Making Shakespeare's books

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The public was invited to learn how books were produced in Shakespeare's day and to give it a try for themselves at a free event on Oct. 21 at The College of St. Scholastica.

William Hodapp, English professor, and Todd White, reference/digital resources librarian, presented "Making Shakespeare's Books: A Printing Workshop," in honor of the exhibition of Shakespeare's First Folio at the University of Minnesota Duluth's Tweed Museum of Art.

Attendees had the chance to handle type, examine tools of the trade and pull prints of a sonnet. Although the press that Hodapp and White brought in was from the 19th century, White explained that the process was similar enough to get the idea across.

"You really don't seem much of a change to the process well into the 19th century," White said. "You still have the lever and the mechanization is still pretty similar. The design didn't change very much in nearly 400 years."

Hodapp focused mostly on the printing of the Folio, in which he said Shakespeare didn't play a hand. Because the Folio was printed seven years after Shakespeare's death.

"We have no idea of the copies of plays were what Shakespeare would have intended. He didn't print his plays before he died because that wasn't something an author did at the time. The first publication of a play was the considered the first performance," Hodapp said.

White focused on the printing process itself and how much manpower and time it took to create the first folios.

In fall 2000, Hodapp and White began offering an interactive learning experience in early modern book production in a Medieval and Renaissance Studies seminar. Their collaboration led to additional seminars and several offerings of their course, The Book in the 15th Century, in which students learn about book production through research and by producing a manuscript book and a limited-run printed book.

In addition to presentations at regional and international conferences about their experiences, Hodapp and White have also co-authored and published an article in the national journal Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching.