Philobiblon: Another question for my early modernist readers

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Another question for my early modernist readers

Any recommendations for sources on the (to use anachronistic terms) production, marketing, administrative, management practices of printers in London at the end of the 16th century? (No, I'm not asking much ...)

I'm trying, perhaps hopelessly, to create a chronology for four pamphlets published in 1594 - none of which unfortunately were entered in the register of the Company of Stationers ... (in case you were wondering.)

As a reward, I offer in return a link to an article from Harvard Magazine arguing for the study of neo-Latin writers of the (broadly) early modern period. Which makes me think of Women Latin Poets - a book I'm promoting every way I can, since I think anyone interested in early modern women writers (or medieval, or later) should read.


Blogger clanger said...

The Harvard piece is very American, written in a nation that sees a rising tide of anti-intellectual and superficial christian fundamentalism under Pope Bush, in direct opposition to modern humanism, that would uphold civil liberties, and the little matter of the Geneva Convention.

If any humanities academics are unsure of themselves, then they only have themselves to blame. In the first half of the 20thC, most works written, for example, by academics in the field then known as Eng. Lit., were perfectly accessible to undergraduates, and formed part of an ongoing process of public service enlightenment.

The same cannot be said of academic works written in the same field today. A period of intensive theoretical exploration by folk like Derrida and Foucault enhanced our understanding of our relationship with language, but then it all went a bit pear-shaped. Instead of incorporating such knowledge into a newly revived study of texts, the nature of linguistics displaced textual study in a faculty that saw an influx of linguists and what might be called philosophers of language and communications theorists.

It was a bandwagon and a lot of people in the academic industry, with one eye on their CV, jumped on. All of a sudden, you could no longer study a text, you could only write about how and why you couldn't study a text (in the form of applied pop-philosophy). All language had become private language, texts were rewritten with every reading, and academics hid in increasingly obscure jargon, much of which they made up as they went along. This was a crisis of confidence that might best be seen as a generation of academics taking a wrong turning, or making half a conceptual leap.

Everybody makes mistakes. The trick is to put your hand up, apologise, and have another go.

New Bibliography and Historicism offer a new chance to get back to textual study, with an awareness of the theoretical work done in the later 20thC, without swallowing it whole and so coming to the conclusion that everyone, and every text, is too private to ever generalise upon, and so consequently, no academic study is possible.

We can now study texts in new and exciting ways, contextually, as we recover more data about the context, and with enhanced clarity, the more we recognise about ourselves. It will never have the purity of science, because we are human. Note the clue in the term 'humanism'. If you want clinical certainty in your readings of a text, read C++, not Shakespeare.

Ultimately, we just need to take the final step, and start once again writing academic studies that are accessible to undergraduates. This is not difficult. An accessible, readable text is not just a good thing, it should be seen as a duty by academics at every level. To be deliberately obscure (and you know who you are) is a terrible failure of the duty of an academic to the society that pays its wages, and to the next generation of students.

I'm not going to name names, but there are studies out there that are, as they stand, worthless, and yet do say interesting things, and if rewritten, would become the next step on the path to a greater understanding of our history, culture, and written past.

This is fundamental to our development, and in difficult times, with the US in the grip of anti-intellectual chistian fundamentalism, more important than ever.

You will always make more money is silicon valley than you will studying literature, but money is not the most important thing in the world, and only a fool worships it. However vital technologies are to society, the well-rounded understanding of the humanist should win out every time over the dedicated geek in terms of social responsibility, diplomacy, and governance. Let the scientists be rewarded financially and recognised for their abilities, but leading society requires social skills, not Java skills. And our society is based upon Humanism-something we should not surrender lightly to any low-IQ militaristic religious nutcase, even if they do control the Whitehouse.

I would urge academics everywhere to consider their ethical and professional duty, and write every piece they write in a manner that an undergraduate in their field might read it. Every academic text can be written in this manner, and it perhaps ought to be a funding requirement, to curb the excesses of those who hide in textual obscurity, or perhaps think themselves more clever than they are.

