Workshop 2: How Books Are Made

1 minute read

Complete by: Thu. 15 Apr.

Rebuild Two Shakespeare Books

This week we were supposed to visit Northwestern’s Special Collections to take a look at some very old books and talk about early printing techniques. Since we can’t do that, I’d like you to complete and then reflect on a few exercises related to early modern printing methods.

Following up on our in-class conversation about early modern book-making, watch the following 4-minute video that demonstrates the printing press.

In the video, on this small scale-model printing press, the curator prints a single page of text on a small sheet of paper. But as we discussed, early modern printers used very large sheets of paper and printed multiple pages at once, folding them later to create books.

To understand this method of making books, read the Folger Shakespeare Library’s DIY First Folio page: When you’re done, complete the exercises in the “Virtual Printing House”: This will give you an idea of how folio books are printed: by printing two pages at a time on one side of a sheet, and folding those sheets just once.

Once you’ve completed the DIY First Folio, read the page for the DIY Quarto: And complete the Virtual Printing House exercises for the Hamlet quarto: This will help you understand how quarto books are made: by printing four pages at a time on one side of a sheet, and folding those sheets twice.

This whole process (the video and both sets of exercises) should take about 45 minutes. If you have any difficulties getting the sites to work, please let me know right away.

Once you’ve finished, write a one-paragraph reflection for the Canvas discussion board on what you learned from the process. You might reflect on some of the following questions. How do the complexities of early modern printing inform your understanding of books and reading in this historical period? What do the differences between folios and quartos tell us about certain kinds of books? Does knowing something about printing change how you feel about the “efficiency” of printing over other forms of written communication?