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Materiality, Meaning, and Disbelief: Rene de Lucinge's The Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates.

The publication of Rene de Lucinge's De la naissance, duree, et cheute des estats seems to have been a success story. This success may be gauged in two ways: its influence can be traced all over Europe and its translations soon appeared in a variety of languages. Its popularity is due to the fact that the book touches upon themes that appealed to readers and intellectuals of the time. Lucinge's book nicely harmonised with the humanist interest in the "Turkish problem" (Bisaha 3), (1) the popular "Crusading ideology" (Constable 6 7), (2) the topos of western unity as a means to stop the Turks (Hankins 120), as well as with the fashionable rhetoric of Machiavelli's tenets (Anglo 249 250). Furthermore, Lucinge's work could be utilised paradoxically in the popular anti-intellectual oratory of its time, (3) and also in the debates over the greatness of states (Peltonen 218). The thoroughly documented ways in which Lucinge's work exercised its influence should, however, be regarded from another perspective as well. It should also be considered that Lucinge's ideas appeared in books and the different books may have had different means to tell their stories. In this paper, I provide a historicised reading of Lucinge's work and explore the material aspects of the English translation.

My aim is to discuss the dynamic relationship between the main text, and the paratextual and material aspects of the 1606 English edition of Rene de Lucinge's The Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates. (4) The exploration of this dynamism reveals the constant distanciation and unification of the main text and the other aspects of the work. In what follows, I shall demonstrate that the reader is constantly reminded of the difference between Lucinge's original French text translated into English and the English book, and at the same time (s)he is also encouraged to take the work as a whole with a slightly different meaning. For the sake of the exploration of this dynamism, I am going to introduce the semiotic context in which the book signified, then turn to the prefatory material written by John Finet, the translator, and lastly, I am going to shed light on the material aspects, especially on the decoration of the book.

The Beginning is specifically inviting an analysis of this kind, as Lucinge reflects on the material aspect of books, when strategically proposing that the integrity and unity of the Turkish people should be destroyed with books via spreading disbelief in the empire among the Turkish people. He claims that books are to be smuggled into the Turkish Empire to cast doubt on their religion, but all this is to be executed with cunning and caution, for an open attack would not achieve the desired effect. Caution and cunning means in this case that the first impression of books should be misleading. The title of the books should be "coloured, as it doe not at the first discover the intent of the author, but rather that it intice them to peruse it with a certaine curiosity and shew of pleasentness and delight" (X1r). The content of them, harmonising with the title, should be "full of tales and matter fit to moove laughter; yet with some well conveied passage which may by way discover or make them doubt of the fables of their Alcoran" (X1r). Thus, the stylishly printed English The Beginning and its contents all open up the exploration of the interplay between the material aspect of the book and its meaning fostering disbelief.


The exploration of the maintenance and dissolution of the division between main and marginal text, linguistic and visual aspects is fostered by our more nuanced understanding of the historical circumstances of the publication processes in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and specifically, by a focus on what may be termed the culture of printing industry. As Michael Saenger asserts:
There were not very many printers and publishers in England and the
circulation of books had a clear focal point in St. Paul's
Churchyard.... This unique, temporally specific, and contingent set of
conditions allows us to understand Elizabethan publishing and printing
as a thriving, coherent, collaborative (and also competitive)
microculture. It was a culture of making, selling, and reading books,
one which developed its own codes, conventions and genres. (Saenger 6)

What Saenger claims about the Elizabethan circumstances of the book trade is also true about the early Jacobean period. The rules and regulations of the Stationers' Company that governed the publishing industry remained the same in the first decade of the seventeenth century. It is this coherent, competitive and cooperative microculture with its own codes and expectations as far as the decoding of the printed material is concerned that shaped the context in which Lucinge's work signified in England.

One characteristic feature of this context is the monarch's direct or indirect presence in the publishing industry. From the beginning of his reign, James I was concerned about deploying print to foster his politico-religious objectives. Understanding the power of the printed word, as Graham Rees and Maria Wakely argue, James I desired "to define a national culture, and further establish and defend the Protestant religion and the doctrine of divine right through the printed word..." (15). Out of these three objectives a national culture, Protestant religion, and the doctrine of the divine right at least two seem to be present in Lucinge's work. Firstly, the book seems to foster national ends in so far as the English are supposed to act as facilitators for European unity against the Turks. Secondly, The Beginning was dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, a representative of English Protestantism. (5) Thus, the book played a significant role in the Jacobean religio-political agenda.