As for neo-latin studies. You might want to investigate 'Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England' by Binns for starters. A magnificent text, but not a cheap one, it is worth buying despite the cost. Latin was a useful thing in binding together the intellectuals of Europe, but also an exclusionary weapon. [Although more people could read latin, if not comfortably, well into the 19thC, than you might think.] Swings and roundabouts. It is true that neo-latin texts have been unfortunate in the Darwinian evolution of study, but at the same time, the rejection of latin has been important, and should be seen as a good thing. In England it was very much a part of the rejection of Catholicism, the growth in literacy and print, and the development of the consumer economy and political democracy.

You may also want to investigate the work of Aldus Manutius (early Humanist publisher) and Richardson's 'Print Culture in Renaissance Italy' and 'Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy'. See also Peter Burke's 'Languages and Communities in Early Modern Europe' on the cultural history of language in Europe. 'The Reformation and the Book' (ed. Gilmont, trans. Maag) covers the development of the book across Europe in the 16thC. Hallam's 'Literature of Europe' remains a useful and accessible introduction to the full width of European literature, with the caveats required when using a text written so long ago. If you are lucky, single volume editions can be found.

Humanism hasn't changed-it was always in conflict with christianity and remains so. Academics would do well to embrace the fundamental educational role they have always had, and when they publish, do so to explain, and not to exclude by opaque language the next generation of academics that they ought to be teaching. The Ivory Tower should always have a staircase and an open door.

We live in troubled times for academic freedom, and this, above all else should be upheld, even if we disagree with someone-perhaps especially if we disagree with someone. We have seen a historian who once sought to uncover the war crime of the Dresden bombings (still denied by the US and UK governments) imprisoned for his denial of the holocaust. However objectionable you find David Irving and his views, the imprisonment of a historian is a crime against academic freedom.

And then there is the shameful witch-hunt against Lawrence H. Summers at Harvard, as well as the pathetic sacking of a couple of lecturers for swearing.

Academic freedom is the fundamental basis of what we do, and it requires us, as our own personal first amendment, to allow those we don't agree with to hold and state alternative views. Our response should be to argue against those views. Not to silence them, to sack them, to boycott them, or to imprison them. If we do that, we are saying that ultimately, discourse is irrelevant, and that our final sanction of silencing them is acceptable. It is not.

Academic freedom is not our freedom to say what we want, but the freedom of those we disagree with, to say what they want.

On the subject of 1590s printers, Natalie, I'll have a nose around for specific studies, but this isn't something you can easily dip into without having a solid background. Have you considered doing an MA in print culture/bibliography. There should be plenty on offer in London, and there are courses like these:
Also consider:

3/12/2006 12:30:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...


We'd all love a thorough study of the 1590s print trade.

I work with later mateial, so a lot of this is built from other bibliogs. and will no doubt miss good titles. Some I haven't seen but offer as possibles.

The nature of modern scholarship means that despite the title, some works can tell you very little of value in a great deal of dense prose, and charge you £50 for the privilege. Never be afraid to dismiss a big fat work from an important UP if it is arrant bilge-sadly, they publish a lot of crap nowadays. Luckily there is still a bit of scholarship going on amongst all the metaphorical tosh.

The printed edition of the Stationers' Register *may* not be complete. I don't mean missing volumes, of which there are a few, but bits that were not transcribed from the ms. registers.

I only have the 1640-1708 text to hand so you'll need to check the intro, or contact the Stationer's Company.

Perhaps helpful for the print market at this time:

Pick from, or use as background. Check contents online first (ie. Amazon). Sometimes you have to read up on the next closest thing, and extrapolate. [This is just a quick list, each will have bibliogs. and a thesis search may yield something interesting.]

Standard intro: John Feather. 'A History of British Publishing'.

Standard work: H. S. Bennett. 'English Books and Readers' 3 vols. I: 1475 to 1557; II: 1558 to 1603; III: 1603-1640. Becoming dated but still *invaluable* for initial study.

Tessa Watt. 'Cheap Print and Popular Piety 1550-1640'.

