Johns 1998

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Johns, Adrian. The Nature of the Book. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Faust and the Pirates: The Cultural Construction of the Printing Revolution

"Print is often hard to analyze historically since it seems to be self-explanatory -- something needing only to be revealed, not create.d But this appearance veils real conflict in its history. We can hypothesize that a good way to uncover the making of modern print culture may be by searching for instances when the principles that are to us most essential to print were in fact in dispute." (325) -- "In the conduct of such a debate, then, we can see through the words of the participants their creation of print itself. By looking at the historiography of printing in the early modern period, we can open a window onto long-overlooked debates about the most elementary and fundamental characteristics of communication." (326)

no core of documents or textual evidence; only piece is legal document from 1455 naming Gutenberg and Fust dispute; there was no printed book bearing Gutenberg's name and even today we know of only 27 contemporary documents in which a Gutenberg was named, of which only 12 are extant and only 1 has to do with printing

"With such a shroud covering his identity, identifying the originator of printing became one of the most important problems in early modern historiography. Like the source of the Nile, the source of the press fascinated and attracted." (331)

1588 patriotic history Batavia, by Adrien de Jonghe, says printing was invented by Coster in Haarlem; Jonghe had heard it from an old man Cornelius, who claimed to have been servant to Coster; Coster cut letters from the bark of beech tree, liked the stain they made on his handkerchief, and then began making books with wooden movable type; Fust is said to have stolen this secret from Coster

-- idea of printing as beginning with notorious theft would persist

William Prynne, claimed Jonghe's story was true, Caxton then brought it to Westminster; origins of printing were then common and so wasn't subject to King's privilege

Atkyns and Streater countered by saying that "the craft was in fact the personal property of the monarch" (338), and did so by authoring a new history of printing in direct opposition to Prynne: king had sent Caxton and others to help bribe Frederick Corsellis from Gutenberg's workshop in Haarlem, he left and set up printing in Oxford; "hence it was that Oxford acquired the art of printing before any other city than Haarlem -- with the crucial exception of Mainz" (340); "Here, then, was a new history of the propriety of printing. If true, it implied that the press was entirely the product of royal action and investment, and that patents had been central to the development of an English book trade." (341)

"In these circumstances of profound controversy, every aspect of historical knowledge was rendered problematic. There was very little agreement even on what sort of person a 'historian of printing' ought to be." (344) -- best strategy for assessing a printed history was to judge its writers character

"The historiography of printing accordingly became the site for some of the most profound and far-reaching of contests in the ars historica. What would be accounted credible evidence, and in turn how the nature of printing would be conceived, ofen rested on such arguments about the character of a historian." (346)

development of footnotes -- "To confirm the authority of these resources they adopted a paraphernalia for footnotes, endnotes, appendices, and citations that would become characteristic of later historical scholarship." (346)

"burgeoning antiquarian movement" helped on printing history and historiography (346)

Atkyns' case was built on Lambeth Palace manuscript, but no one had seen it; antiquarians looked for it; Bagford "noted that the Cavalier polemicist John Birkenhead had borrowed it from Lambeth in 1664-5 while advising Parliament about the possibility of passing a new, stronger Press Act" (347) -- "What matters, however, is that at this juncture nobody could assume that the document did not exist." not everyone could go to LPL to look for it, so took on credit it was there

around this time, rise of story of Corsellis as accepted fact; a Flanders immigrant named Corsellis was even buried in 1674 under a headstone lauding his ancestor (348)

English travelers began looking for evidence of Coster's existence in Haarlem, so many, apparently, "that the harassed owner of Coster's old house unilaterally erased the civic inscription recording the building's heritage in an attempt to escape their attentions" (349)

Bagford jumped on board, announcing in the Philosophical Transactions the "discovery of an original sheet from Coster's first press, which was now held at the Royal Library at Saint James's. He also rediscovered the primitive Coster book that Jonghe himself had mentioned: it ended up, significantly enough, in Oxford.

