A vvord on Shakespear

Friday, 01 February, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Printing was an economic activity at all points during its lengthy, five-and-a-half centuries existence (even if a lot of doubt may be seen to attach on that last half).

"Economic activity" is not a mere word, something to say, but has a very specific meaning : aesthetic activities, such as contemporary news (or contemporary social communication, from which it can not be distinguished) will only provide those parts that look prettyi ; psychotrophicii activities, such as offerings either in the confessional box or at the bar of law will only provide those parts that satisfy the provider ; while in economic activities only those parts that pay will be seriously providediii -- in all cases all the rest, at best, an afterthought.

Five centuries ago, which is to say in the time of Shakespeare, the costs of engaging in the economic activity of printing consisted of, in order : acquiring the consumables involved, securing the skilled labour that could well put them to use, providing the fixed capital goods required to produce printed matter. So : paper, ink and letters, then typographers, then printing presses and a building to host them in. (Distributing the printed material did not figure to any significant degree.)

Yet paper and ink is perishable, while letters not nearly as much. Moreover, the labour (at least in its skilled part) is not as perishable as the ink or the paper it blots -- properly speaking the setteriv's existence continues in the cliches he constructed.

A cliche, you see, is not merely an "oft repeated phrase", but rather a chunk, a page of already set letters, that then the press owner wants to repeatedly reuse as much as possible -- it costs relatively little to run paper over an inked cliche, especially when compared to what it costs to have letters picked again into a new one.

So... how many letters are you going to buy ? And if you answer "enough" you've evidently never been involved in any economic capacity in any relevant sense. There's never going to be enough of any of the good stuff specifically because someone's going to buy less of whatever it is and then hang you by the petard of your own expense footprint.

There's not going to be enough letters, and the letters that are will probably be employed somewhere else. For current work, there's not going to be enough w's -- but that's ok, use two v's. Thus in turn there's not going to be enough v's anymore -- but that's ok, u works as a substitute, and so following.

Rodorigo. Neuer tell me, I take it much vnkindly

But ships are but boards ; setters but men. Setters are men whose lives go by the clock. Who would you hire, if you were to hire : he who can pick a thousand words an hour, or he who can, modestly, only pick nine-hundred-some ? And if, while at work setting, you spot an u while looking for a v, or if you spot a v when looking for an u, can yov pass it by, for fellowship ?

Will you tell a woman later on, that's well sick of hearing her own children cry of hunger, "honey, I wasn't about to set words false upon the internet!" ? She is this gal you asked a favor of, mind, you're a humble setter, skilled labour, working by the clock, not the world's most superb and only me -- and she sure as daylight had way the fuck better prospects. Like Joe, the butcher, whose children do not seem to cry of hunger. Well ?

Besides, if the ovvner can engage in such shenanigans merely to make money for his invested money, why shouldn't you do the uery same to feed your family ? What's right and what's wrong here, and who's in each of them ?

To bring this lengthy story to an expeditious conclusion, I'm with Michael Stern Hartv and against a whole array of inept moronsvi in deeming Shakespeare mutable viz typographical connivance.

Yes the man famously couldn't quite spell his own name, yet this does not make every "cittie" and "arithmatician", each "neuer" an' every "euer" important, notable, or even vaguely eternal. Yes it's a fraught topic, but guess what ? Yes, bitch, I would. Bring it.

What can you do ?

  1. Watch an instagram whore select her narcissism shards for publishing sometime, you'll think yourself fallen among the editorial steering board of the Pravda (either version). []
  2. Psychotropic -- which moves the psyche ; psychotrophic -- which feeds the psyche. []
  3. In Naggum's terminology, "the market will never sort out bad quality in anything but the single most important property of the product". []
  4. From German, Setzer. []
  5. Fascinating character, this, by the way. If you recall that older story of my first contribution to the world, aged five or so, you have his mind before you entire : given space by his brother on the mainframe that brother managed, he dediced to "give back" by "doing something useful" -- he set the Declaration of Independence by his own hand, and upon being disuaded from emailing it to everyone he contented himself with merely putting it up, available for download. He did approximately nothing else, 1947 -- 2011, the collected name for which nothingv.i being "Project Gutenberg".

    v.i Let's memorialize :

    mircea_popescu: which incidentally - has been read TODAY by more people than read ALL of marcel proust's works since the making of gutenberg.org

    mircea_popescu: gutenberg statistics ? 24 downloads for regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre. in a fucking decade. because, of course, http://btcbase.org/log/2017-05-09#1653782
    a111: Logged on 2017-05-09 13:04 asciilifeform: it is possible that solitary prisoners go mad from simple boredom. notice that nobody is ever imprisoned in a library.

    mircea_popescu: and in other "internet is for lulz", www.gutenberg.org/files/43617/43617-h/43617-h.htm was downloaded... 77 times.

    and so following, while patience lasts. What can you do ?

  6. The sort that "have an extreme attachment to these errors", and "accord them a very high place in the canon". Because it's in all times and places the unerring fate of uncomprehending punkitude -- to fixate on the forms for a sheer lack of any appreciation of (and, properly speaking, capacity for) the substance. []
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2 Responses

  1. Per this hypothesis, how does one end up with e.g. "Rodorigo" ? Too many O in the box, and if you don't use'em all, they'll go on strike and next time you will end up with "Rdrig" ?

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 1 February 2019

    Proper names are always iffy, especially if foreign. Mayhaps that's how they thought it went, for some value of they including or not the original author -- and note you that the very notion of authorship was a lot different in those days than what it became under the pressure of the dwellers of the romantic 1800s. All that yakk about "genius" and whatnot and the desperate search for a leverage out of the human condition perforce produced a view of the originator more alligned with the protestant notions of divinity ; but in the time of Shakespeare the first to have played a fiddle air took second fiddle to the one playing it currently.

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