Tessa Watt. "Publisher, Pedlar, Pot-Poet: The Changing Character of the Broadside Trade, 1550-1640" In: 'Spreading the Word: The Distribution Networks of Print 1550-1850' eds. Myers & Harris.

Margaret Spufford. 'Small Books and Pleasant Histories' (mainly 17thC).

Alexandra Halasz. 'The Marketplace of Print: Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England'.

The Library, 4th ser., 14, 1933, 240-288. Harry R. Hoppe. "John Wolfe, Printer and Publisher, 1579-1601"

The Library, 6th ser., 7, 1985. Gerald Johnson. "John Busby and the Stationers' Trade, 1590-1612"

The Library, 6th ser., 14, 1992. Gerald Johnson. "Thomas Pavier, Publisher, 1600-1625"

Clifford Chalmers Huffman. 'Elizabethan Impressions: John Wolfe and his Press.

C. L. Oastler. 'John Day, the Elizabethan Printer'.

D. F. McKenzie. Studies in Bibliography, 22, 1969. "Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing House Practices".

W. W. Greg. 'Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing Between 1550 and 1650'.

Edwin H. Miller. 'The Professional Writer in Elizabethan England'.

R. B. McKerrow. Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers 1557-1640.

Joseph Moxon. 'Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing'. Modern ed. (original: 1683-1684).

Graham Pollard. 'The English Market for Printed Books. Sandars Lecture, 1959'. Publishing History, 4. (1978).

David Cressy. 'Literacy and the Social Order. Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England'.

Phoebe Sheavyn. 'The Literary Profession in the Elizabethan Age'.

Laura Stevenson. 'Praise and Paradox: Merchants and Craftsmen in Elizabethan Popular Literature'.

Wendy Wall. 'The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance'.

Roger Chartier. 'The Cultural Uses of Print in Early Modern France'. Trans. Cochrane. [relevant, despite the channel hop.]

3/12/2006 02:20:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Clanger, I'll comment on your first comment first: I entirely agree with you about the abdication of academic responsibility in the retreat into jargon (and that often it is pure playing with gobbeldygook). I did an honours year exam in politics some years ago and got stuck answering a question I really hadn't wanted to answer on postmodernism. I always thought that you could just throw jargon around in a very ungrad way and get away with it, and I proved it with the result of the exam. And the most intelligent of my lecturers later commented on how well I'd handled the question with a distinct glint in his eye. I glinted back and we both knew exactly what we meant.

There is some terribly important stuff in Derrida and Foucault, and stuff that was a necessary corrective to American-style "scientific" positivisim, but it has become every bit as much of a meta-straight-jacket as the worldviews it was trying to overturn.

Thanks for the intellectual book refs - happily the London Library will either have them or be able to get them - it is a wonderful place ... and living a 10-minute walk from the BL has its advantages!

As for the MA - it is an idea (actually I keep playing with the idea of a PhD), but I've already done 10 years of uni (full-time equivalent) and perhaps that is enough. I feel like in part I'm doing a DIY PhD at the moment - when I looked back to the start of research on this book, I have learnt a lot since, although there's still plenty to learn. I go to as many seminars at the IHR and elsewhere as I can, go to conferences, and of course I have a couple of online advisers: thanks!

I am actually making quite good progress on the four Helen Branch elegies. I have a thesis about the order in which they were published - that was what prompted the reference request and thanks! I wasn't expecting a full booklist. (And I have found some work from the Twenties on Epicedium - it attracted a little interest then because it contains, apparently, the second known printed (although indirect) reference to Shakespeare.)

I visited the wonderful printing museum in Antwerp a couple of years ago - it has the original 17th-century press, type-cases etc still in situ, which really helps me in thinking about the process of this.

I've done fragments of original research before, but this is the first really substantial block of it on a subject where there are few guides. Problem is that in working on the book this really isn't what I should be doing, but it is so fascinating... And I'm going to submit a couple of papers to academic conferences/seminars out of it. Helen Branch is such a fascinating character she really deserves to be better known.

Oh, yes, I've found her will!!!!!! (And downloaded it in a PDF - isn't it a wonderful world.) Now all I've got to do is read it - I admit that my DIY PhD is a bit short as yet on technical training in such matters, but I'll see how I go...

