Watt 1991

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Watt, Tessa. Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550-1640. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

popular culture -- Peter Burke: asymmetrical definition of great vs. little; Bob Scribner: popular culture as total, unified culture (2)

"this idea that the broadsides and chapbooks were aimed at and consumed by a definable social group may be a myth" (3)

Chartier, "consumption" -- representations never identical to those introduced by the producers of the works (4)

"Before 1640, it is likely that a large proportion of the buyers were drawn from the middling ranks of yeomen, husbandmen and tradespeople, and that even gentry readers were not uncommon. If publishers did increasingly 'target' humbler readers, this should not necessarily be seen as a divisive phenomenon. Cheap print in this period was just as likely to be an instrument of social cohesion, as more people were brought into the reading public, and as stories, images and values permeated the multiple tiers of English society. This 'shared culture' was disseminated along lines of communication which connected the country, both socially and geographically." (5)

unlike in France, some texts were accessible in all parts of England (5-6)

"If we are to choose a metaphor from the chapman's pack, print was more like the 'scotch cloth' or 'coarse linen', sold by the yard, to be made into something by the buyer. In the parlance of the new cultural history, we should not look at print in isolation, but at how it was 'appropriated'." (6)

The Broadside Ballad

Small and popular music

"one of the first widespread and widely affordable forms of the printed word was the song" (11)

ballads -- performed as part of minstrelsy, dance, theatrical jigs, three-man-songs, and other recreational forms now extinct (13)

minstrel: living based on performance, accompanied by instruments; broadside ballad singer-and-seller, dependent on the printed artifact (16)

MS Ashmole 48, commonplace book copied largely from broadsides; "Such commonplace books show that the broadside was familiar amongst the most 'elite' groups of sixteenth-century society, yet, at the same time, suggest an ambivalent attitude to print. Rather than pasting the broadsides in, the songs were copied out longhand, 'as if the action of writing were a condition of personal appropriation'. This act transformed an ephemeral, commercial produt into a private or household possession, preserved for posterity in a bound volume." (17)

"Epitaphs of nobility and gentry make up a substantial proportion of surviving sixteenth-century broadsides. With the growing importance of the printed word, it was no longer enough for a death to be marked by an oral tribute from the household's minstrel: now there was apparently a desire to have this eulogy legitimized in print, and distributed in broadside form." (20)

high mobility among minstrels and waits; "the songs they performed were disseminated to all corners of England" (22)

broadside ballad seller, using his voice to sell printed text (23); "There was no question of just setting the ballad sheets out in a stall like books; they were written for oral performance." (24)

"we should think of a national market for cheap print, and not merely a metropolitan area" (28)

brief period at the end of 17c, "a small percentage of broadside ballads included music" (33)

"Incidents recording the use of popular songs for insult and gossip show a creative attitude towards ballads: the people who sang them were not the passive conduits of a fixed tradition. When studying broadside texts it is worth bearing in mind the myriad ways in which they may have been dramatized, localized and personalized by the singers." (37)
"With the dissemination of fixed printed texts came an emphasis on specific facts, dates and places which is a feature of broadside balladry and not of 'traditional' oral ballads." (37)

A godly ballad to a godly tune

"By 1624 it was commonplace to situate the ballads in cultural oppostiion to the Bible; to portray them as an alternative sort of religion." (39)
"The first generation of Protestant reformers in ENgland made no sharp break with pre-Reformation attitudes to traditional recreations. Their ballads, metrical psalms, interludes and martyrologies were all attempts to appropriate pre-Reformation cultural forms in the service of Protestantism, and as such have been well studied by literary historians." -- writing of godly ballads "on the wane by the middle of Elizabeth's reign" (41)
"From 1557, we have the first Stationers' Company Register, in which copies of all books and ballads were supposed to be entered. This registration served two functions: as a record of the licensing of the production and as evidence of the publisher's copyright." (43)

decline in religious ballads in Stationers' Register; see graphs on 48-9

"There seems to have been no sense of contradiction about printing bawdy ballads together with calls to repentance." (51) -- publishers adjusted religious opinions easily
"The writers were not a separate breed of journalists, but came from a cross-section of respectable professions." (52) -- merchant tailors, silk-weavers, dramatists

desertion of ballad by educated elite was not purely on moral grounds; "The ballads did continue to gain in popularity with singers and buyers, but their rejection as poetry in literary circles cannot but have affected the educated Protestant gentlemen, clergymen and professionals who once put their pens to religious ballads. The religious reaction against certain aspects of 'pupular culture' coincided with a changing 'Renaissance' aesthetic, and the two movements were inextricably intertwined." (54)