James I's desires seem to be in line with the publisher, John Bill, who was one of the few leading publishers of his own time specialising in the continental book trade. He built his career on the continent as a renowned book collector for Thomas Bodley (Rees and Wakely 102), so it is very likely that he was well acquainted with a large network of continental publishers. Bill's influential continental presence and business contacts were spotted by the Scottish printer, James' favourite, John Norton, and in 1603 the two prominent figures, Norton and Bill established a joint venture to specialise in the foreign book trade to import from and export books to the continent (Rees and Wakely 15). This joint partnership was made even more powerful when James granted the patent to Norton to act as the King's printer in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (Rees and Wakely 15). Thus, John Bill's name as the publisher of Lucinge's The Beginning also meant in this particular context a trademark and a special prestige, associating the book with the Jacobean cultural politics of national ends on the European stage.

It was not only the publisher of The Beginning whose name meant much in the print culture of the early Jacobean era but that of the printers, or more precisely, the syndicate of printers running the Eliot's Court Printing House in the Old Bailey (Aldis et al. 131, 204). The printing house was founded in 1584 by Arnold Hatfield, Ninian Newton, Edmund Bollifant, and John Jackson, and when Bollifant died in 1602, Melchisidec Bradwood took his place. This syndicate of printers worked extensively for Norton and Bill, printing such a nice volume as Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1606) among many other books. It is then a highly prestigious printing house that was responsible for the book, adding extra cultural value to the claims of the book.

This microculture can help us reveal how the meanings of The Beginning can be understood historically not as the product of a single author but rather as a product of many hands. In the early modern period, the belief in "an authorial univocality" (Masten 15) is misleading, because the construction of meaning was a much more complicated issue than what can be anchored in a single author. As Sharpe and Zwicker claim, "what we are learning from the new bibliography and from the history of the book is all the complexities of the book's composition, construction and production and the relation of those complexities to the creation of meaning" (5). In the case of The Beginning, the construction of meaning can be seen as the collaborative effort of numerous stakeholders that include Rene de Lucinge, the author of the French work, i.e. De la naissance, duree, et cheute des estats; (6) John Finet, the translator; the employees at the Eliot's Court Press, as the printers; and finally, John Bill, the publisher. All these people contributed to the mode Rene de Lucinge's The Beginning Continuance and Decay of Estates could signify in its own time.

The Beginning, the product of this collaborative effort, gives the impression of a book that aims to live up to the expectations of the printing culture and royal expectations of the time. It is an edition which appeals both to the eye and the purse. The volume appeals to the eye as it is clearly and logically structured: it consists of three pieces of introductory material including John Finet's and Lucinge's dedicatory epistles, Finet's epistle "To the Reader," and the three books of the main text. Finding topics and subchapters in the main text is made easier with the help of the table of contents and running marginalia. Beyond the clear logical structure, the edition further pleases the eye with its beautiful initial letters and headpieces. This handy quarto book with a page height of 18.2 cm, however, does not seem to be all too prestigious, not so much to be bought as an expensive commodity demonstrating the financial status of the owner but rather as a book to be read by many, as the paper used is lightweight without watermark, which suggests a cheaper sort of book.

In this neatly constructed book, the main text provides a strategic analysis of the Turkish threat so as to give expert advice on how the Turks could be defeated. The bitter analysis is presented in three books totalling 39 chapters, in which Lucinge claims that the Turks fight more ardently and fiercely on the battlefield than their Christian opponents, so defeating them requires an understanding of the source of their power. In the First Book, Lucinge treats the Turkish military power on the battlefield in a historical perspective from the establishment of the Turkish Empire. The Second Book explores the reasons for the unity and coherence of the vast Turkish Empire, i.e. it deals with questions of religion and human relations within the empire. In the last book, the chances of defeating the Turks are discussed, where one finds a historical analysis of the battles between 1537 and 1571, during which period Christian unity failed. Lucinge claims here that there are two cornerstones of a possible victory against the Turks: united Christian forces on the one hand and the cunning dissolution of the integrity within the Turkish Empire with the help of disbelief on the other.

