Oakley-Brown and Killeen 2017

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Oakley-Brown, Liz and Kevin Killeen, eds. Scrutinizing Surfaces, special issue of Journal of the Northern Renaissance 8 (2017). http://www.northernrenaissance.org/issues/issue-8-2017/


‘A unique instance of art’: The Proliferating Surfaces of Early Modern Paper, by Helen Smith

Stallybrass and de Grazia (1993) -- paper challenges surface/depth because it absorbs ink; connects to Derrida and Fleming 2016 -- but paper also a medium for other kinds of expression, not just vehicle for ink/writing

"Paper is always at once a real presence and an idea. ‘When we say “paper”, Derrida asks, ‘are we naming the empirical body that bears this conventional name? Are we already resorting to a rhetorical figure? Or are we by the same token designating this “quasi-transcendental paper,” whose function could be guaranteed by any other “body” or “surface”…?’ (52). This article explores these questions in response to specific early modern instantiations of paper and its tropes, arguing that paper formed both a practical and an intellectual resource. Early moderns looked into, as well as at and through, their paper, seeing it as a remarkable material and an instance of the changeability of matter. Restoring paper’s own capacity to fold, to create space and volume, I argue that its ‘multimedia’ potential is a function not of paper’s status as a support for writing but of its unique physical properties."

"Imaginatively cast as what is below, paper’s significance expands until it becomes exemplary of substance itself."

"Despite the popularity of the blank-paper trope, the experience of paper in early modern England was seldom one of a passive substance, though the finest papers were beautifully smooth. Paper was understood as a surface that needed to be remade in preparation for use. "

"The examples above are ‘matterphors’: ways of thinking which inhere in the physical and are ‘at once linguistic, story-laden, thingly, and agentic, … materiality coming into and out of figure’ (Cohen, 2015: 4). They register the intimate connection between the physical presence of paper and its imaginative power, asking us to understand the surface of the page as a figure for consciousness, a figure which always operates in conjunction with ‘actual paper’, a physical surface that inserts itself into the experience of writing. "

"Three sources reveal something of the diversity of early modern paper. Between September 1567 and September 1568, the (parchment) London Port Books record the importation of 13,209 reams of ‘paper’ (presumably white paper of various sorts); 368 reams of ‘printing paper’; 54 reams of ‘writing paper’; 602 reams of ‘loose paper’; 275 reams of ‘cap paper’; 80 reams of ‘loose cap paper’; 160 reams of ‘small paper’; 3 reams of ‘coarse paper’; 4500 bundles of ‘brown paper’; 300 bundles of ‘paper’ (presumably brown); and 1200 paste boards; as well as 238 gross of playing cards; 12 gross of ‘paper combs’; 6 gross of ‘paper buckles’; and 50 ‘papers’ of ‘single mockado’ (a velour fabric).[2] Pins and threads were sold by the paper; a mid-seventeenth century manuscript treatise explains that English pins were initially of such poor quality that the manufacturers used papers with foreign makers’ names and marks in order to sell them. The writer went on to appeal for a suspension of customs duty on paper and the dye used to colour it blue (SP 16/438, f. 87)."

"My second source, a 1650 Act for the Redemption of Captives, lists the duty levied on imports and exports, and includes paper fans, blue paper (also used for sugar), brown paper, cap paper, demy paper, ‘ordinary Printing and Copy Paper’, painted paper, pressing paper (for the fabric trades), ‘Rochell paper as large as demy Paper’, and royal paper (E7r). Similar lists for Scotland add ‘Morlax paper’, ‘Paper of Cane and Roan’ (1657: O1r), and ‘Gould papers, the groce’ (1611: E2v). Decorative papers became more common as the period progressed, with the first English patent for ‘paper for Hanging’ awarded to E. and R. Greenbury in 1636 (Dard Hunter, 1947: 481; see Fleming, 2013)."

paper used for conceits -- paper as ingredient in recipes

"Far from being paper-short, early modern England was a society in which diverse kinds of paper circulated, and were used for a wealth of purposes."