Ralph Thoresby was proposing his own Mainz volume as the earliest printed book, "but everywhere else the evidence for Coster seemed increasingly compelling" (350) -- "The Coster-Corsellis theory was becoming an orthodoxy" (350)

revival in 1720s of interest in Fust/Faust as magical figure; Bagford "recruited Wanley's help in an effort to get English translations of this 'Story of Faust'" (352)

"the construction of a stable and reliable regime for the press would in turn depend on historical knowledge, which must be ratified by public opinion. In this circularity originated some of the most profound problems of the public sphere in practice, as its participants wrestled with the lck of any firm foundation for credit, authorship, and knowledge." (354)

"Conflicts over the historiography of printing were indistiguishable from these struggles: they took place on the same grounds, with the same evidence, at the same time, and with largely the same combatants." (355)

Maittaire's Annales Typographici ab Artis Inventae Origine ad Annum MD, published in 3 vols 1719-25

Marchard, Histoire de l'Origine et des Premiers Progres de l'Imprimerie (1740) -- invented citation system; refused to only work in "fragments" and said he would instead offer a "full account" (qtd 357)

Samuel Palmer, London printer, General History of Printing (1732); died while preparing list of patents to complete his text which was finished by an assistant, the con man George Psalmanazar; Palmer "held that the press had been invented in the first place only out of a need to circumvent the corrupt practices of mercenary scribes, and it was solely because of its subsequent usurpation that the patents system had become necessary." (362)

Joseph Ames, Typographical Antiquities (1749)

Caleb Stower's Printer's Grammar (1808),

Antoine Augustin Renouard discovered, on a trip to see mss of Jonghe's Batavia at the Hague, that the Coster episode had been emphatically struck out, seemingly by Coster himself -- and the printer ignored (367) -- this put to rest the Coster counter-argument

"In arguing over Corsellis, Laurens Coster, and Johann Faust, writers concerned themselves not just with texts and records, but with the practices skills, cusoms, and civility that made printing what it was. This unprecedented diversity of resources helped make Corsellis, Coster, and Faust meaningful vehicles for articulating a proper politics of print. And they were needed because writing the history of printing was a profoundly reflexive enterprise. Writers such as Marchand and Maittaire argued for the contestable credit of printed materials by constructing the history of the press -- but the credit of their own historical knowledge rested on, and was embodied in, documents produced and reproduced by print itself. The result was a sustained confrontation with some of the most fundamental historiographical issues to face any writer. They compelled investigators to look elsewhere than texts alone for their evidence." (370)

"Book trade conflicts conditioned the making and content of histories of printing; and historical knowledge in turn conditioned the outcome of book trade conflicts." (372)

Piracy and Usurpation: Natural Philosophy in the Restoration

Athenian Society -- "it existed only in print, but appeared more real than the real thing" (457)

can "avoid the troubles presented by print" by "vest[ing] faith in manuscript circulation" (458)

"One had to publish in order to avoid unauthorized revelation, yet publishing immediately entailed submission to the Stationers' culture." (459)

"claims of piracy were seldom just claims of piracy. There was always some accompanying allegation of textual corruption, misrepresentation or illicit appropriation." (460)

"the very doubt generated by charges of unauthorized publication created an opportunity for increased influence" (460)

in experimental natural philosophy, though charges of piracy were charges of transgression; often took the form of accusations of plagiarism (460)

most common term: no tpiracy or plagiary but "usurpation" (461)

"The prevalence of piracy and usurpation meant that whether printed professions could be trusted must always be contestable." (462)

natural philosophers created new genres of writing: the experimental paper, the philosophical journal, the book review, the editor, the experimental author (464) -- "much more than merely rhetorical concepts. They need to be appreciated in terms of practical responses to problems permeating the very character and use of printed reports" (465)

"The royal Society, like Isaac Newton's Trinitarians, could be seen as an authoritative center for natural knowledge because it mastered the use of the press." (465) -- RS had to work to create vision of neutral, ordered print culture (466)

Royal Society: gentility, witnessing, experiments, collectivity, openness, willingness to communicate

  • "Unlike that of previously dominant institutions (such as the Stationers' court), the conduct of the virtuosi in dealing with written materials would be guaranteed by recognized conventiosn of civility, openly observed." (476)

modeled its work on the Stationers' Company; "embodied tis propriety in a book called a 'register', in which a matter of fact, experimental technique, theory, or paper could be 'entered' to record the name of its discoverer and the moment of its first discovery" (476)

patronage; presentation copies (482)

"perusal": "one or more selected fellows would 'peruse' the book, abstract or translate it, and report back to a subsequent meeting" (483); not everyone read all books, but trusted the judgment of the perusers

registration; after perusal, the Society might formally record its contribution in its register; observations, theories, books could be registered

Henry Oldenburg, acting as publisher; Philosophical Transactions (497-9)

Robert Boyle; work and notes routinely stolen; scrupulousness in keeping records for "virtual witnessing" made him susceptible to piracy (506)