The 1624 stock

"The decline of godly ballad writing coincided with changes in the structure of the broadside ballad trade. These developments were not unrelated. To expand the market, the publishers needed to organize themselves properly for distribution, to which end a syndicate was created. The success of the 'ballad partners' at infiltrating rural musical culture, by way of an increasing number of vagrant ballad sellers, could only have exacerbated the objections of reformers. Meanwhile, as ballad writing went out of style in educated Protestant circles, this may have encouraged the publishers' tendency to rely increasingly on the reproduction of old favourites for their godly stock. This continual reprinting gained its own momentum, as the audience apparently came to demand the familiar ballads in a familiar format." (74)

new emphasis on marketing strategy -- woodcut pictures become standard features (not the norm in 16th century -- only 1/5 of surviving religious ballads are illustrated, c.f.'d with 5/6 in 17c) (78)

tunes beginning to be named directly, on rougly 4/5 of surviving broadsides (79-80); 17c ballad more firmly established as song, as opposed to something to be read or looked on

17c broadsides, "authors were never named," with exceptions for popular names or named author as narrator or character of the ballad, sometimes fabricated (80-1)

"With these exceptions, the standard ballad of the early 17c went into the world authorless. The original names attached to the 'stock' ballads were simply dropped off the broadsides as the copyright changed hands. What had once been an author's medium -- a vehicle for propaganda and personal opinion, or for building a popular reputation as a storyteller -- was now a publisher's medium, governed by time-tested commercial dictates. This authorlessness may signify an important change in attitude: the ballad was not an individual creation but a piece of public property, known to an increasingly broad public." (81)

mid-Elizabeth's reign, ballad "abandoned as a vehicle for Protestant reform", but didn't signal demise of godly ballad (81); stock went into control of group of specialist publishers

"overhwelming majority of these polemical ballads were vehicles for a nationalistic Protestantism, and its corollary, anti-Catholicism" (88)

48 women included in Foxe's list of 358 Henrician and Marian martyrs (90)

"A godly new ballad, intituled, A dozen of poynts" (entered 1624), Euing no. 126. -- representation of material object, the thread "points" used to sew together garments; "The gift is small, a Douzen of Points, whereiwth I'd wish you knit your joynts." (102)

"St Bernard's vision" -- "powerful argument for the continuity of a medieval religious outlook well into the early modern period"; earliest extant copy from 1640 (111)

tolling of bells "formed a background to daily life in every town", aural memento mori; comparing bell of watchman doing nightly rounds to death bell (113)

"gospelling movement" of 1550s, 60s; psalms targeted for metrical paraphrase

William Samuel, rhyming Pentateuch, wants to inspire people who hear part to read the whole (115) -- c.f. Herbert

most popular Old Testament ballads in the stock "were those involving a beautiful young woman, shown to be either a paragon of virtue, or inconstant and deceitful, or unwittingly the cause of men's destruction" -- c.f. with contemporaneous amateur pictorial embroidery of de Jode prints (117)

"There was a tendency to add a moral tag at the end of these ballads. This is one of the standard features which often distinguishes broadside texts from versions of the same song collected orally." (119)

The Broadside Picture

Idols in the frontispiece

"Broadside ballads were probably among the first printed texts to reach the cottages of artificers and husbandmen, some time in the late 16th or early 17th centuries. However, the cottage walls of a hundred years earlier may already have been decorated with another kind of printed objects, which was more pictorial than textual. The devotional images of the church could be taken home in the form of cheap single-sheet woodcuts like Plate 9. These pre-Reformation 'images of pity' contained few or no words, but spoke the complex language of saints' emblems and pictorial conventions (here, the instruments of the passion) which the medieval audience had learned to 'read'. The twenty-seven examples of 'images of pity' known to survive may represent thousands of paper images of Christ, Our Lady and various saints, which were for sale at cathedrals and shrines." (131)

no large-scale evidence of attempt to replace 'images of pity' with Protestant teachings (131-2)