The main text, without John Finet' s prefatory material and the decoration of the book, would be nothing more than a historically informed, bitter manual written by an expert strategist on how to handle the pressing Turkish threat from the continental perspective. As, however, the paratextual and material aspects of the book are there as well, I am going to devote the rest of the paper to showing how the meaning of the volume is influenced by them.


Prefatory elements of texts have been considered as semiotically significant at least since Gerard Genette's seminal book, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Genette defines the paratext as "fringe," "a zone," a cluster of texts dividing the main text from the world, influencing the reading of the main text. (7) Since Genette's book, many modifications have been introduced and many contributions have been made to his concept of the "paratext," but there seems to be a general agreement that the reading process and, thus, the construction of meaning are directly or indirectly influenced occasionally even determined by the texts that surround the main text of a volume. (8) In line with this assumption, firstly, I shall discuss how Finet's "Dedication" fashions what comes after it in the volume.

The Dedicatory epistle displays a certain contradiction in terms of privacy and publicity. As a letter, it seems to be meant to be read by only one person, i.e. by the dedicatee. The expected elements of a dedication, thus, consist in explaining why the work has been published and dedicated to the addressee, and also of some flattering description of the same person. Though this may well display elements of intimacy, as the dedication becomes part of the published volume, it is made public and addresses the reader as well. It partly serves as a means of advertisement as Saenger states: "the genre of the epistle dedicatory became, in practice, a new opportunity to address the general readership obliquely, under the pretence of addressing a single aristocrat" (9). So, the reader was, in a way, lured into buying the volume, once there was such a powerful authority associated with it (Saenger 56). And Richard Bancroft, the dedicatee of the volume, was an authority, indeed, as it is clear from the page that presents his titles.

Richard Bancroft, the 74th Archbishop of Canterbury, is represented as a man of spiritual and political authority. The addressee's identity is not only presented but also created in the title of the dedication: "To the most reverend father in God, Richard, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury his Grace, Primate and Metropolitane of all England, and one of his maiesties most honourable priuie councell, &c" (a2r). The dedication is pregnant with meaning in the listing of the titles and the size of the letters. The first part, the largest letters, presents Bancroft first and foremost as a man of spirituality, as a man whose duty is to love his people by offering them spiritual guidance as a father. This is further qualified as one occupying the highest position in the Church of England after the monarch, "Archbishop of Canterbury," "Primate and Metropolitane of all England" someone who can make use of his talents in a beneficial way by reaching out to many people through his institutional position. The titles so far, however, sound odd, as a work on military analysis and strategy against the Turkish threat can hardly be reconciled with the fact that it is dedicated to a man of individual and institutional religiosity. The last part of the list re-establishes the harmony between addressee and content insofar as the reader learns that Richard Bancroft is also an important member of the worldly establishment as a privy councillor to James I.

Dedicating the book to Richard Bancroft reveals shrewdness on Finet's part, which is corroborated by the circumstances in which the addressee was selected. Finet "served as a gentleman in Sir Robert Sydney's company in the 1590s, after which he entered the employment of Thomas Wilson, secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, the principal adviser of Elizabeth I and her successor James I" (Cerasano and Wynne-Davies 220). Given his political power, one would think that English politics could have been influenced in a much more direct way through Robert Cecil. Instead of this straightforward and simple way, Finet may have thought that European and English politics could well be affected by someone other than having political power only. In Bancroft's case, political power was completed with spiritual power and a strong vision about the English nation. The archbishop envisioned an England characterised by middle-way, institutionalised Protestantism: far from either Catholics or Puritans. In his struggle, he appealed to James with an argument that rested on the maintenance of kingly authority. As McGrath puts it:
Richard Bancroft and others set out to persuade James that his monarchy
was dependent upon the episcopacy for its future.... Without the
bishops of the Church of England, there was no future for the monarchy
in England. The king's real enemies, the "Papists" and the "Puritans,"
had a vested interest in destroying his authority. Only a close working
alliance with the bishops would preserve the status quo and allow James
to exercise his (as he saw it) divinely ordained kingly role in state
and church. It was a telling argument, and it hit home. (McGrath

