Smith 2012

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Smith, Helen. 'Grossly Material Things': Women and Book Production in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

"the varied and often invisible roles of women in textual production, the processes of making and consumption, the ways in which print and manuscript cultures overlap, and the idea that books are 'grossly material things' which have a physical as well as intellectual impact upon makers and readers" (3)
"Where the traces of men's input and interference can be discovered in much early modern women's writing, so too can the traces of women's labour be recovered within the pages of texts that have previously been assigned to a masculine realm of imaginative expression and publication. As a result, the early modern book and its texts can be reconceptualized not as male- or female-authored but as the interface at which numerous agents coincide, in complex and varied ways." (4)
"My excavation of women's productive encounters with the world of the early modern book contributes to an understanding of book creation as collaborative and contingent, and insists that all texts, not simply those attributed to women were marked and mediated by numerous agents, rendering books more mobile and more complexly sexed than has been allowed. This understanding is further enriched if we recognize that creative action was distributed not only wacross networks of men and women but across the material and institutional environments in which they dwlet and which, in part, constitute the work of production and consumption, as I discuss below." (6)
"First and foremost, my book restores early modern women to their place in the communications circuit. Yet the particularities of women's work also reveal that Darnton's closed circuit, emanating from and returning to the author, does not fully capture the dislocations and contingencies of early modern book production, or the lively paths of dissemination, circulation, and exchange." (6-7)
"I remain attentive to the overlapping economies of manuscript and print, investigating the materiality of writing as well as the materiality of printing, but insisting that women are more present than has been assumed, even in books securely attributed to male authors." (7-8)
"revealing the early modern male-authored book as a web of commercial, intellectual, technological, and corporeal encounters, and recovering the importance of women's work to the processes of book-making" (9)
"Books, their makers, and users exist as actors in mutually constitutive networks, in which 'meaning', 'the social', or 'culture' are not overlaid on a bedrock of 'gross' matter but are narrated in the movements of their participants, who are 'simultaneously real, discursive, and social'." (9)
"we can instead conceive of fictions, broadly defined, as the woven artefacts of objects, persons, and processes, whose traces remain present on and in the pages before us. In such a view, the strands of the web are not simply dependent upon, bu are made of, interlinked economic, social, and corporeal relationships." (10)
"Bodies, then, are a product of the books they handle, and both books and bodies are produced by their environment, even as they work upon it." (12)
"The variety of sources I examine is testament to the inherent capaciousness of both book history, memorably described by Cyndia Susan Clegg as an 'undisciplined discipline', and the study of 'stuff' which, for Daniel Miller, 'trhrives as a rather undisciplined substitute for a discipline: inclusive, embracing, original'. It is my contention that such undisciplined inclusiveness offers a more accurate picture of the textual lives of the men, women, and books who occupy these pages, and who lived in a world in which hefty devotional controversies were printed on the same presses as household miscellanies, mortality bills, or dramatic texts; genealogies and financial records might be drafted next to coterie verse; and 'Venus and Adonis' was raed between encounters with letters and the Bible." (12)

'Pen'd with double art': Women at the Scene of Writing

catalogues of learned women: Heywood's gunaikeion ); Brathwaite's Boulster lecture (1640); Elizabeth Weston's Parthenica (1608) (17)

Donne's 'A Velediction' "does serves as a reminder of the numerous endeavours of women as authors, competitors, helpmeets, participants in manuscript exchange, scribes, and editors. Women in the early modern period took on these and other roles in the preparation and composition of texts, each of which raises particular questions of expressive agency." (18)

"reconceptualizing women's work as co-creation may require us to recognize some of the ingrained heterosexist assumptions that situate certain textual interventions as secondary or derivative." (19)
"the tension between the desire to uncover the precise contributions of each agent and the possibility that co-authorship leads, in Masten's terms, to a 'dispersal of author/ity, rather than a simple doubling of i; to revise the old aphorism, two heads are different than one'." (21)

women as domestic amanuenses: Lady Margaret Hoby, 4 September 1601, mentions copying letters for Mr Hoby; Margaret Spitlehouse was a scrivener copyiing wills in Bury St Edmunds between 1582 and 1596 (24)

