson type, detail from "Virorum illustrium uitae ex Plutarcho," vol. 2 ([Venice]: [Nicholas Jenson], 1478), sig. A1r. Folger Shakespeare Library Shelfmark: INC P758. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Figure 2. Rubeus type, detail from Suetonius, "Vitae XII Caesarum, De vita Caesarum" ([Venice: Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis, before October 1489]), sig. D2r. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Shelfmark: PA6700.A2 1480. Used by permission of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia. Photograph taken by the author. Figure 2. Rubeus type, detail from Suetonius, "Vitae XII Caesarum, De vita Caesarum" ([Venice: Joannes Rubeus Vercellensis, before October 1489]), sig. D2r. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Shelfmark: PA6700.A2 1480. Used by permission of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia. Photograph taken by the author. Figure 3. Morris page demonstrating ideals of page layout, from William Morris, "A Note on His Aims on Founding the Kelmscott Press," (n.p.: Kelmscott Press, 1898), page 1. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Shelfmark: Uncat 355. Used by permission of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia. Figure 3. Morris page demonstrating ideals of page layout, from William Morris, "A Note on His Aims on Founding the Kelmscott Press," (n.p.: Kelmscott Press, 1898), page 1. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library Shelfmark: Uncat 355. Used by permission of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia. Figure 4. Edward Johnston, calligrapher, "N for Nile," ephemera associated with "The Tragedie of Anthony and Cleopatra" (Hammersmith, UK: Doves Press, 1912). Triple Crown Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, Shelfmark: PR2802.A1 1912. Photograph courtesy of Washington University Libraries' Department of Special Collections. Figure 4. Edward Johnston, calligrapher, "N for Nile," ephemera associated with "The Tragedie of Anthony and Cleopatra" (Hammersmith, UK: Doves Press, 1912). Triple Crown Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, Shelfmark: PR2802.A1 1912. Photograph courtesy of Washington University Libraries' Department of Special Collections. Figure 5. Edward Johnston, sample dropped capital N, black ink, from "The Tragedie of Anthony and Cleopatra" (Hammersmith, UK: Doves Press, 1912). Triple Crown Colllection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, Shelfmark: PR2802.A1 1912. Photograph courtesy of Washington University Libraries' Department of Special Collections. Figure 5. Edward Johnston, sample dropped capital N, black ink, from "The Tragedie of Anthony and Cleopatra" (Hammersmith, UK: Doves Press, 1912). Triple Crown Colllection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, Shelfmark: PR2802.A1 1912. Photograph courtesy of Washington University Libraries' Department of Special Collections. Figure 6. Rubricated dumb show, from "The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke" ([London] (1 The Terrace Hammersmith): Doves Press, 1909), pages 80-81. Folger Shakespeare Library Shelfmark: PR2807.A495, Shakespeare Collection. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Figure 6. Rubricated dumb show, from "The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke" ([London] (1 The Terrace Hammersmith): Doves Press, 1909), pages 80-81. Folger Shakespeare Library Shelfmark: PR2807.A495, Shakespeare Collection.  Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Figure 7. Davy McGuire and Kristin McGuire, double-page with projection of the Macbeths, from "Theatre Book: Macbeth." Used by Permission of Davy McGuire and Kristin McGuire. Figure 7. Davy McGuire and Kristin McGuire, double-page with projection of the Macbeths, from "Theatre Book: Macbeth." Used by Permission of Davy McGuire and Kristin McGuire.