VABC’s “Bad Quarto”: Collaborative Project 2015


Framework for the 2015 Annual Members Project

This year’s member collaboration is an artists’ book production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, staged in time to commemorate the 400th anniversary year of the Bard’s death (April 23, 1616).

We will use as our text the “Bad Quarto” – a.k.a. Q1 – the first-known printing of the play (pub date 1603). Early scholars disdained this version as one of the “stol’n and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by frauds and stealths of injurious impostors.” Today’s scholars are more inclined to regard Q1 as either an early draft of the play or a “tourbook copy” edited for production by a small company of actors. (See differences in one soliloquy here.) In creating our own version of Q1, we will be joining in the centuries-old conversation on the merits of this first printing of the play.

We envision our Hamlet as a case-bound book of possibly 72 pages gathered in nine eight-page signatures. This includes page-for-page the text of the original quarto, which was published in eight unbound signatures. The added folios in our edition will include paste-downs and front and back matter.

Four “teams” of member artists (a mix of skills represented in each group) will be assigned two or three non-sequential signatures to visually interpret as they like. (Why non-sequential? So that the finished work does not appear to have stylistic divisions.)

Teams will receive their signatures in two formats: facsimiles of the original Q1 text pages, and corresponding digital transcriptions that are easier to reference.

Each page of our Hamlet will interpret its corresponding page in the “Bad Quarto” facsimile with no deviations. Artists may incorporate the actual facsimile; they can use it as a layer, cut up the text, select from it, or altogether discard it, but must represent it. While no group is obligated to reproduce the actual text on any given page, their interpretation of the text must correspond to the original Q1 pages whether or not the words themselves appear.

All production methods are acceptable with one caveat: digital reproduction may not be used alone on a page; it must be a layer integrated with another studio process. Artists may freely use all relief-printing methods, including but not limited to letterpress, print-making (intaglio, woodcut, linocuts, etc), screen printing, stamping, pronto plates, and chin-colle (very thin overlays only).

Our color palette will be limited to the following pantone inks that may be varied in opacity only: red, black, white and transparent white. (The Danish flag, incidentally, is red and white.)

When they are ready to begin production, teams will receive oversized sheets for printing on which page numbers, act and scene references, and crop marks for trimming have been pre-printed. The oversized sheets will allow for bleeds.

The project officially launches on Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23 – same as his death day). That evening we select teams by lottery and present a preliminary schedule for production. If you cannot attend, but would like to participate, email Garrett Queen with your intentions.

Past Q1 Events..
Join Us at the U.Va. Special Collections Library on
Wednesday, May 27 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm:
Meet at U.Va. Special Collections (Small Special Collections Library) for a Shakespeare show-and-tell with curator Molly Schwartzburg.


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