Esther Inglis (25)

Susanna Howard, Countess of Suffolk, wrote sermons from memory, as recounted in Edward Rainbowe's funeral sermon for her (26)

"The examples given thus far show women working within a Protestant tradition that emphasized the importance of the divine Word, transmitted through devout bodies and revealed in a variety of textual forms. On the other side of the confessional divide, the post-Reformation English convents established in France and the Low countries were important centres of scribal reproduction where women 'tried to maintain the devotional traditions of the medieval mystic writers'." (28)
"The texts produced in the convents form an important female literary tradition, geographically separate from, but imaginatively connected to, English religious and social life. copying was central to the maintenance and reproduction of Catholic devotional practice, and nuns engaged in contemplation in the process of copying out spiritual guides that then formed objects of meditation for others. where a Protestant copyist like Elizabeth Brooke sought to capture the transmitted voice of God, Catholic nuns saw textual reproduction as both a concrete contribution to besieged convents and their brother monasteries and an accretion of devotional practice." (28)

Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Ghent, the first Abbess, Lucy (Elizabeth) Knatchbull – “wrote spiritual meditations and exercises and copied out an inspirational tract by the Abbess of Elpidia in Saxony to be read by the sisters in her care”; commanded that her papers be burnt, but the remaining were compiled by Sir Tobie Matthew; emphasis on copying, patterns (29)

"Taken together, these women's scribal labours ask us to reconsider the secondary or mechanical nature of copying." (30)
"Even where it is presented as wholly faithful, copying is described as a physical and sometimes transformative activity. The copyist is a co-labourer with the author or the divine word, reproducing, but also experiencing, the formative force of the text. Women's scribal work testifies to the broader ramifications of female literacy and to urgent shared agendas, whilst relocating the practice of composition in the processes of inscription and mutual labour." (30)

translation not merely a mechanical exercise but "was understood as a skilled, and frequently a collaborative, venture, in which translator and author both worked to discover the full sense of the text" (32)

majority of women's translations were religious (32)

in women's translations, it was often "the male correspondent who chose to publish, and to publicly ackowledge, a woman's translation" (36)

Anne Locke, in preface says she compounded the "receipte" of Calvin, and presented it in an "Englishe box" (36)

"In accounts of women's translation we see a tension between two dynamics of publication: on ein which women's texts are ostensibly published without their permission in order to circumvent their modest refusals, another in which women's translation is crucial to texts' reproduction and circulation." (40)

wives involved in bringing husband's manuscript to print

  • Mrs Clement Edmondes, printed her husband's book 'Observations upon Caesars Commentaries (1600)
  • Anne Austin, Haec Homo (1637) -- published his text as a "memorialization" to him
"editorial work can be aligned with the processes of grieving" (42)
"I want to suggest taht women's role in the processes of mourning, and in the estate management and accounting of their deceased husbands' affairs, created a close link between the hands that tidies the corpse and the hands that tidied the corpus." (43)

Mary Sidney's 'To the Angel Spirit' -- "Her work is presented as secondary, part of the project of completion and apparelling thatm arks editorial endeavour, yet the language of coupling and doubleness insists upon the work's multivocality and mutuality." (47)

oral testimony of the monstrous birth pamphlet (49)

"women were more often rpesent at the scene of writing and recounting than previous scholarship has acknowledged, and that they made important and varied contributions to a range of texxts. Thhe textual relationships i describe in this chapter test the descriptive utility of the term collaboration, usually assumed to describe 'a co-laboring or working together'. Those involved in textual co-creation were sometimes temporally as well as geographically separate, engaged in activities traditionally assumed to be secondary or subsequent to the act of literary creation, or -- on occasion -- had little or no discernible impact upon the text." (52)
"these varied forms suggest the need to adopt a more flexible language to elaborate the dynamics of textual co-presence." (52(

2. 'A dame, an owner, a defendresse': Women, Patronage, and Print

Abraham Darcie, The Honour of ladies (1622), 6 copies at Lambeth Palace Library with blank spaces at the head of the epistles waiting for addition of dedicatees (56)

