NARRATIONES

“Nothing extenuate, nor
set down aught in malice.”

NARRATIONES

The First Printer and his Troubles.

When Faustus had printed, in 1460, a number of copies of the Bible, he undertook the sale of them in Paris, where printing was then un­known. As he sold his copies for 60 crowns, while the scribes demanded 500 for their manuscripts, he created universal astonish­ment; but when he produced copies as fast as they were wanted, and lowered the price to 30 crowns, all Paris was in agitation. The uniformity of the copies greatly increased the wonder; information was given to the police against him as a magician; his lodgings being consequently searched and a great number of copies being found, they were seized. The red ink with which they were embellished was supposed to be his blood, and it was seriously adjudged that he was in league with the devil, and had he not fled he would have shared the fate of those whom superstitious judges in those days condemned for witchcraft.

The Devil from the Pit

. A good story is told in connection with the well-known Cam­bridge Pitt Press. The Master of Trinity, respecting whom the word “decorous” but ill describes his outward orthodoxy, was lately entertaining at dinner at Trinity Lodge a number of friends, and before the guests had begun to thaw out, a servant opened the door and, in a voice sufficiently loud for everyone to hear, said: “If you please, sir, the devil from the pit is waiting outside for you!”

Mr. John Murray recalled

a good story of Dean Stanley, whose books were published by his firm. The Dean was so bad a writer that when his MSS. were sent to the printers, they refused to set them up except for speci­ally high terms. Once the Dean wrote a letter to Mr. Murray, sen., which, in spite of all endeavours, no one could decipher. At last it was sent back to him, with the illegible parts underlined, and a request to know what they meant. Stanley’s reply was characteristic: “If you cannot read my writ­ing, I am sure I cannot do so.”

Dean Stanley’s handwriting

in the later years of his life was notoriously bad, often quite unreadable. Some one received a post­card from him, of which he could not decipher the purport; but he had a happy thought. Hailing a cab, he went to Westminster, and, being ushered into the presence of the Dean, said that, having had the pleasure of receiving his postcard, he had come to consult him about it, and thus learnt what the nature of the business was. Apropos of the Dean’s fail­ing, nearly twenty years ago a writer in “Fraser’s Magazine” stated that among hun­dreds of couples of plain working folk whom he had married, he could not remember half a dozen instances in which they could not sign the needful document much better than the Dean of Westminster. The reader, having queried whether this were not too personal, received the following reply: “Oh, dear, no! The Dean is one of my best friends, and is quite accustomed to being upbraided for his awful handwriting.”

A weekly paper tells a story

in connection with Lord Rosebery’s speech at Edinburgh in which he gave his reasons for resigning the Liberal leadership. In Glasgow, the report came through very slowly, as an enormous amount of “copy” was handed in practically all at once. The Telegraph Department worked at high pressure, but even then the last “flimsy” was not delivered to the paper in question until nearly two a.m. The proof-reader was, in consequence, more than usually bustled. When he came to the last proof he, it is said, although we can scarcely believe it, wrote the words, “Thank God.” The com­positor, when correcting this proof, made it read, “Lord Rosebery then left for the South. Thank God.” The compositor, it is added, did not suffer this time, but the proof-reader lost his place.

John Bell

, the founder of “Bell’s Weekly Messenger” and “Bell’s Life in London,” is said to have been the first printer who confined the lower case “s” to its present shape, and rejected altogether the older form “ſ” This change did not please everybody, as is shown by the following instance of conservative ten­dency. It is recorded that Messrs. Rivington had got as far as three sheets on a work of a late Bishop of Durham, in which the new plan was adopted, and that the bishop sent back the sheets in order to have the old letter restored, which compelled the printers to get a new supply from the type foundry, the fount containing the venerable “ſ” having been thrown away.

Authors and Their Methods

. Interviews with various authors show that each has his or her own method of work, and as a rule can only produce satisfactory “copy” under certain conditions peculiar to themselves. An interviewer in the “Strand” gives some par­ticulars concerning Jules Verne which will interest compositors. The popular writer con­siders that the real labour of composition begins with his first set of proofs, for he says that not only does he correct something in every sentence, but he rewrites whole chap­ters. “I do not seem,” he says, “to have a grip of my subject till I see my work in print; fortunately, my kind publisher allows me every latitude as regards corrections, and I have often as many as eight or nine revises.” Of another great French writer we learn that he was probably unrivalled in making correc­tions in his proofs. It is said that by the time he had made his sixteenth revise not a sentence remained as it was originally written. His “Pierrette” was not sent to press until he had returned his twenty-seventh set of proofs! The margins of his proof-sheets were never broad enough for him, and his lines were crossed and re-crossed, interlined and re-inter­lined, and embellished with carets, arrows, stars, and riders to a most bewildering extent. Such methods of work are, however, confined to the wealthy writer, and where a printer humours the little ways of a genius he re­quires solid compensation for the time and trouble expended in making alterations.