Finet clearly chose an appropriate person for the project to fight the Turks: someone who had a more penetrating influence on the world than Cecil and also someone who had a clear vision on how to preserve the state of England. Bancroft was a fine choice for another reason as well. He was not only a man of power and vision but someone who became famous for his understanding the power of media, i.e. print. It was he, then the bishop of London, and John Whitgift, then the Archbishop of Canterbury, who shut down the infamous Marprelate controversy and the war of poets in the 1580 1590s with the "Bishops' Ban" or "Satire Ban" of 1 June 1599 (Bruster 51). These two heated quarrels were articulated through pamphlets and literary works, which in turn materialised via print. Thus, the addressee's fame could have helped the contemporary readers both to place the volume in a religious and political context with an awareness of the power of the printed word, and also to make them buy and trust the book.

Having created a reliable and powerful dedicatee for the volume, the "Dedication" gives a further, though not unrelated, reason for choosing Bancroft. The three ideas (i.e. religious and political power and the awareness of the power of the printing press) become harmonised in a missionary enterprise, as the main theme and focus of the argument is a politico-religious one: Christian unity. It is here that a reader can further see why the Archbishop of Canterbury has been chosen as the dedicatee of the volume. Finet not only wants to mobilise the English against the Turks but also intends for England to function as the facilitator of Christian unity. He draws the conventional map of the world according to religious divisions and proposes a unified Christendom with the English as inspiration. Consequently, the focus is on Christianity and its fragmentation, and the dangerous energy that came into being with the fragmentation, which in turn should be turned against the common enemy. While this enemy is obviously the Turkish Empire, the Turkishness of the enemy is not so important, as they remain unnamed in the "Dedication."

This silence about the Turks is full of meaning insofar as the emphasis is not on how to overcome the enemy but rather on what the English people should do. This shift of emphasis induced by the silence transforms Lucinge's analysis into something like a missionary statement for the English nation. Lucinge's strategic analysis, thus, should be deployed by the English as a nation led by a charismatic leader who is well-versed and powerful in matters of religion, politics and the press instead of the Duke of Savoy, who is the dedicatee of Lucinge's French original. This charismatic English leader in turn should not only unite the English nation but the entire Christendom to present a powerful counterpoint to the Turkish threat.

The continental-English dichotomy is also present in the argument for the timeliness of the English translation. Finet claims that the original "hath already put on the habit of three seuerall languages, and if my judgement erre not, our English fashion will not ill become it" (a2v). Lucinge's book was published in 1588, the same year as Michel de Montaigne's Essais. The Italian translation came off the press within two years with the title Dell'origine, conservatione et decadenza degli Stati. (9) The appearance of this fast Italian rendering of the work also corroborates the early intense interest in it. Its fame is further confirmed by some parts of it appearing in the Italian Tesoro politico a book of political thought widely read at the time without mentioning Lucinge. (10) It makes the case more significant that earlier versions of the Tesoro inspired Lucinge to write his own book, and now his meditations found their way into a later edition. (11) This latter Tesoro naturally gave a further boost to the dissemination of Lucinge's ideas. The last twist in the relationship between the De la naissance and the Tesoro is that, because of the popularity of the Tesoro, "it was retranslated into French as an anonymous discourse" (Anglo 10) entitled Tresor politique (Paris: N. du Fosse, 1608). In this way Lucinge's work, or parts of it, through Italian transmission, returned to its native soil and language. In the meantime, the Latin translation was also published: De Incremento, conservatione, et occasu imperium rendered into Latin by Jacob Geuder der Heroltzberg (Nuremberg: Conrad Agricola, 1603). (12) The almost twenty-year-long translation history of the book, into Italian, from Italian into French and Latin, proves the value of the book, and buttresses the larger contribution of the "Dedication" to the signifying process of the volume, the transformation of Lucinge's strategic analysis of the Turkish Empire into a missionary statement for the English as a nation on a politico-religious ground.


The re-orientation of the strategic analysis into a missionary statement is concluded in Finet's second contribution to the volume, "To the Reader." Finet seems to claim that the volume is not only one among the many on the book market but a distinguished book and should be appropriated accordingly. The argument is a negative one: he expresses a low opinion about book production in general, and then argues that only valuable books stand the test of time unaffected by fashion and desires.