Walter Baley, A Short Discourse of the Three Kindes of Peppers in Common Vse (1588), withp rinted dedication with gaps for appropriate rank, title an name of dedicatee to be presented as individualized New Years' gifts

"dedications can be at once sites of rhetorical play, peritextual structures designed to constrain and direct the reader, and elements of the complex system of patronage that drew together social, political, and religious, as well asl iterary, life." (57)
"This variety attests to the difficulty of placing the patron within the circuit of communications around which this book is structured: s/he may be the ideal reader whose imagined response informs composition; the commissioner who sets the initial parameters of a given text; an agent in the process of publication; a guide to other readers; an unwitting advertising tool; or some complex combination of those functions." (60)

Wiliam Byrd, manuscript anthology titled "My Ladye Nevells Booke" for Elizabeth, wife of Sir Henry Neville, "a volume that today constitutes one of the most important collections of English Reniassance keyboard musi" (63)

requested texts as translations -- "suggests the ideological and practical link between elite women and vernacular literacy in early modern England. In part this connection was established because of the perceievd need to provide English language texts for women whose education did not extend to foreign languages." (67)

as commissioned translators, "women are precariously placed: their 'imperious' commands appear as the stimulus for male writing, calling the manuscript text into being. Such activity could take place within an extended relationship of mutual reading and textual exchange, but could, on other occasions, appear more opportunistic, with the woman's 'requests' providing a more convenient motive for textual production. Frequently, women's manuscript commissions appear as the first step in a longer process of publication and dissemination that ties together women's private reading, vernacular literacy, and the entry into print." (68)

poems written for cheese trenchers and plates; "a form of fashionable display: both cheese and versses are deployed to advertise status" (69)

move to commercial patronage "takes two forms: on the one hand, would-be courtiers puchase poems for particular occasions, while, on the other, writers offer unsolicited gifts designed to secure the rewards associated with an imagined past in which longer-term relationships of support and exchange were able to flourish." (70)

direct evidence of payment for a dedication or recipt of a book are rare; two sources: Richard robinson's Eupolemia (1603) and accounts of Baron harington for the Princess Elizabeth Stuart

"different understandings of patronage were in circulation and could be deployed in accordance with the particular hopes of author or benefactor." (74)
"This mode of mocking dedication, increasingingly in vogue from the 1590s onwards, has been read as evidence not of the commercialization of patronage but of a transition from a patronage to a market economy." (75)
"Recent criticism reduces the complex economies of dedications, patronage, and print to a straightforward binary. In reality, authors, patrons, and purchasers appear to have been adept at navigating the overlapping structures of proper address, recognition, and reward. Both dedications and anti-dedications, marked by nostalgia for an imagined past, operate as much as attempts to define and solidify flexible and unpredictable structures as reliable accounts of stable textual economies." (76)

stationer-authored dedications; e.g. bookseller William Barley offered Giovanni ciotti's a Booke of Curious and Strange Inventions Called the First Part of Needleworkes to Lady Isabel Manners" (80); "In this context, the dedication offers imaginative acces to gentry circles and a culture of elite needlework." (80)

presentation copy of Francis de Sales's Introduction to a Devoute Life (1616) (82)

"Though there is less evidence than some critics have claimed of women creating coherent literary programmes among favoured writers, there is more, and more diverse, evidence than has been acknowledged of women's commission of texts, and of their negotiation of the financial duties of a dedicatee. The patron-author dyad was only one of the possible forms [86] women's patronage could take in early modern England, and patronage was rooted in extended social, economic, religious, and political networks. Women's ongoing interest in, and association with, the trade in printed books challenges the narrative which sets a democratic, public, and (by implication) male, marketplace of print against an aristocratic, elite, manuscript-based and (by implication) female tradition of patronage." (86)

3. 'A free Stationers wife of this companye': Women and the Stationers

the work of Massai 2007 and Lesser 2004 "encourages us to reconceptualize the printing house as a productive space in which texts, as well as the physical books that supported them, were crafted." (88)

