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EMILY C. FRANCOMANO The Prison of Love: Romance, Translation, and the Book in the Sixteenth Century.


The Prison of Love: Romance, Translation, and the Book in the Sixteenth Century.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018. x + 320 pp. 30 figs.

Recent years have seen, certainly for French but also for other languages, a renewed vitality in studies of the transition of literary texts from manuscript to print. Those long-neglected but voluminous early-press versions of medieval epics and romances--reworkings, translations, mises en prose--are increasingly explored, enthusiastically, as in themselves worthy of literary analysis. The present book is a distinguished and lively addition to those explorations. The Carcel de Amor was written by Diego de San Pedro in the 1480s as an entertainment for the court of Castile; briefly--the plot is very much convoluted--it is the touching story of a young man, Leriano, who dies, melodramatically, of love requited but unfulfilled. By 1492, in Seville, it had found its way into print, and being wonderfully of its time, it was resoundingly successful, not only in the Iberian peninsular, but as Chapter 2 shows, throughout Western Europe, with translations into Italian, French, and English.

This interesting book traces the Carcel's history across borders and time frames, focusing not just on textual adaptations and translations but also on its material history in manuscripts, incunabula, and early printed editions; because of this, and perhaps also because of so coherent a corpus, it makes an excellent lens through which to survey the book history of the transition from manuscript to print and the "sociology of texts" (the book is very much in the line of descent from D. F. McKenzie, Jerome McGann, and Roger Chartier).

The first chapter simply addresses the authorial and scribal dynamics of the society within which the Carcel de Amor was created, and its reception particularly in the Iberian peninsular, focusing here on its first, Spanish, rewriter, Nicolas Nunez. Chapter 2 explores the translations made by Bernadi Vallmanya, Lelio Manfredi, Francois d'Assy, and Lord Berners and especially the paratextual apparatus that each of them introduces and that highlights the processes and procedures of translation--and its value. The third chapter turns to the toolboxes of the translators and what they tell us about the ideologies of vernacular-to-vernacular translation in the early modern period. Chapter 4 is devoted to the texts proper--the original, the reworkings, and the translations--to focus especially on the authors' and the adaptors' attention to and fascination with the written word: this is a text that prioritizes the written word, in letters particularly--and in which the hero Leriono dies, romantically, when he swallows his lady's letters. Chapter 5 surveys the profusion of printed books in which the Carcel de Amor reached audiences all over Western Europe--what Francomano calls its "radiant diffusion"--and on what their different designs and formats can tell us about the readings of the publishers and the readership they targeted and reached.

Chapter 6 turns to the "visual rhetoric" of the different editions: lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, it focuses once again on the printers' and artists' insistence on the written and spoken word, and not only on publishers. Well into the age of print, in the 1520s, lavishly illuminated manuscripts or "luxury remediations" of the French translation were commissioned, and these are the subject of Chapter 7, again lavishly illustrated, alas only, but not unexpectedly, in black and white. The final Chapter 8 turns to a magnificent tapestry series from northern France or the Low Countries, produced also in the 1520s, and explores the way in which its three-dimensional character provides a quite different perspective on the romance. The book is completed with editions of the principal translators' paratexts, a listing of editions and known manuscripts of the romance, a highly up-to-date bibliography, and a useful index.

Francomano stresses throughout, rightly, the remarkable value of this abundance of different manifestations of this intensely "adaptogenic" romance to the student of the material history of the book. Her close attention to detail, her careful eye, her sheer enthusiasm--her notes are legion, but the book reads enjoyably--make this book a pleasure to read: it is also a model for the analysis of mushrooming textual traditions in the early modern period.

Jane H. M. Taylor, Durham University
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Author:Taylor, Jane H.M.
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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