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History of the Book: An Undisciplined Discipline?

Elizabeth Eisenstein's observation in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe that the western world would have to wait a "a full century after Gutenberg before the outlines of a new world picture begin to emerge into view" (1:33) necessarily locates originary studies of the cultural implications of printing and books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and accounts for the visible presence of studies on "print culture" among recent publications in Renaissance studies. It is perhaps some measure of the degree to which printing has transformed culture that we had to wait a mere twenty years after the publication of Eisenstein's monumental study for the new academic discipline awkwardly called the "history of the book" to emerge. The past few years have seen an impressive output of significant (and some not so significant) books in this area. These studies I consider here suggest the vitality and viability as well as the inherent intractability of the history of the book as a "discipline." One measure of the degree of energy with which the study of the book has been pursued is how readily it has expanded from regarding only printing to embracing Eisenstein's broader category of "Communications and Cultural Transformat ions," a disciplinary transformation that has made "the history of the book" the best possible appellation for what in its various avatars has been termed more precisely "print culture studies," "the history of material texts," "literacy studies," "the history of reading," and "publishing history" (to name but a few). The titles and secondary titles of some of the books considered here (The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England; Reading and Writing in Seventeenth-Century England; Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England; Drama and Authorship in Early Modern England; Print and Knowledge in the Making; Literature and the Politics of the Printing Press; and Catholicism, Gender and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture) underscore the range of topics that may be subsumed into the study of the history of the book -- reading, print, authorship, and drama (because its legacy survived only in print, as one of these studies argues).

Robert Darnton's 1982 essay, "What is the History of Books?" (Daedalus 3: 65-83), which registered the emergence of the history of the book as a new discipline, is often regarded as a founding document for the field of study. From Darnton's perspective, the discipline emerged when the interests of scholars from several disciplines (literary studies, sociology, bibliography, library science, and history) became focused on printing's impact on social and cultural history. The creation in 1991 of SHARP (the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing), the professional association dedicated to the history of the book, registers the expansion of interest in the field from "print culture" to questions of reading, authorship, and other forms of publication. SHARP'S website offers a useful definition of the history of the book, which, it says,

is not only about books per se: broadly speaking, it concerns the creation, dissemination, and reception of script and print, including newspapers, periodicals, and ephemera. Book historians study the social, cultural, and economic history of authorship; the history of the book trade, copyright, censorship, and underground publishing; the publishing histories of particular literary works, authors, editors, imprints, and literary agents; the spread of literacy and book distribution; canon formation and the politics of literary criticism; libraries, reading habits, and reader response. ([sim]sharp/)

In 1998 SHARP launched its journal, Book History, which met with the Council of Editors of Learned Journals' acclaim. Book History's policy of considering for publication work on any literary culture or historical period, using any methodology and representing all disciplines reiterates the vision of SHARP and Darnton that studies in the history of the book are necessarily interdisciplinary.

An interdisciplinary discipline, however, poses some problems. In 1996 John Sutherland -- whose Victorian Novelists and Publishers (Athlone Press, 1978) represents a significant contribution to the scholarship of publishing history -- remarked that the absence of publishing history departments and significant job opportunities suggested that the history of the book had not fulfilled its early promise as a lively new discipline (Times Literary Supplement, 31 May 1996). Sutherland here established one set of criteria by which to judge an academic discipline -- criteria, which in the world of tight academic funding, especially for programs in history and literature, seem quite relevant. While academic institutions have been establishing all kinds of centers for interdisciplinary studies -- including those for book history at Pennsylvania State University and the Universities of Iowa, Texas, North Carolina, Toronto, Vancouver, and Edinburgh, as well as a cooperative program between the British Library, Reading U niversity the University of London and other British institutions -- their successes within institutions depend upon the willingness of traditional disciplines to financially support their faculty whose time is engaged in work a department may regard as being "outside." Thus, academic department status and job placement may indeed represent useful criteria for measuring viability

Besides their interdisciplinary methodology, these recent studies in the history of the book display another feature commonly associated with an academic discipline - a shared literature. The history of the book has acquired a set of texts to which current work in the field regularly refers and some of which have met with informed and provocative challenges. Besides Elizabeth Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, seminal works in the field include: Roger Chartier, The Order of Books, Readers, Authors and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries; Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography; Suzanne Hull, Chaste, Silent and Obedient: English Books for Women 1475 -1 640; Lucien LeFebvre and Henry-Jean Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1 450-1800; essays by Peter Blayney, Robert Darnton, John Feather, and Michel Foucault's (respectively, "The Publication of Playbooks," "History of reading," "From Rights to Copyright: The Recognition of Autho rs' Rights in English Law and Practice in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," and "What is an Author?"); Harold Love, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England; Arthur Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric; and Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. As this list suggests, interest in the history of the book is particularly vital among scholars of early modern literature and culture. (I here add the caveat that this should not be taken to mean that all work or even the most important work in the history of the book is on early modern Europe but rather that scholars in early modern European studies are finding the history of the book a fruitful area of investigation.) Immersed as it is in studies of Renaissance/early modern culture, the history of the book is addressing the substantive issues that have been eliciting the interest of scholars in established disciplinary areas of early modern history and literature: the constitution of authority and of th e self in relationship to authority, the construction of gender, and the establishment of a public (and private) sphere. Each of the studies in the history of the book I am considering here furthers the conversation begun by Eisenstein, Chattier, Darnton, and Rose and represents a significant contribution to our understanding of early modern culture. Taken as a whole, however, they illustrate that (to borrow from Stanley Fish) "Being Interdisciplinary Is So Very Hard to Do" (Profession, 1989, 15-22).

Institutional support may ultimately determine the status of studies in the history of the book within the academy, but institutionalization is not the only standard for assessing the vibrancy of a discipline. Another usual measure is the published scholarship in a field. Given this criterion, this "new" discipline has been alive and well for considerably longer than twenty years, especially if we allow for publication in the scholarly areas whose interests converge in the history of the book. Bibliographical societies have a distinguished history of publishing nor only journals like The Library, Publication of the Bibliographical Society ofAmerica, and Studies in Bibliography, but important studies in printing history like those in the 1950s and '60s on early London publishing by W.W. Greg or more recently Peter Blayney's The Bookshops in Paul's Cross Churchyard (London: The Bibliographical Society; 1990). Library bulletins and journals like The Huntington Library Quarterly and the Bulletin of the John Ryla nds Library have a long established tradition of publishing scholarship in the field. That Cambridge University Press, The Pennsylvania State University Press, and the University of Massachusetts Press have recently dedicated series within their presses to studies in print culture and the history of the book is less an indication that a new discipline has emerged and these presses are now publishing work in the field than a change in marketing strategies that recognize the insufficiency of traditional categories of period and discipline to describe recent trends in academic scholarship. Studies in the history of books, and printing, and reading, and even authorship - that is in the "disciplines" whose interests converge in the history of the book -- may not be new, but as the publications considered here suggest, the history of the book may be acquiring a newly developed methodology that may properly be regarded as distinctive: its approach is interdisciplinary. "Interdisciplinarity," as the manifestos of Dar nton, SHARP, and Book History indicate, should be the history of the book's distinguishing feature, but these studies reveal that besides bringing together scholars whose interests converge, the "discipline" is now drawing individual scholars whose work is itself interdisciplinary; that is, it depends on more than one disciplinary methodology (for example, history and literary analysis or bibliography and history).

