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Reading the Qur'an in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560

By Thomas E. Burman

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Most of what we know about attitudes toward Islam in the medieval and early modern West has been based on polemical treatises against Islam written by Christian scholars preoccupied with defending their own faith and attacking the doctrines of others. Christian readings of the Qur'an have in consequence typically been depicted as tedious and one-dimensional exercises in anti-Islamic hostility.

In Reading the Qur'an in Latin Christendom, 1140-1560, Thomas E. Burman looks instead to a different set of sources: the Latin translations of the Qur'an made by European scholars and the manuscripts and early printed books in which these translations circulated. Using these largely unexplored materials, Burman argues that the reading of the Qur'an in Western Europe was much more complex. While their reading efforts were certainly often focused on attacking Islam, scholars of the period turned out to be equally interested in a whole range of grammatical, lexical, and interpretive problems presented by the text. Indeed, these two approaches were interconnected: attacking the Qur'an often required sophisticated explorations of difficult Arabic grammatical problems.

Furthermore, while most readers explicitly denounced the Qur'an as a fraud, translations of the book are sometimes inserted into the standard manuscript format of Christian Bibles and other prestigious Latin texts (small, centered blocks of text surrounded by commentary) or in manuscripts embellished with beautiful decorated initials and elegant calligraphy for the pleasure of wealthy collectors.

Addressing Christian-Muslim relations generally, as well as the histories of reading and the book, Burman offers a much fuller picture of how Europeans read the sacred text of Islam than we have previously had.

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Reading Women

Literacy, Authorship, and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800

Edited by Heidi Brayman Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly

In 1500, as many as 99 out of 100 English women may have been illiterate, and girls of all social backgrounds were the objects of purposeful efforts to restrict their access to full literacy. Three centuries later, more than half of all English and Anglo-American women could read, and the female reader was emerging as a cultural ideal and a market force. While scholars have written extensively about women's reading in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and about women's writing in the early modern period, they have not attended sufficiently to the critical transformation that took place as female readers and their reading assumed significant cultural and economic power.

Reading Women brings into conversation the latest scholarship by early modernists and early Americanists on the role of gender in the production and consumption of texts during this expansion of female readership. Drawing together historians and literary scholars, the essays share a concern with local specificity and material culture. Removing women from the historically inaccurate frame of exclusively solitary, silent reading, the authors collectively return their subjects to the activities that so often coincided with reading: shopping, sewing, talking, writing, performing, and collecting. With chapters on samplers, storytelling, testimony, and translation, the volume expands notions of reading and literacy, and it insists upon a rich and varied narrative that crosses disciplinary boundaries and national borders.

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Recipes for Thought

Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen

By Wendy Wall

For a significant part of the early modern period, England was the most active site of recipe publication in Europe and the only country in which recipes were explicitly addressed to housewives. Recipes for Thought analyzes, for the first time, the full range of English manuscript and printed recipe collections produced over the course of two centuries.

Recipes reveal much more than the history of puddings and pies: they expose the unexpectedly therapeutic, literate, and experimental culture of the English kitchen. Wendy Wall explores ways that recipe writing—like poetry and artisanal culture—wrestled with the physical and metaphysical puzzles at the center of both traditional humanistic and emerging "scientific" cultures. Drawing on the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and others to interpret a reputedly "unlearned" form of literature, she demonstrates that people from across the social spectrum concocted poetic exercises of wit, experimented with unusual and sometimes edible forms of literacy, and tested theories of knowledge as they wrote about healing and baking. Recipe exchange, we discover, invited early modern housewives to contemplate the complex components of being a Renaissance "maker" and thus to reflect on lofty concepts such as figuration, natural philosophy, national identity, status, mortality, memory, epistemology, truth-telling, and matter itself. Kitchen work, recipes tell us, engaged vital creative and intellectual labors.

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Shakespeare's Stationers

Studies in Cultural Bibliography

Edited by Marta Straznicky

Recent studies in early modern cultural bibliography have put forth a radically new Shakespeare—a man of keen literary ambition who wrote for page as well as stage. His work thus comes to be viewed as textual property and a material object not only seen theatrically but also bought, read, collected, annotated, copied, and otherwise passed through human hands. This Shakespeare was invented in large part by the stationers—publishers, printers, and booksellers—who produced and distributed his texts in the form of books. Yet Shakespeare's stationers have not received sustained critical attention.

Edited by Marta Straznicky, Shakespeare's Stationers: Studies in Cultural Bibliography shifts Shakespearean textual scholarship toward a new focus on the earliest publishers and booksellers of Shakespeare's texts. This seminal collection is the first to explore the multiple and intersecting forms of agency exercised by Shakespeare's stationers in the design, production, marketing, and dissemination of his printed works. Nine critical studies examine the ways in which commerce intersected with culture and how individual stationers engaged in a range of cultural functions and political movements through their business practices. Two appendices, cataloguing the imprints of Shakespeare's texts to 1640 and providing forty additional stationer profiles, extend the volume's reach well beyond the case studies, offering a foundation for further research.

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Sociable Knowledge

Natural History and the Nation in Early Modern Britain

By Elizabeth Yale

Working with the technologies of pen and paper, scissors and glue, naturalists in early modern England, Scotland, and Wales wrote, revised, and recombined their words, sometimes over a period of many years, before fixing them in printed form. They built up their stocks of papers by sharing these materials through postal and less formal carrier services. They exchanged letters, loose notes, drawings and plans, commonplace books, as well as lengthy treatises, ever-expanding repositories for new knowledge about nature and history as it accumulated through reading, observation, correspondence, and conversation. These textual collections grew alongside cabinets of natural specimens, antiquarian objects, and other curiosities—insects pinned in boxes, leaves and flowers pressed in books, rocks and fossils, ancient coins and amulets, and drafts of stone monuments and inscriptions. The goal of all this collecting and sharing, Elizabeth Yale claims, was to create channels through which naturalists and antiquaries could pool their fragmented knowledge of the hyperlocal and curious into an understanding and representation of Britain as a unified historical and geographical space.

