Smyth 2018

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Smyth, Adam. Material Texts in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Derrida, bricolage "as the practice of re-using materials in order to solve new problems, of persisting with concepts that are broken but which are useful for the time being -- 'the necessity of borrowing one's concepts from a text or heritage which is more or less coherent or ruined'. Printing is similarly indebted to the recycled the leftover, the repurposed: to misprinted pages used as backing sheets between the platen and tympan; to tiny pieces of paper, narrower than the thinnest blank, squeezed between letters in the forme to tighten the text; to wood blocks of various sizes slotted in to patch together the forme; to the piece of bent wire used to keep the loose lower rooler in place; to the inventive adjustment of orthography to alter a word and thus the line length in pursuit of a justified line; to creative inversions of type when supplies run low. This culture of reuse is encouraged by the fact that printing always produces an excess. ?However small the job, there are the material leftovers, remnants: proof sheets that had been checked and so served their purpose; flawed sheets where the roller fell off or the over-inked type produced a thick blur instead of words. We could throw these away, but since one principle of printing is the extraction of maximal value from minimal resources, the leftovers can be fed back into the process of production: fed back imperfectly, but as best they can. Printing, then, seemed to be a profoundly analogue process: operating not within the 1/0 of a digital economy, but rather on a continuum of tending-towards-better-or-worse." (6)

"If MAterial TExts in Early Modern ENgland could be said to have at its heart a single question, that question would be: What was a book, and how does knowing more about the material book illuminate the study of literary culture?" (7)

Price 2012 on "catch-22 of many explorations of the relation between material form and literary meaning: if meateriality enacts literary theme, then it is irrelevant, adding little or nothing to what we already think; and if materiality contradicts literary theme, then it is irrelevant, adding little or nothing to what we already think" (11)

"Should we read material form rather as we read literary form: attentively and exactly, with an awareness of how bibliographical codes shift across a volume (we need to do more than note that a folio suggests cultural prestige, or that a duodecimo suggests portable use); with an awareness of the traditions and conventions underpinning the physical book, and the ways in which those traditions and conventions are sustained or resisted; with the knowledge that conventional bibliographical or literary critical tersm and priorities might exclude or trivialise some material features; with a sense of the labour and the various agents behind the material object; with attention to what is being signified and by what means." (12)

"Literary possibility is in part shaped (which means both 'enabled' and 'constrained') by the nature and conditions of its medium; if we know more about that medium, we can better understand the aesthetic effects writers pursued and created. So while we can think about the signifying potential of features of the material text (which is the traditional way for a literary critic to respond), we can also consider how writers wrote in the glow, or the shadow, of their chosen medium." (15)