A Medley

. This is a clever sketch, which may serve as a memoria technica of the prin­cipal London journals: In the early part of this the “Nineteenth Century” of the “Chris­tian Era,” a citizen of the “World ” strolled at night along “Pall Mall” on his way from “Belgravia” to “Whitehall,” accompanied only by the “Echo” of his footsteps. An old “Engineer” and soldier of the “Queen,” he had traversed by “Land and Water” the greater part of the “Globe,” and had since his “Broad Arrow” days fought under more than one “Standard.” Taking out his “Tablet” he stood and wrote as follows: “The study of ‘Public Opinion’ offers a wide ‘Field’ for the intelligent ‘Spectator’ and ‘Examiner’ of the ‘Times.’” At this moment a “Watchman,” who had been a close “Observer” of his movements, approached and said, “Come, my noble ‘Sportsman,’ you must move on !” “And what if I refuse ?” demanded the other, stand­ing like a “Rock” with his back against a “Post,” immovable as “Temple Bar”; “To be ‘Brief’ with you, my friend, I shall in ‘Truth’ stay here a ‘Week’ if I think proper.” “Well,” rejoined “Civilian,” “I am appointed ‘Guardian’ of this thoroughfare ‘All the Year Round,’ and I protest against your making any ‘Sketch’ or ‘Record’ here. Are you a ‘Builder’?” Instantly a grasp of “Iron” was laid on his arm. “Do you wish me to ‘Punch’ your head?” asked the “Traveller.” “Oh, no,” replied the other, all of a “Quiver,” pray don’t, I was only in “Fun.”

One of the old

“Quarterly” reviewers, the late Canon James Craigie Robertson, belied a proverbial characteristic of his countrymen: “for surely,” says Mr. John Murray, the publisher, “never was anyone more ready to make or detect or enjoy a good joke. I remember him coming to see my father on one occasion, with a delightful twinkle in his eye and an open book in his hand. It wsa an ecclesiastical history, in which the Bishop of Cremona had been misprinted as the Bishop of Cremorne! I can never forget the burst of laughter with which he becan to twit my father for demoralizing the theological students.” Cremorne, it may be remembered, was at that time a byword for all that was dissolute.

A pleasant little story

is being told, says the “Scottish Typographical Circular,” of “Ian Maclaren.” On the completion of his book, “Kate Carnegie and Some Ministers,” the author wrote in the following terms to the manager of the office: “As this (batch of proofs returned) completes the tale, would you kindly convey to the compositors my sincere appreciation of their skill? Would you also distribute the enclosed trifle among the men who do my nerves, that they may smoke a pipe extra to soothe their nerves after deciphering my handwriting?”

The title should be “Kate Carnegie and Those Ministers”

A “Perfect” Book

. the difficulty of insur­ing typographical accuracy in a book is illus­trated in the following story: “A London publisher once made up his mind to publish a book that should have no typographical errors whatever. He has his proofs corrected by his own proof-readers, until they all assured him that there were no longer any errors in the text. Then he sent proofs to the universities and to other publishing houses offering a prize of several pounds sterling in cash for every typographical mistake that could be found. Hundreds of proofs were sent out in this way, and many skilled proof-readers ex­amined the pages in the hope of earning a prize. A few errors were discovered. Then all the proof-sheets having been returned, the publisher felt assured that his book would appear before the public an absolutely perfect piece of composition. He had the plates cast, the edition printed and bound between expen­sive covers—because, as a specimen of the printer’s art, it was, of course, unique in literature and exceedingly valuable to biblio­philes. The edition sold well, and was spread all over the country. The publisher was very much pleased with himself for having done something that had hitherto been considered an impossibility. Then his pride had a fall, for six or eight months later he received a letter calling his attention to an error in a certain line on a certain page. Then came another letter announcing the discovery of a second error in this perfect book, and before the year was out four or five mistakes were found.”

Early Printing

. In the twenty-second year of the reign of Henry VIII., the “City Press” says, there was printed a royal proclamation “for ordering and punishing of sundry beggars and vagabonds, and damning books containing certain errors.” The king’s printer Thomas Bartlet, was paid at the rate of a penny a leaf for printing 1,600 papers and books of the proclamation. His bill amounted to ₤8 6s. 8d., which would probably represent about ₤50 or ₤60 of our money.

