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  • Nouveaux Aspects de la culture de l’imprimé: questions et perspectives (xvexviie siècles) by Grégoire Holtz
  • David McKitterick
Nouveaux Aspects de la culture de l’imprimé: questions et perspectives (xvexviie siècles). Études réunies par Grégoire Holtz. (Cahiers d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 119.) Genève: Droz, 2014. 416 pp., ill.

The last few years have seen two major themes develop in the history of early printed books. First is the recognition that the invention of printing did not mean the end of a manuscript culture, and the acknowledgement that the period of transition was in fact very much longer. A second feature is more specific — so far — to French scholarship, and involves the unpicking of the writing, publishing, and sales processes involved in especially the sixteenth century. ‘Qui écrit?’ is a frequently heard question, and its many answers have repeatedly been modified since Foucault posed a very similar question concerning authorship as long ago as 1969. These answers have their roots deep in medieval manuscript traditions. The status of the author was changed by the series of people through whose hands his work now passed, often adding a paratextual superstructure in the process. This collection of essays grew from a conference held at Toronto in 2010, the aim of which was to analyse aspects of the ‘printing revolution’, including manuscript and oral transmission. To this end the conference considered both material evidence in [End Page 384] books, and the social structures and expectations that printing entailed. The focus was especially on literary texts. Following an overview by the editor, and a reminder by Jean-François Gilmont of some of the principal changes in the birth of the modern (printed) book between 1454 and 1530, the volume is divided into three parts. The first, ‘Médiateurs et médiations’, deals with the environments of publication for printed texts. Here, for example, Raphaële Mouren bases her account of humanist publication on the papers of Piero Vettori in Florence. Renée-Claude Breitenstein looks at the place of secretaries in the publication of women. Michèle Clément examines the relationship of authors to literary property. The privilege accorded to Lully for the printing of play-texts for operas — those hundreds of documents that are vital for our knowledge of social, political, and literary preoccupations — is addressed by Sylvain Cornic. The second section, focusing on manuscripts, addresses ‘Le texte entre manuscrit et imprimé’. It deals mostly with individuals, including Ronsard, Montaigne, and La Fontaine. The third and concluding part tackles more general topics. What did it mean to be published in print, rather than in manuscript? If Erasmus is a well-worn example, there are plenty of others witnesses, as is shown by Christine Bénévent, Emmanuel Buron, and Martine Furno. The emphasis on literary texts is extended with a fruitful article on medical publishing by Ariane Bayle and Michel Jourde. Whereas many people insist on the differences between histoire du livre and Anglo-American traditions of textual bibliography, much of this volume usefully demonstrates the confluence of the two. Authorship, the design and printing of books, the ways in which it was decided to circulate texts, whether formally or informally; all partake in a clearer, more articulate, and more comprehensive understanding of the world made possible by print — and one moulded by it. As a contribution to this still somewhat fragmented understanding, this volume has much to offer.

David McKitterick
Trinity College, Cambridge


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pp. 384-385
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