"I argue that women and their labour were central to the early modern book trades, and that a woman's name on the title-page can be appropriated as an interpretive act, challenging us to rethink our readings of the gendered dynamics of early modern texts." (89)
"where the women described here idenfied themselves through their marital status, religious and political commitments, economic standing, literacy, and relationship to the trade and social rituals of the Stationers' Company, their social and professional activities were important to the status and operations fo the Company, and the institutional and genealogical structures that underlay the London book trades." (93)

women never officially excluded from Stationers' Company, but not until 1660s that 4 women were admited to the company by redemption, and Elizabeth Latham was the first to be admited by patrimony (95) -- "Only in 1936, thanks to an administrative error, were women admitted to the livery and thereby entitled to hold office. The late formal extension of the franchise to women should be read as a symptom of the increasing exclusion of women from the seventeenth century onwards, and should not obscure the extent of women's activity during the first century of the Company's existence." (95)

"The trade commitments explored in this chapter tend to be at the level of the financial and proprietorial: women owned businesses, managed apprentices, and ensure the afe transmission of copy. It is more difficult to ascertain the extent to which women participated in the mechanical work specific to book production." (96)
"in 1586 an aldermanic committee who visited Stationers' Hall forbade the employment either of men who were not free of the City or of women other than a binder's wife and daughters to bind books." (97)

Anne Griffin fine for printing a book of Psalms with such a large margin they can't be joined to another book (99)

Milton printed by a wman, Ruth Raworth, widow of John Raworth (99)

74/1636 stationers (5.4%) listed in STC index of printers and publishers are women (100); women listed only after husbands' deaths (102)

"Given the repeated attemtps of both the state and the Stationers' Company to restrict the number of master printers and presses, marriage to a master printers' widow was a desirable mechanism by which a printer might ascend from the ranks of apprentices and journeymen, and widows were 'highly sought-after commdities on the marriage market'." ... Since a woman abdicated her membership of the company and right to operate a printing business if she married out of the trade, marriages between print workers and printers' widows may have been mutually advantageous, allowing a woman to continue working, even as her new husband gained an elevated status and an expanded stock." (107)
"Marriage between a former apprentice and his erstwhile mistress must at times have exposed a disjuncture between the discourses of conduct literature, which claimed the woman as the subservient partner, and the realities of married life. The relationships between widows and their apprentices could certainly be complex and sometimes contestatory." (107)
"Partnerships and collaboratiosn became more common during the seventeenth century, reflecting the shift from individual printer-publishers like Caxton and de Worde to congers (collections of printers and booksellers) who spread the work -- and the risk -- of expensive editions and more ambitious publishing programmes." (115)

Griffin's allegiances for printing books; "Though these productiosn can be read within a straightforward model of the employment of a rpitner by a bookseller, the overlapping networks, and geographical as well as textual connections of several of these stationers suggest the need for a more flexible understanding of the relationships between booksellers and printers, and the particularities of both geographical and ideological networks, not least since, as discussed further in my next chapter, certain areas of London were connected with particular religio-political allegiances and groupings." (116)

"There is scarce evidence to suggest that the Company was concerned about the prospect of a widow running a printing business, although the records do, on occasion, attest to 'a certain wariness about the activities of women', again exemplified in the case of Griffin." (120
"the printing of texts was not a distinct mode of making or reproduction, easily marked off from other realms, but a practice structured by diverse forms of labour, production, and display." (124)
"Nashe posits the domestic sphere as the intimate space of homo-social textual production: a production [126] that occupies what were simultaneously the most public and the most domestic spaces of the early modern household." (125-6)
"These records suggest that women were a common domestic presence at Stationers' Hall; the recognition that women's labour was part of the 'diverse, material practices' that underpinned the early modern book trade should encourage us to conceptualize the early market in printed texts as anchored not only in 'complex and heterogeneous forms of commerce' but as grounded in particular places, and in specific forms of sociability and exchange." (128)

women given gifts of cloth to the Stationers' Company (128)

