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Material Texts in Early Modern England


  • Date Published: April 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108431774

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About the Authors
  • What was a book in early modern England? By combining book history, bibliography and literary criticism, Material Texts in Early Modern England explores how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books were stranger, richer things than scholars have imagined. Adam Smyth examines important aspects of bibliographical culture which have been under-examined by critics: the cutting up of books as a form of careful reading; book destruction and its relation to canon formation; the prevalence of printed errors and the literary richness of mistakes; and the recycling of older texts in the bodies of new books, as printed waste. How did authors, including Herbert, Jonson, Milton, Nashe and Cavendish, respond to this sense of the book as patched, transient, flawed, and palimpsestic? Material Texts in Early Modern England recovers these traits and practices, and so crucially revises our sense of what a book was, and what a book might be.

    • Connects the study of the early modern book to literary texts of the same period, appealing to both literary scholars and book historians
    • Re-examines the nature of the book in the early modern period, revising established narratives about the history of the book and of print culture
    • Brings together meticulous archival work and literary reading, allowing this book to be used for different purposes
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Smyth - one of our best and most inventive readers of textual materiality - has answers that affirm and often dazzle … Material Texts in Early Modern England is lively and engaging throughout, but Smyth's insights can be striking when he takes risks or otherwise breaks with disciplinary decorum. The revelatory chapter on waste flirts with radical anti-intentionalism in reading detached leaves and stubs from Astrophel and Stella alongside an unrelated 'host' book, yet it also locates patterns of textual recycling in the record of extant binder's waste that will fascinate empirically minded scholars. Regularly in Smyth's handling, some aspect of the textual habitus that seems mundane or incidental to literary study is quickened with meaning.' Jeffrey Todd Knight, Review of English Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108431774
    • length: 221 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 151 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • contains: 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: 'the Case of man'
    1. Cutting texts: 'prune and lop away'
    2. Burning texts: 'his studyeing chaire … was of Strawe'
    3. Errors and corrections: 'my galley charged with forgetfulness'
    4. Printed waste: 'tatters Allegoricall'

  • Author

    Adam Smyth, Balliol College, Oxford
    Adam Smyth is Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book at the University of Oxford. He is the author of, among other things, Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2010); Profit and Delight: Printed Miscellanies in England, 1640–82 (2004); the editor of A History of English Autobiography (Cambridge, 2016); and the co-editor, with Gill Partington, of Book Destruction from the Medieval to the Contemporary (2014). He has published widely on the literary and bibliographical cultures of early modern England. He writes regularly for the London Review of Books.

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