Student rebuilds Herbert's 'Temple'

The Daily Pennsylvanian
January 26th, 2009

What could 21st-century bibliophiles possibly glean from an obsolete 17th-century practice?

Plenty, according to College senior Brooke Palmieri, coordinator of "Rebuilding the Temple: Typesetting George Herbert Several Centuries Out Of Context."

The event, which will take place today at 5:30 p.m. at the Kelly Writers House, will focus on Palmieri's reprinting of Renaissance author George Herbert's poetry anthology "The Temple" using a traditional printing press. English professor Peter Stallybrass and English graduate student Thomas Ward will serve as panelists.

The panel will discuss Herbert's historical circumstances and textual history and explore broader issues relevant to the present-day book-making process.

The first edition of "The Temple" was published in 1633 after Herbert's death. Herbert allegedly gave the manuscript to a friend on his deathbed, requesting that it see print only if it was "worthwhile," Palmieri explained.

According to Palmieri, the published version deviated significantly from Herbert's original manuscript. Palmieri's initial project proposal involved modifying the 1633 edition in such a way as to align it more closely with Herbert's original manuscript.

"I wanted to make an argument about dealing with something exactly as it was presented in manuscript form and allowing Herbert to speak for himself," Palmieri said.

However, due to time and material constraints, Palmieri was compelled to revise her plans.

Palmieri decided instead to create an edition of "The Temple" even further removed from Herbert's manuscript, in effect "going to the opposite extreme." She hoped this would illustrate her original argument about editorial presence.

This past summer, Palmieri learned how to use a printing press under the instruction of Writers House program coordinator Erin Gautsche.

She recalled handsetting the manuscript - in which even constructing the blank spaces on a page required attention and precision - as a "tedious but satisfying" process. Palmieri's final product came to a total of seven pages in length.

"I think [the event] engages with many topics of interest to the Writers House community," Palmieri said. "It's dealing with the printing of poetry with antiquated materials, and book-making is something a lot of poets think about."