Philobiblon: Snippets of printing history

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Snippets of printing history

From Printing and Parenting in Early Modern England, DA Brooks (ed) Ashgate, 2005.

For writers and critics who bemoan the commercialisation of the literary world: "Andrea Alciati is usually given credit for 'inventing' the emblem in his Emblemata (1531), but in fact, as Rosalie Colie astutely notes, Alciati 'began simply by combining two short forms, adage with epigram: it was his publisher [Heinrich Steyner] who conceived the idea of adding figures, or woodcut pictures' in order to make the text more accessible, and thus more marketable." p. 198
(The "first English emblem book" is credited to Geoffrey Whitney, sister of Isabella.)

Print as a corrective to manuscript:
"Abraham Fraunce prefaces one of his books with a dedicatory epistle, explaining that he was forced to publish the work himself because it had been so terribly distorted by manuscript circulation ... the heroine of his story is figured as the reader of the book, who would prefer an accurate text of her lover." p. 202

This blog and others have previously had interesting discussions about "monstrous births". This collection has an article about them, including an interesting predecessor in Martin Luther's writings which "included two woodcuts depicting a 'monk-calf' and a 'pope-ass' in a 1523 pamphlet whose features were meant to suggest, by analogy, the monstrosity of the papacy." p. 228

The origin of the "red letter days"
In almanacs that used red ink "to announce feast days, commemorated the anniversary of the monarch's birth or accession to the throne, noted the shift from first quarter to full moon, marked the start of the four legal terms and 'dogdayes ende'" p. 239

There's also a article on the annotations on Anne Clifford's copy of A Mirror for Magistrates, which gives a fascinating insight into the persona of a scribe of the time ...
"There are at least three hands discernible in the marginalia. The principal one ... that of Clifford's secretary William Watkinson, whom she refers to as her 'chief writer' during the last years of her life ... She dictated the diary to him, as she dictated most of the marginalia. And like a true Renaissance secretary, Watkinson wrote in whatever persona was required. For some narratives, the heading he provides takes the form 'This was read to your ladyship on such a date at such a place'; some are headed, 'This your ladyship read over yourself on such a date,'; but in some, Watkinson disappears, and the heading reads 'This I read myself on such a date' and even 'This was read over to me on such a date' - Watkinson's mistress at these moments speaks through him, just as she does when he writes her correspondence in the first person.

But there is a second hand which also writes 'This I read on such a date', a rather shaky italic hand. This hand also makes more personal comments, noting particular passages for emphasis or praise: 'A good verse'; 'Marke this'. This is Clifford's own hand; she was taught the italic that ladies used, and in her youth it was a careful, very controlled hand ... By the age of 80 she had less control over it, and in a few places seems to require help in completing her marginalia .. which she gets not from Watkinson, but from someone with a less professional scribal hand. The personae throughout the book shade into each other as Clifford's sense of herself incorporates her servants, and as they ventriloquize her voice." p. 275-77

There is in that passage, I think, something very deeply significant about the different nature of identity then - at least perhaps of aristocratic identity.


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