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  • Verbal and Visual Communication in Early English Texts ed. by Matti Peikola et al.
  • Lydia Yaitsky Kertz

Manuscript studies, Medieval, early modern, England, interdisciplinary, linguistics, discourse, socio-linguistics, pragmatics, stylistics, book history, bibliography, codicology, philology

Matti Peikola, Aleksi Mäkilähde, Hanna Salmi, Mari-Liisa Varila, and Janne Skaffari, eds. Verbal and Visual Communication in Early English Texts. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 37. Turnhout: Brepols, 2017. Xii + 280 pp., 30 black and white illustrations, 11 graphs, 9 black and white tables. €80. ISBN: 978-2-503-57464-6

Verbal and Visual Communication in Early English Texts, edited by Matti Peikola, Aleksi Mäkilähde, Hanna Salmi, Mari-Liisa Varila, and Janne Skaffari, is a product of an interdisciplinary scholarly conversation that began at the 2014 international symposium Linguistics Meets Book History: Seeking New Approaches, held in Turku, Finland. The aims of the collection are similar to the aims of the symposium: to facilitate a productive exchange between scholars who approach textual artifacts from two disciplines: linguistics (discourse and socio-linguistics, pragmatics and historical pragmatics, stylistics) and book history (textual scholarship, critical bibliography, codicology, material philology). The two approaches share an interest in bringing attention to the sheer multiplicity or multivocality of historical modes of communication as available to scholars today via close analysis of physical artifacts such as books, documents, or inscribed objects. The scope of the volume is ambitious as it aims to survey writing and printing practices from early medieval runic and Latin alphabetic systems through the early modern period (both manuscript and print) and into the long eighteenth century (which some essays refer to as the late modern period). Most essays address English texts (produced in England, but not necessarily written or printed in English), though the larger practices are sometimes contextualized within continental trends.

The essays in the volume explore historically situated texts and propose methods for analyzing their visual/material features as modes of communication. The essays are divided into two categories based on scholarly and methodological concerns: four essays address higher order features such as [End Page 173] layout and mise-en-page, and five essays address lower order features such as script and typography. In "Part II: Communicating Through Layout," the first two essays deploy the methodologies of historical pragmatics to analyze textual communication practices within specific discourse communities (Collette on Middle English saints' lives and Mackay on Pitscottie's Chronicle in manuscript and print). The last two essays from the section on layout both analyze the same data set of Early Modern English Medical Texts and its successor Late Modern English Medical Texts, which constitute a larger project on which these three researchers are collaborating (Ratia, Suhr, and Tyrkkö). In "Part III: Communicating Through Script and Typography," the essays address readerly navigation of the movement between alphabetic systems (Liu), from script to early print (Adair), between languages in script and print (Kaislaniemi), from simple to nuanced typography of dictionaries (McConchie), and modern readers' differentiation between scribal and holograph contributions (Marcus). This grouping represents a conscious effort to open a dialogue across the linguistics/book history, script/print, and medieval/early modern disciplinary divides.

To facilitate such a conversation, in their introduction, the editors Matti Peikola, Aleksi Mäkilähde, Hanna Salmi, Mari-Liisa Varila, and Janne Skaffari, all of whom are on the faculty of the English Department at the University of Turku, lay out some basic definitions of key terms and a literature review that contextualizes the development and use of these terms across disciplines. Mise-en-page, for example, is defined with recourse to D. Muzerelle's work as "the overall arrangement of the verbal and visual elements on the page" (6), while "layout" is presented as its English terminological synonym, with an extensive bibliography on the usage of both and their semantic overlap. Yet, despite the editorial attempts at generating a common vocabulary, some terminological inconsistencies across essays nevertheless persist. For example, at least one essay attributes the act of "com-posing" to a scribe in a non-holograph and even multi-scribe manuscript context. From a book history perspective, "compose" connotes a type of authorial practice as distinct from scribal...


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