Of these recent studies only Brian Richardson's Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy encompasses the breadth of history of the book as suggested by SHARP. Richardson, a professor of Italian literature, has become conversant in the language of the material book. Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy's first section on the printing house is securely grounded in the general literature of bookmaking and printing practices from Moxon to Gaskell and more specifically in the bibliographical literature on Italian printing houses. While little here is new, Richardson offers a competent introduction to the Italian Renaissance printing house. Of greater interest is his demonstration of the debt of printing practices and products to scribal culture. Richardson also relies on useful historical evidence -- wills, account books, legal contracts, together with the books themselves -- to argue that the printing house in Renaissance Italy was fundamentally a business operation whose success depended upon the marketplace. Differences among the various Italian principalities necessarily existed, and these are well noted.

Richardson's study of the relationship between manuscript and print addresses one of Eisenstein's premises -- that the advent of print caused the Renaissance. Implicit in Richardson's comparison between scribal and print production is the recognition that if, as Paul Kristeller maintained, the Renaissance in Italy was indeed first the recovery, reproduction and dissemination of classical texts and later the humanist response to them, then the Renaissance had begun long before printing became established in the Italian city-states. The Italian Renaissance s interest in texts created an environment that was receptive to printing -- indeed printing advanced the Renaissance in this sense -- but printing after 1450 only extended what had begun in a scribal culture in the first part of the Quattrocento.

Richardson also examines the implications for authors of the commercial nature of Italian printing. The high costs of materials and labor assured the continuation of a patronage system that had begun in scribal culture. Authors, as many preliminaries reveal, depended upon patronage to pay the costs they incurred in having their work printed. In the Quattrocento authors often went heavily into debt if they failed to profit from their patron or if their writing did not find a commercial market (a difficult proposition because of small print runs). While some Cinquecento authors became more sophisticated in their fragile relationships with printing houses, others merely sold their work to printers rather than rake financial risks. Despite these conditions, Richardson effectively argues that the presence of print professionalized authorship. Although Richardson refers to Mark Rose's work on authorship, he does not really frame his discussion of authors in relationship either to it or to other more theoretical con siderations. The examples he cites -- and they are substantial in both breadth and depth -- argue that printing constituted both authority and individuality in Italy well before the eighteenth century; in part because government privileges (licenses to print) granted both to authors and printers served as effectively as "copyright" to constitute individual agency.

Outside of acknowledging the importance of reading aloud, Richardson's treatment of reading is far more interested in what people read than in how they read. Granted Richardson subscribes to D. F. McKenzie's and Roger Chattier's work on the importance of the material book, especially in regard to font and format in his argument that as the preferred format shifted from folio to quarto, reading shifted from the library to private space. Most of Richardson's interest in reading, however, is directed to the marketplace of print -- both from the perspective of how printers created demand and how readers' tastes dictated publication. Relying on the evidence of library holdings, book ownership, and circulation records, as well as account books from booksellers and printing houses, this study offers a thorough survey of the kinds of literature produced -- devotional literature, self-help and courtesy books, romance, current affairs. It also studies the role of women readers. Richardson acknowledges the effort of mal e writers and printers to direct women readers to the kind of courtesy book and devotional literature Suzanne Hull has described in Chaste, Silent and Obedient, but he also demonstrates the degree to which book prefaces and dedications reflected "contemporary confidence in women's ability to enter the world of vernacular learning and literature "(148). At the same time that printers were responsive to the interests of their readers, they were also proactive in using title pages and dedications to create a market for their products. His consideration of marketing strategies contributes insights into the reliability of print. The claims of printers in their preliminaries and tide pages to new and improved editions, Richardson suggests, were overly inflated in order to create reader demand for more products. Printed texts were nowhere near as suspect as has been suggested, and the printers' allegations of former errors, Richardson says, were made "not always, one suspects with hand on heart" (153).

Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy concludes with an important assessment of printing's influence on Renaissance Italy that points to the commonsense way in which Richardson has addressed an important subject in the history of the book.

The achievement of all those involved in print production -- the makers, financers and sellers of books as well as those who wrote or edited the texts to be printed -- was to provide a better opportunity for more people, from a wider spectrum of society, to enjoy the benefits of reading, by deriving from the written word their own personal usefulness and pleasure. (157)

Throughout this study, Richardson demonstrates a sound assessment of the material book as evidence, a solid historiographic approach, and a command of the literature of Italian bibliographical studies. His greater interest in reading tastes than practices means that this study contributes less than it might have to our understanding of the relationship between books and emerging notions of authority and autonomy. Even so, this is a book that in responding to McKenzie's and Chartier's challenge to scholars to demonstrate the interconnection between bibliography, history, and literature, provides a useful compendium of knowledge about printers, books, writers, and readers.

Even with all its strengths, Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy leaves the reader with the sense that there is much more specifically that might be learned about the subject -- or rather about the myriad individual cases that this comprehensive survey considers. The other books that have recently appeared in the history of the book -- which indeed fall into the subdivisions set our in Richardson's title -- are far more specialized, despite the extravagant claims made by some of their titles. (Clearly marketing has not changed much since the Italian Renaissance.) Probably the most ambitious of these studies is Adrian Johns's The Nature of the Book, which though it pretends to address printing, writing, and reading in early modern England, really tells us much more about the relationship between printing and scientific authorship. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making finds a nice balance in Douglas Brooks's From Playhouse to Printing House: Drama and Authorship in Early Mode rn England, which considers the relationship between the printing house and dramatic authorship.

The Nature of the Book argues that a genuine print culture -- a culture in which the printed text has credit, authority, and fixity -- only emerged in England when the growing pursuit of "natural knowledge" (science) required "civility of communication." Johns challenges Elizabeth Eisenstein in contending that rather than inhering in print, fixity and standardization were culturally constructed. Johns investigates the cultural spaces -- local, particular, and historically contingent -- that participate in this construction. He finds here a "confrontation between genteel authorship and commercial appropriation" peopled with heroes and villains. The villains are "pirates" (a term Johns admittedly adopts for its "dramatic value" for anyone who violates any form of "propriety" interest in a text), the heroes the "gentlemen" who produced and printed "natural knowledge."

