The primary intention of forty years of a bibliophile’s life and the bibliographical persistence and acumen of a scholar have come to rich fruition in The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare, which Charlton Hinman tells us could never have been written unless Henry Clay Folger had hunted out and brought together an unprecedented number of copies for scholarly use. Nor could it have been written unless Hinman had invented his now famous collating machine and devoted nearly two decades to the study. Announcing his most important discoveries as they were validated, Hinman removed the element of surprise from his book while simultaneously making the new methods of research available to other scholars. Now we know that the First Folio was not put into type seriatim but by formes; we have a printing schedule that is unlikely to be greatly modified; we know where interruptions occurred in composition and press work, that five men were engaged, and what pages, columns and parts of columns they set. Further refinements are needed, as Hinman points out, particularly in recognizing and tabulating the spelling preferences and other characteristics of compositors C and D. Although the collation of more than fifty copies of the Folio has produced few substantive variants, it has indicated which compositors need to be checked most carefully and has given editors a true understanding of many short or otherwise abnormal lines and greater leeway in rectifying them.
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