"It was John Spilman, Goldsmith to Queen Elizabeth, who founded the most significant sixteenth-century white-paper mill, in 1588."

"The memory of writing paper manufacture in England may have been still more ephemeral than the product. Yet, as the wranglings outlined above make clear, England’s history of paper-making was more continuous and more substantial than an emphasis on white paper allows."

Bacon: paper as "monadic case of art," something remarkable that becomes to seem not so through ordinary use

"In this reflexive moment, Bacon both invites us to speculate upon the nature of paper, and makes us alert to the substance of the book we are reading. Contrasting it to other artificial materials, Bacon describes paper as ‘a tenacious body which can be cut or torn, and so imitates and practically competes with any animal hide or vellum, or any plant leaf, and suchlike works of nature’. "

oil of paper -- when burned, greasy oil of flax remains

paper used to make instruments in Royal Society experiments

flap anatomies, volvelles

"paste-wives" who use paste paper to make French hoods

Billingsley's Euclid, with paper diagrams

"The term ‘pasted paper’ occurs twenty-three times in Billingsley’s instructions, suggesting how necessary the work of folding was to the geometrical imagination. Billingsley’s instructions take the book out of itself, transforming a two-dimensional problem into an easily understood three-dimensional solution. The book itself participates in this dynamic, offering up its pages for cutting and folding (figures sixteen and seventeen). Paper stands in, repeatedly, for the idea of the plane or surface; its cuttable, foldable properties make it an indispensable tool for materialising problems as well as a conceptual tool for extrapolating ideas which attempt to go beyond the limits of matter."

paper for toys, children's playthings -- paper kites, puppets, lanterns

women's paper-cutting: "Women were expert proponents of the paper arts. Wolley offers a veritable encyclopaedia of decorative paper-work, from decoupage to scroll-work. In the 1630s, Edmund Waller complimented ‘the Lady Isabella Thynn on Her exquisite Cutting trees in paper’ in a poem which plays on the blank-paper trope, claiming Thynn’s art in cutting as a kind of ‘writing’ that can engage with ‘Virgin paper’ ‘Yet from the stayne of inke preserve it white’. "

"Women’s paper-cutting was thus located within a realm of virtuosic play that blurred the bounds of nature and art."

Various writers celebrated the ingenuity of paper arts. In 1661, Thomas Powell celebrated the ‘pretty Art’ of ‘a pleated paper’ in which ‘men make one picture to represent several faces’ (G6v). The fold or pleat offers the promise of simultaneous concealment and revelation, as well as what a modern-day paper practitioner describes as the ‘satisfying, rhythmic, repetition of light and shade’ (Jackson, 2011: 55), linking to the early modern fascination with perspective and optical illusion. A 1676 volume of Sports and Pastimesoffered its users instructions for ‘A sheet of Paper called Trouble-wit’: ‘a very fine invention, by folding a sheet of Paper, as that by Art you may change it into twenty-six several forms or fashions’ (J. M., F2v; figure nineteen)."

"[50] A 1649 collection of Naturall and artificiall conclusions … with a new addition of rarities, for the practise of sundry artificers, plays with the line between nature and art in more disturbing ways. Among other ‘diverting’ experiments, it offers instructions to ‘make of paper a Bird, Frog, or other artificial creature, to creep on the ground, flee, or run upon a wall or post’: ‘Take a piece of Paper, and cut it with a knife or cizers into the form of the Figure before … and stick thereon a Fly, Beetle, or what other such small voluble creature you shall think fit: and you shall hereupon behold a very pretty conceited motion’ (Hill, G2r). As horrid as this hybrid seems to the contemporary reader, Hill’s title language of the ‘natural and artificial’, as of ‘rarities’ and ‘artificers’, places it firmly in the realm of the wonderful, influentially described by Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park (2001)."