To begin, Johns invokes Stuart historiographer James Howell's likening of London to a book and adopts this as the "epigraph" for his own discussion: "by exploring the precincts of the city, one may learn much about the nature of the book" (62). Reading The Nature of the Book is like wandering the streets of London without an A to Z. From familiar straight, broad roads, narrow streets veer off into peculiar precincts so distinctive they cease to feel like London. Buildings here lack addresses and streets signs (Johns omits dates from his footnotes), and one can get lost in a mews -- an extraordinary mews perhaps -- but lost no less. The first three chapters travel the broad road through the booktrade's centers in Saint Paul's Cross and Little Britain. They enter the printer's patriarchal "domestic" household through the doors of Joseph Moxon. Johns "breaches the walls" of Stationers' Hall to investigate tensions between the Stationers' self-regulatory practices and those of the Crown. This is territory already traveled by Peter Blayney, Cyprian Blagden, Frederick Siebert, Philip Gaskell, and W.W. Greg -- even though Johns presumes to say his "is the first real attempt to portray print culture in the making" (3). Johns's preference for Enlightenment gentility and civility strongly color his account. London printing inhabits the "Stationers commonwealth in which the credit of printed materials was profoundly compromised" (262) and where the production of knowledge was "riven by private deals, intrigue and distrust" (183).

Having explored print's local habitation, The Nature of the Book follows the paths of a few extraordinary individuals who sought to secure for natural philosophers some refuge, however transitory, from print's endemic culture of usurpation. The Royal Society is central here, but Johns also turns into such blind alleys as the relationship natural philosophers saw between religious enthusiasm and bad reading practices -- a detour that adds little to longstanding theories of learning and relates as well to scribal as to print culture. Indeed, the entire treatment of reading has little to do with print's distinctive character.

This is not to say that The Nature of the Book is uninformative -- its angel is in the details. Account after account assembles a vast array of contemporary sources: letters, reminiscences, court records, and printed books and pamphlets. The recorded events are exceptional: the earliest constructions of a historiography of printing by Michael Sparke, Richard Atkin, and John Streater; Thomas Willis's search for the soul's anatomy in the dissected brains and nervous systems of "Hecatombs" of cadavers; Henry Oldenburg's singular effort to establish "experimental research, replication, openness, transnational cooperation, and peer review" (532) in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions; the first royal "astronomical observer" John Flamsteed's encounters with scientific and personal rivalries which affected Historia Coelestis Britannica's publication.

The devil here is in the generalizations. Johns's efforts to impose significance on the highly individual tales he tells lead to serious errors -- the greatest of which is that The Nature of the Book is about print culture's emergence in early modern England. It is not. The Nature of the Book's London is born of the Revolution and rises from the Great Fire's ashes. Virtually no consideration is given to the first hundred and fifty years of printing. Closely aligned with this is the book's clear bias that science is the only real knowledge; no other learning required reliable texts. Bibles, by Johns's account, were especially unreliable. (Here Johns overplays the few notorious instances of biblical misprinting.) Drawing uncritically on remarks by iconoclastic printers and disgruntled authors, the case for piracy is expanded to an entire industry from the few highly profitable texts that were indeed prey to rogue printers. Johns also appears curiously uninformed about some aspects of English printing history. F or example, Johns credits Streater with transforming the common law by printing law books -- "the newly printed 'Reports' of judges 'learned in the law'" (321). Such reports were hardly "newly printed." Law books, including reports and statutes, constituted a substantial part of English printed books during Henry VIII's reign, and the patent for law books was one of the earliest and most lucrative. The transformation in English common law began over a hundred years before Streater! Johns's failure to consider print culture prior to "natural philosophy's" growth seriously skews this work, distorting its cultural knowledge. The Nature of the Book should be read not for what it pretends to be -- the making of print culture in early modern England -- but for what it is -- an exploration of the relationship between printing and science in the century following the Restoration.

I can only wish Johns had read the diatribes of dissatisfied printers and authors with the kind of skepticism that Richardson displays in reading title pages and preliminaries. Johns also should have known more of the scholarship on English printing and textual studies that grounds Douglas Brooks's work. In From Playhouse to Printing House: Drama and Authorship in Early Modern England Brooks engages theoretical explorations of authorship in a study of the material world of the London printing house and one of its products -- printed plays. To understand authorship as a concept, Brooks draws upon the resistance of both Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault to regarding authorship as the unifying relationship between a creative genius and a body of works. Brooks also identifies with the New Textualism, a recent reaction against the New Bibliography, which dominated textual theory in the twentieth century The New Bibliography posited that somewhere between pristine authorial intent and the text in the reader's hand , a nefarious world of publication intervened -- this world prompted by greed proceeded by stealth to provide an unreliable "unauthorized" product to indiscriminate and nondiscriminating readers, especially for English printed drama in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Brooks effectively counters this narrative by deftly finessing the networks of engagement that he regards as both enabling and inhibiting the materialization of plays as they passed from the stage to the page. Brooks argues that the printing of plays, which coincided with the professionalization of the London stage, commodified dramatic authorship, and this commodification in turn intensified the "preoccupation with individualized authorial agency" (xiv).

Brooks begins his study with the earliest conjunction of printing and drama, the publication of Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville's Tragedy of Gorboduc. First published in 1565 by William Griffiths, the play's title page establishes all the conventions of attribution that would later come to dominate dramatic publication: authors, actors, performance, printer, and bookseller. Five years later when John Daye reprinted the play under the new title "The Tragidie of Ferrex and Porrex" in a collection of Thomas Norton's "treatises" (sans the conventional attributions, thus erasing collaboration), the printer's introduction denounced Griffiths' edition, arguing instead for the integrity and authority of his own copy. Here in a publisher's ploy to sell his text, Brooks observes, "Daye essentially rehearses all of the main issues that would eventually constitute the foundation of twentieth-century bibliographic, editorial, and scholarly approaches to dramatic texts produced in early modern England" (31). Furthermor e, Daye's 1570 collection of Norton's "works" -- "A range of attributed and anonymous writing with six works by a 'single' author" (42) -- demonstrates that at the earliest stage of dramatic printing a published text claimed to enhance an author's reputation and command a renewed public interest by providing an authoritative text. In short, conceived as a commercial venture, the material book constituted Thomas Norton as an "author" whose "presence" and "authorization" of the included texts (despite his literal absence) enhanced their market value. This early and seemingly obscure instance of dramatic publication warrants the attention Brooks accords it both because it witnesses the earliest collaboration between printing house and playhouse in sixteenth and seventeenth century England and because it represents the pattern that other collections of dramatic works -- notably those by Jonson, Shakespeare, and Beaumont and Fletcher -- would follow in creating "a new and prestigious identity for printed drama" (4 3), which in turn construed the playwright as "author."

