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Reviewed by:
  • Cognition and the Book: Typologies of Formal Organisation of Knowledge in the Printed Book of the Early Modern Period
  • Sabrina Alcorn Baron
Karl A. E. Enenkel , ed. Cognition and the Book: Typologies of Formal Organisation of Knowledge in the Printed Book of the Early Modern Period. Intersections Yearbook for Early Modern Studies 4. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. xvi + 642 pp. index. illus. tbls. $239. ISBN: 90–04–12450–0.

Intersections is a series designed to bring "together new material on well-considered themes" (back cover) in early modern European history. Karl Enenkel and Wolfgang Neuber, editors of this volume, are respectively the general editor and a member of the editorial board for the series. The volume under consideration here presents nineteen illustrated essays, which "developed from papers given [End Page 560] at" (ix) a conference held in 2004 at the Freie Universität Berlin and from whose title the collection takes its name. The editors have produced a fine volume in timely fashion, although it is not without some challenges for readers. The fact that the title is in English has led to some confusion in its reception, something that is quite ironic for a volume focused on typological elements and techniques designed to guide readers' understanding or reception of printed texts and images. As a result, for example, lists the language of the volume as English, when in fact thirteen out of nineteen essays are in German. The title and front matter — introductory paratexts intended to guide readers — such as the title page, colophon, table of contents, acknowledgements, notes on the editors, and list of contributors, all constitute an English lead-in to the volume introduction, which is in German. Thereafter, the essays are interspersed throughout the volume irrespective of language, grouped rather by topic, an arrangement that is logical on the one hand, but which on the other hand is hugely frustrating to those readers who are less-than-fluent polyglots.

These characteristics aside, the English essays presented here are valuable contributions to the study of typographical strategies and paratexts, and several of them should be useful for teaching courses in print culture studies, such as Franz A. Janssen on "The Rise of the Typographical Paragraph." Anne Moss contributes a compact and very useful summary of her work on the commonplace book that would serve well for students and scholars alike seeking an introduction to this topic. Hilmar M. Pabel's contribution on the motivating power of paratext (in this case motivation to suppress Protestant humanist glosses on an early father of the Catholic Church) illuminates an important subject.

The essays in German, most from scholars at the beginning of their work in the field, are no less meaningful. A section of the volume is devoted to pairing images with text to shape reader reception. Again, these essays address a very important topic, maybe even a viable subfield of print culture studies, and add measurably to our understanding of the use of images in early modern printed books, despite an underlying feeling that many of these authors find their theories as difficult to categorize as their terminology is to translate. The essay by Ursula Kocher on the use of illustrations in Boccacio's Decameron as influential paratext and that by Manuel Braun, which tells a story of illustrations disappearing from novels as a means of guiding reader reception, are notable. In a section addressing typographical influence on readers of early modern religious texts, Romy Günthart's essay on using typography not only to shape reception, but also to assist religious contemplation, and that of Kai Bremer on targeting a particular audience with vernacular texts of the late Counter Reformation stand out.

The challenges presented by the multilingual nature of this volume no doubt highlight existent deficiencies in the training and abilities of English-speaking readers, but it also illuminates a certain schizophrenia inherent in the field of print culture studies or book history, that so often emerges. A lot of very important, very informative, vital work is published in languages and volumes that are not accessible to a great many scholars without either the linguistic skills to read them, or [End Page...


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pp. 560-562
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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