The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent.






The Sequence of Book Production in the Eighteenth Century
1. Casting of type
2. setting type
3. sequence, the decision on margin size; the decision on folds. A signature of 16 sides.
4. binding the folded forms. Saddle stitch, side wired.
5. Casing the bound book. Leather, pig skin, stamping from the fifteenth century. The development of panel or cameo dies for larger decoration, clamping. Gold tooling from the end of the 15th century.
Sequence from Diderot's Encyclopaedia, illustrations of book production, type casting, papermaking, printing and binding. British printing in the seventeenth century and the rise of published fiction.

"At present, nothing is talked of, nothing admired, but what I cannot help calling a very insipid and tedious performance; it is a kind of novel called The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy , the great humour of which consists in the whole narration always going backwards. I can conceive a man saying it would be droll to write a book in that manner, but have no notion of his persevering in executing it. " Horace Walpole, Letter to Sir David Dalrymple, April 1760.
James Joyce writing about the early drafts of Finnegan's Wake , "Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book. Yet the elements are exactly what every novelist might use; man and woman, birth, childhood, night, sleep, marriage, prayer, death. There is nothing paradoxical about all this. Only I am trying to build many planes of narrative with a single aestheitc purpose. Did you ever read Laurence Sterne ?" Letter to Eugene Jolas, quoted Ellerman, James Joyce , 1966.
"Tristram's father, bibliophile and compiler of that universal lexicon, the Tristra-paedia, has an ancestral respect for the book as a memorial trophy and as an unalterable tablet of the law. Tristram himself proposes a romantic alternative to this view; the letter can never house the fugitive, inarticlate spirit..." Conrad see beneath p.362.
A Short Sterne Biography.
1705, born, Clonmel Ireland, to an English soldier later Master of Jesus College Cambridge and Archbishop of York.
1733, LS entered Jesus College,
1737, left Cambridge to become a clergyman, amateur painter and composer. Sutton Yorks., preached in York Minster, joined the Demoniacs. "In person thin and tall - when composing his sermons he would often pull down his wig over one eye and remove it from side to side." Continual quarrel with mother, uncle and wife. His philandering caused madness in his wife who it seems laboured under the delusion she was Queen of Bohemia.
1759 began Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, published 2 vols.December ,
1768, Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, published.

Dies 3 weeks later.

Design Devices in Tristram Shandy.
Plot ; we get no Life and little of the opinions of TS who appears only in volume 4, is breeched in vol vi, and then disappears. Walter Shandy of Shandy Hall, his brother, Uncle Toby, Corporal Trim. Yorick the Parson, Dr.Slop and Mrs Shandy. The tradition of Learned Wit, Cervantes and Rabelais. "We'll not stop two moments, my dear sir - only, as we have got throught these five volumes (do Sir sit down upon a set - they are better than nothing "

1. The diagrammatic intervention to describe narrative and movement.
2. The sudden advancement of the marbling.
3. Experiments in punctuation.
4. Attempts to render dialogue.
5. The presence of the page, and its echo in the illustration.
6. The parallel text.
7. The depiction of silence and humming.
8. The blank pages.
9. Evoking the other arts in the form of the printed book, theatre, painting and music.




A.A.Mendilow, Time and the Novel , Nevill, London 1952, Chap.12, "Time, Structure and Tristram Shandy".
Leon and Reis, Russian Formalist Criticism ; Four Essays, Univ. of Nebraska Press Lincoln, 1965 Victor Shkovsky, "Sterne's Tristram Shandy: Stylistic Commentary".
Douglas Brooks, Number and Pattern in the Eighteenth Century Novel, RKP, London 1973 see Chapter viii.
Max Byrd, Tristram Shandy, Allen & Unwin London 1985.
James Swearingen, Reflexivity in Tristram Shandy, Yale, New Haven 1977.


Douglas C.McMurtrie, The Book, Bracken Books London 1989 (1945)
Stanley Morison, Four Centuries of Fine Printing, Benn London 1949.
exhib.catal. Bookplates in Britain ,Bookplate Society and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
A.Nesbit, 200 Decorative Title-Pages, Dover NY 1964 (pback)
Sotheby's Catalogue, Illustrated Books and Volumes of Prints, November 10th 1975.
Christie's, Valuable Printed Books ,25 June 1986.
Sotheby's, A Fine Collection of Calligraphic Books ,(Hutton Coll., 27th March 1972.
Diderot and D'Alembert, L'Encyclopaedia, Imprimerie Reieure, (papermaking, the making of type, printing from type, bookbinding).
C.B.Grannis, Heritage of the Graphic Arts, Bowker, London 1972, lectures on printing and typography. (see lectures by Hermann Zapf, and those on Bruce Rogers and T.M.Cleland).


On Collecting

G.Jackson-Stops (ed.), exhib. catal. The Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Yale Univ.Press, section on The Gentleman Collector (The Country House Library.
Alan G.Thomas, Great Books and Book Collectors, Weidenfeld and Nicolson London 1975.