Despite this common denominator, the individual books Brooks examines (the quarto editions of the two parts of Shakespeare's Henry IV, the 1623 Shakespeare folio, Ben Jonson's 1616 Workes, Humphrey Moseley's 1647 edition of Beaumont and Fletcher's plays) are not without what Brooks refers to as their own "dramas of authorship" that are distinct from "the plays they were designed to preserve and promote" (xiii). To confront Shakespeare's commanding presence in matters of dramatic authorship, Brooks curiously (and cleverly) relies upon the fare of Sir John Oldcastle; the "initial deletion of Oldcastle [as the name for Falstaff] from an early text of 1 Henry IV and its subsequent restoration to the Oxford edition constitute two important textual points in the history of Shakespeare authorship" (67).

In a subtle sleight of hand, Brooks establishes the rise of Shakespearean authorship from the ashes of Oldcastle, who, in less than a hundred years of print, went from heretic to Protestant martyr to a ribald fat knight in the Henry IV plays, the transformation of whose name to Falstaff is registered in the first printed play attributing authorship to Shakespeare. Here Brooks sees "the two Henry IV plays as comprising an important transitional space in which Shakespeare's authorship replaces Oldcastle's martyrdom, in which the [dramatic] author-function comes to lodge itself where previously the martyr-function served to individualize and embody England's national consciousness" (95). Still focusing on Oldcastle/Falstaff, Brooks then considers the subsequent trajectory of Shakespearean authorship in the important editions of Shakespeare's "works" from Heming and Condell's 1623 folio to Nicholas Rowe's first critical edition in the eighteenth century to Gary Taylor and Stanley Well's 1986 edition for Oxford Un iversity Press. The author function for "Shakespeare" achieved national prominence in 1709 when Rowe attributed the generation of The Merry Wives of Windsor to Queen Elizabeth's desire to see Falstaff in a comedy. In doing so, according to Brooks, Rowe "sidestepped" whatever legal, political, or institutional resistance he might have encountered to his critical edition "by placing the still tremulous figure of the author in a direct encounter with a representative of institutionalized individuality, the monarch" (80) at the historical moment when authorship was "poised ... to replace kingship as the paradigm for the individualized embodiment of the national consciousness." (96-97). It is also no coincidence, Brooks concludes, that at a time when efforts are being made to dismantle Shakespeare's literary authority, Taylor and Wells restored "Oldcastle." Just as the 1623 folio materially "gave birth to the author's individuation" through its declaration of the death of Shakespeare the man, Betterton and Rowe's edition "proclaimed, The King is dead! Long live Shakespeare!" and Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells's edition "defiantly argues, The Author is dead. Long live Shakespeare" (102). The name "Shakespeare," Brooks thus demonstrates, resistently reappears to sell the books associated with his authorship.

Although the other dramas of authorship Brooks recounts may be less spectacular, they are no less effective in establishing the degree to which the printing house conferred authorial status on playwrights. Brooks revisits Ben Jonson's 1616 collected Workes, demonstrating that Jonson only "marshaled the printing press to assert his individuality" for his plays written for the public stage (a venue in Jonson's time of predominantly collaborative authorship), but was less concerned about poems and masques written for the court -- "where individuation is chiefly vested in the figure of the monarch" (121). The successful constituting of Ben Jonson as an author contrasts with the inability of the printing press to successfully figure as "author" two more typical theatrical conditions -- the professional playwright and theatrical collaboration. John Heywood, whose career lasted nearly fifty years, individually or collaboratively wrote more than two hundred plays, most of which have been lost because Heywood said of himself, "it neuer was any great ambition in me, to bee in this kind Voluminously read" (quoted, 193). If Heywood's drama is one of failed "authorship," Humphrey Moseley's effort to honor dramatic collaboration in his edition of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's plays not only came too late -- five years after the theaters were closed -- but was, according to Brooks, a drama of inauthentic authorship. Brooks takes this edition as illustrative of the complex issues surrounding authorship -- "the desire ... to reduce the multiple and dispersed intentions that shaped play texts in the playhouse and the printing house into idealized, single-author works" (153). The entire thrust of contemporary notions of authorship as the individual author's right in "inalienable intellectual property" Brooks thus demonstrates here, as in all of his study, to be inconsistent with the conditions of writing for the stage in Renaissance England.

Brooks and Johns contribute to our understanding both of authorship -- the scientific author and the dramatic author at least -- and of the role of the printing house rather than copyright in creating the "author." Johns is more concerned with textual authority than Brooks, but this is because Brooks's work is well-grounded in theoretical skepticism about the transparency of text. On the other hand, the bravura with which Brooks engages textual and cultural reading -- especially with regard to the waxing and waning of cultural authority in his Oldcastle-monarch-Shakespeare paradigm -- may well put off readers with a more pragmatic interest in the history of the book. It is, I find, easier to indulge Brooks's "lit crit" display than Johns's ignorance (or ignoring) of the first 150 years of printing in England. Anyone who reads Johns to understand the nature of the book in early modern England must also read Brooks. Together they give a more accurate picture. Like Richardson (and unlike Johns) Brooks understands that the skullduggery printers attributed to their peers -- and th at authors attributed to printers -- was a useful marketing tool; Johns, however, reminds us that something beyond the marketplace -- the new scientific learning -- created another kind of "marketplace" for print in the eighteenth century.

If Brooks and Johns contribute to our knowledge of the relationship of authors to the printing house, Kevin Sharpe's Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England offers a formidable study of the relationship between reading and political culture based on a detailed analysis of the manuscript notebooks and diaries of a single English gentleman, Sir William Drake. Sharpe acknowledges that a case study approach such as his may be regarded as anomalous and to correct this places his subject within theoretical considerations of reading practices. In doing so, Sharpe addresses his study directly to the disciplinary concerns of the history of the book and to its interest in promoting interdisciplinarity -- even while his principal interests and methods remain fundamentally historiographic. In their focus upon women's reading in early modern England, Cecile Jagodzinski's Privacy and Print: Reading and Writing in Seventeenth-Century England and Eve Sanders's Gender and Literacy on Stage in Earl y Modern England complement Sharpe's study both in subject and approach, balancing his interest in the political (and male) public sphere with an investigation of the relationship between reading practice and the tensions women experienced between cultural constructions of the public and the private. Looking more closely at how these three scholars -- a male historian and two women literary critics -- negotiate the differences in their approaches to documents and texts suggests further both the fruitfulness and peril of marrying disciplinary methodologies.

In his substantial introductory chapter to Reading Revolutions, Sharpe squarely faces the complex issues surrounding being interdisciplinary -- and failing to do so. Sharpe locates the "unsatisfying impasse" in the recent debate among historians about seventeenth-century English political culture in his colleagues' reluctance to "accommodate the fluidity of meanings possible and/or 'intended' in the documents on which historians rely" (9). While Sharpe certainly esteems (and practices) the historian's attention to documentary evidence and the "close situating and historicizing of texts and events," he maintains that "interdisciplinary and critical approaches are essential to understanding a Renaissance culture in which epistemology, interpretation, the exegesis of meaning had not fragmented into discrete disciplinary practices" (9-10). Sharpe believes that postmodern semiotic, philosophical, and literary theory may enable scholars and historians of early modern England to "reimagine a Renaissance culture that did not share the positivism or 'the organicist ideology of modernism'" (16).

