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A Companion to the Early Printed Book in Britain, 1476-1558

A Companion to the Early Printed Book in Britain, 1476-1558

Vincent Gillespie
Susan Powell
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to the Early Printed Book in Britain, 1476-1558
    Book Description:

    The history of the book is now recognized as a field of central importance for understanding the cultural changes that swept through Tudor England. This companion aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the issues relevant to theearly printed book, covering the significant cultural, social and technological developments from 1476 (the introduction of printing to England) to 1558 (the death of Mary Tudor). Divided into thematic sections (the printed booktrade; the book as artefact; patrons, purchasers and producers; and the cultural capital of print), it considers the social, historical, and cultural context of the rise of print, with the problems as well as advantages of the transmission from manuscript to print. the printers of the period; the significant Latin trade and its effect on the English market; paper, types, bindings, and woodcuts and other decorative features which create the packaged book; and the main sponsors and consumers of the printed book: merchants, the lay clientele, secular and religious clergy, and the two Universities, as well as secular colleges and chantries. Further topics addressed include humanism, women translators, and the role of censorship and the continuity of Catholic publishing from that time. The book is completed with a chronology and detailed indices. Vincent Gillespie is J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford; Susan Powell held a Chair in Medieval Texts and Culture at the University of Salford, and is currently affiliated to the Universities of London and York. Contributors: Tamara Atkin, Alan Coates, Thomas Betteridge, Julia Boffey, James Clark, A.S.G. Edwards, Martha W. Driver, Mary Erler, Alexandra Gilespie, Vincent Gillespie, Andrew Hope, Brenda Hosington, Susan Powerll, Pamela Robinson, AnneF. Sutton, Daniel Wakelin, James Willoughby, Lucy Wooding

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-209-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Abbreviations and Short Titles
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  8. Chronology of the Period
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Like all totalising narratives, John Foxe’s polemical narrative of the invention of printing as a providential preliminary to the wholesale reformation of the Church can only work by omitting much that is inconvenient in the story. But his ideologically biased analysis, mounted from the Protestant haven of Elizabethan England, formed only a few years after the change of regime that marks the terminal date for this volume, has the merit of reminding us that there is much more to the history of printing in England than Caxton and his chivalric and gentry romances that have occupied so much space in...


    • 1 From Manuscript to Print: Continuity and Change
      (pp. 13-26)

      The introduction to Europe of ‘the crafte of printyng’ was noted with approbation in a short passage include d in William Caxton’s 1480 printed edition ofthe cronicles of england(STC9991):¹ ‘Also a=//boute this tyme the crafte of enprintingewas first founde in Ma=// gunce in Almayne / Whiche craft is multiplied thurgh the Worlde// in many places / and bookes bene had grete chepe and in grete nom//bre by cause of the same craft’ (sig. y1v). Caxton composed the passage himself, adapting it from a widely circulating compilation of European history called theFasciculus Temporum, which was...

    • 2 Printers, Publishers and Promoters to 1558
      (pp. 27-44)

      Printing did not begin in England until around 1476, when William Caxton set up a shop in Westminster, within the precincts of the Abbey there. The earliest work he printed there seems to have been John Russell’sPropositio(STC21458) completed before September of that year.² But he already had considerable experience of the new technology of moveable type on the Continent before he returned to his native land; in 1472 he had been involved in the printing of several books at Cologne, including an edition of a very large medieval encyclopaedia, Bartholomaeus Anglicus’sDe proprietatibus rerum. Subsequently, he was...

    • 3 The Latin Trade in England and Abroad
      (pp. 45-58)

      Although William Caxton brought printing with moveable type to England in 1476, it was to be about another century and a half before England was ‘self-sufficient’ in its printing needs. In the meanwhile it became a good market for Latin printed books of all sorts. Liturgical and devotional works and also Latin works of theology and canon law would have been crucial to members of the clergy in their dealings with each other, the laity, the church and state. Works of philosophy, classics and grammar would have been aimed at the academic and student bodies in the universities.¹ This chapter...


    • 4 Materials: Paper and Type
      (pp. 61-74)

      Paper was first made by the Chinese from a variety of materials including mulberry and bamboo bark. The technique of paper making was first introduced into the Islamic world by Chinese artisans taken prisoner after the battle of Atlakh, Kazakhstan, in 751. Knowledge of the craft then spread from Central Asia to Damascus, Cairo, and the Maghreb by the tenth century. From North Africa the Moors introduced the technique to Europe, where a mill at Játiva, Valencia, had become famous for its paper by the mid-twelfth century. As the knowledge spread, further mills were established elsewhere in the West. By...

    • 5 Bookbinding and Early Printing in England
      (pp. 75-94)

      From the time of the arrival of the first printed books up to the Reformation many different kinds of bindings were used on early English books. To a greater extent than has been previously suggested, the story of the early printed English book is a story about these bindings: about the men and women who bound them and continuity in their craft and business practice before and after printing; and about the changes wrought by print upon the structure of the English codex and the uses to which it was put.

      This discussion begins with some examples: bindings on three...

    • 6 Woodcuts and Decorative Techniques
      (pp. 95-124)

      In his discussion of London, BL Additional, MS 36985, the ‘Founders’ Book’ of Tewkesbury Abbey, which was purposely made in the late sixteenth century to look like a printed book and was ‘designed for a readership accustomed to the organization and appearance of printed books rather than manuscripts’, Julian Luxford concludes t hat ‘logic of organization and appearance made printed books more generally comprehensible than handwritten ones’.¹ Contributing to their clarity of meaning were woodcuts, metal prints and even ornaments, decorations that accompanied printed images. While woodcuts functioned in some cases very like manuscript miniatures, and their purposes were as...


