All posts by Sarah Ruth Thompson

Reflective writing – what we have learnt about the printing process in the past few weeks?


  • The international influence of printing houses upon Shakespeare’s printing process( Korea, Belgium, London) and the level of artisan skill which was involved. This influenced how we perceive books and early modern printing as scholars today.
  • The process itself of printing, the evolution of such process during the 16th century, and how this influences the texts within them. For example, the order pages were printed on was not chronological (as I had originally presumed) and therefore explains some of the gaps in Early Modern texts, adding an interesting mode of production element to the study of Shakespeare’s plays. We also learnt that the “folio is the most expensive type of book because materials were more expensive than human production of printing”. 
  • We learnt about the commercial capital attached to print culture and printing shops for example, in St. Pauls, which allowed us to contextualise the First Folio and Shakespeare’s play scripts as products/artefacts as well as literary items.


  • How to use online archive websites such as the ESTC, ODNB and the EEBO to search for information regarding the various editions of books. The ODNB was useful for finding out further biographical details of the author. The information that I received from the ESTC informed my interpretation of the works contributors and contemporaries. For example, The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginal Scot provided scarce detail on those who contributed to publishing the work. Using the various websites it allowed me to find out more about the history behind the printing of The Discoverie of Witchcraft which was left out of the title page. Thus, I was able to find out other information surrounding the publisher Henry Denham and his contribution to other types of similar work.
  • As well as this, looking at a physical copy of the text which has been passed through various owners we applied our study of annotations as paratexts. We scrutinised the annotations and noticed patterns in locations of notes that were placed in margins next to Bible references, suggesting a previous owner with Christian interests.


The concept of authorship was radically different in the early modern period to our idea of it now. We learnt in week 4 that play scripts, let alone their authors, were not held in the same regard they are today. Published scripts were often sold without the author’s knowledge or permission. A playwright’s original script was less important to printers and publishers than the version of it closest to the one they and their readers would remember from stage performances. Without the publishing of scripts playwrights like Shakespeare and Marlowe would have almost no control of their plays. They would be performed year on year by companies that would adapt the stories to their performances, making the plays almost akin to stories told by word of mouth. In some ways this is understandable as plays would often be collaborative projects. Even if one author had written the original text, editors, civil servants in charge of censoring scripts would have a hand in altering them. Actors might improvise in their performances. Additionally publishers might add paratextual materials, make notes in the margins or even make corrections to the texts. Through these aspects of the theatre industry the authors relation to the finished product of a published script is less direct than it might be today.


The various materials on printing that we have looked at over the last 2 weeks, will be very useful in relation to other aspects that we have observed over the rest of the module. We have better understood the printing process and the intricate thinking that went into these publications, in order to appeal to their targeted audience within the period, such as the order in which the plays were published in his ‘Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies’ introduction page. Keeping their targeted audience stimulated and entertained was obviously the priority of publishers, in a similar way that it was a priority for the Shakespearean company; the large variety of different plays on offer and the actors ability to play a variety of different roles parallels the importance of these respective intricacies. The various online archival websites that we have been given access to will also greater inform our understanding in the wider context of other materials we have observed. Furthermore, though not specifically related to the literal printing process, we have observed the fact that though writers such as Ben Jonson may have been rivals to Shakespeare, even they were able to appreciate his undeniable ability as a playwright: his respective praises include, “Thou art a monument without a tomb” and the “Sweet Swan of Avon”. 

By Sarah Thompson, Olivia Varty, Ally Cloke, Guy Seddon

From broom to book: the social life of scot’s “on the discoverie of witches”

By Sarah Thompson & Olivia Varty

Image result for witches 16th century

The Social life history of Scot’s “On the Discoverie of Witches”  is complicated, to say the least. What began its life as one man’s reasoning and skepticism of the legitimacy of the witch problem, can in 2019 be read as a rare book, both in print and ideology. Also,it is an example of proto-feminism, as Scot argues it is mainly women, especially poor women, who are accused, as they do not hold power in society.