Sharpe's enthusiasm for critical theory centers in its "concern with the reading and consumption of texts" (34), in particular, he regards a history of reading as "central to understanding the 'master narratives' of society and politics" (39). It is here that Sharpe turns his attention to the emergence of the history of the book as a discipline. He applauds the discipline's recognition that "certain types of historical enquiry, the ways in which questions are asked as well as answered need to be an interdisciplinary endeavor" at the same time that he laments the difficulty of being interdisciplinary: "Traditional biographers and librarians do not always feel at home with sociologists and Annaliste historians, let alone critical theorists" (39). Sharpe Implies that this condition is responsible for the failure of the discipline "to incorporate reception theory into a historical and material study of books and their readers" (39) -- a condition that at this point we rightly suspect Sharpe's Reading Revolutions will seek to remedy. Before he turns to the real subject of this study -- the analysis of a "cache of papers, notes of reading and annotated printed books, with political observations and comments, by a member of the provincial gentry" -- Sharpe briefly surveys the literature on reading practices and interpretative communities and reviews how the material attributes of books (formats, preliminaries, illustrations, typography, and, interestingly, genres) condition reading. In doing so he clearly sets out the agenda for his own work. It will respond to his "appeal for a more interdisciplinary praxis," his call for "an address to text" and "engagement with some of the questions raised by critical theory," and his insistence "that a history of politics must incorporate the history of reading" (61).

The cache of William Drake's writings that Sharpe considers consists of some sixty volumes in all, spanning over thirty years of turbulent history from the late 1630s to the early 1660s," including commonplace books with detailed reading notes, a journal and parliamentary diary, and some printed books with marginalia, which, Sharpe maintains, "not only offer the best material we have to date for how an early Stuart gentleman read, but also provide a striking and surprising case study of the relationship of individual reading and hermeneutics to political perceptions and ideas" (78). William Drake, a "substantial and wealthy" country land owner who received his education at Oxford and the Inns of Court, was not exactly politically disinterested. Quite the contrary, he aspired to political office (which he obtained) and sat in Parliament for Amersham, though he absented himself from England during the politically perilous years 1643-1660. It is, thus, not surprising that a relationship should exist between Drak e's reading and his politics. What Sharpe's study surprisingly reveals is the degree to which a man of Drake's position and interests (his estates and his personal advancement) conscientiously pursued a program of reading focused on a pragmatic agenda of self advancement. Drake, Sharpe demonstrates, read to understand the world in which he lived, and he understood so that he might actively participate. In this respect, Drake epitomized the end of the humanist education in which his reading was firmly grounded. Drake's readings and reading practices, however, persistently integrated humanist texts with contemporary political treatises, English literature, English and Continental history, the Bible, sermons, letters, legal studies, and emblem books, demonstrating Drake's immersion in his immediate world.

Sharpe's approach to Drake's reading is both analytical and chronological. The first part of the book focuses on the reading notebooks (commonplace books) Drake produced between 1627 and the mid-1640s, the second upon his diary (principally from the 1630s), and the third upon another group of notebooks from the 1640s and 1650s. The last section of Sharpe's study considers a few printed books certainly annotated in Drake's hand and locates Drake's reading practices in the contexts of both political history and reading theory. For each group of Drake's manuscripts, Sharpe establishes the breadth of Drake's reading and describes the ways in which Drake organized his reading notes (thematically, with cross-referencing between texts). Even though Drake did not always offer in his own writing the connection of his reading to the events of his own time, Sharpe's command of seventeenth-century history enables him to contextualize Drake's reading practices. He also discovers the interrelationships between the reading notes, diary, and parliamentary journal. For a scholar less scrupulous than Sharpe, one might suspect the historical imagination of imposing the political perspectives discovered in Drake's notes. This is not the case; Sharpe's own meticulous annotation and cross-referencing supports his analysis of the relationship between Drake's reading and political perspectives. Furthermore, Sharpe's own chronological approach to Drake allows him to demonstrate not only that Drake's reading influenced his politics but that in the face of the crisis of the 1640s, Drake's reading (and politics) changed. Drake returned to texts he had read before but read them differently. Sharpe uses the later notebooks to show precisely how Drake's reading changed, and it is only after a sustained empirical analysis that Sharpe concludes:

Drake had been a critic of the government in church and state before the Civil War. He blamed the bishops and clergy for many of the ills that befell them, and perhaps the king for imprudent courses... With the Civil War he feared the greatest of all ills -- anarchy and democracy. Returning to his favourite histories -- and to Machiavelli and Guicciardini -- during the 1640s and 1650s, Drake condemned the republic and stressed the need for one sovereign to suppress sects and factions and to unite the realm in peace and concord. (252)

Sharpe thus effectively argues that reading -- for one man at least -- was a political act.

The problem Sharpe faces in his consideration of Drake's reading is whether or not such a microcosmic case history really does inform our knowledge of wider issues. It is here that contemporary theory proves useful to Sharpe, and for this he turns first to the notion of interpretative communities and then to theoretical interest in the relationship between reading practices and the constitution of the self. Sharpe places Drake's reading in the context of studies of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century reading circles like those surrounding Sir Walter Ralegh and Sir Robert Cotton, and of individuals like Shakespeare, Jonson, Clarendon, Milton, Lady Anne Clifford. In doing so, like those of these other seventeenth-century readers, his study argues that reading and books fostered resistance, self-realization, and the emergence of the self in early modern England.

They all read for action in the public realm; they all read politically. The fact that their values, political attitudes and allegiances differed and altered graphically underpins what post-revisionist historians have begun to appreciate: that the culture of early modern England, for all its rhetoric of common codes, was multivalent. Despite a common education, the homilies on obedience and the prescriptions of authority, people were able to construct meanings for themselves, and constitute themselves as political agents. (307)

Sharpe thus places his study of one man's reading firmly within the mainstream of the concerns of early modern studies -- in questions of the relationship between the book and the formation of individual agency. Along the way, he also makes an important contribution to understanding the history of the seventeenth century. If Drake is as representative of prevailing political attitudes as he is of the relationship between reading and political agency, then this study suggests that the English Revolution may be blamed more on clerical abuses and religious extremism than on the theological difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, that Machiavelli's political thought was far more influential and pervasive in the early seventeenth century than has been believed, and that Thomas Hobbes was hardly singular in craving effective political authority.

While Reading Revolutions offers important insights into reading practice and the relationship between reading and politics, it is curiously silent on the role material books played in constituting meaning for Drake. I probably would not object to this omission except that by devoting seventeen pages of his introduction to the materiality of texts -- format, bindings, fonts, preliminaries, and genres -- Sharpe creates the expectation that this study will contribute to this aspect of the history of the book. Such unfulfilled promise leads me to wonder if addressing disciplinary questions of history of the book is not somewhat gratuitous. If so, may it not then be possible that Sharpe has not fully carried out other expectations his introduction creates?

