- Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England
This five-part collection of essays plus introduction, afterword, bibliography, and index invites readers to reflect on intersections between printing and parenting in the early modern period and the present, when new technologies have generated anxieties about and opportunities for book production and understanding of fathers' and mothers' roles in procreation and childbearing. As Douglas A. Brooks writes, the essays "not only explore why procreative metaphors were so spectacularly suitable for articulating a range of emergent relations within a book trade radically transformed by the invention of movable type, but also make it clear that [End Page 960] these patterns of expression have cultural and historical significance that goes well beyond the strategic deployment of a set of metaphors by a few savvy publishers and booksellers" (2). The collection is valuable for its attention not only to great writers and literary texts of the early modern period (especially Shakespeare's and Jonson's plays and poems) but also to woodcut illustrations, pamphlets, broadsides, emergent advertising strategies, rubrication, censorship, and propaganda. Ashgate's generosity in printing fifty-one figures, many of them full-page illustrations — including two color prints to illustrate the effects of rubrication — allows readers to see examples of the print materials under discussion. Each of the essays in the collection benefits in some way from the context and intertextuality provided by the book collection.
However, several features of this book complicate evaluating it. Brooks informs the reader that four of the chapters — by Margareta de Grazia, Cyndia Susan Clegg, David Lee Miller, and Stephen Orgel — were originally presented at the 1999 annual meeting of the MLA. Five chapters have been published in journals or other book collections; the other eleven chapters vary in quality, suggesting a range of professional experience among the contributors. Internal evidence indicates that the book was "finished" by 2003, but it was not published until 2005. Surface errors that cluster in some chapters suggest problems with the copyediting process. Repetitions of similar examples and the absence of cross-references suggest the various authors have not read the rest of the book. The chapters are not unified in ways usually demanded by scholarly presses.
These features seem fundamentally related to the subject matter of the collection: the ways cultural changes affect book production and the ways print technologies effect cultural change. Jennifer Wynne Hellwarth's afterword cites Anne Bradstreet's widely anthologized "The Author to Her Book" as a starting point for an overview of key ideas in the book and her discussion of the interrelationship between textual and biological reproduction in the past and the present. While Bradstreet calls her poems "ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain," Brooks writes of his essay collection having been "conceived" online through a partnership between himself, "as putative father," and Erica Gaffney of Ashgate as "partner" and Ann Donahue, also of Ashgate, as "capable and caring surrogate mother." Ironically, Brooks's offspring-book is in some ways "ill-formed," possibly as a result of rushed production, presumably after a frustrating delay of several years.
Especially notable is the chapter title "In Locus [sic] Parentis." The "ill-formed" Latin, which admittedly does not impede understanding of the idea expressed, made this reader think about issues related to education, especially writing instruction, as a context for all the ideas in the book. What does it mean when a professor of English and the editorial team for the volume allow a grammatical error in a foreign (and dead) language to elude copyediting? Does this collection of essays provide evidence that error is not a key indicator of quality of thought? Or should educators in what Brooks calls "cyber-culture's incunabula phase" continue to insist that publishers, editors, and authors edit and proofread their work meticulously? [End Page 961]
Frustration aside, the varied approaches to the book's subject ultimately are rewarding. Although Laurie E. Maguire's chapter on Alice Walker...