Knight 2013

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Knight, Jeffrey Todd. Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.


"The literary output of the early handpress has, therefore, been disproportionately touched by the modern preference for clean, individually bound books." (3)
"This book excavates a culture of compiling and text collecitont hat prevailed after the emergence of print but before the ascendancy of the modern, ready-bound printed book. It focuses on the organization and physical assembly of early printed literary texts, both at the hands of their first owners and collector in the Renaissance and also, necessarily, at the hands of the modern collectors -- individual and institutional -- who have reorganized them, classified them, and made them available to us in libraries. Its premise is the observation, shared by bibliographers and recent historians of the material text,t hat books have not always existed in discrete, self-enclosed units." (3-4) -- they were "fluid, adaptable objects, always prone to intervention and change" (4)

in user-initiated bindings and partial-edition retail bindings, "we observe the tremendous agency fo the consumer in determining the physicality fo texts, whether through active assembly or perceived measures of popularity. More important, because these handmade bindings were vastly more expensive than the printed sheets of the texts themselves, ti was financially necessary to gather multiple works of normal length into single bound volumes to ensure their preservation. Thus, with each purchase, the consumer played a role not only in the physical appearance of texts but also in the internal organization of texts in bindings -- a central aspect of literate culture that in later centuries would become the province solely of producers. Every bound volume was a unique, customized assemblage, formed outside of an absolute prescription issuing from an author or publishing house. The book, in this respect, had a morphology that it would lose in the era of industrially produced texts and the classification systems based on them." (4-5)

"For writers in the Renaissance, compiling was fundamentally entwined with textual production." (5)
"Augmentations, continuations, additions, supplements. Like the bound volumes that accommodated them, printed works of literature in early handpress culture were frequently the outward products of some order of compiling." (7)
"But despite this shared emphasis on compiling and text assembly in the rhetoric of literary production, scholars of the period thinka bout and interpret writing as if it takes place only i nthe world of ideas, not in embodied practice. While our metaphors are insistently material, in other words, we imagine this particular, habitual intertextuality in Renaissance letters unfolding discursively. The literary producers and archival products examined in the chapters that follow demonstrate that, on the contrary, the Renaissance inclination to 'gather' and 'patch' was a more physical, ingrained thing than our assumptions about practice have allowed. The readers and writers of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries did not simply think of their books as aggregations of text; they physically aggregated, resituated, and customized them. Out of necessity and desire, they assembled volumes into unique configurations and built new works out of old ones. Models of literary production in the period were to a perhaps surprising degree predicated on the possibility that a text could be taken up and joined to something else. The bifurcation between ideas and material practice -- between making works and making books -- is, like the modern collectors' binding, a later imposition." (8)

etymology of compile -- compiling "was production, strictly speaking, in the semantics of Renaissance literary activities" (8); compiling as composing, defined in Palsgrave's 1530 translation dictionary as a form of authorship (8)

"The field-specific claim of this study then is twofold. It will argue first that books in early print culture were relatively open-ended and to a great extent bound (in both senses) by the desires of readers, and second that the attendant practices of compiling and collecting came to have an important structural impact on the production of Renaissance literature." (9)

Renaissance had the "idea of the literary work as flexible and contingent, and a pervasive, underlying idea of writing as something closer to what we would call repurposign or recontextualization" (9)

Special Collections: Book Curatorship and the Idea of Early Print in Libraries

Pugh's AB catalogue, 1790s, showing multiple books bound together (25)

"The evidence from PUgh's entries and subsequent annotations consistently suggest that the only books unlikely to be subjected to reform in a modernizing institutional library were those perceived as authorial, nonvaluable, chronologically or thematically consistent, and purely one bibliographical type or another. With few exceptions, we now know such books as tract volumes." (38)

Parker, removal of eleven leaves from Anglo-Saxon homily manuscript, inserted into a different composite manuscript of thematically unrelated material; covered other bits of text on these pages that he was not interested in with scraps of vellum (42)

Matthew Parker, removing leaves from one book to adorn another (42)

"The most notorious instance of Parker's textual manipulation is MS 197, a fragment of an eigth-century gospel. When the manuscript came into his possession, Parker reversed the canonical order of the gospels -- placing John before Luke -- because, it is said, he found the cover illumination of the former more visually appealing." (41) -- see Little Gidding

Parker added to / rearranged contents of his De antiquitate continually; "all copies now extant vary widely" (48)