  • "That world was literally material: the fabrics which made up the cloth goods of the Company also constituted the books produced by its members, as John Taylor notes in 'the Praise of Hemp-seed'" (129)

paper, fabrics, "the material networks, and the numerous agents, which constituted the early modern book trade, and disrupts 'the gender-coded taxonomies of private and public, work and leisure, art and artifact which constitute the framework of full-blown capitalism'" (129-130)

"These gestures suggest the extent to which the Company was the locus for a particular community, and complicate any characterization of the early book trade as inherently capitalist. Instead, the performance of charitable acts was crucial to the Company's self-construction as a livery company, and marked its public role within the City." (131)
"the book trade was shaped by patterns of property ownership and real estate, much of which was held by, or passed through the hands of, women" (133)
"An attention to women's work and to women's relations to the Stationers' Company, both as a corporate body and a particular place, disrupts the lines between aesthetic and productive labour, and reveals 'precisely what th canonical construct we have inherited occludes, namely women's material and cultural production'. Borth as the owners of printing and bookselling businesses, and as the undertakers of 'dyuers other things', women were present in the spaces of print production. The texts thus produced are in part made intelligible as the result of women's work. If 'there is no text apart from the physical support that offers it for reading (or hearing)', women's labour is one of the material subtexts of the books we have inherited, and should be read alongside those books as a provocation and a challenge to the work of interpretation.' (134)

4. 'Certaine women brokers and peddlers': Beyond the London Book Trades

"As the cases of Jane Yetsweirt and Hester Ogden demonstrate, women could be determined in pursuing privileges, and they drew on a rhetoric of family and female weakness in order to do so. Women also exploited representations and conceptions of space to establish both their textual rights and their distance -- social and imaginative, as well as geographical -- from the London home of the Stationers' Company." (137)

mercury women: selling pamphlets wholesale from the press; 1643 Act against selling pamphlets on the street

"As the terms of the Act suggest, some traders crossed into the murkier world of seditious, illicit, or otherwise 'scandalous' texts. The women who egngaged in illicit printing and distirbution experienced the capital in markedly different terms to those who located themselves securely by shop signs and significant buildings or social spaces. Like ballad singers, street sellers could improvise around and add to the material they sold, creting their own readings as a method of attracting customers within a culture in which, in Bruce Smith's terms, 'systems of communication ... maintained a contact with the human body that seems remarkaly different from communication systems today'." (158)
"Her experience of London is represented as an oscillation between the dangerous openness of the streets and the restirctions of the prison system." (159-160)
"For women pamphlet sellers, London appears at once as a palce of potentially uncontrolled dispersal and distribution characterized by the openness of the streets, and as a closed series of penal institutions, with their own topographies, hierarchies, and movements." (160)
"Historical sources and historigraphical concerns combine to elide the role of mercury women and pamphlet sellers in the search for the originating author." (161)

Francoise Blageart in Paris printed a string of Catholic texts including Francis de Sales's Introduction to a devout life (1637); some appeared under a false imprint (163)

in 1520s and 1530s, Robert Persons recalls women binding books in strings under their clothes to hide Catholic texts (171)

"Looking beyond the London Stationers' Company to discover women's roles as patentees, as printers and booksellers beyond the capital, and as the disseminators of a range of texts reminds us of the spatial, material, and bodily bases of the early modern book trade. books were smuggled in barrels of fish or under skirts, transported by carriers or in peddler's baskets, or set alongside other goods in a provincial shop. Moreover, investigating the range of women's textual commitments in this period reminds us that the book trades were only partly concerned with questions of profit and loss, and suggests the extent to which women's religious and political identities shaped their relationship to the printed book." (172)

5. 'No deformitie can abide before the sunne': Imagining Early Modern Women's Reading

"The writings of Vives and other conduct-book authors have proved fertie ground for students of early modern women, who have discovered in them evidence that mechanisms of repression and a quasi-panoptical cultural scrutiny operated even within what we anachronistically tend to see as the private and individuated space of reading." (175)

Margaret Hoby's reading; she embroiders while someone reads to her; Anne Clifford's husband wants her to read the Bible with someone

housekeeping and voracious reading as Protestant housewifely activities (177)