"Craftsmen of all kinds copied elaborate designs from emblem books, or from pattern books like the 'Booke of sundry draughtes for glasiers, plasterers and gardiners' registered in 1627. The ladies who used A schole-house for the needle embroidered not only unicorns, peacocks, flowers and abstract designs, but scenes of Adam and Eve, the pelican in her piety, and even the crucifixion. At the humbler level which interests us here, we will see that even alehouse and cottage interiors were often rich with stained cloths and painted designs on the walls." (137)
"Singles sheets of paper were obviously the most flimsy products of the press: the survival rate is so low that for sixteenth-century broadside ballads we have now only some 300 examples remaining out of an estimated 3,000 distinct titles, representing perhaps 3 million separate copies. This translates to a survival rate of 1 in 10,000." (141)

excluding copper engravings from catalogue of "cheap prints" because of price

Peter Stent; bought plates from lesser artists, employed engravers as journeymen working at low rate by the hour or piece; larger scaler production than pre-1640; cheapest engraved prints in early 17c would cost around 6d., which puts them at the top of a range entailing "cheap prints"

print shops selling engravings -- "new phenomenon in the early 17c" (142)

"Jacobean upsurge in the woodcut trade" (147)

gaudy illustrated books; poem page 147-8; from John Hooper, in Robert Farlie, Lychnocausia (1638)

  • rise in book illustration; "Few of the illustrations used on Elizabethan pamphlets were original, but in the early 17c a trend toward a closer relationship between image and text meant that woodcut were now commissioned for each occasion." (148)

Book of Martyrs, prized possession in wills of 17c; Table of the 10 Persecutions hung up as a print -- see Loades 1997 104, Baron et al. 2007

"The fact that reading required some education as a prerequisite could be used as an argument for allowing religious illustration in print. When Archbishop Laud was charged with permitting bibles with superstitious pictures to be sold, he claimed that 'they were not to be sold to all comeers, because they may be abused, and become evil; and yet might be sold to learned and discreet men, who might turn them to good.' This was a neat reversal of the view held a century earlier that pictures were 'laymen's books' especially for the unlearned and the illiterate." (160)
"The illustrated bibles provoked the indignation of 1,000 Londoners in the 1640 'Root and Branch Petition', which protested against 'Popish pictures both engraved and printed, and the placing of such in Bibles.'" (160)

Christus natus est broadside (1631) -- c.f. with Little Gidding Harmonies

  • "In the 1631 broadside, the pre-Reformation traditions of the animals of the nativity, and the instruments of the passion, are combined with more contemporary elements. At the bottom right is an Epitaph of Christ, following the style of the broadside epitaphs produced by the London press. The left column is taken up with a history of Christ, which reads like a news-sheet narrative. The creator of the broadside has purposefully drawn on popular tabloid conventions, announcing the saviour's birth in the same way that one would annucned the sighting of a monstrous fish between Dover and Calais." (176)
  • "'Christus natus est' is an artefact of the word-based information culture, yet at its centre is an image in the centuries-old tradition of Christian visual piety. This image might seem out of place in the context of Protestant 'iconophobia', yet it reflected an iconography which was still visible in village churches across the country." (176-7)

Stories for walls

New yeares gifte -- fold-out diagram of objects to help Protestants recognize recusants

Luther, desire to have bible painted on houses (see also Fleming 2001)

Elizabethan homily against idolatry -- distinction between narrative pictures and static icons (185)

Godet, St Paul series; showing a sense of chronological sequence and dialogue not usually present in pictures; prints to be colored by young children in the shop before sale (186)

painters copying printed picture; "Prints were the standard medium for passing visual information and artistic themes across geographical distances." (192)