    • 7 Merchants
      (pp. 127-133)

      It was a merchant, William Caxton, past-governor of the Merchant Adventurers of England in the Low Countries, who introduced printing in the English language to England, in the 1470s, operating first from Bruges and then from Westminster Sanctuary, free from the interference of the city of London where he belonged to the Mercers’ Company. A merchant may be defined as a man who traded overseas, the only way to make serious profits; lesser men retailed and distributed goods in England.¹ Caxton’s mercantile expertise told him there was little point in competing in the saturated market of Latin or French books,...

    • 8 The Laity
      (pp. 134-149)

      Although we tend to see the demand for private reading as fuelling the work of early printers, it may be more correct to imagine printing’s beginnings as spurred by what James Raven has called ‘a demand for objects viewed as worthy of possession’.¹ These printed objects may not have been books, or if they were, may not have been books intended primarily for private reading. Three categories of early printing, in their great popularity, can illustrate what products of the press were early seen as valuable by a lay audience: indulgences, almanacs/calendars, Books of Hours. Patterns of publication show their...

    • 9 The Secular Clergy
      (pp. 150-175)

      The secular clergy might well be assumed to be a major supporter of print.¹ After all, from the time of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), their duty had been both to preach and to teach: to preach regular sermons to their parishioners and to teach them, at least quarterly, the basic tenets of the Church, as well as to prepare them for confirmation, marriage and death, and to confess them, even if only at Easter. If these duties could be supported by the written word, it could only be advantageous to all. Moreover, not all clergy were themselves prepared for...

    • 10 The Regular Clergy
      (pp. 176-206)

      The regular clergy were patrons of the printing revolution, converts to radical change at the cornerstone of the establishment. From the faint, fragmented testimony of the first, pioneering workshops, modern research has succeeded in focusing the critical contribution of the religious orders, mendicant and (perhaps especially) monastic: we now know that from Mainz, outward, through the Rhineland (Augsburg, Freiburg, Marienthal, Speyer and Basel), north and westward into the Netherlands (Brussels, Gouda, Hem, Rostock) and south of the Alps as far as Rome (Subiaco), the regulars represented more than the buyers, and occasional, benign sponsors, of the early printed book; they...

    • 11 Universities, Colleges and Chantries
      (pp. 207-224)

      In 1517 work was begun on a new library-room at Eton College, a grander building for an expanding collection. Chains for the books were bought in three different lengths and the windows were stained with vignettes to signify the various suits of study that were laid out on the shelves below. The provost, Roger Lupton, is credited with the building, and he also gave books to the college, a mixed collection in manuscript and print. Eton has been fortunate: the building, now Election Hall, still stands; Lupton’s books are still on College shelves. As such, they serve to remind us...


    • 12 Humanism and Printing
      (pp. 227-247)

      After the death in 1521 of a Cambridge scholar, Bryan Rowe, his associates drew up an inventory of his hundred-odd books. Those books identify Rowe as a follower of thestudia humanitatis, the studies least deceivingly translated asthe humanitiesbut usually translated now ashumanism. Rowe read about classical literature and history, about grammar and rhetoric modelled on classical standards, and about the new ideas of people such as Erasmus who were inspired by a changing understanding of classical texts. Rowe’s inventory tells us a lot about the use of humanist printed books in England. First, most of the...

    • 13 Women Translators and the Early Printed Book
      (pp. 248-271)

      Translations in the first century of printing in England played an extremely important role in a variety of fields, although the full extent of their contribution to the intellectual, social and cultural advancement of the country has not yet been fully explored. They constituted an integral part of a whole web of diverse activities, including the gradual development of a native literary tradition, the dissemination of knowledge in a wide variety of fields, the spread of social and political movements, and the exchanges involved in religious controversy. The specific relationship of translation to the early print trade is a crucial...

    • 14 The Printed Book Trade in Response to Luther: English Books Printed Abroad
      (pp. 272-289)

      When the York publisher and bookseller Gerard Freez, who was probably of Dutch origin, died in 1510, his stock was found to include well over a thousand liturgical volumes purchased in France and brought to England.¹ Of these titles fewer than three hundred still survive anywhere from this period. This massive loss of pre-Reformation liturgical material has obscured an important aspect of late medieval Catholicism: it was a religion of the book. Sacramental grace required the use of the correct liturgical words and the new technology of printing held out the hope of imposing verbal uniformity in ways that had...

    • 15 Thomas More, Print and the Idea of Censorship
      (pp. 290-306)

      In 1536 Sir Thomas Elyot wrote to Thomas Cromwell in response to a recent proclamation, ‘Ordering the Surrender of Bishop Fisher’s Sermon, Books’. Elyot was concerned because he did have books that fell within the scope of the proclamation, partly as a result, he told Cromwell, of his desire to read ‘many books, specially concerning humanitie and morall Philosophy’.¹ Elyot went on to inform Cromwell that,

      As touching suche books as be now prohibited contayning the busshop of Romes authorite, some in deede I have: joined with diverse other warkes in one grete volume or twoo at the moste, which...

    • 16 Catholicism, the Printed Book and the Marian Restoration
      (pp. 307-324)

      ‘Preachers, players and printers. . . be set up of God, as a triple bulwark against the triple crown of the pope, to bring him down.’¹ John Foxe was quite sure that the invention of printing was a providential gift by which God hastened the advance of the true church. The link between printing and Protestantism has long been established in the historical imagination. Indeed, the arrival of printing has been seen as the first step in an even greater cultural transformation that incorporated Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment.² Despite the subtleties of most historical writing on the subject,...

  14. Index of Manuscripts
    (pp. 325-328)
  15. Index of Printed Books
    (pp. 329-364)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 365-390)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 391-391)