Sharpe's commitment to being interdisciplinary is laudable -- but its accomplishment sometimes proves difficult. Sharpe is conversant in critical theory and makes some use of what he knows. I cannot help but wish, however, that his knowledge had extended to some feminist theory, especially that which has recognized that the absence of documentary evidence on women's role in history can be attributed as much to archival practices as women's agency. Sharpe might then not have been so ready to dismiss women, as he does here, because they failed to mark their books: "Educated women read but in a patriarchal culture that valued female silence as well as obedience, women's responses to books were seldom articulated or recorded publicly" (297). This slight acquires a rather odious resonance in its footnote: "The absence of marks of reading may usefully be considered in the light of contemporary women students' disproportionately low percentage of first class degrees -- which is often explained in terms of women's re ticence about adversarial engagement with examination questions" (297 n. 252).

Furthermore, even though Sharpe is conversant with postmodern theories of intertextuality and text, he consistently reads Drake's notebooks as a historian reads documents, with a certain confidence in the transparent relationship between the signifier and the signified. This may be seen in the conclusion Sharpe draws from one particularly allusive passage on royal authority in Drake's reading notes. Sharpe quotes the following passage at length (something he does not often do), and reads it as indicative of Drake's view that ceremony and mystery were essential to sustain authority: a stage play all men know that he that plays the greatest man's part may be the meanest, yet if a man should ... call him by his own name while he stands in his majesty, one that acts his part with him may chance to break his head [for] marring the play. And so they said that these matters be king's games, as it were stage plays upon scaffolds, in which poor men are but the on and they that be wise meddle no further. (222)

This passage's allusive language that links the "king's games" to the theater's artifice, trivializing both majesty and ceremony, registers a much deeper skepticism about royal authority than Sharpe admits. This is particularly unfortunate since the relationship between authority and the alternative notions of subject positions occupies such an important part of Sharpe's introductory consideration of contemporary theory. Sharpe's gloss on Drake here also raises the question of precisely how Sharpe reaches the conclusions he does from the texts he has read. Unfortunately -- and perhaps necessarily given the sheer volume of text he reads -- Sharpe's writing leaves little trace of the relationship between his own reading and Drake's language.

Cecile Jagodzinski's Privacy and Print offers an interesting counterpoint to Sharpe's interest in the relationship between an individual's reading and his public politics in her contention that privacy, individuality, and personal autonomy emerged in the seventeenth century because printed books "partnered author and reader in a private experience with the text" (10). Because "Readers and authors meet anonymously and in private," Jagodzinski argues that a private sphere paradoxically emerged as a consequence of the proliferation of texts made available by the new technology of print. In grounding her study in theoretical considerations of reading practice and in her selective reading of printed texts rather than in "documentary" evidence of reading practice, Jagodzinski's study is antithetical to Sharpe's. The chapters on devotional literature (Catholic and Protestant) and conversion narratives (The Exceeding Rich Graces of Sarah Wight and Bunyan's Grace Abounding) depict the intimate relationship forged bet ween the authors and readers of printed texts more persuasively than the chapter on the published letters of John Donne and Charles I. Treating these printed letters as exemplary is problematic both because they are atypical and because their unintended publication refutes the book's central premise that privacy derives from the complicity of author and reader. To argue, as Jagodzinski does, that in the seventeenth century "letters became a publishing phenomenon" that transformed letters into "a means of personal communication" and "a symbol of access to the self, the inner person" (76-77) exposes the fault line in Privacy and Print. The letters of Donne and Charles I may evoke a world of personal integrity and privacy, but this is a world that existed at composition and not publication. The argument that printing fostered personal letter writing ignores the predominance of scribal culture in early modern England and suggests that reading differed for printed and scribal texts. Since this study focuses more o n reading generally than on the printed book per se, how reading a printed text necessarily fosters a sense of self and privacy that reading a scribal text does not remains unclear.

Privacy and Print's last two chapters on Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn, which consider the "problem of publishing women in the seventeenth century," bear a perplexing relationship to the rest of the book. At precisely the moment where by Jagonzinski's account print creates and validates a private sphere occupied by the autonomous individual, the female characters created by Behn and Cavendish don the mantle of their autonomous individuality by speaking out and writing -- by performing actions gendered male. Taken on their own, these chapters are commendable, but arguing a gendered boundary between public and private spheres contradicts the book's central thesis. Do Bunyan, Charles I, and Donne, whose writings Jagodzinski persuades us reveal the private self, thus occupy feminine space? Jagodzinski has written herself into a corner less because she is wrong about what the literature she studies reveals about reading and writing and privacy, or about Behn and Cavendish, than because theoretical constructs o f writing, reading, gender, and privacy impose constraints on her argument.

In Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England Eve Rachelle Sanders encounters a similar tension between the cultural practice of reading that is her concern and the literature she so deftly considers, but Sanders navigates the divide by openly adopting a discourse of resistance, which is justified, she maintains, because the public theater's literature in early modern England had social friction written into it "partly as a matter of genre" (7). Sanders argues from the premise that the humanist education taught to boys in early modern England gendered literacy male by encouraging readers (males) to emulate models of classical (male) virtu in both their writing and their lives. Women, if they learned to read at all -- or even less frequently to write -- were schooled by conduct books to cultivate "mental attitudes" of virtue. Although Sanders offers a learned survey of both theoretical and historical studies of literacy and humanist pedagogy, she slights material evidence on women's reading practices like book ownership and authorship and depends too singularly on Vives's The Instruction of a Christen Woman (1523) and Braithwaite's The English Gentlewoman (1631) for conceptualizing women reading. Sanders approaches Vives and Braithwaite with none of the skepticism Richardson displayed about similar male efforts in Italy to mould women. Such objections pale against the book's genuine strength -- the superb readings Sanders offers of the ways in which plays by Mary Sidney, Thomas Middleton, Samuel Daniel, and Shakespeare make use of the book and the pen. Gender and Literacy does not merely survey reading and writing on the English stage but rather presents a nuanced study of how cultural constructions of writing and reading inform complex dramatic characterization and motivate dramatic structures that themselves are as likely to resist as to inculcate the gendered humanist model. Sanders offers genuinely fresh insights into Shakespeare's plays, Love's Labours Lost, Richard II, Hamlet, and Antony and Cleopa tra.

