I've been reading about the history of printing in England recently. I jumped in about 150 years late with the Wither project, so I'm going back to the start and working from there.
The problem is that reading about the introduction of printing to England quickly becomes entwined with a debate over who actually invented what we call printing. Sigh.
So before I could get too far into Middleton, I needed to find a copy of Atkyns’ pamphlet. Nothing online, either for sale or digitized. However, it had been reprinted, apparently only once since 1664, in A Pair on Printing (Bird & Bull Press, 1982). It’s one of Henry Morris’s more modest publications. Turns out I have a copy, purchased when Wessel & Lieberman were closing, but I'd never really opened it. It reprints the Atkyns’ pamphlet in facsimile, which is unfortunate because the original, like much English printing of the time, is not very lovely, and the facsimile seems to make it even worse. The whole thing would have been more engaging if Henry had set it in type.
Anyway, I made my way through that, and then returned to Middleton. Like Bowyer, his pamphlet is uncommon but not rare, and not too dear when found (three figures, not four). I found one quite inexpensive because (1) it was disbound and some sheets had become separated, and (2) some monster had cropped out the small (& not terribly interesting; see above) engraving that appeared on the title page. I just wanted to see and read the original, so I wasn’t fussed.
Now I was ready to return to Bowyer, and see what he had to say about Middleton’s argument. It gets in the deep weeds pretty quick, and his comments have references to Meermam’s essay, so I jumped over to skim that. His central thesis was that the invention of printing with type originated at Haarlem with Laurens Coster. This led to the Coster v Gutenberg bun-fight that raged through the 19th century, which is recounted in a chapter of William Blades’ Books in Chains (1892), so I got lost down that tributary for a few days. (I’m not sure why this set of Meerman sold for so much, it can be had for a tenth the price these days. Perhaps because each volume is bound separately here. Not sure if Large paper actually means a large-paper issue, or just that this copy still has most of its original margins.)
(For a concise summary of the Mainz/Haarlem debate, see McMurtrie’s Dutch Claims to the Invention of Printing.)
There is no number in my copy, but each of the leaves is penciled 688, so I’m guessing maybe that’s the copy number. The content of the leaves appear to correspond with the titles. The wording suggests there might be copies outside the 700, without leaves, but even in 1895 I suspect 700 copies was enough to meet demand for this title. Maybe the publisher was hoping for a second edition.