"the archbishop wanted his ecclesiastical history to be able to accommodate itself to individual recipients and occasions. Parker even included a sheet of woodcuts that could be painted, cut out, and pasted in over the blank initials originally printed to begin each section of text." Sensing perhaps that some of his more iconoclastic post-Reformation readers would take offense at being charged with the task of illuminating their own books, Parker explained in a letter to Lord Burleigh that this aspect of the volume could be customized: for the reader, he writes, 'may relinquish the leaf and cast it into the fire, as I have joined it but loose in the book for that purpose.'" (48)
"In the De antiquitate, then, we have a printed work from the early modern period that reflects at the level of physical structure the practices of compilation, reading, and collecting that we observe in its producer." (48)
"The most striking of the amendments made to LPL 959 are a series of Anglo-Saxon and later medieval manuscripts that were literally stitched to the volume. Parker and his collaborators seemed to have used needle and thread as well as their pens to preserve historical material and revise the printed text." (50)
"Much in the same way that medieval readers in religious communities stitched woodcuts, pilgrim's badges, and other gathered materials into their service books, Parker seems to have had his volume ornamented with auratic primary documents, transforming a printed text into a curatorial space or guardbook for the material digested in the history itself." (51)

stitched-in supplements "demonstrate a process of revision and transmission through which Parker's collecting and compiling habits became methods of composing text" (51)

Making Shakespeare's Books: Material Intertextuality from the Bindery to the Conservation Lab

"I argue that the parameters of reading and interpretation are frequently established and sometimes imposed by the collectors, compilers, conservators, and curators who in a very literal sense make books. For each new set of attitudes concerning the order of texts in books and libraries, an earlier set of attitudes is partially concealed, preventing certain reader-text interactions and enabling a host of others." (55)
"the book as a unit of analysis is not a monolithic entity but a shifting category fo textual forms, each new permutation resulting from a unique give and take between the exigencies of production and compilation and the desires of readers and owners." (83)

Transformative Initation: Composing the Lyric in Liber Lilliati and Watson's Hekatompathia

"My contention is that in much the same way modern authors working in novelistic genres or postmodern authors working with digital tools write according to protocols that define the physical appearance and uses of literary works in their time, writers in early print culture produced literature with concrete -- if unspoken -- conceptions of the handpress-era text in mind." (88)
"the relatively malleable, recombinant text of the handpress era as a template for composing in the Renaissance -- an invitation to 'place together,' I argue, in order to make books and make literature." (88)

copying -- proximity between copy and copie threatens to turn plenitude into proliferation; storehouse of material to be drawn from as a site of conflict (90)

Lilliat writing in a copy of Watson's Hekatompathia; using book as a site for composition; 118 of its 163 entries are "wholly or in part, the work fo other Renaissance writers, much of it altered, rearranged, and unattributed" (97)

Lilliat using a book stamp, to stamp his name throughout the book -- including on the dedicatory epistle; "The blank originally left in the printed text after 'Farewell' seems to have furnished Lilliat, the literary hopeful, with an opportunity to implicate himself in a circuit of communication among established literary figures -- the discursive milieu out of which Watson's sonnet sequence emerged. The book stamp, a pragmatic tool for collection maintenance, thus enacts a fantasy of cultural production and mobility." (99)

"Approaching a poem embedded in outside reading, and a narrative of its own construction, the reader is compelled to experience the content of the Hekatompathia as a work of material (re)arrangement." (107)

"turn book ownership into book creation" (115)

Vernacularity and the Compiling Self in Sepnser's Shepheardes Calender and Montaigne's Essays

"In excavating this reciprocal structure of assembly, i argue that the plasticity of these works -- indeed, their own self-definition as material reworkings of other texts -- came to define the conceptions of writing and the writer that emerged from them." (120)

The Custom-Made Corpus: English Collected Works in Print, 1532-1623

early printed collections of Chaucer, build upon readerly assemblage more common in middle ages (159)

"Like the printed collections of later sixteenth-century writers' 'Workes,' the small-format Chaucerian series was flexibly issued, its parts at liberty to mingle in bindings with works by others." (160)
"The central, organizing writer figure was less a subject or an agent of literary production in the modern sense than a location: a place of convergence and sometimes-prescribed readerly association. This model was in place throughout the sixteenth century, where the vernacular 'Works' volume was in nearly every instance a site of inclusion or compilation -- where hte printed book was by its nature liable to expand and be annexed to other, related texts." (166)

"Collated and Perfect"

"I have called attention ultimately to 'collating' -- in the wider, nontechnical sense of 'bringing together' -- as a habit of mind, not just of the book." (181)
"a culture of contingent, recombinant reading and writing in which it was productive not to make choices. For every 'collated and perfect' book from the period suggesting uniformity an d integrity, there are early Samelbande, or records of them, that bear witness to eclecticism as a hermeneutic practice. For every luxuriously rebound works uggesting a hermetic literary commodity, there are untidy amalgams, or records of them, that witness compiling and combining as modes of writerly production." (182)

emphasizing the continuity between Renaissance the medieval literature, instead of Renaissance and modern literature -- moving the point of historical rupture (183)

"How we collate is how we think." (184)