The Development of the Book: a case study from Special Collections

Detail from a page of John Jewel's 1565 "A replie..." demonstrating the way fount and text size  were used to refute and persuade (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

Detail from a page of John Jewel’s 1565 “A replie…” demonstrating the way fount and text size was used to refute and persuade (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

From Monday 25 March Special Collections will be hosting a week-long HATII class on The Development of the Book. This new class, taught by visiting staff from City University New York, will use examples from Special Collections to explore a range of themes in book history and print culture including sessions on ‘Paper, the press and the advent of type’, ‘Readers and readership’, ‘Notes and note taking’ and ‘The Press as an agent of social change today’. In preparation we have been selecting suitable and interesting examples from our collections, such as this 1565 edition of John Jewel’s A replie vnto M. Hardinges Ansvveare, which nicely illustrates a few of the points that will doubtless be touched on in the class.

Page of Jewel's "A replie..." with Harding's text and Jewel's response and glosses side by side (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

Page of Jewel’s “A replie…” with Harding’s text and Jewel’s response and glosses side by side (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

A replie is a polemical tract from a fierce tract-publishing war between Jewel, an English Protestant theologian, and Thomas Harding, an exiled Catholic theologian, which raged for the best part of a decade during the reign of Elizabeth I. These tracts followed the established rhetorical tradition of refutation, where offending passages of text and rebuttals were printed side-by-side encouraging comparison, conversion of the undecided and confirmation for believers. As the dispute escalated the tracts swelled in size, the printed pages becoming a battleground where compositors employed different founts, text sizes and marginal glosses to differentiate ‘truth’ from ‘falsehood’. English readers were still accustomed to reading their books in gothic (i.e. black-letter) type at this date; roman and italic typography was indicative of something foreign. By printing Harding’s Catholic text in italic and Jewel’s Protestant text in black-letter the printer is deliberately making a political statement about the foreignness and ‘otherness’ of Catholicism.

Yet, just as we don’t always accept things we read uncritically now, so it was in the 16th century. In considering the implications of this politicised printing method Alexandra Walsham has joined other recent commentators arguing for a re-evaluation of our received ideas on the printing press and press culture; in this case challenging the notion that the press could be used effectively as an instrument for textual control and confessional uniformity. Like Adrian Johns (and arguably in contrast with Elizabeth Eisenstein) she situates the printing press firmly in a social and cultural world where the printed page is a ‘field of negotiation’ in which readers don’t always interpret or use a text as authors/producers intend.  Jewel’s A replie was considered so successful  at confirming and legitimating Protestant views that the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered a copy to be purchased and placed in every parish in England, while contrastingly the Catholic ‘response’ tracts were suppressed. But as Walsham notes, what the Archbishop failed to realise was that,

“By providing free access to a [Catholic] text that was scarce, forbidden and expensive, Jewel’s apologetic work might, ironically, end up strengthening the faith of those it was intended to discomfit, thwart and indeed convert.”

Titlepage of Jewel's "A replie" with the author's dedication to the Earlo of Moray upper centre, the University Library's acquisition statement lower centre (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

Titlepage of Jewel’s “A replie” with the author’s dedication to the Earl of Moray upper centre and the University Library’s acquisition statement lower centre (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

By shifting focus to look at this specific copy of the book we can address a few questions concerning who books were for and how they might be used. A number of different autographs and inscriptions can be identified on the titlepage and throughout, the earliest of which is a dedication in the hand of the author himself, “To ye righte honorable, my L[ord] The Earle of Murrey” (i.e. James Stewart (approx. 1531-1570), half brother of Mary Queen of Scots and Regent of Scotland from 1567 until his assassination in 1570). This inscription must be contemporary (or nearly contemporary) with the book’s printing and is succeeded by several other autographs “R. Hamilton” (scored out) “H. W.”, “Robert Allane” and “John Robertoune”. The dedicatory inscription to the Earl of Moray is a good example of the way in which books might be used to curry favour with powerful people and secure patronage or influence for their authors.  However, the other names appearing on the book are more mysterious – who were they and what connection do they have to the book and to each other? The second major inscription on the titlepage tells us that in 1694 the book arrived in the University of Glasgow Library. But did Robert Allane or R. Hamilton own the book before this? Or were they students/members of staff that marked up the book after it arrived? Analysing these sorts of inscriptions will always raise more questions than provide answers.

Rear pastedown of Jewel's "A replie..." with handwriting samples and practice letters made in an early hand by some one called James (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

Rear pastedown of Jewel’s “A replie…” with handwriting samples (and a warning to potential book thieves) in an early hand by some one called James (Sp Coll Bl5-e.9)

In his important work on marginalia in early printed books, Used books, William H. Sherman points out that early book owners didn’t necessarily ‘read’ their books in any conventional or linear sense as we might understand it. More accurate, he argues, is the term ‘use’ since books were used for a range of different activities, often not connected with the text itself (perhaps analogous to the way our smartphones are used for a lot more than phoning). This legacy has come down to us as a wealth of marginal marks, inscriptions, ciphers, lists, recipes and doodles found in early printed books, exemplified in this copy by both front and rear pastedowns being closely written by someone called James (a child?) practising his handwriting. Much of the text is trimmed away suggesting perhaps that these were the endleaves of an earlier binding that have been retained but cropped. Alternatively perhaps, the inscriptions were added to the book in the late 17th/early 18th century, when the binder picked up some scrap paper (his son’s copy book?) and used it for the endleaves of a new binding! We’ll possibly never know but if his dad did steal his son’s notebook for scrap there may have been a severe reprimand from James, since still visible is part of a warning he wrote:

“James began aught this copey bok and he that stelle…”

What the threatened punishment was, we’ll sadly never know…

Categories: Library, Special Collections

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2 replies

  1. Alexander, Thanks for reading the blog and for the comment. I too share your disappointment and anger over the recent events at the Union; however, I feel that the Library blog is not really the most appropriate place to express your frustrations about this. Clearly sexism is absolutely never to be tolerated, a position the University Principal has made clear: and one with which all at Special Collections agree completely.

  2. any chance of a discussion on sexism in the modern university?

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