As an illustration of

what some hand­writing is like, the date Dr. McLeod once told a good story of himself, whilst he was editor of the “Edinburgh Christian Magazine.” He was present one night at the annual aoire of the workers in the establishment where the magazine was printed. In the course of a speech he said: “We all like to pry into the mysterious, and there is one mystery I would like to see cleared up for me this night. Where is the man or men who set up from my manuscript? I would like to see and shake hands with them.”

The master-printers of the metropolis

for­merly dined together annually at some good coffee-house or tea-gardens in London, and one of the regular toasts after dinner was, “The well-staining of paper.”

It is difficult for our times

to realize the awed surprise with which the invention of printing was regarded by the contempories of Gutenberg and even of Caxton. People considered it a black art and believed those in the secret to be the creatures of the devil. The following story will probably interest some of our readers: “When printing was intro­duced into Paris, one of the earliest works printed was ‘Euclid’s Elements.’ The work­man, perceiving that he had to intercale circles squares, triangles, etc., into the text, believed that the book treated of sorcery, and was calculated to evoke the devil, who would carry him off in the midst of his work. The employer insisted, and the printer, concluding that his ruin was contemplated, died of fright a few days later.”

Prophetic.

When Isaiah Thomas, the printer of Massachusetts, was printing his Almanack for the year 1780, one of his boys asked him what he should put opposite the 13th of July. Mr. Thomas being engaged, replied, “Any­thing, anything!” The boy returned to the office and set, “Rain, hail, and snow.” His country was all amazement when the day arrived, for it actually rained, hailed, and snowed violently. From that time Thomas’s Almanack was in great demand.

Cobbett and his Publisher.

This furious politician and writer of splendid English was at one period of his career engaged in farming at Botley, in Hampshire, and the office where, in addition to “Cobbett’s Register,” he published innumerable tracts and pamphlets, was in Bolt Court, Fleet Street. One morning the publisher, who had only been recently engaged by Cobbett’s manager, was accosted from the other side of the counter by a stout, elderly gentleman in a scarlet waistcoat. “I want a copy of ‘Paper against Gold,’ published last Monday,” said the old gentleman. “How is it going?” “Going!” replied the newly-engaged publisher, “why, it’s going like a newly-engaged rocket! We went to press ith 150,000 copies, and we expect to sell 200,000 before the week is over.” To his astonishment and consterna­tion he suddenly found himself collared and violently shaken by the elderly gentleman on the other side of the counter. “You lying rascal!” gasped the old man in the red waist­coat, “I am Mr. Cobbet. I only went to press, hound, with 30,000 copies!” and he released his hold, and glared at the too ima­ginative publisher, who, re-arranging his neck-cloth, said meekly, “I’m sure I’m very sorry, sir; I only wished to serve my employer.” The author of “Paper against Gold” was silent for a few minutes, and then said: “What are your wages?” “Five-and-twenty shillings a week, sir.” “I’ll raise them to two pounds,” rejoined the farmer of Botley, “you’re some­thing like a publisher!

In an obituary notice

of the late Mr. Robert Blackie, the eminent Glasgow publisher and printer, which appeared in a Scotch news­paper, the following anecdote is given: The “Essay on the Life and Writings of Robert Burns,” by Professor John Wilson, better known as “Christopher North,” promised for “The Book of Scottish Song,” of which Blackies were the publishers, was not forthcoming when the work was drawing to completion. Mr. John Blackie, jun., had often written to the Professor reminding him of the delay and its disastrous effects upon the sale of the book of which it was to form a part. At length, despairing of success by letter-writing, he went to Edinburgh, and called upon Wilson, who, upon recognizing his visitor, at once fled to the opposite side of the table as if to escape from the righteous wrath of his injured publisher. But when Mr. Blackie announced his intention to remain where he was and not leave the Professor till the MS. was completed and safely secured in his pocket, he came forth from his stronghold, remarking, “That’s capital! Mrs. Wilson will prepare a bed for you on the sofa and make you comfortable, and I’ll set about writing the essay.” However, a better arrangement was soon agreed upon. The Professor promised copy without further delay, and this time kept his promise. The MS. began to flow in upon the printer in detached portions by several posts each day. It was written on backs of funeral letters, remnants of grocers’ bags, and, in fact, on any kind of scraps of paper that would carry ink, and on some that carried it very imperfectly. When the essay was about half-way completed the Professor asked the printer to send him proof of all that preceded. The printer took what was handiest to himself and sent the author back his MS. This, however, did not satisfy the Professor, for he immediately wrote, “Send me proof; for though you can read my MS., I cannot.”

