- Michael Saenger, Southwestern University, USA
An investigation into the ways in which early modern books were advertised, this study argues that those means of advertisement both record and help to shape social interactions between people and books. These interactions are not only fascinating in themselves, but also demonstrably linked to larger social phenomena, such as human commodification, the development of English nationalism, the increasingly unruly proliferation of literacy, and changing conceptions of literature.
Within the context of recent developments of new textualism and new economic criticism, Saenger's approach makes use of formalist strategies of genre recognition as well as new historicist connections between social history and art.
In this study Saenger illustrates his general account of the formal properties of front matter-titles and subtitles, prefatory epistles, and commendatory verses-with engaging readings of specific examples, including Feltham's Resolves, A Myrrovre for Magistrates, and Sidney's Arcadia. He explores the several ways in which paratextual authors sought to involve the reader in various active roles vis à vis the main text, whether those books were prose fiction or translated continental sermons. Some particular attention is devoted to printed drama, both because dramatic texts present printers with a unique set of challenges and because those texts have often been misread in recent criticism.
This book offers a much-needed analysis of profound transformations-not only to the book trade as an industry, but also to the very concepts of reading and authorship-in an age which saw the relatively brief coincidence of ancient marketing strategies and systems and the burgeoning market of the mechanically reproduced text.
Contents: Introduction; Enlarging the borders of criticism; The antechambers of the English book: a survey of front matter; Through a threshold, metaphorically: personified engagements; The role of the author; Conclusion: the transformation of liminality and birth of the novel; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Michael Saenger is Assistant Professor of English at Southwestern University, USA.
Reviews: '… an engaging, smart and important study, one that promises to add much to our understanding of early modern print culture, the rise of the author function, and the various ways in which the "genres of liminality” interpellated the reader within new networks of commerce and consumption.' Jonathan Gil Harris, Professor of English, George Washington University, USA and author of Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism and Disease in Shakespeare's England
'... generously illustrated...'
'Refreshingly, Saenger moves beyond the small section of books usually examined by textual scholars to include also a wide variety of printed texts, such as instructional works, religious texts, and even a book that contains instructions for constructing devices and conducting magic tricks and paranormal experiments. The number of books discussed by Saenger in his slim volume is impressive and lends itself well to his comprehensive assertions regarding paratexts in Renaissance books. Saenger's analyses are clear and insightful... the book makes an excellent case for further analysis of the front matter of Renaissance texts and lays a good critical foundation for doing so.'
'... Saenger [...] offers a useful addition to the growing field of the material culture of the book... Its clear structure means that key points of interest can be quickly located. While the book as a whole will engage readers concerned with early modern book history and current scholarly tends therein, other sections will interest a wider readership amongst librarians... Saenger succeeds in giving a lively insight into the world of early modern print in England.'
Rare Books Newsletter
'In this generously illustrated book, Michael Saenger analyses the front matter of an impressive range of early modern texts... he is attentive to the strategies by which printed books might appeal at once to the literate Latinist and to the less practiced reader. One of the strengths of Saenger's work is his determination to situate this textual matter within the socio-economic and material contexts of the book trade, most obviously the bustling St. Paul's churchyard.'
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