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Out of Sorts

On Typography and Print Culture

By Joseph A. Dane

Publication Year: 2011

The new history of the book has constituted a vibrant academic field in recent years, and theories of print culture have moved to the center of much scholarly discourse. One might think typography would be a basic element in the construction of these theories, yet if only we would pay careful attention to detail, Joseph A. Dane argues, we would find something else entirely: that a careful consideration of typography serves not as a material support to prevailing theories of print but, rather, as a recalcitrant counter-voice to them.

In Out of Sorts Dane continues his examination of the ways in which the grand narratives of book history mask what we might actually learn by looking at books themselves. He considers the differences between internal and external evidence for the nature of the type used by Gutenberg and the curious disconnection between the two, and he explores how descriptions of typesetting devices from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been projected back onto the fifteenth to make the earlier period not more accessible but less. In subsequent chapters, he considers topics that include the modern mythologies of so-called gothic typefaces, the presence of nontypographical elements in typographical form, and the assumptions that underlie the electronic editions of a medieval poem or the visual representation of typographical history in nineteenth-century studies of the subject.

Is Dane one of the most original or most traditional of historians of print? In Out of Sorts he demonstrates that it may well be possible to be both things at once.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Material Texts


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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii

List of Abbreviations

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p. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-14

At some point in the mid-fifteenth century, several technicians worked on the problem of an ars artificialiter scribendi. Such work is often referred to in early documents, but the language is too vague to clarify exactly what procedures or techniques might have been involved. The so-called Strasbourg documents of the late 1430s, recording a suit involving Gutenberg, refer to the work of a press ...


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Chapter One. On the Continuity of Continuity: Print Culture Mythology and the Type of the Gutenberg Bible (B42)

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pp. 17-31

Proponents of Print Culture have now for decades debated the nuances of this notion: its relation to Oral Culture, learning, individuality, technology, and the obligatory Rise of Humanism. Print culture is a given, and all that is left for scholars to do is mop up: when did print culture emerge? what is its technological essence? ...

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Chapter Two. Gottfried Zedler and the Twentieth-Century History of DK Type

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pp. 32-56

DK type is the second of three types associated with early Mainz printing and Gutenberg. It is a large textura measuring 164mm/20 lines, slightly larger than B42 type. It is designed and set according to the same conventions as B42 type, with fence-post construction and multiple abutting forms, and its history is parallel to or linked to the history of B42 type. ...

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Chapter Three. The Voodoo Economics of Space: From Gothic to Roman

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pp. 57-71

Horatio Brown’s comments from his The Venetian Printing Press of 1891, quoted above, were an effort to explain what to bibliographers for over a century had seemed a basic paradox concerning the history of Venetian printing in the fifteenth century—the printing of books in gothic type by supposed humanist printers. To nineteenth-century bibliographers, Venetian printing was enmeshed in the ideology of the Rise of Humanism ...

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Chapter Four. The Typographical Gothic: A Cautionary Note on the Title Page to Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

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pp. 72-90

In Chapter 3, I dealt with a persistent myth concerning gothic type and the way the bibliographical evidence seems to be subordinate to particular bibliographical myths. The following chapter considers the term used to describe this type, and how the mythology surrounding that term influences what should be a straightforward history of classes of type. ...


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At the Typographical Altar: Interlude for Randall McLeod

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pp. 93-102

Among the always interesting and amusing articles by Randall McLeod are two based on George Herbert’s seventeenth-century ‘‘The Altar’’ and ‘‘Easter Wings’’; to English literary historians, these are the loci classic of the shape poem.1 I assume that what drew Prof. McLeod to these poems was the difficulty they posed to the editorial enterprise; what draws me to them here is a similar difficulty they pose to what I have called the typographical enterprise. ...


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Chapter Five. Fists and Filiations in Early Chaucer Folios (1532–1602)

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pp. 105-117

The preceding chapters of this study have considered typography as a matter of typesorts and letterforms. The following chapters deal with extratextual aspects of typography. Here, I consider a once obscure aspect of sixteenthcentury typography, one brought into prominence by William Sherman’s Used Books.1 That is what Sherman calls the ‘‘manicule,’’ ...

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Chapter Six. Editorial and Typographical Diplomacy in the Piers Plowman Archive

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pp. 118-140

The following chapter deals primarily with the Piers Plowman Archive, a digitized editorial project that will eventually make available in facsimile some seventy manuscripts of Piers Plowman. Of those CD-ROM volumes published so far, each is focused on a single manuscript represented in both excellent color facsimile and multiple transcriptions. The stated and implied conventions of these transcriptions ...

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Chapter Seven. The Representation of Representation: Versions of Linear Perspective

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pp. 141-163

The model of linear perspective has been in practical use by drawing manuals for centuries and has been the subject of many recent studies. It is simple in its theory and in its geometry; its construction is equally simple in practice. Yet this simplicity and elegance has not prevented it from being grossly misrepresented, even by those art historians who have studied it closely and by artists who are perfectly competent in using it.1 ...

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Chapter Eight. Typographical Antiquity in Thomas Frognall Dibdin’s Typographical Antiquities

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pp. 164-190

Thomas Frognall Dibdin was the most prolific and influential English bibliographer of the early nineteenth century. Among his more important works are the two-volume Library Companion, the three-volume Bibliographical, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour in France and Germany, the sevenvolume Spencer catalogue, and a four-volume revision of Joseph Ames’s 1749 Typographical Antiquities ...

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Conclusion: Print Culture Redivivus/Note on a Note by Walt Whitman

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pp. 191-197

A persistent theme in this book has been the lack of control: Dibdin does not control his illustrators, Herbert his engravers, Gutenberg his typesetters, or Chaucer his later annotators. I began this thinking of this work as an extension of a polemic I have been conducting for several years. I would critique, as in the first chapters, the notion of the bibliographical grand r


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pp. 199-227

Principal Works Cited

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pp. 229-237


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pp. 239-242


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p. 243

E-ISBN-13: 9780812203639
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242942

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 38 illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Material Texts
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Roger Chartier, Joseph Farrell, Anthony Grafton, Leah Price, Peter Stallybrass, Michael F. Suarez, S.J. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794700607
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Out of Sorts

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Transmission of texts.
  • Bibliography, Critical.
  • Printing -- History.
  • Incunabula -- Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Type and type-founding -- Historiography.
  • Printing -- Historiography.
  • Early printed books -- Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Bibliography -- Methodology.
  • Bibliography -- Methodology -- History.
  • Type and type-founding -- History.
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