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Welsh outlook


Vol. 3, No. 6 June 1916

A rare printing press

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AS you walk
along the
street at Stratford-
upon-Avon, intent
upon New Place,
you find next door
but one to it the
Head Press,"
housed in a Henry
the Seventh house.
Out of the window
stare the title-
pages and plain
covers of a few
choice books, and
from a glass-case
the uncanny linea-
ments of Mr.
W. B. Yeats.
Within you may, it the hour be auspicious, discover
the printer, publisher, Elizabethan and new Georgian
editor, reviver of old poets and enlarger of new-Mr.
A. H. Bullen-engaged at his craft. In a Tercentenary
sennight, he will be less visible than usual from a
craftsman's need of privacy; but at other times he
has been known to escort a fellow-bibliophile over
the old house upstairs into rooms whose walls can
tell secrets,-nice old pannelled, buff and green
chambers, where Shakespeare lies in sheets, and
Gabriel Harvey, Spenser's friend, is housed along
with Michael Drayton. The printing press is below,
in what used to be the brew-house. One looks at
type-cases anxiously, almost tenderly for a press
that attempts tasks refused by ordinary publishers
is like a threatened outpost-a Khartoum or Kut-el-
Amara. The question is how long the garrison can
hold out. and one is inclined to say with Reignier
I think, by some odd gimmors or device
Their arms are set like clocks, still to strike on
Else ne'er could they hold out so as they do."
The fact is, the business of printing and making
books becomes serious when you are keeping an
outpost for posterity and that is almost Mr.
Bullen's role as a Stratford publisher. He has now
on his table the MS copy of a book that when
completed should be a centuries' landmark. It is
the book of Accounts of the Chamberlains of Strat-
ford-upon-Avon, which throw curious light on the
Warwickshire of Shakespeare's day. His father was
Chamberlain at one time, and they bring near the
Stratford circle of his friends and acquaintances,
and should certainly do something to increase that
local patriotism which can save an old town from the
house-breakers and destroyers. The last count has
to be held in mind at Stratford-upon-Avon. for since
Mr. Bullen set up his press in 1904. many old
buildings have been swept away, including the
famous barn in Scholar's Lane, where Shakespeare
saw the corn brought in, and stole straws no doubt for
nefarious boyish ends ? Had it not been for the
war, this Chamberlains' book would have been a
Tercentenary prize. Now, alas its would-be
printer sits confounded over its MS. pages, asking
himself if they will ever be set up, printed off. and
given to a war-distracted world ? In one of those
pages may be found the names of the Welsh fellow-
townsmen of Shakespeare (who had Welsh blood in
him on the mother's side). one was a namesake of the
present Minister of Munitions. sans Lloyd as prae-
nomen there was a Phillips, a Griffin Morris, a
Howell, and an Ap Howell a Price and an Ap Price.
There was a Fluellen, too, who may have served
Shakespeare as model for the hero of that name in the
history-play of the warlike King Henry the Fifth.
It will be a sad deprival, if we do not have these
Stratford Memoirs. The transcript has already
been made in full by Mr. Richard Savage--for many
years curator of Shakespeare's birthplace and the
Rev. Edgar Fripp has joined him as editor, annotator
and diplomatist. Who was it calculated that the cost
of three minutes of the war would not only save this
book to the nation, but ensure the perpetuating of
many others, like unto it, that now lie like so many
dead weights upon the "Shakespeare Head?"
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