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Books and Readers in Early Modern England

Material Studies

Edited by Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer. Afterword by Stephen Orgel

Publication Year: 2011

Books and Readers in Early Modern England examines readers, reading, and publication practices from the Renaissance to the Restoration. The essays draw on an array of documentary evidence—from library catalogs, prefaces, title pages and dedications, marginalia, commonplace books, and letters to ink, paper, and bindings—to explore individual reading habits and experiences in a period of religious dissent, political instability, and cultural transformation.

Chapters in the volume cover oral, scribal, and print cultures, examining the emergence of the "public spheres" of reading practices. Contributors, who include Christopher Grose, Ann Hughes, David Scott Kastan, Kathleen Lynch, William Sherman, and Peter Stallybrass, investigate interactions among publishers, texts, authors, and audience. They discuss the continuity of the written word and habits of mind in the world of print, the formation and differentiation of readerships, and the increasing influence of public opinion. The work demonstrates that early modern publications appeared in a wide variety of forms—from periodical literature to polemical pamphlets—and reflected the radical transformations occurring at the time in the dissemination of knowledge through the written word. These forms were far more ephemeral, and far more widely available, than modern stereotypes of writing from this period suggest.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Material Texts

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Current Trends in the History of Reading

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pp. 1-20

These quotations from Ben Jonson and John Milton epitomize the two main ways in which we think of books—as material objects and as systems. Jonson's pun on "sheets" turns on the fact that early modern paper was made of cloth. Paper is the topic...

I. Social Contexts for Writing

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pp. 21-116

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Chapter 1: Plays into Print: Shakespeare to His Earliest Readers

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pp. 23-41

As is well known, Shakespeare, at least in his role as playwright, had no interest in the printed book or in its potential readers. Performance was the only form of publication he sought for his plays. He made no effort to have them published and none to stop the publication...

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Chapter 2: Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible

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pp. 42-79

Contemporary pronouncements about the death of the book are puzzling, for in many ways, it is the book form—the combination of the ability to scroll with the capacity for random access, enabling you to leap from place to place—that has provided the model which these other cultural...

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Chapter 3: Theatrum Libri: Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and the Failure of Encyclopedic Form

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pp. 80-96

The beguiling manners of Burton's Democritus Junior make it easy to suppose that the Anatomy of Melancholy performs more or less what it promises in its dauntingly preemptive Ramistic chart, supplemented by an index or "Table" beginning in the second edition...

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Chapter 4: Approaches to Presbyterian Print Culture: Thomas Edwards's Gangraena as Source and Text

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pp. 97-116

The phenomenon of cat baptism, associated with sectaries in the London of mid-1640s, can be illustrated from two very different sources. Surviving Middlesex quarter sessions records reveal that in August 1644 John Platt, a Golding Lane heel maker, and his wife...

II. Traces of Reading: Margins, Libraries, Prefaces, and Bindings

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pp. 117-197

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Chapter 5: What Did Renaissance Readers Write in Their Books?

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pp. 119-137

Roger Stoddard has recently reminded us that "When we handle books sensitively, observing them closely so as to learn as much as we can from them, we discover a thousand little mysteries. . . . In and around, beneath and across them we may find...

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Chapter 6: The Countess of Bridgewater's London Library

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pp. 138-159

A recent survey of early modern women's reading follows earlier scholarship in assuming that "few women developed libraries of their own."1 As a challenge to this widely held belief, this essay presents a case study of the London library of Frances (Stanley) Egerton, Countess...

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Chapter 7: Lego Ego: Reading Seventeenth-Century Books of Epigrams

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pp. 160-176

Epigrammatists routinely refer to their own labor as writers, including the work of revising their poems, and for reasons that will soon become clearer, I start by invoking and participating in that tradition. As I researched...

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Chapter 8: Devotion Bound: A Social History of The Temple

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pp. 177-197

Bookbinding is the final stage in a mechanical process of reproduction, but in early modern Europe it must also be understood as the first act of reception. For a customer had a say, at least potentially, about several important aspects of the binding, including the materials...

III. Print, Publishing, and Public Opinion

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pp. 199-281

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Chapter 9: Preserving the Ephemeral: Reading, Collecting, and the Pamphlet Culture of Seventeenth-Century England

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pp. 201-216

In 1641, England experienced a culture shock—an explosion of small cheap books and broadsides reporting, commenting upon, and manipulating public events. That pamphlet culture waxed and waned until the Restoration, by turns more and less...

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Chapter 10: Licensing Readers, Licensing Authorities in Seventeenth-Century England

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pp. 217-242

Historians and literary scholars of seventeenth-century England have argued in recent years that if the political upheaval which occurred there midway through that century revolutionized nothing else, it revolutionized reading.1 Most seventeenth-century contemporaries...

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Chapter 11: Licensing Metaphor: Parker, Marvell, and the Debate over Conscience

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pp. 243-260

As English citizens weary of sectarian battles welcomed their restored monarch in a groundswell of public concord, some might reasonably have hoped that the impulse toward national unity would help to settle long-standing disputes over liberty of...

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Chapter 12: John Dryden's Angry Readers

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pp. 261-281

When we consider John Dryden's achievement today, it is rightly as the Restoration writer who most completely defines his age. A narrative of his ascent to national prominence would point first to his appointments as poet laureate in 1668 and as historiographer...

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Afterword: Records of Culture

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pp. 282-289

The revolution in modern bibliographical studies has in large measure been effected through a willingness to notice what had been unnoticeable, to find evidence in the hitherto irrelevant; so that, for example, habits of reading, marginalia, and traces of ownership...

List of Contributors

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pp. 291-293


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pp. 295-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204711
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812217940

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Material Texts