Tribble 1993

From Whiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tribble, Evelyn B. Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Introduction: Whose Text?

"I am concerned with books, the text embodied. More than embodied: dressed, bedecked, adorned -- with prefatory matter, illustrations, and most importantly, marginal notes."
"Modern editions which omit such accompanying matter in effect rewrite the text by effacing evidence of its collaborative nature, of the conversation between a text and its margins, of the play made possible by the space of the page." (1)

medieval period -- authority / auctor "always an other, located outside the writer and conferring authority from a historical distance" (2)

"The margins are not consistently a site of subversion, consolidation, or containment, to invoke the rather limited possibilities offered by current historically oriented Renaissance debates. Rather, I argue that the margins and the text proper were in shifting relationships of authority; the margin might affirm, summarize, underwrite the main text block and thus tend to stabilize meaning, but it might equally assume a contestatory or parodic relation to the text by which it stood." (6)


  • "tension between the desire to provide texts of the Bible and the fears engendered by the specter of its uncontrolled circulation" (7)
  • "The history of the English printed Bible cannot be told apart from its margins" (7)
  • marginal notes -- tried to both quiet and excite controversy

Authority, Control, Community: The English Printed Bible Page from Tyndale to the Authorized Version

Melanchton "declares a new mode of reading: 'Now away with so many frigid petty glosses, these harmonizings and "disharmonies" and other hindrances to intelligence'"

"The pure text reads itself -- or rather produces a moment of epiphany which erases the historical moment of reading. In contrast, the glossed texts becomes the site of duplicity and obstruction." (11)

12th-century, scripture swallowed up by commentary; "The Scriptures are presented not as a plain text but as literally surrounded by tradition in the form of a mass of auctoritates" (12)


  • commentaries disguise the bible, prevent laymen/women from seeing plain truth


  • responds to say that "the glosses and traditions of the church are not fragments of competing, plural authorities; instead, in representing a consensus formed over centuries, they simultaneously constituted wholeness and holiness" (15);
  • "proposes to control the Bible by physically containing its circulation" (18);
  • "a desire to ensure that Bible reading will be governed by vertical, hierarchical, traditional patterns of authority" (18)

Miles Coverdale, 1535 translation, less controversial;

Matthew's Bible, 1537, given official sanction (20)

public vs. private authority in reading; glosses help distinguish true and false readers

November 16, 1538: Henry VIII forbids reading / buying divine books not sanctioned by him (23)

Coverdale revises Matthew's Bible, requested to expunge glosses (24); uses instead printer's hands (manicules) with no text, pointing to where the church has interpreted the book but denying the reader that interpretation

"Just as the translator can be accused of producing his version of the Bible, so is it possible for the reader to produce his own solipsistic internal version of the text. The pointing hands, then, signify hands off to the reader; interpretation is a privileged enterprise to be conducted by the church. At the same time, of course, the pointing hands undoubtedly served to draw attention to suspect passages." (25)
"For the English church/state at this period, the subversive potential of the Bible lay in the specter of interpretive proliferation, represented both by competing versions of the Word and by books whose margins foregrounded the controversy behind certain passages. The issue, then, is not the text itself but its frame, conceived as both the institutional frame which authorizes its publication and the material frame, the presence or absence of notes." (28)

Geneva Bible (1560)

  • most popular;
  • "aims to provide the clergyman with exegetical aids and to give the individual reader the resources of a congregation" (31)
  • "The result is a book which provides the private reader with the guidance of a congregation. No such Bible had ever been printed in English." (32)
  • "first English Bible to exploit fully sixteenth-century advances in typography and printing" (33)
  • "heavily annotated" (33)
  • preface "reveals how far we have come from the notion of the Scriptures as plain or self-explicating. Gone is the notion that the Bible is as plain as daylight or as clear as the sun; in its place we are reminded of the difficulties and obstructions attendant upon reading." (34)
  • "very much an institutional document" (34)

Bishops' Bible (1568):

  • frontispiece, Elizabeth
  • "church and state officials invade the pages, weaving their portraits or their initials throughout the text" (38)
  • appearance "suggests that it was designed for public rather than private reading" (38)
  • "persistence of the hierarchical, vertical, deferential model of reading posited by More and the Great Bible. ... In this account, the Bible is transmitted from the voice of the reader to the ears of the hearer, and the Bible page facilitates this public reading." (41)

Rheims New Testament (1582)

  • book "as a weapon in a bitterly fought theological and political battle" (43)
  • "attempt to establish ownership over the reading process itself" (47) -- deliberately slow the reader down (48)

Fulke's counter-edition (1602)

  • "The central impression of Fulke's volume is that of competition and contestation: competing typefaces, competing notes, competing interpretations. In this manifestation the printed page becomes a locus for a bitter struggle over possession of the text." (50)

Literary Author(ite)s and the Humanist Page: Pierre de Ronsard, Edmund Spenser, and Sir John Harington

