The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0400  Monday, 1 October 2012


From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         September 27, 2012 4:07:02 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Lear Analysis


Gabriel Egan wrote:


> John Briggs writes that two matrices wouldn’t be put into 

> the mould to make a double-ell.


>> You would have to punch the “ell” twice 

>> onto the same matrix


Yes, I got that wrong, of course–I should have written “You would have to make a new punch for the ‘double ell’ and make a matrix from that.”


> See Philip Gaskell A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: 

> Clarendon Press, 1972) for a discussion of the phenomenon. 

> The key bit is


>> A special form of tied letter appears to have been

>> made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by placing

>> the matrices for several letters side by side in the mould,

>> and casting them all together as a single type. . . .

>> Tied letters made in this way may be difficult to distinguish

>> from true ligatures made from a single matrix. (pp. 33-34)


The point that I was trying to make is that the matrix is over-sized (i.e. larger than the mould). In order to make the “special form of tied letter” by putting two (or more) matrices into a mould, you have to trim those matrices down (effectively destroying them for normal use). I have no idea why anyone would do this, but I would suggest that it would be for circumstances where the individual characters are different (and presumably non-kerned). For the situation of the “double ell”, you would have to use (and effectively destroy) two “ell” matrices—and I don’t know why anyone would have two “ell” matrices in the first place. Printers in Shakespeare’s London didn’t cast their own type (which partly explains why the First Folio was printed with a set of rather worn type)—and I am not sure that their type was even cast in England. These “special forms of tied letter” would have to come from the typefounder.


(I don’t know why we are arguing over this: Gabriel Egan is describing something that didn’t happen, and I am just saying that it wouldn’t have happened anyway!)


John Briggs

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