When we hold a VABC collaborative project like The Bad Quarto in our hands, we see the product of many hands and many hours of creative labor. More than twenty VABC artists spent this spring and summer in meetings, studying the facsimiles of the Q1 text available online from the British Library to understand not just the variations of the text, but the eccentricity of the very copy we were looking at. Marginalia, notes, conventions of seventeenth century printing.
We met with Washington & Lee professor Hank Dobin to talk about how such an early and variant copy of Hamlet might have come into existence. Usually, it’s a bibliographic convention to give some primacy to the first published edition. But that wasn’t the way it worked for the curious case of “the bad quarto.” This text likely spent a lot of time away from the Bard, perhaps as a traveling company’s version. Many believe it was reconstructed from memory and a few actors’ “sides” and prefer Q2 or the 1623 First Folio.
Then came the planning and design for an artist’s book. We made four printing teams that each took a number of signatures and began to work with the following constraints:
-the only words that could appear on any page had to be from the assigned page in Q1; they could be re-arranged, excerpted, or cut
-we limited the color pallete to red, black, white (or variations of those colors) and then a little silver for panache
-facsimile versions of the page could appear (beautifully produced with a digital printer) but other design/traditional methods must appear in the spread
When printing was done, the delicate process of making prototypes began with book board and cloth. Sewing, casing, and pasting it all down. Oh, and pressing till it was dry! We’ve got a gallery of some of that work from photographer and VFH Media specialist Pat Jarrett. Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look of The Bad Quarto! Hope to see you on “opening night” at the Raucous Auction, Nov 13 at 5:30PM.