Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review: "English in Print"

I didn't get a chance to see the joint exhibition between the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and the Yale's Elizabethan Club held at the Grolier Club this summer, but I did snag a copy of the catalog, English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton. Valerie Hotchkiss and Fred C. Robinson's exquisite book is as good a surrogate as we're likely to get, and is a fine work in its own right; a forty-page introduction offers a detailed look at most aspects of English printing from its inception through the middle decades of the seventeenth century, and the richly-illustrated catalog portion includes notable information about the books on display.

Chapters within the catalog focus on the very early years of English printing, grammars and dictionaries, regulation and censorship, the printing of translations, plays in print, and the production of books (printing, design, illustration, binding, &c.). Hotchkiss and Robinson focus on the utilitarian nature of English printing, characterizing the period under discussion as of "modest beginnings and slow progress." That may be true, but its importance cannot (and isn't) understated.

A good addition to the shelves of any printophile.