1643 printing of same block
Edward Hodnett (Five Centuries of English Book Illustration) reminds us that “although Richard Pynson (died 1530) was the first printer in England to produce well-designed books, his output of fewer than 200 illustrated books was not one-half that of Wynkyn de Worde” (Caxton’s chief printer and successor). One of the 200 texts “shrewdly chosen” by Pynson to illustrate was Beuys of Southamtowne.
Pynson’s 1503 edition of Beuys (London: Emprynted by Rycharde Pynson in Fletestrete at the sygne of the George), which today can only be seen at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford (shelflist Douce B subt. 234, fol.7) contains twelve woodcuts (Hodnett 1933-44). While we know it was common for printers to save the blocks and reuse them in other books, it is not so common to find them lasting 140 years, which is the case with one of the blocks from Pynson’s Beuys.
The block as described by Hodnett (English Woodcuts no.1937) shows a shepherd boy beating a man with his crook. A hat and stick on the pavement (upper l.). Wall and gate (r). A shepherd boy striking with his crook a courtier seated at a table. A man and woman behind the courtier. A lady at his right. A man seated on a bench. An overturned bucket on the table. Triangular black and white tile floor. Two windows. The two scenes are separated by a column and a zigzag partition.
In 1643, a satire called The Malignants Conventicle or a Learned Speech Spoken by M. Web … was published with Pynson’s woodcut on the title page. Web’s speech tells of a secret group plotting insurrection on the city of London. The plotters “drew up a most damnable abusive Booke amongst our selves, to scandalize the parliament … called the Cities Complaint to the House of Commons…” He continues, “This booke we got a foolish printer that did not know what he did, to print, for it was such a most wicked, invective Pamphlet, that … if he knew what it was, he would not have meddled with it.”
A great text made even better by the 140 year old woodblock used to print the title page. Thanks to Christopher Edwards for finding this woodcut and tracking its history.
See more: Edward Hodnett, Five Centuries of English Book Illustration (Aldershot [Hampshire] : Scolar Press, 1988). Graphic Arts GARF NC978.H55 1987Q
Edward Hodnett, English Woodcuts 1480-1533 (Oxford: Printed at the University Press, 1973). Graphic Arts GA NE1143 .xH6 1973