Finet launches his meditation about books and the vindication of The Beginning by stating that book production has reached a peak never seen before: "The World had neuer more Bookes" (b3r). The claim implies that this is not something to be celebrated, it is not an expression of satisfaction that knowledge has become open, that it may reach more and more people and that it would contribute in the long run to the general welfare of the human race. The possessive syntactic structure suggests rather that this is a sad fact: books are possessed but not necessarily used, they are not read and understood but remain externalised possessions. Furthermore, as it turns out later, the increase in number does not entail an increase in quality, so the bitter observation is that this increase does more harm than good. Actually, Finet did not have to explain this anti-book claim in detail, as this kind of observation was part of the intellectual agenda of the early seventeenth century. This bibliophobic, anti-intellectual attitude was so much a part of daily discourse that Francis Bacon in the first book of his Advancement of Learning (1605) had to argue against this view.

In what follows, Finet seems to side with Bacon in that the reason for his negative view on book production relies on the distinction between rhetorical quality and content. He claims that "the true life of a worke, and the sound discretion of a writer, appeare not more in the well handling, then wise choice of subject" (b3r). In this opposition, content appears at the top of the hierarchy, while form is presented as essential but inferior in this comparative structure. In other words, the reception of a book and the writer's circumspection do not lie in the way the topic is handled but appears by the wisdom of the choice. It is not the how but rather the what that counts in this hierarchy.

Finet explores this hierarchical opposition further when he claims that most of the published works "stand rather for ornaments or flourishing differences, then matters regardable or of consequence" (b3r). Thus, the form, the rhetorical quality, is essential, but if exaggerated, if it is nothing but ornamentation and draws fanciful distinctions, it is useless and even harmful. The form should never overshadow the matter discussed, while the latter should be noteworthy and seriously heavy on the one hand, and consequences, practical and useful consequences, should follow from them on the other. This distinction between form and content is similar to Francis Bacon's ideas on the errors of learning, more precisely with the error that Bacon terms "delicate learning," which studies "words and not matter" (139).

Qualifying the criterion which is anchored in reception, as the number of readers and buyers of the book does not in itself secure the quality of the book, Finet introduces another set of oppositions. The quantitative measurement of interest in a book cannot function as a criterion of quality, as readers may judge a book good because of "will," or "appetite," or "the tyrannie of fashion" (b3r). In a Protestant intellectual milieu, these three items sounded rather negative, either following from the individual's weakness or from that of the multitude. In a treatise about political strategy the word "tyranny," the worst attribute of a ruler is even more negative. What is opposed to the weakness of the individual and the multitude are "reason" and "time." Although "reason" remains undefined, the opposition is telling. In this opposition, reason seems to signify that faculty of the human mind which is led by the necessity of pure logic uncontaminated by desires.

The argument from reception has a temporal dimension as well, which Finet deploys as a criterion of quality. Finet confidently claims that "one thing I am sure of; time hath discouered their weaknesse, and trueth his concealed daughter is come to light" (b3r). This argument relies on the well-known emblem of Veritas temporis filia (Whitney 54). In Whitney's emblem book "Time" is represented as a naked, winged old man, holding a scythe, who is liberating a kneeling woman, Truth, from her dungeon. (13) Time, thus, as a criterion of quality means that, as time passes, both the virtues and the flaws of a text will inevitably come to light.

As we could see so far, the reader has been prepared to have a fruitful encounter with the main text. The "Dedication" has placed the forthcoming meditation into the best hand, i.e. that of Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, a man of spiritual and political power, someone who is also aware of the power of the print. It has also proved the value of the forthcoming writing and shifted the meaning of the volume from a strategic analysis to an English missionary statement. It is time then that we turn our attention to see to what extent the other material aspects influence the claims of the volume.


The material aspect of The Beginning not only decorates the book but also adds to, influences, and clarifies its meaning. This influence is reached by the way the material aspects of the book, namely the typeface, the headpieces, and the decorated initials level out the visual, and thus conceptual differences between prefatory and main.