"Even when no direct source can be found, the close relationship between printed pictures and wall paintings is everywhere apparent. Painted texts were enclosed within borders of strap-work pattern or Renaissance ornament, borrowing the conventions of woodcut borders used in ooks and on broadsides. The texts themselves were painted in the same black-letter style as the standard typographical font. Paintings form the story of the prodigal son, the book of Tobit, and Dives and Lazarus look tantalizingly similar to the crude little pictures found on ballads, with their use of black lines suggesting an attempt to copy the hatchings of woodcuts." (192)
"This same close relationship must have existed between prints and the ubiquitous 'painted cloths' which have not survived. Weekly searches by the Painter-Stainers' Company in 1632 uncovered several stationers involved in their trade. A stationer in Smithfield, Thomas Andrewes, was found to be hanging unlawful paintings out to sale. One Sherman, a bookseller by the Tower Ditch, had been making 'defective woorke' which was commonly sold in many booksellers' shops about the city. It is not clear whether these painted wares were on cloth or wood or perhaps paper, but their sale at bookshops suggests that their was no firm line between 'prints' and 'paintings'." (193)
"These media of paper, cloths and walls must be seen together. Not only did they decorate the same rooms, they shared the same themes. Prints give us some idea bout the painted cloths and walls which have fallen apart or been destroyed. At the same time, wall painting may preserve in stone the paper pictures we have lost." (193)

William Bullein, 1564, A dialogue ... wherein is a goodly regimente against the fever pestilence, travel into countryside to escape plague; wife asks husband to read her what's written on the walls of an inn (193)

"Now that churches were whitewashed, their visual richness had been transferred to secular interiors." (194)

moral sayings, figure subjects common in taverns and inns (194)

1577 census, 14,000 alehouses, 2,000 inns and 300 taverns listed in 27 counties, with 3,700 alehouses and 239 inns in Yorkshire alone (195)

transfer from parish church to tavern and alehouse as center of communal life; evidenced through visual richness of walls (196)

godly ballads/broadsides had a presence in victualling houses (196)

hand-painted cloths; evidence of mass production through Painter-Stainers' Company complaints about use of stencils (198)

Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, panel framed in strap-work with black-letter text

The evidence of inventories suggest that the balance shifted from New Testament to Old in the years soon after Elizabeth came to the throne." (201) -- same with embroidery

four most popular scenes from Old Testament, stories of Susanna and of Tobias, and parables of Dives and Lazarus, and of the prodigal son (202)

"The schemes of story-painting on late Elizabethan walls seem to follow a common pattern: they are told in a horizontal series of panels (sometimes in the frieze), accompanies by black-etter texts; they use bold black outlines, with bright colouring, and their biblical characters are always dressed in contemporary costume." (209)

repetition of same stories in different media -- availability of prints as models, habits of travelling painters; the more a subject occurred, the more fashionable it became (211)

Godly tables for good householders

"Not only the prescribed Ten Commandments, but a variety of biblical passages or 'sentences' were inscribed in many parish churches. The acknowledged purpose was not only didactic, but aesthetic, to fill the whitewashed spaces under which the idolatrous wall paintings now lay. In the absence of pictures, words themselves could take over a decorative function. In 1561 Elizabeth ordered that the Ten Commandments be painted on church walls 'not only [for] edification, but also to give some comlye ornament and demonstration, that the same is a place of religion and prayer.' The new text-based aesthetic of the church was transferred to domestic interiors." (217-8)

excerpts from psalms as favorite texts; esp. Psalm 112:1-4 (218 -- see note for examples)

"Who fears a sentence or an old man's saw / Shall by a painted cloth be kept in awe" (qtd 219)
"The categories used by historians of communications do not quite fit these painted texts-for-walls: they are not print', but neither are they really 'scripts'. In some ways they may be seen as extensions of the printing press: they share the same style of lettering, and their widespread domestic use is a reflection of the growing literacy made possible by print. Probably representing the first and most common form in which an 'illiterate' would encounter the written word, these painted texts were an important element in the process of 'typographic acculturation' in England." (220)

xylographic lining paper used in an oak box, circa 1630 (222)