3/12/2006 07:03:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

A taught MA is a quick way to pick up the basic skills. Without the basics its easy to miss things.

Ashgate has 3 series on the go: 'Women and Gender in the Early Modern World', 'The Early Modern Englishwoman 1500-1750: Contemporary Editions', and 'The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works'.

You might do an edition of the Branch texts with an introduction and analysis as a volume for one of these. Otherwise go for free-to-access HTML or PDF.

You can get a copy of Shakespeare's will for free from the National Archives site. There are full transcripts of it online.

Note that much of a will is formulaic, so get the transcript of the Bard's and you can immediately read more than half of the one you have. There are good guides to reading early ms. available from (intended for genealogists).

3/12/2006 08:20:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Ah, sorry. I regale people at parties with this so often I've forgotten I haven't discussed it recently on the blog.

THE book, or rather series of books, is a popular "history of the women of London". It started out as one book and is now four, and I've written/researched about a third of that (Going from Henry VIII to the Glorious Revolution). It is built around 16 individual (and in a couple of cases paired) biographies of "ordinary women", or as close as I can get to that, and is primarily based on secondary sources, except when I find pressing gaps.

I have an agent looking at it now and umming and ahhing, but if you know anyone in popular history publishing I'd LOVE to know about it.

Helen Branch is one of the paired chapters (with Dame Alice Owen) - "the philanthropists" - and is the only one (so far anyway) in which I'm heading so heavily into original research. It wasn't meant to be that way, but I've got fascinated.

And a lot of what I'm doing now is not going to fit in the book, so I've been thinking a couple of conference presentations and a journal paper ... but there is an (academic) book in her actually. Not sure, however, that I want to go quite so far to writing it. It would have to be heavily English lit. focused, and I'm more of a historian, or like to consider myself as such anyway. But it is something to think about...

So I'm really a generalist - a year or so ago I would have been regaling you with questions about maternal mortality statistics, when working on the midwife chapter ...

3/12/2006 09:41:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

Nothing wrong with being a generalist, but getting your teeth into original research...

Star Trek with books!

OK so none of your friends will understand what you are doing, only 18 people will ever truly appreciate your discoveries, and most of them will not have been born yet, you'll get insanely excited by the most esoteric things, and its financial suicide, but its the most intense cerebral buzz you can get.

Come surf the cutting edge of intellectual inquiry.

Come over to the dark side Natalie.

3/12/2006 10:53:00 pm  
Blogger Lis Riba said...

Not quite sure if this is what you want, but Peter W.M. Blayney wrote a book on The First Folio of Shakespeare that goes into detail the whole rights-gathering, compositing, printing, sales, and binding processes (including a map of the booksellers around St. Paul's).
Obviously, its primary focus is on Shakespeare's Folio, but it may be of assistance in general info on process and procedures.

Unfortunately, my copy is currently on loan so I can't check in more detail if it has what you want. The book was published in 1991 to coincide with an exhibit in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

Let me know if this helps. Otherwise, I know a couple other hobbyists and academics on LiveJournal who might have more information...

3/13/2006 02:43:00 am  
Blogger clanger said...

Re: "I have an agent looking at it now and umming and ahhing, but if you know anyone in popular history publishing I'd LOVE to know about it."

Try TV. Much wider audience to inspire, many of whom wouldn't buy the book but might give a TV programme a go, and then might go out and buy the book. And the TV folk would be chuffed to have much of 'the accompanying book' already written.

Try Maya Vision

Michael Wood's production company.

3/13/2006 10:43:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Ah, yes Clanger, I do feel the pull of the dark side ... but the side of the light - all those thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands ... who knows, to be made to understand that women have always been half of humankind ...

What ideally I'd like to do, I think, is try to maintain parallel writing careers with a bit of each. And then there's the blogging, and the theatre-reviewing and Green politics ... if only I could give up sleeping.

But that TV idea is a good one. I did talk to a BBC woman and she said "do the book first", but then she was a BBC book person.

3/13/2006 09:54:00 pm  

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