It is worth starting the meditation about the material aspects of the work with a possible objection. The prefatory material and the main text are visually divided from each other, and, as a consequence, the prefatory material cannot influence the understanding of the main text; thus, the strategic analysis can hardly turn into a missionary statement. This objection results from the typeface used for the epistles of Finet's "Dedication" and "To the Reader." Most of the text in the volume is in Roman type, but John Finet's introductory writings (the "Dedication" and the "To the Reader") were italicised to distinguish them from Lucinge's "Dedication" and from the main text of the volume. Italics are also used to distinguish quotations in languages other than English; most of the time they are deployed for quotations in Latin. So, seemingly other voices, i.e. those of Finet and also Latin authors, have been distinguished from that of Lucinge via the italic type. This typographical choice visually identifies the two texts as the "original" or main (Roman) and the additional or paratextual material (italics).

This act of orthographical distanciation could be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, it may imply that the reader should read the two separately, and thus the prefatory may be disregarded. This interpretation, however, is highly unlikely as the dedication to a powerful person like Richard Bancroft would probably not be simply disregarded. Secondly, it may suggest that the reader is reminded of the fact that the main text, the original work is put into another, new context, so the book as a unified whole is to mean with all the paratextual elements. If we take a look at the typeface and the decorations in more detail, the pendulum swings towards the second interpretation.

The typographic difference between the voices is counterbalanced by the letter type in the main text. The main text contains italic type as well at the beginning of each chapter and book, marking off the synoptic outlines attached to these units of the main text. So, in a sense, the italic type distinguishes in the main text the metatext that is supposed to help the reading process and Lucinge-Finet's words. On the other hand, italics are not used for another metatextual device: the printed marginalia. Using Roman type for what there is on the margins seems to communicate that those notes belong to the authorial voice. As Heath points out, however, this is not the case; the marginalia represents another voice, originating in the Latin translation-edition of Lucinge's work. (14) So in this case, the other's voice is not distinguished from the "original," and this destabilises the opposition between "original" versus "other," main versus marginal.

Elements of decoration, such as the headpieces and the initials, re-establish the link between the voices. There are also other elements of the volume that "orchestrated and modulated the word" (Sharpe and Zwicker 6). The reader finds seven headpieces in the volume and the placement of these ornaments has implications beyond mere decoration. These seven headpieces structure the volume into seven large units (the three pieces of the prefatory material, the contents-page, and the three books of the main text) that, judging by the presence of the decorative elements, seem to have the same weight.

It is not only the economy of the distribution of the headpieces that level out the division between the voices of the work but also the placement of the decorated initial letters. The printer used 42 decorated initials every chapter begins with one thus structuring the text into equally important units: three units in the prefatory material, 17 chapters in the First Book, seven in the Second Book, and 15 in the last book. This mechanical distribution of the initials further dissolves the difference between the voices. What further levels out the difference of voices, however, and adds significance to certain units, is the choice of the type of initial used in the work. One finds mostly decorated initials; of the 42 initials only one remains undecorated, and that is the initial letter of Chapter 4 of the Third Book. The decorated initials fall into three groups. The first includes the majority (35), which may be labelled as initials with natural ornamentation. These are the initials that open 33 chapters of the main text, Lucinge's "Dedicatory Epistle," and John Finet's epistle "To the Reader." If there is a pattern here, it points towards the disappearance of the difference between prefatory and main, the texts Finet wrote and those by Lucinge. The remaining six initials are decorated with human figures instead of the natural decoration. Two out of the six, following Plomer's terminology, may be named "black initials," as the background for the human figure and the letter is pitch black (Plomer 96). None of these launch especially outstanding chapters one opens Chapter 5, the other Chapter 12 of the Third Book and as both of them are for the same letter, I cannot find any reason for this choice other than mere chance.

In contrast, the next four decorated initials in this group do reveal a pattern. These are called "Eliot's Court Apostolic" initials and open significant chapters. The name originates from the use of this type in the "Eliot's Court" printing house, which in turn are derived from the initials applied by Henry Middleton with the difference that there are more circles in the frame of the original (Plomer 96 97). These initials seem to be special in this volume, as these are the only ones that are framed and that they contain figures who are not only human in general but can be identified. The frames are not only lines but rather strips that have little circles on each side of the frame. What is even more significant here is that these are also "Apostolic," "as each letter shows a figure round whose head was a nimbus, some of which have the emblems of the apostles, but other personages, such as King David, are now and again substituted" (Plomer 96). These initials start four significant chapters, namely John Finet's "Dedication," and Lucinge's three books, thus, again breaking down the distinction between marginal and main text. Or perhaps they imply that Finet's "Dedication" and Lucinge's three books form an organic unity, i.e. they make sense together.

