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Welsh outlook

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Vol. 3, No. 6 June 1916

A rare printing press

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Note some of the works already achieved by the
sympathetic printer in his old brew-house. First,
there is the Stratford Town Shakespeare," in
ten volumes super-royal octavo, a set which (said
the Spectator) is for beauty and dignity unique
among editions, one to ennoble any library. Indeed,
it is not a set of volumes merely, or a parcel of plays
it is a library, a region, a literature in itself. Take
again its companion volumes, the two series of
the" Elizabethan Playhouse of Mr. W. J. Lawrence;
or Gabriel Harvey's Marginalia," or this miniature
edition of Shakespeare's Songs. These books are in
their own way, as Scotsmen would say, "sib to
the Lyrics from Elizabethan Dramatists" and
Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books," in which
we first made Mr. Bullen's acquaintance long ago.
For, in poetry and in prose alike, he is one of the great
Recoverers of Literature, and to him the reed is
as the oak," when it is a question of excellence,
super-excellence in kind. He will print you old
carols, or a Ballad of the Nut Brown Maid or a
sixth treatise of Plotinus-" On the Beautiful
or an Anacreon or a Catullus. And he does not
disdain a new poet, who is of the right genre and has
the right music. His collected edition of the works
of W. B. Yeats is like to be a bibliophile's prize and a
delight to poetry-lovers, in time to come; because
of that poet's plaguy way of altering his poems year
by year, often for the worse.
From Harvey's Commonplace Book in the
volume of his Marginalia," another choice product
of the press, let me quote three pithy sayings (1)
poore Gentlemen must be fayne to putt ye Servants'
wages in ye Masters Breeches (2) Moony, and
sowldiours, are ye sinews and marrow of warr
ye veri strength of strength (3) The cunning Draper
will provide to have his light cumme in at a dim
window.
When I was in Stratford-upon-Avon at the May
Festival, the sheets of Shakespeare in Italy
a book by Lacy Collison-Morley, were being printed
off. This original study should prove a valuable
pendent to M. Jusserand's delightful volume,
Shakespeare in France." It would be premature
to quote from its pages here; but I may steal a
paragraph from Mr. Lawrence's Elizabethan
Playhouse and other Studies "-first series-as
to the effect on the English drama of the introduction
of scenery, whose over-development in our day has
become a menace to the real art of the stage. The
writer shows the use of the proscenium doors through
which stage exits were usually made,. He says
For long the technique of dramatic construc-
tion was not materially altered by the introduction
of scenery. The Restoration dramatist wrote
as if he still had the old platform stage in his mind's
eye, and, regardless of the worries of stage mechan-
ists and managers, continued to shift his scene with
almost breathless rapidity. The consequence was
that, to admit of ready handling, the scenery had
to be of the lightest framework. With a rapidly
changing stage elaborate built-up backgrounds
were wholly out of the question. Under these
conditions the presence of the proscenium doors
and their attendant balconies proved extremely
grateful. They made possible the realising of
many situations and incidents that otherwise could
not have been dealt with. All the action that
usually took place above on the platform stage
was transferred to the proscenium balconies.
Hence the persistence of the old stage direction.
One great advantage of the two sets of doors and
balconies was that they could be used either singly
or in combination. To the variety of situation
thus admitted of was largely due the vogue at the
Restoration period of the comedy of intrigue, and
drama of the cape and sword order. Serenade
scenes abounded, and plays seem almost to have
been written to exploit the possibilities of the doors
and balconies. Once more the physical conditions
of the theatre were exercising a potent influence
upon dramaturgy."
In the second series of his Elizabethan Play-
house" papers, the same writer tells us of the
Irish Players who were at Oxford in 1677.
They came from the Dublin Drury Lane," in
other words from that Theatre Royal, Smock Alley,
Joseph Ashbury was their leader his
person, figure and manner in Don Quixote were
admirable," and he had a full and meaning eye,
and a sweet-sounding manly voice, which even in
his old age won like a charm upon the undergraduate
and other Oxford playgoers.
Such books as these are eloquent witnesses; and
the other day an appeal, signed by many of the
ripest scholars and foremost writers of our time,
was issued, which spoke of the invaluable service
to be rendered by such a press to the nation and to
the republic of letters throughout the world and
asked for a relief expedition in the shape of a generous
supporter, or supporters, who would establish a
trust for continuing its work. Mr. A. H. Bullen has
been in some sense another Caxton, it said, and to
carry out his brave purposes and continue his work,
would be an honour to Shakespeare's and Caxton s
country. Nor," ends the argument, small as is
the sum required for these purposes, do we feel
that they are so much apart, after all, from the great
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