Early Printing in China.

The art of print­ing, according to Du Halde and the missionaries, was practised in China nearly fifty years before the Christian era. In the time of Confucius, B.C. 500, books were formed of slips of bamboo, and about 150 years after Christ paper was first made; A.D. 745, books were bound into leaves; a.d. 900, printing was in general use. The process of printing is simple. The materials consist of a graver, blocks of wood, and a brush. Without wheel, wedge, or screw, a printer will print as many as 2,500 impres­sions in a day. The paper is very thin, and costs only one-fourth as much as here. The works of Confucius, consisting of six volumes, each of 400 pages, can be bought for sixpence.

Dr. Johnson finished his Dictionary

on April 15th, 1755, and Andrew Millar thus acknow­ledged the receipt of the final pages: “Andrew Millar sends his compliments to Mr. Samuel Johnson with the money for the last sheet of the copy of the ‘Dictionary,’ and thanks God he has done with him.” Dr. Johnson replied: “Samuel Johnson returns his compliments to Mr. Andrew Millar, and is very glad to find (as he does by this sheet) that Andrew Millar has the grace to thank God for anything.”

An American journalist tells a curious story

of Horace Greeley. He once wrote a note to a brother editor in New York whose writing was equally illegible with his own. The re­cipient of the note, not being able to read it, sent it back by the same messenger to Mr. Greeley for elucidation. Supposing it to be the answer to his own note, Mr. Greeley looked over it, but likewise was unable to read it, and said to the boy: “Go, take it back. What does the ——— fool mean?” “Yes, sir,” said the boy, “that is just what he says of you.”

A Scotch paper told a good story

about Dr. Wallace. The editor of a local newspaper asked him if he would kindly furnish an article on a “light theological topic.” The doctor responded with one bearing the title, “The Relations between the Presbyterian Churches and Modern Thought.” When set up it made forty columns, and became a puzzle to editor and printer as to how to get rid of it. They began by using it in pieces, and whenever the printer said to the editor, “We have got no leader,” the reply was, “Eh, mon, just sneck off aboot a column and a quarter o’ Wallace.” In this way the contribution is being used, first working down from the beginning, then upwards from the end. And, as the story goes, “they are at it still.”

Giving the Devil his Due.

A printer’s devil was actually instrumental in altering the course of history. The story, as reported in a London daily paper, which, however, dif­fered somewhat from that in other papers, was as follows: “Lord Beaconsfield, meeting Lord Redesdale, on the evening of Wednesday, August 25th, 1880, gave to him, as Chairman of Committees, a MS. copy of an amendment to the Employers’ Liability Bill. Lord Redesdale gave the MS. to his secretary, his secretary gave it direct to the Queen’s printer, and the Queen’s printer gave it to his familiar to give to the compositors. In the usual course the amendment would have appeared in the notices of motion in the House of Lords. On the following day, the notice-paper came out with­out the ex-premier’s amendment, and the measure was discussed as though no amend­ment had ever been suggested. Inquiry was instantly made by the Chairman of Committees, and then, mirabile dictu, it was discovered that the printer’s devil, instead of delivering the MS. to the foreman of the compositors, had put it in his pocket and forgotten all about it. Lord Granville humorously suggested that the boy’s intelligence had prompted him to so dispose of the notice for the public benefit; but only think what might have been the consequences of that young demon’s forgetfulness! If Helen had not run off with Paris, there would have been no siege of Troy. If that careless young ‘devil’ had not put Earl Beaconsfield’s amend­ment in his pocket, we might have had another change of government!”

Blue-Tinted Paper

. The pale blue-tinted paper, still largely used for commercial pur­poses, and which was more in vogue some years ago than it is now, had its origin in a rather singular manner. It chanced that about the year 1790, on one domestic wash-day, the wife of an English paper manufacturer left her tubs and went into the factory with an old-fashioned blue bag in her hand. This she accidentally let fall into a vat of pulp, and thought no more about it and never mentioned it. Great, then, was the astonishment of the workmen when the paper came out a peculiar blue colour. The master was vexed enough with what he considered the carelessness of his employees, while his good dame kept her own counsel. The lot of paper was considered unsalable, and was stored away for four whole years. At length, however, the manufacturer consigned it to his London agent with instruc­tions to sell it for whatever it would bring. As luck would have it, the blue sheets were accepted as a happily-designed novelty and quickly disposed of at a high price, and an order was sent for another large invoice of the same. This was, however, somewhat of a dilemma! He had no idea in what way the paper had become blue, and in his perplexity mentioned the matter to his wife. She must have laughed heartily, but she promptly en­lightened her bewildered lord, who, in his turn, kept the simple process secret, and was for many years sole manufacturer of the blue commercial paper, and doubtless reaped a rich harvest thereby. By such accidents are inven­tions often made and fortunes fall within one’s grasp.