The "Eliot's Court Apostolic" initials contribute to the signification of The Beginning. Firstly, giving further emphasis to the religious layer of the text, it is clearly anthropomorphic figures that launch the claims of the different units of the volume, and what marks these figures is their common activity as people who carry the Word of God, the good news. Even though these figures unanimously carry the Word of God, the images reveal some differences among them. The First Book opens with a haloed man keeping the cup of transubstantiated wine, above which a dove represents the Holy Spirit. The next two figures present the Word of God: the first one reading from an open book, while the second is holding in his right hand a closed book. The first initial of the two represents a winged angel who heralds the word of God. In this image, thus, there are transcendental figures instead of the symbolic representation of the divine in the other ones. Instead of the humanly mediated presence of the transcendental, the transcendental appears in its reality, both marking off and linking the opening decorated initial and the text it belongs to from and to the rest of the book. What the four images have in common is the transmission of information, knowledge thus emphasising the technology of publicising, multiplying the word, the power of publicity which in case of a Christian country is something that everybody takes for granted: the power of transmission.

The interrelatedness of the prefatory material and the main text in this case seems even more emphatic if we look at the volumes produced prior to and in the same year by Eliots Court Press. According to Early English Books Online, Eliots Court Press printed one book in 1605 and three in 1606. (15) In these four works, the Apostolic initials are used rather sparingly, as only two books are decorated with them and in both cases, this type of initial is reserved for the main text. In the case of Sarpi's A full and satisfactory answer, there is only one decorated initial and no text other than the main one. In Playfere's Caesaris superscription, the prefatory epistle "To the Reader" starts with a decorated initial featuring natural motifs, while the main text opens with an Apostolic initial. The other two works contain only initials with natural ornamentation. In all these volumes, the decoration is less intensive than in The Beginning, and one cannot really see a pattern enfolding with respect to the interrelatedness of the prefatory material and the main text. In comparison, the typography and decoration of The Beginning seems to be designed to contribute to the meaning of the text.


The Beginning offers a fascinating case study for exploring the material aspects of a book that influence its meaning. I have argued that the main text of the volume cannot be cut off from the microculture for which it was devised and in which it came into being. With its textual, paratextual, and material aspects, the volume, signified in its own world, created expectations, influenced the reading process and the process of the constitution of meaning: it also thematised and made use of destabilising the hierarchies of main and marginal, linguistic and visual. With the dynamic relationship of these oppositions the volume implies that meaning is not the product of an author but the product of the collaborative effort of author, translator, printer, and publisher whose cooperation is not necessarily orchestrated into the creation of a single meaning.

I have also argued that seemingly unrelated factors line up to contribute to the semiotic context of this book. Firstly, I have situated the book in the wider context of James I's attitude to the new technology of printing for his political and religious objectives. Secondly, I have shown that the publisher of the volume, John Bill, could also be seen as somebody whose fame and activity as a distinguished publisher harmonises with James's purposes. Thirdly, I have discussed how the distinguished printing house, Eliot's Court contributed to Bill's enterprise. Fourthly, I have argued that the translator's prefatory material recontextualised Lucinge' s work insofar as John Finet dedicated the volume to Richard Bancroft, a man of religious and political power, and also as a man who understood the power of the printed word. Also, Finet shifted the claim of the book from the Turks to the English nation as a facilitator of Christian unity so as to disintegrate the Turkish unity with the help of spreading disbelief among the Turks. Then, he shaped the readerly appropriation of the work arguing for its value via placing it in the publishing industry. Fifthly, I have explored the way the typefaces (italics and Roman), the headpieces and decorated initials shaped the relatedness of the prefatory material and the main text.

Taking all these five factors into account we could, thus, see that the volume as a volume wavers between layers of meaning. The Beginning as a book acts as a historico-strategic analysis to stop the Turkish threat and also as a consciously designed artefact furthering English ambitions on the Continent. This wavering of meaning, this act of decentralising the process of signification comes into being only because the book is and was not a container of authorial information but a product on and for the market, creating its meaning and use according to the customs and rules of the market.