Like Privacy and Print, Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England closes on a curious note by shifting from theatrical drama to what Sanders calls "the drama of certain lives" -- the actual part women played in scribal culture as represented by Grace Mildmay's and Anne Clifford's autobiographical writing. Although this section exhibits a fine counterbalance to the anxious representations she has found in the treatment of literate women by male playwrights, Sanders's celebration of Clifford and Mildmay hints that the gendering of reading may have been otherwise than what this book has argued. Both of these women by reading and writing stepped readily into the public sphere. Despite the anomaly, Sanders's treatment of these reading and writing women is far more satisfactory than Sharpe's consideration of Anne Clifford -- largely because Sanders does not restrict her evidence of reading practice to the singular witness of commonplace books. Reading Jagodzinski and Sanders together with Sharpe (or Sha rpe alongside Jagodzinski and Sanders) exposes the fault lines in these interdisciplinary studies of reading. Together they show that reading constructed the self privately as well as politically, and that our understanding of how reading and writing gendered the public and private spheres depends not only upon the theories allowed and the evidence admitted but upon the kind of readings documentary texts receive.

Richardson, Brooks, Johns, Sharpe, Jagodzinski, and Sanders, despite all their evident differences, share a common concern for the structural relationship between their subjects (material books, the printing house, science, reading and writing practices) and cultural constructions of authorship, authority gender, and the public and private spheres. J. Christopher Warner's Henry VIII's Divorce: Literature and the Politics of the Printing Press and Frances Dolan's Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture, although still interested in politics, authority, and (for Dolan) gender, more directly address the relationship between public opinion and the ideas the printed word expresses than the structural relationship between printing and culture formation. In doing so, both Warren and Dolan take for granted the enormous impact that the presence of print had in shaping public opinion. Despite their focus upon the representations that appeared in print, these two studies implicitly argue that in early modern England, at least, printing created a public sphere, where different perspectives could be presented and where debate and discussion might occur.

Christopher Warner's Henry VIII's Divorce, well grounded in historical event, argues that Henry "had published" a series of "fictions" (prose dialogues that contained fictional scenes and characters) to discourage resistance to his divorce. Assuming that all books printed "cum privilegio a rege indulto" -- especially by the King's Printer, Thomas Berthelet -- were at the King's behest, Warner argues that Henry actively promoted a very subtle propaganda program that cast him as a humanistic scholar-philosopher who allowed space for dissent. This image characterized the king as welcoming counsel and criticism from those who were qualified to give it, court counselors and others with "legitimate connections to the government" (3). From this perspective, any text Berthelet published (however critical of Henry's positions) as well as any text printed by John or William Rastell (kinsmen and printers to lord chancellor Thomas More) should be re-read as propaganda designed to reduce opposition to the divorce. Warner reconsiders several examples of Tudor literature, including Sir Thomas More's Utopia, Sir Thomas Elyot's The Boke Named the Governour, and Christopher Saint German's The dialoges in Englishe, betweene a doctor of diuinitie, and a student in the lawes of Englande, for their propaganda value as either direct expressions of the King's self-fashioning or manifestations of the kind of criticism the King invited.

Warner's readings of Tudor literature are persuasive as long as one accepts his assumptions about the King's Printer and "cum privilegio." This is somewhat problematic since before 1557, when the London Company of Stationers received its charter, royal printing privileges (which were rarely procured directly from the king) constituted a form of "copyright," i.e. a printer's exclusive right to print a given title. Furthermore, as the King's Printer, Thomas Berthelet was expressly allowed to imprint any book he published with cum privilegio. Thus, while any book that Henry VIII promoted would be likely to bear the imprint, cum privilegio, not every book bearing this imprint necessarily reflected the King's agenda. Even so, in a comfortable marriage between literary and historical analysis, Henry VIII's Divorce reveals Warner's sophisticated knowledge of Henrician political culture, his penchant for subtle reading, and a commanding knowledge of the literature printed during the rein of Henry VIII.

In The Whores of Babylon, Frances Dolan surveys anti-Catholic polemic and propaganda to find recurrent patterns in which seventeenth-century English anxieties about the threats posed by English Catholics are bound up to deeply rooted anxieties about female agency at every level of culture, from the bedroom to the council chamber. Since these anxieties find expression in the penal statutes as well as in print, Dolan's argument, for the most part, is essentially not a causal one on the role of printing per se, but rather on the propagandistic uses that both Catholics and Protestants made of the printed word. Dolan argues that anti-Catholicism was deeply rooted in English cultural anxieties which printing served to codify and disseminate. She refers to Eisenstein more to demonstrate that Catholics as well as Protestants mobilized print -- that they, like Protestants, entered into debate in which the printed page became a pubic sphere -- than to establish a relationship between printing and changes in the religi ous culture. Dolan's study focuses on three important events in seventeenth century England when printed propaganda against Catholics escalated -- the Gunpowder Plot, the English Revolution, and the Popish Plot.

Dolan employs the Gunpowder Plot to establish the codification that emerged in representing the Catholic threat. According to Dolan, "Many of the otherwise heterogeneous anti-Catholic texts written in response to the plot employ gender as one way of describing a terrifyingly new threat in familiar yet still disturbing terms" (47). Even though no women participated, the literature identifies Catholicism with "disorderly women" -- those "dangerous familiars" who subvert from within and are peculiarly resistant to the rule of men, even their husbands and priests. To explain this complex representation, Dolan turns to English law and the problem recusant households posed to the principle of coverture, i.e. that husbands were legally responsible for their wives. For English law to make recusant women accountable for their actions -- to release them from coverture -- threatened the essential structure of patriarchy. In the public imagination, according to Dolan, the "Homme covert" (a man who engaged in outward con formity and equivocation) replaced the "femme covert" to such a degree that plays in the public theater, like Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra, represented the effeminacy of men divided in their loyalty between the public male ideal and private conscience. Far less subtle than the theater, anti-Catholic propaganda registered the full range of cultural anxieties about unruly Catholic women from monstrous births, to "incontinent priests debauching the souls as well as the bodies of women" to wastrel husbands: "Viewed with suspicion from without, the Catholic household was a space of gender inversion, gender integration and gender leveling" (93).

The anxieties that animated the "dangerous familiars" in polemic and propaganda associated with the Gunpowder Plot surfaced again at the brink of the Revolution, but this time they became focused in one particular household -- the King's. During the 1630s printed tracts that associated Henrietta Maria with Catholic motherhood registered anxieties about women's domestic influence rather than about their unruliness. Dolan links fears about the "influence that a Catholic wife or mother, particularly a royal one, might exercise over a king and hence the country" (103) to Marian controversy. From Dolan's perspective, "The stature of Mary in Catholic belief and practice" was taken by Protestants as "proof of the excessive power Catholics were willing to invest in women," and this, in turn "served as a starting point for attacks on actual Catholic women, such as Henrietta Maria" (106). Anxiety about Catholic wives, Dolan argues, extended to concern about how Catholic women influenced their children. Although not wi dely registered in print, Dolan cites this as the motivation for legislation that sought to restrain Catholic education in England and prevent English children from being sent to the Continent.

