- Authority in European Book Culture 1400–1600 ed. by Pollie Bromilow
Authority in its multiple guises has been a fashionable topic of literary and historical studies for a few decades. In this selection of papers given at a conference at the University of Liverpool in 2006, the range of possible approaches is in clear view. Pollie [End Page 383] Bromilow’s Introduction sums up the application of a complicated notion to book production in the widest sense before indicating the ways in which the eleven chapters of the book tackle their diverse subjects, which are drawn from several Western cultures in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The first two chapters are more general and theoretical, for this is an area to which French philosophers have given a fair amount of attention. Brian Richardson’s lucid chapter provides a useful entry into the complexity of cohabiting print, scribal, and oral media in the whole period. Appropriate references are made to the pioneering work of the late Harold Love on seventeenth-century England, since it would be foolish to ignore lessons to be learnt from later times. Although he also gives concrete examples, Adrian Armstrong’s chapter is subtly adventurous in its invitation to weigh carefully the whole field of authority and power as it applies to communication. The remaining chapters are effectively case studies covering the propaganda of Pope Julius II and Henry VIII, narratives of travel in Turkey, writers of histories of European regions in conscious imitation of ancient models, the Reformation in Magdeburg, early Jesuit penitential texts, and three French authors. Helen Swift’s chapter explores at some length the verse debate La Complainte du livre du ‘Champion des dames’ a maistre Martin Le Franc son acteur and situates it carefully in the context of the author’s relationship with his Burgundian patrons. Catherine Emerson’s ‘Denis Sauvage — Renaissance Editor of Medieval Manuscripts’ looks at an early example of editorial practice applied to relatively recent texts. In her ‘Fictions of Authority: Hélisenne de Crenne and the Angoysses douloureuses qui procedent d’amours (1538)’ Bromilow argues that we have here, at least through paratextual material, a deliberate attempt to promote the authority of a female writer. Overall the inevitably disparate chapters do not provide uniform support for the book’s central theme. The specialist competence of the contributors is not in doubt. Abundant footnotes and a long recapitulative list of references — primary and secondary sources — buttress the demonstrations offered. The trade itself is barely visible for want of much detailed data in these centuries about edition sizes and distribution patterns. The editing could have been tighter. Inconsistencies, infelicities, misspellings (‘Cochlaeus’ three ways on one page), and plain misprints do not inspire absolute confidence.