"The xylographic wallpaper illustrates particularly well the involvement of the printing press in domestic decoration. But any single sheet of print, even if purely textual, could be used as a fixture for the wall. The titles of some of the religious broadsides explicitly state their purpose to be stuck up on the wall" (223)

Willis, Art of memory, advises sentences written on a table of wood and hung on the wall (223)

"These godly tables do not form a distinct genre in the usual sense of the term. They encompass a variety of categories: pictures, poems, prayers, catechisms, mementos of death, devotional guides and so on. However, these disparate items are linked by a similar physical function. Looked at as texts-for-walls the godly broadsides can usefully be seen as a coherent group despite the fact that examples may be in prose or verse, illustrated or plain, and preserved in the library or in the department of prints and drawings. We have seen how the range of acceptable images narrowed during the century after the Reformation. These 'godly tables' help to fill in a gap in the English visual tradition: they show how the seventeenth-century English Protestant tried to give his religion visual expression using the printing press and the vocabulary of texts and images available nd acceptable to him." (224)
"The good householder was not only the product, but the market for the product. It is the concept of the good household which created a demand for these 'tables', to assert and reinforce the godliness of a household by sanctifying its walls." (225)
"For full-time 'good householders', a printed text on the wall was not meant to be just a piece of information to be read, digested and folded away in a book. It could be consulted, memorized, recited, meditated upon, pointed to for authority. The meaning of the printed object on the wall lay in taking the activities of the household (such as prayer, song, instruction, and discipline of children) and freezing them into permanent visual form." (227)

plague years, messages on doors -- "Hence the broadsides for the interior of the house echoed and expanded upon the paper messages (or pleas) to be seen on the exterior of doomed houses around the city." (229)

Martin Parker, "Lord have mercy upon us" -- anagram word game in left margin (230)

'A divine descant full of consolation' (1620?) -- looks like Little Gidding pages

'A meditation on the passion' (1630) -- "the popish image of Christ on the cross is here replaced by printed words from Scripture as a visual focus for meditation." (232)

"In England, there does appear to have been a demand for tables which helped with the moral and disciplinarian aspects of the householder's job." (234)
"Of course, the ballads themselves could also function as 'tables': the line between the two genres was very fine. Sometimes only the direction 'to he tune of --' distinguishes a ballad, and even then this did not preclude its use as a decorative reference text. The ballad was the most common form of godly table, and the aphoristic ballad was particularly suited for this role." (235)
"one can sense a drive to encompass as much of Christian wisdom as possible within the boundaries ofthe page; to package it neatly into lists, diagrams, memorizable sayins, polarities of good and bad" (238)
"A metaphor used from Gregory the Great onwards had implied that picture were only good if they could be read like books. Now some Protestants tried to make pictures become books: one-page books, filled primarily with spatial arrangements of words; which were, after all, superior to images." (238)
"The plain, silent, spatialized universe of the printed word may have appealed to English Protestants. And yet the beginning of the 17c was also the itme when emblem books and emblematic engraved title-pages were gaining in popularity: the old iconographic tradition in a new form. Like the arts of memory, the emblem books built up concepts from sets of related images, and gave the sense of vision a central role in the acquisition of moral and spiritual knowledge. In many of the broadside tables we are not witnessing the word ousting the pictorial symbol, but rather a co-existence and tension between the two." (244)
"Here is an example of the fluid relationship between print and painting, and between decoration for churches and (like the 'Christians jewell') for homes. Designs from engravings were copied onto screens like the one in St Mary Overy, which was then copied back onto copper plate and sold for domestic decoration." (246)

godly broadsides "must also have looked like paper shadows of the church wall to the contemporary viewer" (248)

"The idea of making a paper imitation of a physical object, in this case a church tablet, seems to be symptomatic of the early phases of print, when books were never just books, but 'looking glasses', 'maps', 'posies' and so on. If these titles were only metaphors, there were broadsides which took the image one step further by creating physical copies of these household objects." -- broadside from 1560s in the shape of gloves (STC 23628.5) (248)
"One thing all of the godly tables have in common is their use of print for primarily mnemonic rather than narrative purposes: that is, they do not so much communicate new information to their readers, as remind them of information already known but repeatedly forgotten." (251)

tables as "patterns of printed words" -- quote from Patrick Collinson, The religion of Protestants (253)

