[Capel Lofft, radical editor and author.] Autograph Letter Signed ('Capel Lofft') to his printer and publisher John Rackham of Bury St Edmunds, describing his plans for an edition of Milton's Paradise Lost, with unusual punctuation.

Capel Lofft [Capel Loft; Capell Loft] (1751-1824), radical editor and author [John Rackham (c.1760-1824) of Bury St Edmunds, printer and bookseller; John Milton]
Publication details: 
No place. 10 April 1792.
SKU: 22034

Lofft's edition of Paradise Lost was printed and published by the recipient of this letter John Rackham in 1792. The title-page states that Milton's poem has been 'Printed from the first and second edition collated. The original system of orthography restored; the punctuation corrected and extended. With various readings: and notes; chiefly rhythmical.' Reviewing the edition in January 1793, the Critical Review commented on the innovations in punctuation mentioned in the present letter, noting that Lofft seemed 'to inherit the genius of his late uncle [i.e. the Shakespearian scholar Edward Capell], and has prefixed different marks to facilitate the reading, and assist the understanding. Mr. Capel was equally sollicitous [sic] to convey his own sense of the beauties of Shakspeare to readers of a dull capacity. The best that we can say of the present attempt is, that the marks do not greatly deform the page.' 3pp, 4to. Bifolium. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn, with slight loss to second leaf from the breaking open of the seal (which is absent). Addressed on reverse of second leaf 'To | Mr Rackham'. Begins: 'Dr Sir, | Agreeably to your obliging intimation I send sufficient to begin Milton's Paradise Lost.' He is 'anxious that it should represent in manner of printing as near as may be the original Edition', and is sending a copy for Rackham's inspection. He has corrected an edition 'founded on Bishop Newton's', 'so as to restore the antient orthography'. He adds: 'The Punctuation requires to be in a manner new', and he has 'alter'd it accordingly', introducing 'one new Mark of Punctuation […] to which the Printer will attend a small perpendicular line where a pause rather less than a comma suspends the cadence without any interval in the sense'. He draws on the page another of his punctuation marks, which he asks the printer to likewise observe, 'the effect of which varies according as it is at the top, middle or bottom of the line'. He gives further directions, stressing that he would wish 'this Edition to represent as much as possible the antique simplicity of the first'. He hopes to 'explain 'the Plan of this Edition in a short Preface'. He ends by stating that '500 should be the Number printed'. BBTI has John Rackham (c.1760-1824) active as bookseller and printer in Bury St Edmunds between 1778 and 1821.