To see a Japanese compositor setting type

is curious, if not interesting. As there are 4,000 characters in the language in common use, and others less frequently, he cannot reach them all. Instead, he sits at a desk containing the characters called kana, or connections, of which there are forty-seven. He cuts up his copy into small pieces, giving each to a boy, who goes trotting about the alley singing the names of the characters he seeks until he has found them all, when he carries them to the type-setter, who puts the letters together with the kana. As all the boys sing at once, and the proof-reader sings to his copyholder, the noise is terrific.

Catnach

. In the days when his sensational Old Bailey sheets had a tremendous sale, there was nothing else of the same sort in existence, and he made a large fortune by the sale of them. His yard of songs for a farthing was a marvel, and these were all set in pearl and nonpareil, and worked at press. There was upwards of £5 worth of type-setting in every yard sold at the above price, but then they went off by the million. As to the copyright of the words and music in them there is nothing on record; every hawker adopted his own tune, if the songs were not written to a popular air. Several other printers took up the trade after Catnach died, but they only did a little in it

Going to the Wool-Hole

. What is the deri­vation of this term as applied to distressed printers being in a condition to apply for work­house relief? Formerly, before we had compo­sition rollers, pressmen used balls made by themselves, which were stuffed with wool, and then covered with composition. Whenever these required re-making-up, the wool used to be cast aside in a lumber-hole in the press-room, and it has often happened that an intoxicated member of the bar has resorted to the wool-hole for a quiet “mike” or slumber. This caused the “wool-hole” to be spoken of as a refuge for the destitute or unfortunate in the same way aa the workhouse is alluded to.

The Proof-Reader’s Troubles

. Speaking of contributors to the newspapers, a writer says: “There is the minister, who sends in a mere skeleton of a sermon, a page of which looks like the top of a tea-box covered with Chinese hieroglyphics, all disconnected, with Scripture proper names written in dots and dashes, and the whole affair a complete enigma. However, he knows it will be all right, and that the printers and proof-reader will unravel it, no matter if they are fit subjects for the madhouse before they get through with it. Then there is the local reporter. Well, he is a good fellow, and means well; he has troubles of his own; but if he spells a man’s name four different ways in an item three inches long, he knows the proof-reader will drop everything, rush around, find a directory or something else, and fix it all right before it goes into the paper. Also comes the statistical fiend, with his figures all presenting the same appearance, but not having time to cast up his columns for totals, knowing the proof-reader is bound to fix them up. There are also country correspondents, the young poet, the scientist, and the lin­guistical Smart Aleck, who cannot write five lines without scattering in bits of French, Latin, and Spanish, to show that he has been there; it matters not whether he gets his foreign words right or not, the proof-reader must scratch around and get everything right somehow, or the next day he will hear from the powers in the sanctum. In fact, to be a success, the proof-reader should be an animate cyclopædia, with the patience of Job and the endurance of adamant—but he is not, hence his troubles.”

Mark Twain

. Amid surroundings, said Charles Miner Thompson in his article on Mark Twain in the “Atlantic,” which were curiously American, if not especially apt to nourish genius, Mark Twain, “a good-hearted boy,” says his mother, but one who, although “a great boy for history,” could never be persuaded to go to school, spent a boyhood which, it appears, was ”a series of mischievous adventures.” When he was twelve years old his father died, and the circumstances of his mother were such that he had to go to work as printer’s apprentice in the office of the “Hannibal Weekly Courier,” “I can see,” he said once at a printer’s banquet in New York, “that printing-office of prehistoric times yet, with its horse-bills on the walls; its ‘d’ boxes clogged with tallow, because we always stood the candle in the ‘k’ box at nights; its towel, which was never considered soiled until it could stand alone.”

A rather good story of the repeal of

the paper duty in 1861 has just been brought up. The Budget speech was preceded by a rumour that the basis of the scheme would be repeal of the tea duty, and that this would upset the Government. Just before Mr. Gladstone rose to make his statement, there was handed to Lord Palmerston, on the Treasury Bench, the following note from Lord Derby: “My dear Pam,—What is to be the great proposal to-night? Is it to be tea and turn out?” “My dear Derby,” wrote the Premier in reply, “it is not tea and turn out. It is to be paper and stationery.