UI librarian's work basis for exhibition
URBANA – A new book co-written by a University of Illinois librarian and faculty member is the basis for an exhibition in New York that explores the early history of the English language and the role that printing played in its development.
Valerie Hotchkiss, head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and a professor of medieval studies and of library and information science at the UI, and Fred C. Robinson, a professor emeritus of English at Yale University, are the co-authors of the book, "English in Print: From Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton" (UI Press, 2008). It is the catalog for the exhibition of the same title, on view through July 26 at the Grolier Club, 47 E. 60th St., New York.
The club is America's oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts of the graphic arts. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Both the book and exhibition, also curated by Hotchkiss and Robinson, explore the history of early English books and how the English language came into print, with a close study of the texts, formats, audiences and functions of English books.
The authors' study nearly mirrors the chronological coverage of Pollard and Redgrave's famous "English Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1740," beginning with William Caxton, the first printer in England, and ending with author John Milton, a staunch defender of the freedom of the press.
Colin Franklin, author of "Book Collecting as One of the Fine Arts, and Other Essays," called the book an erudite survey of English printing that transcends its immediate function as an exhibition catalog.
"The authors have provided, in their introduction and descriptions, a lucid and enjoyable history," Franklin wrote.
The exhibition features more than 100 books drawn from the extensive collections of the UI and Yale libraries. The UI Library owns thousands of early English works from the 15th to 17th centuries as well as works on history, philosophy, religion, science and culture.
The exhibition and book feature work by Caxton, who died in 1492. Credited with standardizing the English language, Caxton not only introduced the printing press in England but also was the first English retailer of books. He printed 100 books during his lifetime, translating many of them from Dutch, French and Latin.
The exhibition includes English incunabula – works in English printed before 1501 –- that were produced by Caxton and his peers, as well as the first four folios of Shakespeare and the only surviving perfect copy of the 1604 quarto of Hamlet.
The exhibition also features first editions by Milton and other authors and early printed music, maps, schoolbooks and Bibles; and several examples of early English bookbinding.
The 256-page book, with 133 full-color photographs, retails for $35 in paper and $65 in cloth.