"Popular Protestantism in table form, expressed through a bond of text and picture, became a hardy and time-tested product of the English printing press." (253)

The Chapbook

The development of the chapbook trade

"no straight equation between 'popularity' in numerical terms and print for the 'popular' classes. When literacy was weighted at the top of the social scale, reprints of learned and expensive books could be supported by an elite group of readers in London." (259)

"We know that by the late seventeenth century the 'chapbook' had begun to take over from the ballad as the most prevalent form of cheap print. A full third of chapbook publishers' output by the 1680s was made up of 'small godly books', comparable to the religious percentage at the height of Elizabethan godly ballad writing." (259-260)

"educational revolution" during first half of Elizabeths's right; statistics on literacy (260)

books becoming more affordable; prices remained steady from 1560-1635, when other commodities more than doubled in price and wages rose by half to 2/3; 1560, building craftsman made 8d to 10d a day, twopennybook was 1/5 to 1/4 of daily wages; in 1600 he made a shilling, price of pamphlet dropped to 1/6; in 1640, he made 16d (261)

pamphlet versus chapbook: chapbook defined by subject matter; "if pamphlets were topical, chapbooks were timeless: chivalric romances and favourite jests" (268)

"This investigation shows that it was the late Jacobean and early Corlinian period which first saw the development of a specialist trade in books which were purposefully small, in order to reach a market of potential readers who had been hitherto unlikely to purchase the printed word, except in the form of a broadside ballad. The 'penny merriments' developed from the shortest sixteenth-century quartos, reformatted in illustrated octavo in the second decade of the seventeenth century." (278)

"the anti-papist element seems virtually to have disappeard from the bottom oend of the religious print spectrum by the Jacobean period." (281)

after 1600, ballad publishers shift to ephemeral and 'popular' material like news pamphlets and plays (288)

John Taylor, water poet; The life and death of the virgin Mary (1620), attacked for popish views in The popish proclamation (292)

Penny books and marketplace theology

"The development of the specialized 'penny godly' trade appears to have come in broadly three stages. The first was the ad hoc publicatio of short works by godly authors: instruction for children by Francis SEager, inspiration for women by Philip Stubbes, Protestant morality by the author of Robin Conscience, repentance sermons by preachers like Henry Smith. The second stage was the systematic collection by ballad publishers of the copyright to small works (in conjunction with small 'merries' and 'miscellanies'), the standardization of the 'penny-sized' format and price of 2d. and the more deliberate involvement of authors like John Andrewes and George Shawe. The third was the development of the trade to a degree of self-consciousness where 'small books' were advertised for chapment and readers as a special genre with separate trade lists." (319)


"Even to write of Protestantism or print as 'forces' is misleading: we need to see them not as coherent and unchanging entities (one a set of doctrines, the other a technology), but as inseparable from and constantly modified by the cultural contexts in which they are found." (325)
"The godly ballads, broadsides and chapbooks are artefacts of the process by which these standards were articulated, disseminated, sabsorbed, modified, adapted and reflected. they are the products of a dialogue between Protestant norms and traditional practices; between a centralized press and localized experience; between authors and consumers, through the profit-conscious publisher as middleman." (327)
"We need, then, to see belief-formation as a process: not a simple replacement of Catholic with Protestant doctrine, but a gradual modification of traditional piety. The resulting patchwork of beliefs may be described as distinctively 'post-Reformation', but not thoroughly 'Protestant'. Piety retained a visual dimension, even if Christ in glory was now more remote, banished to the windows or roof of the parish church, or to the tiny woodcuts along the top of a ballad. Religious emotion still attached itself to heroic archetypes, even if these were increasingly Protestant martyrs rather than Catholic saints. Morality still meant good neighburly behaviour, and hell was still the same fiery place, a final threat as direct punishment for sins committed in this world." (327)