‘Such dispersive scattredness’: Early Modern Encounters with Binding Waste, by Anna Reynolds

Quoting Calhoun 2011, Stern 2006, Smyth 2012 et al. On books as 3d, tactile objects; “letterpress printing ... sculpts the page, and chain lines and watermarks, visible in certain lights, remember the mould that a rag-based sheet was shaped in”

Books as always incomplete, prone to insertion/cancellation

“Book users played a crucial role in the life-cycle of books, commissioning bindings and rebindings, leaving them unbound, or using them as waste. Early moderns, then, were sensitive in different and more nuanced ways to the materials and processes of book-making and unmaking, and grounded their encounter with the book in the tactile and kinetic as well as the visual.”

“Within this papery landscape, waste pages were far from an inert and invisible frame for everyday experience. Although a repurposed manuscript sheet might easily be construed as the mundane wrapper for more valuable contents (a hefty folio, for instance, or expensive spices), waste, this article will show, might come intermittently into focus for the early modern book-handler. The experience of waste paper and parchment moved from a scarcely perceived prop at one extreme, to a thoughtfully apprehended object at the other.”

Leland, Bale, Aubrey — aware of waste; “Monastic waste performs multitemporally, or palimpsestically.” — quoting Harris 2009 on “untimely matter” — “They describe a world in which things rub against each other and wear away, narrating, to those who choose to read them, a trajectory of fragmentation and decay.”

1536-1540, dissolution of monasteries intensified process of waste; “What had for centuries been a gradual process of replacing redundant texts became violent and visible. Previously, the parchment surfaces of predominantly legal and administrative manuscripts had been scraped clean to make way for the addition of new ink, or had been wasted and replaced by printed copies. After the dissolution, these palimpsestic processes accelerated as service books, theological treatises, and historical chronicles came under threat. ... Additionally, a huge array of administrative documents and financial records, stored haphazardly around the monastery and rarely catalogued, entered the waste market, though this material has been largely neglected by book historians (Harvey 2002: passim).”

“This was no doubt to conserve the supply of durable parchment waste, putting it to use in the area of the book that needed the most reinforcement (the spine), rather than as flyleaves and pastedowns. This eking out of a dwindling supply is perhaps behind the structure of several bindings in Bishop Cosin’s Library (founded 1668): a number of volumes contain wastepaper guards in addition to a combination of twelfth-century and contemporary waste parchment spine-supports (see figure five). Although as the seventeenth century progressed these fragments shrank in size and stopped circulating, they were still widely available to the readers and owners of earlier books.”

“The fragments of manuscripts extant in bindings perhaps give the impression that waste was relatively static, stitched tightly within other books. This was, however, far from the case: waste moved in and out of a variety of contexts and spaces. Richard Layton, a principle commissioner of the dissolution, told Cromwell that, on his return to New College Oxford, he had ‘fownde all the gret quadrant court full of the leiffes of Dunce [the 13th century theologian Duns Scotus], the wynde blowyng them into evere corner’.[7] Duns Scotus’ windy and worthless words are, as Layton demonstrates, both rhetorically and literally lightweight: the manuscript’s material qualities marry with those attributed to its contents by the reformers. He goes on to describe how a student, Mr Grenefelde, was found ‘getheryng up part of the saide bowke leiffes (as he saide) therwith to make hym sewelles or blawnsherres [scarecrows, scaring sheets] to kepe the dere within the woode’ in his home county of Buckinghamshire (quoted in Aston 1984: 327).”

Bale, monastic fragments used as toilet paper, scouring candlesticks, rubbing boots, some for bookbinders

Leland and Bale, ‘’The Laboryouse Journey’’ — traveling England and libraries to “salvag[e] British history from the dank oblivion of mould, decay and wasted parchment”

Leland — pulling books from their darkened chambers and chains and into the light, “granting the manuscripts salvation from a uniquely bibliographic kind of hell”; Bale reworks this into more radical Protestant doctrine of showing the “popish lies and English truths: the salvaged manuscripts provided the foundation for a chauvinistic narrative of patriotic and Protestant renewal”

“Although the Journey is principally concerned with ideologically useful and physically whole manuscripts, the text is rooted in the material context of the ‘dyspersed remnaunt’ (F4v) of the monastic libraries. The vagaries of waste paper and parchment provide a subversive undercurrent that pulls against Bale and Leland’s homogenizing narratives.” — source of melancholy — “Ultimately, the loose leaves frustrate attempts at collection and coherence: fragmentary books are only able to produce fragmentary texts.”