"This study ponits toward three shifts in the history of reading: from medieval protocols of reading which figure the text and authorities as more or less seamless; to emergent humanist differentiations and hierarchizations of author, auctor, editor, and reader; and, finally, to the ways in which these new means of constructing authority were appropriated by vernacular writers seeking to invent a model or readership." (58)

commentaries on Horace -- "such pages exfoliate, extending outwards to include everything, seemingly all available commentary on Horace. The effect is not to differentiate but to repeat and reaffirm." (61)

Aldus -- clean editions; "attempt to clean away medieval accretions of commentary and return to the pure source" (63)

  • concern with editing and textual transmission
  • "The printer thus has deployed typographical resources to construct a page which represents differences and makes distinctions." (66)
  • "increased presence of the editor in shaping the text" (67)

authors not autonomous speaking subjects; "attention to the page relocates these writers in early attempts to construct literary authority, to forge a readership in a period poised between personal face-to-face ties and the impersonal marketplace" (68)

Spenser, Shepheardes Calendar -- annotations by "E.K." --

  • "provide a carefully selective and highly strategic fictional construction of circulation and reception. On the one hand, the apparatus claims to complete the text; on the other, it produces its incompleteness, positioning a reader with both perfect and imperfect knowledge of the text." (73)
  • gloss as "verbal speed bump" (73)
  • "general strategy of evasion and indirection in the notes and arguments" (86)
  • "the potential of the gloss for duplicity permits its use as a protectionary device" (86)
"The gloss is situated (literally and figuratively) to both say and not say, to suggest and deny simultaneously. The gloss to The Shepheardes Calendar is not merely a formal imitation of the humanist edition; rather, verse and gloss together comprise a complex strategy of indirection which both enables and protects the new poet. The idea of a circle, with all its implications of closure and self-containment, naturally holds great appeal for so radically contingent a being as the Elizabethan author. The book, conceived as a physical artifact, itself creates an illusion both of self-creation -- the author constitutes both himself and his reception typographically -- and boundedness, safety." (87)


  • "While Spenser's gloss positions the reader uneasily between icnlusion and exclusion, Harington's commentary represents his circle as preexisting, extraordinarily intimate, and closed -- like the elaborate book itself, this community presents itself as an object to be admired." (87)
  • wants to present "an English courtly circle which consistently surpasses its Italian counterpart" (96)

Harington highly involved in visual design/layout of book (88)

"What is striking in the premodern book is the dense population of the page; upon its surface is displayed the social and collaborative nature of literary production. Surrounding the writer are members of literary and social circles, buffering him from the anonymous impersonal marketplace. Readers are imagined as a larger version of this circle, hovering on the outskirts, privy to some confidences and left out of others." (100)

Beyond the Bounds: Martin Marprelate, Thomas Nashe, and the Margins of Humanism

"The Marprelate controversy brings into sharp focus the power of the press to proliferate rather than contain." (102)
"The humanist page provides a frame for the text which can establish the limits of interpretation or at least, as in the case of Spenser, set up interpretive boundaries. In contrast, the Marprelate controversy and the pamphlets written by Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey that recapitulate it apparently invert the ability of the page to order and contain." (102)

author of Marprelate pamphlets "parodies the conventions of the page, seemingly subverting them -- as well as the normal codes governing discourse -- in order to draw attention to the need for the reform of church government" (102)

Marprelate pamphlets "represent the eruption in print of a more radical strain of dissent" (104)

"Martin speaks fro mthe margins, paradoxically as a means of claiming the main text as his territory." (110)

Bacon -- "objects to enlisting the university wits on the side of the prelacy" (120); wants to see "deformed" manner of writing ceased

"This is in essence an argument about locatability, fixity. Bacon attempts to position decorum absolutely, fixing it inseparably to the majesty of religion. In contrast, the decorum of Martin and the pamphleteers is floating, attaching itself alternatively to the 'times,' to the gravity of religious discourse, to the stupidity of one's opponents. The territory of margin and center, major and minor, is continually claimed and reclaimed, and the authority to speak is continually in flux." (122)

Genius on the Rack: Authorities and the Margin in Ben Jonson's Glossed Works

see 141; Jonson on body and soul of text/book

"To read a glossed masque is constantly to decide which narrative to follow. The keys in the masque text continually demand that attention be paid to the margins, and the annotations continually intrude into the text proper, vying for the reader's attention." (144)

poor reception of performed play; controls its reception in print

  • Globe becomes a hell; "the physical space of the theater becomes a place of confinement and torture where the ignorant public is damned. In contrast, the printed book becomes a form of freedom, a way of creating oneself free from the contingency of the theater." (150)
"The page, with its battery of marginal notes and Latin citations surrounding the writer with the marks of external authorities, inevitably calls attention to the writers' indebtedness, his reliance on the past. The use of the plural authorities of the page is finally at odds with, although still embedded within, a unified book/self, which constructs a typographical unity for a diverse, contingent career." (157)

Conclusion: Voices on the Page

Cervantes, irony of lending authority by surrounding oneself with marginalia

"Surrounding oneself on the page with bits and pieces of classical learning has become a transparent and facile means of conferring an authority upon profane works" (159)