What remains to be explored for a nuanced and historicised understanding of Lucinge's influence is the delineation of the way the original and the other translations signified as books. This exploration may well include an account of the material aspects of these books, such as the paratextual, physical, and visual elements. The account of these material aspects, moreover, should be treated in their relatedness to the main text of the work. In this way we could better understand different national, publishing, and political agendas on the one hand, and early modern political philosophy, publishing practice in the context of book history on the other. This research, however, remains to be conducted at a later time.


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Zsolt Almasi is associate professor in the Institute of English and American Studies, Pazmany Peter Catholic University, Hungary. His book, The Problematics of Custom as Exemplified in Key Texts of the Late English Renaissance, was published in 2004. He is the co-editor of the journals Digital Scholar and Digitalis bolcseszet (Digital Humanities), and with Mike Pincombe, he co-edited Writing the Other: Humanism versus Barbarism in Tudor England (2008) and New Perspectives on Tudor Cultures (2012). He is head of the Department of English Literatures and Cultures and executive secretary of the Hungarian Shakespeare Committee. His current research projects and publications focus on Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the contemporary Hungarian theatre, web 2.0, and digital culture.

(1) See also Hankins, Partrides.

(2) See also Cirakman (53). For the detailed analysis of the complex rhetoric of fighting the Turks in Lucinge, see Almasi.

(3) Vickers writes that "[o]ne recurring debate in this period was whether or not the occupations of the scholar and the soldier were compatible" (578).

(4) All parenthesised references pertain to this edition: Rene de Lucinge. The Beginning, Continuance and Decay of Estates. Wherein are handled many notable questions concerning the establishment of Empires and Monarchies. Trans. John Finet. London: Eliots Court for John Bill, 1606. I used the Newberry Library copy, call number Case J 15. 525.

(5) For the relationship between religious debate and print see Bristol and Marotti, especially where they claim that "[b]ooks and pamphlets were also key weapons in the protracted religious struggles of the period" (8).

(6) Rene de Lucinge. De la naissance, dvree, et chevte des estats. Paris: Chez Marc Orry, 1588. The pager-height is 6.50 in, the letter-size is larger than in The Beginning, while initial letters are smaller and less decorated.

(7) "Indeed, this fringe, always the conveyor of a commentary that is authorial or more or less legitimated by the author, constitutes a zone between text and off-text, a zone not only of transition but also of transaction: a privileged place of a pragmatics and a strategy, of an influence on the public, an influence that--whether well or poorly understood and achieved--is at the service of a better reception for the text and a more pertinent reading of it (more pertinent, of course, in the eyes of the author and his allies)" (Genette 1).

(8) Cf. Sharpe and Zwicker: "Of greater and broader import, address to the reader transforms the text from a site of sovereign authorial intention and meaning to a series of performances that ever complicate the very notions of authorship and meaning" (24); or Saenger: "Marginal texts are no longer of marginal significance. Recent critics have increasingly been alert to the semiotic value of the entire Renaissance book, and not just the previously privileged authorial text" (13).

(9) Trans. Girolamo Naselli. Ferrara: Mammarello, 1590. The Italian translation is mentioned by Sarton (233) and Heath (9). As far as the book is concerned, the pages are 15.49 cm high, smaller than those of the The Beginning, and the letters are much smaller in the former. The Italian version has a variety of verse prefatory material and an Errata page at the end.

(10) For details, see Heath (10).

(11) For the history of modifications in the different editions of the Tesoro, see Testa.

(12) And six years later as De Augmento, conservatione, et occasu imperium. Francfort: n.p., 1609; see Heath (28).

(13) The function of time as a revealer of truth can be found in Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece: "Time's glory.../ To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light" (ll. 939-940); Cordelia in King Lear says: "Time shall unfold what pleated cunning hides" (1.2.280); and in Twelfth Night, Viola claims: "O, Time, thou must untangle this, not I" (2.2.40). See also Spurgeon (172) and Turner (5). An illuminating discussion of this topic is provided by Fabiny.

(14) As Heath claims: "Il est interressant de constater que Finet avait sous yeux non seulement le texte francais mais aussi la version latine; il reproduit la pluppart des notes marginales de ce dernier" (12).

(15) Lydiat, and Sarpi, Forset, and Playfere, respectively.
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Article Type:Critical essay
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Date:Jul 1, 2018
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