The book was scathed by King James VI of Scotland (who was obsessed with finding witches, even writing his own famous book Daemonolgie and having Macbeth tailored to his odd hobby), meaning it was not reprinted and circulated so much in the late-Stuart era. However, the copy we viewed at the Philip Robinson Special Collections still remains, and as we viewed, heavily annotated in both Latin and English. There are frequent references to religion, both throughout Scot’s original text and within these mysterious, inked scribblings. We discussed in Dr. De Rycker’s lecture, the significance of marginalia and annotations as Renaissance paratexts, how they reveal to us what Early Modern readers were thinking when they first read the book, and which parts were of importance to them. The illustrations of Scot’s book seem crude to a modern reader, but physically in this copy are some of the most fragile, suggesting they have endured wear-and-tear from eager scholars fascinated by the “tricks” and theatrical mechanisms used by supposed “witches”.

The 1584 printing of The Discoverie of Witchcraft is particularly fascinating as the information surrounding the paratext of the work is excluded from this printed version. Instead, we are provided with the provenance of the copy, which it is shown to have been placed under the ownership of the historian Robert White. It was not until 1942 that the copy was donated to King’s College the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne by Amy Potts. Although the identities of the printers are absent from the copy, we used the ESTC and the ODNB to uncover more information regarding the work’s imprinting. The copy was published by Henry Denham in 1984 for William Brome in London. This information is crucial for establishing the authenticity of The Discoverie of Witchcraft, as the printers have control over the final text. It is important to note that Henry Denham was responsible for the publishing of various religious texts from 1563-1587.

Ye Olde Trippe Advisor

“A most enjoyable day trippe and performance” 

Traveller Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review by: @mr16thcentury

My goode, Swiss pen-friend Mr Platter recalled to me his wonderfule trippe to The Globe Theatre, citing the “excellent performance” of “diverse nations” he experienced there. Henceforth, I made it mine duty to visite such a place and see with mine own eyes and review the experience as a humble audience member. 

Methinks I was not disappointed! The thrill of being in such an audience and interacting with the players was most amusing! Documents such as my goode fellow Platter’s account and a certain Mr Henslowe’s Diary, in which the good sire notes down many “records of payments to dramatists, loans to authors and actors, disbursements for costumes and playhouse construction, payments to the Master of the Revels, and daily performance receipts for the Rose Playhouse” (Cersano). Tis’ most interesting to read upon the financial and logistical elements of such a place, and from these details one can form patterns and judgements upon theatre. 

Upon my word, I have never watched such a wondrous play by Mr. Shakespeare (on this occasion Romeo & Juliet). Twas’ a rather tragic tale of two young people falling in love, and acted in such a convincing style. The stage, being forward and near the audience, beheld even the most subtle yet poignant of emotions ! The round shape of the Globe allowed me to be engaged in the action, and the open-air nature of the building made it seem most spiritual, as if at times the players were communing directly with God in Heaven upon their soliloquies. The practice of cues provides an extra dramatic effect and pace to the play. Not as fast-paced as Mr Shakespeare’s competing entertainments – that of “bearbaiting” and “cock-fights” – but altogether more intellectual! 

My continental friend was most enthralled by the somewhat mundane, intricate details of London, recalling even the finest of details in his writings. He recalls “the house with the thatched roof” nearby, which is interesting as an Englishman I would not have thought to mention this (presuming it was common knowledge among mine readers). Tis’ a wondrous thing, to have a pen-pal with a foreign perspective, in mine humble opinion. One can appreciate the small details and unusual theatrical practices with a fresh pair of eyes, and ‘twill be forever noted down for future generations. 

Overall, methinks this theatre – and the good city London – to be an unmissable travel destination. Future generations may believe the architecture and bloody, exaggerated performance style to be somewhat unusual. I shalt have to return the favour to mine Swiss friend, and recommend that he visits the delightful city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne upon his next trippe to our fine land! 

Sarah Thompson, Olivia Varty, Polly Westhuizen, Alex Harris, Patrick Huish, Gabrielle Rouffert.

Works Cited

Cerasano, S.P.  “Digital Essays” Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, Accessed 9th October 2019

Platter, Thomas. Thomas Platter’s Travels in England, 1599. Transl. Glare Williams (London; Toronto: Jonathan Cape, 1937) pp.166-71  “Homepage”. Accessed 9th October 2019