Catalogues of titles — all that’s left of some — incompleteness — broken bits that “announce the violence and fragmentariness of England’s present. Their absent parts are palpable. Despite attempts to gloss over them with orderly lines of text, the wasted objects continued to tell their own stories through the negative presences of gaps and silences.”

“Disperse” — contradiction; spreading knowledge but also dismembering

“A number of collections containing early manuscripts, gathered by Leland and Bale’s contemporaries and near contemporaries, do survive. These libraries, made up of from bits of other, dispersed libraries, demonstrate the manner in which collection and fragmentation go hand in hand. In the early seventeenth century, Sir Robert Cotton dismembered his duplicate or unwanted medieval manuscripts, inserting them as ‘stuffing’ or binding waste into other, partially disassembled books (Carley and Tite 1992: 94-99). His ‘‘cut and paste’ approach’ was often aesthetically driven, with fragments of highly illuminated works used as decorative borders, frontispieces and end-leaves in other manuscripts and printed books (Brown 1998: 291-98). Archbishop Matthew Parker’s books are similarly composite. He glued and stitched leaves from Anglo-Saxon and medieval manuscripts into his own volumes according to his political and theological needs (Knight 2013: 41-50; Graham 2006: 328). These ‘auncient monumentes’ were, like all books in early modern England, malleable objects, hybrid things that left behind a trail of trimmings and offcuts.”

“Antiquarians like Leland, Bale, Parker and Cotton did not collect old manuscripts to keep them whole. Collections did not lead to coherence or completion, but highlighted discontinuity and acts of disposal.”

Bale — some faile to distinguish between good books and popish trinkets; imagines if popish books leapt out of libraries to become binding waste; “This would neatly aling the manuscripts’ corrupt nature with an appropriately base function. Peeking from the margins of reformed texts, binding waste might demonstrate Protestant supersession of the Catholic past as Bale so desired.”

Waste being put in its proper place; but also potential to trigger nostalgia

Books as monuments, monere, “remind” — referring backward and forward to expected endurance; petrified objects; “rather than mouldering manuscripts that disperse and disintegrate across the Reformation landscape, they are fixed and lasting tokens of England’s recently recovered past.”

“ The manuscripts, however, refuse to be monumentalized. Their sheets are not stony but soft and pliable. Loosened from wooden boards, stiff covers, metal clasps and chains, old books became mobile. Having begun this article by celebrating Leland and Bale as ‘readers of waste’, it is perhaps more appropriate to describe Leland and Bale as misreaders of waste. They misrepresent the material reality, redescribing objects to fit the frame of their triumphant narrative. But crucially, the authorial pair attend (albeit begrudgingly) to the vagaries of manuscript fragments. The counternarrative of disintegration and violent dispersal is a consequence of Leland and Bale’s thoughtful, physical encounters with waste: the text’s terminology of monumentality is internally unravelled because the fragments, though apparently peripheral, are the contextual frame for the Journey.”

Dispersed manuscripts as “malleable memorials, prsent remembrancers that act as palimpsests of past events and encounters.” — like memento mori (fingernails, hair, like parchment fragments) — “Transitioning from usefulness to waste and from wholeness to fragment, the movements of manuscript fragments resembled the temporal trajectory of the body to an uncanny degree.”

“In this [Bale’s] construction of history, the ‘practyses’ of ‘pluck[ing]’ and pulling apart books takes on an eschatological significance. The manuscripts are lively, millennial things: their passage in and out of bindings, grocer’s shops and privies highlights their movement toward degeneration and decay.”

Aubrey, imagining earlier environments of waste, “Digression”; “multitemporal text”, “grounded in the waste objects themselves. They are carried through the decades, accumulating traces and wearing away as they pass through hands and spaces.”

Bacon, “tanquam tabula naufragii,” like planks from a shipwreck