Sociable Knowledge pays careful attention to the concrete and the particular: the manuscript almost lost off the back of the mail carrier's cart, the proper ways to package live plants for transport, the kin relationships through which research questionnaires were distributed. The book shows how naturalists used print instruments to garner financing and content from correspondents and how they relied upon research travel—going out into the field—to make and refresh social connections. By moving beyond an easy distinction between print and scribal cultures, Yale reconstructs not just the collaborations of seventeenth-century practitioners who were dispersed across city and country, but also the ways in which the totality of their exchange practices structured early modern scientific knowledge.

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Tabula Picta

Painting and Writing in Medieval Law

By Marta Madero. Translated by Monique Dascha Inciarte and Roland David Valayre. Foreword by Roger Chartier

To whom does a painted tablet—a tabula picta—belong? To the owner of the physical piece of wood on which an image is painted? Or to the person who made the painting on that piece of wood? By extension, one might ask, who is the owner of a text? Is it the person who has written the words, or the individual who possesses the piece of parchment or slab of stone on which those words are inscribed?

In Tabula Picta Marta Madero turns to the extensive glosses and commentaries that medieval jurists dedicated to the above questions when articulating a notion of intellectual and artistic property radically different from our own. The most important goal for these legal thinkers, Madero argues, was to situate things—whatever they might be—within a logical framework that would allow for their description, categorization, and placement within a proper hierarchical order. Only juridical reasoning, they claimed, was capable of sorting out the individual elements that nature or human art had brought together in a single unit; by establishing sets of distinctions and taxonomies worthy of Borges, legal discourse sought to demonstrate that behind the deceptive immediacy of things, lie the concepts and arguments of what one might call the artifices of the concrete.

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Textual Situations

Three Medieval Manuscripts and Their Readers

By Andrew Taylor

Generations of scholars have meditated upon the literary devices and cultural meanings of The Song of Roland. But according to Andrew Taylor not enough attention has been given to the physical context of the manuscript itself. The original copy of The Song of Roland is actually bound with a Latin translation of the Timaeus.

Textual Situations looks at this bound volume along with two other similarly bound medieval volumes to explore the manuscripts and marginalia that have been cast into shadow by the fame of adjacent texts, some of the most read medieval works. In addition to the bound volume that contains The Song of Roland, Taylor examines the volume that binds the well-known poem "Sumer is icumen in" with the Lais of Marie de France, and a volume containing the legal Decretals of Gregory IX with marginal illustrations of wayfaring life decorating its borders.

Approaching the manuscript as artifact, Textual Situations suggests that medieval texts must be examined in terms of their material support—that is, literal interpretation must take into consideration the physical manuscript itself in addition to the social conventions that surround its compilation. Taylor reconstructs the circumstances of the creation of these medieval bound volumes, the settings in which they were read, inscribed, and shared, and the social and intellectual conventions surrounding them.

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The Traveler, the Tower, and the Worm

The Reader as Metaphor

By Alberto Manguel

As far as one can tell, human beings are the only species for which the world seems made up of stories, Alberto Manguel writes. We read the book of the world in many guises: we may be travelers, advancing through its pages like pilgrims heading toward enlightenment. We may be recluses, withdrawing through our reading into our own ivory towers. Or we may devour our books like burrowing worms, not to benefit from the wisdom they contain but merely to stuff ourselves with countless words.

With consummate grace and extraordinary breadth, the best-selling author of A History of Reading and The Library at Night considers the chain of metaphors that have described readers and their relationships to the text-that-is-the-world over a span of four millennia. In figures as familiar and diverse as the book-addled Don Quixote and the pilgrim Dante who carries us through the depths of hell up to the brilliance of heaven, as well as Prince Hamlet paralyzed by his learning, and Emma Bovary who mistakes what she has read for the life she might one day lead, Manguel charts the ways in which literary characters and their interpretations reflect both shifting attitudes toward readers and reading, and certain recurrent notions on the role of the intellectual: "We are reading creatures. We ingest words, we are made of words. . . . It is through words that we identify our reality and by means of words that we ourselves are identified."

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The Trouble with Ownership

Literary Property and Authorial Liability in England, 1660-1730

By Jody Greene

Copyright and intellectual property issues are intricately woven into any written work, but the precise nature of this relationship has plagued authors, printers, and booksellers for centuries. What does it mean to own the products of our intellectual labors in our own time? And what was the meaning three centuries ago, when copyright laws were first put into place?

Jody Greene argues that while "owning" one's book is critical to the development of modern notions of authorship, studies of authorial property rights have in fact lost sight of the most critical valence of owning in early modern England: that is, owning up to or taking responsibility for one's work. Greene puts forth what she calls a "paranoid theory of copyright," under which literary property rights are a means of state regulation to assign responsibility for printed works, to identify one person who will step forward and claim the work in exchange for the right to reap the benefits of the literary marketplace. Blending research from legal, historical, and literary archives and drawing on the troubled authorial careers of figures such as Roger L'Estrange, Elizabeth Cellier, Daniel Defoe, John Gay, and Alexander Pope, The Trouble with Ownership looks to the literary culture of early modern England to reveal the intimate relationship between proprietary authorship and authorial liability.

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