Sebastiaan Verweij: ‘The eye of any deliberate reader’: John Donne and the Early Printed Book

Using the collator
Using the collator to compare books.
Merton History of the Book Group and the Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar
25 October 2011

from Edmund Christie White, Merton College

Speaking in the Breakfast Room of Merton College, Sebastiaan Verweij (Lincoln) described his work as a Research Associate for the Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne.

A bibliographical specialist, Dr Verweij’s principal role in this project is in collating the many printed variants of Donne’s sermons, ranging from quartos published whilst the author was still alive, to posthumous collected editions. With no autograph manuscripts of these works known to remain, this vital work contributes to the efforts of the project’s editors to get as close as possible to the sermons as they were when delivered from the pulpit.

Donne himself had a somewhat mixed relationship with his printers. Dr Verweij highlighted the paratextual elements of some of these editions, such as errata pages, in which it appears that the author directly appealed to his readers to amend their copies in order to undo the printer’s mistakes.

After the talk, there was a chance to see at first hand some of the books in Merton’s collection that were examined by Dr Verweij. He also demonstrated how to use a ‘Hailey’s Comet’ optical collator. This device uses angled mirrors so that the user can simultaneously see two different versions of the same page in a book; by way of stereoscopic vision, any variations in the printing then seem to jump off the page in 3D.