"Though it is problematic to align early modern literate Englishwomen with a consuming 'public', or early print with modern newspapers or the broadcast media, studies of commonplace books and manuscript transmission suggest that women responded o their reading in a variety of ways, sometimes internalizing its injunctions, sometimes appropriating or altering texts to suit particular contexts or ends." (178)
"Reading, I argue, was understood to be a bodily and embodied practice: an act of consumption that was productive and reproductive in physical as well as intellectual terms." (179)

Christopher Goodwin, The Maydens Dreme (1542); dreams of women whose clothing is both text and textile (179)

Rainbowe's funeral sermon for Susanna Howard, notes that she sticks a pin in the margin of her bible (185)

"Although it sues the same tools as those employed by the male humanist reader, the technique of marking items that need further explication suggests a divide in the purposes of male an female 'noting': humanist men collected topics and sententiae to be deployed at a later date, while godly women marked materials for further, guided, interpretation and meditation." (186-7)
"the lack of remaining records is a result of the material intensity of women's reading practice, rather than of their reluctance to sully the text" (188)

Elizabeth I's preface to her translation -- in it, "the force of a woman's reading is understood to remake the text in an elision of reading practice and material correction. the reading body works upon the text in a powerful, outwardly directed process." (191)

Catholic reading, the raeder "is understood to grantthe text iconic significance, creating an image as a mode of meditation and remembering, whereas the Protestant reader imprints the text as a subject for further hermeneutic engagement." (194)

"Descriptions of women's reading generally privilege the Aristotelian heart over the Galenic mind." (195)

link between reading and hearing (198)

"Rather than being a mode of passive consumption opposed to creative or productive work, as in the Life of Lady Falkland, oral transmission, in numerous ccounts, stimulates women's productivity." (199) -- e.g. Margaret Hoby

Wroth, tapestries decorating Dalinea's castle; "Wtihtin Wroth's text, the Ovidian narrative is recreated in visual form." (200)

Endymion, Tellus banished to castle "there to remain and weave"; Corsites asks, "Shall she work stories or poetries?", "suggesting the possibility of historical or fictionall naratives created by the needle rather than the pen" (201)

"Each of the often-prescriptive accounts of women's reading described above depicts textual engagement as a process of bodily assimilation, whether the reader devours the text or imprints it on her memory." (205)
"Descriptions of reading women in the early modern period situate textual engagement within a broader ecology, and establish books as part of the sensible world which acts on the body even as it is acted upon. It is this transformative, psychophysiological impact that renders reading an urgently social concern, and makes it an object of sustained scrutiny. The bodily regimens of reading and its imbrication with other forms fo social and spatial practice offer a challenge to contemporary conceptions of consumption as inherently passive. In early modern England, the process of assimilation was physical before it was mental: readin was converted into bodily substance 'as the bodily organs convert food into blood, and thence into animal tissue'. Readers' bodies were moulded and altered by the texts they read, even as corporeal experience affected the individuals capacity for reception. The act of reading came prior to the act of understanding or interpretation, yet the process of reading engaged the will as well as the senses, and women could choose which parts of what they read should be allowed beyond the sensus communis. Early modern women, as recent studies of commonplace books and manuscript transmission suggest, appropriated and transformed their reading matter in a rich variety of ways. Part of that transformation was physical: even the least contestatory of readings could reform and recreate the woman reader in a process of corporeal assimilation that at once absorbed the book and transformed the body." (210-211)

Epilogue: Books on the Body

portrait of unknown Lady from the court of King Edward VI:

"The elabborate decoration of some miniature bindings and girld covers locate the books in the sapce between reading text, symbolic object, and site of alternative literacies" (214-215)
"Women, like men, used books to build or reinforce social relationships, passing them to friends, potential patrons, or dependents, and enclosing them, alongside other gifts, with letters." (215)
"Attempting to tract the totality of books' voyages around the web that ties together, rags, wainscotting, spectacles, and paper with moments of creative desire and commission, acts of writing and production, and moments of consumption and use that are themselves productive, this book suggests that the work of production is distributed across networks of human actos, material goods, institutions, and environments in ways that complicate the division between subjects and objects, those who act and that which is acted upon." (216)