It is only in the last chapter on Elizabeth Cellier and the "Popish Plots" that Dolan finds printing directly facilitating and participating in political events. "Regarding the Popish Plot," says Dolan, "it is impossible to distinguish between events and their narrative representations because those narratives -- circulated as rumors, offered in court as testimony, published --were the event" (158). Furthermore, rumors and testimonies that constituted the Popish Plot depended upon their representation in print: "Without the press, these trials would have had limited audiences and limited impact: the press did more to bring the Popish Plot into the public sphere than the courts or the scaffold did ... Presses printed expanded versions of witnesses' testimony, rival accounts of the trials and executions, gossip about those suspected or accused, satires, "news" (158-59). Dolan focuses on events and publications relating to Elizabeth Cellier, a relatively minor figure, who was accused by her employee, Thomas Dan gerfield, of inventing a plot to incriminate the Presbyterians of a plot against the King. Cellier, indicted for treason, was acquitted because of her skillful self defense at the trial. She then wrote an account of the trial entitled Malice Defeated, for which she was subsequently tried for and convicted of libel because it claimed that the government tortured prisoners. The events and texts Dolan describes (both Cellier's and those that attacked and satirized her) register the complex issues women (especially politically interested Catholic women) faced in terms of legal and authorial agency: "Cellier was not unique in having agency (and authorship) conferred on her only so that she might be held accountable for her actions" (193). In Cellier's particular case, however, Dolan demonstrates that Elizabeth Cellier's religious affiliation and gender "shaped her representation as a 'wretched subject'" -- a Catholic woman who became subject to the full vocabulary of anti-Catholic discourse (210).

As this account of Dolan's study may suggest, I concur with Arthur Marotti's assessment, quoted on the book jacket, that this is "cultural history at its best." Dolan provides a persuasive (although hardly disinterested) study of the ways seventeenth-century printed texts represented Catholicism and gender and the relationships between them. Dolan skillfully reads these texts against the important work of historians of the seventeenth-century -- including Susan Amussen, David Cressy, Eamon Duffy, Christopher Haigh, Patrick Collinson, Peter Lake, Michael C. Questier, Rachel Weil, and Tim Harris -- and in doing so extends her study's understanding of the culture beyond what might be obtained only from seventeenth-century texts. Dolan thus establishes the degree to which printed texts are themselves cultural artifacts that are as relevant to producing the cultural "history" of a society as the documentary evidence customarily relied upon by historians. In the sense that Whores of Babylon is concerned with both history and reading texts, Dolan's study is interdisciplinary -- and it deserves praise for its command of the historical literature. On the other hand, Dolan's historical analysis is constrained by the historical studies upon which it relies. In this respect she falls short of the kind of interdisciplinary methodological model Sharpe proposes that accommodates theory, reading, and "empirical research." This, however, is less a criticism of Dolan's study than a further observation on the difficulty of engaging an interdisciplinary methodology. It is in regard to Dolan's inclusion of "print culture" in her subtitle that I wish to raise some concerns I have with Dolan's work as representative of the discipline of the "history of the book."

Beginning in the 1930s, the New Criticism dismissed historicist approaches to literature on the grounds that sounding the depths of a literary work for its historical allusions -- for the way in which it mirrored the culture in which it was produced -- deflected interest away from the literature, proving ultimately useless as a critical tool. In the 1980s and 1990s, New Historicism rejuvenated literary historical studies -- especially in the Renaissance -- not only by returning literary texts to their historical culture but also by reading that culture textually and positing the intertextuality of various kinds of cultural texts. Dolan's approach, which reads anti-recusant laws and historical accounts of Catholic families (royals and commoners alike) alongside Catholic and anti-Catholic polemic and propaganda, places Whores of Babylon in this tradition. Its status as a study of print culture is somewhat more problematic. The manner in which she approaches the printed texts she considers in relation to the cu lture (especially in the first three of the book's four chapters) seems to suggest less interest in the cultural implications of these texts having been printed than in what the printed texts "mirror" about cultural anxieties. In this regard, the printed word becomes a kind of transparent rendering of anxieties deeply seeded within the culture. Saying this, especially when the chapter on Elizabeth Cellier and the "Popish Plots" so directly addresses an instance of "print culture," may seem unfair, except that Dolan's work sounds an alarm to the danger into which studies in print culture might fall in less competent hands. It raises the question of whether the study of any nexus of cultural practice that finds expression in print -- anti-Catholicism, misogyny, political propaganda, Utopianism, neo-Nazisim, indeed, practically anything -- is necessarily a study of print culture? Perhaps in fairness, one should see Dolan's excellent book, not as a study in "Catholicism, Gender and Seventeenth-Century Print Cultu re" but as a group of individual studies of anti-Catholicism and gender, and one of the Popish Plot and print culture.

While the relationship between Whores of Babylon and its subtitle may suggest the need for imposing some kind of limit on "print culture" to assure that a center holds for this interdisciplinary discipline, Dolan's work together with the other books considered here demonstrate the reward of venturing outside traditional boundaries. The great strength of the books considered here is that together -- in a full complement -- they advance our understanding of authorship, textual authority, reading practices, and the political implications of printed texts in Renaissance Italy and early modern England. Indeed, they fulfill the new discipline's promise envisioned by Kevin Sharpe's observation that the history of the book makes it clear that "certain types of historical enquiry ... need to be an interdisciplinary endeavour" (39). Taken individually, however, each of these books reveals that however much the history of the book needs to be "an interdisciplinary endeavour," to practice interdisciplinary scholarship re quires more than becoming conversant in the recent literature of another discipline; it requires a certain humility in the face of long traditions of bibliographic, historiographic, and critical practice, and a willingness to acknowledge and incorporate these precedents along with often unaccustomed methodologies. These recent studies in the history of the book suggest that although being interdisciplinary has become no easier "to do" than it was in 1988, when scholars venture their efforts in a field such as this, there is a fine yield.

Douglas A. Brooks. From Playhouse to Printing House: Drama and Authorship in Early Modern England (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, 36.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. xviii + 293 pp. $59.95. ISBN: 0-521-77117-X.

Frances E. Dolan. Whores of Babylon: Catholicism, Gender and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999. xii + 231 pp. $39.95. ISBN: 0-8014-3629-X.

Cecile M. Jagodzinski. Privacy and Print: Reading and Writing in Seventeenth-Century England. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 1999. 218 pp. $45. ISBN: 0-8139-1839-1.

Adrian Johns. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. xxi + 753 pp. $40. ISBN: 0-226-40121-9.

Brian Richardson. Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. xii + 220 pp. $59.95 (cl), $22.95 (pbk). ISBN: 0-521-57161-8 (ci), 0-521-57693-8 (pbk).

Eve Rachelle Sanders. Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England (Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, 28.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. xvii + 260 pp. $59.95. ISBN: 0-521-58234-2.

Kevin Sharpe. Reading Revolutions: The Politics of Reading in Early Modern England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000. xiv + 358 pp. $40. ISBN: 0-300-08152-9.

J. Christopher Warner. Hemy VIII's Divorce: Literature and the Politics of the Printing Press. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1998. ix + 163 pp. $75. ISBN: 0-85115-642-8.
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Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 2001
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