Hamlet and the Wolverine Press

An extraordinary project was undertaken at the Wolverine Press, the letterpress studio at the University of Michigan. Led by Rebecca Chung (UMSI) and Fritz Swanson (Wolverine Press), a team of U of M students worked on a handset edition based on the G gathering from the second quarto of Hamlet, published in 1604 and conventionally known as Q2.  In this gathering, consisting of four leaves or eight pages, you can read what is probably the most famous soliloquy Shakespeare ever wrote: “To be, or not to be".  In brief, the students recreated the old printing technique of setting the type as a compositor would have done it in the seventeenth century.

Q2 students typesetting.jpg

Three students setting the type to replicate  the G gathering of Q2 (Hamlet: 1604).   Nearest is Amanda Rybin-Koob, poet, MFA; center, Rebecca Fortes, fiction, MFA;  and furthest, Elijah Sparkman, English major, LSA undergraduate

Each individual metal type representing a letter, a diacritic, or a punctuation sign, has to be set in reverse so that we eventually obtain the right reading when the forme is printed. Errors might be detected during setting the type, or even after a few impressions. This particular project was a team effort, which in fact was common in the hand-press period since several compositors could work setting the same book simultaneously. 

Q2  image.jpg

After the first proof correction, the page G4r, based on Q2, has been imposed, or arranged,  on a flat surface, surrounded with wooden and metal pieces of less than type height. For a quarto, the forme would consist of four pages like this, comprising half of the gathering

The Folios

Shakespeare & The Restoration