1st Edition

Illustrating the Past in Early Modern England
The Representation of History in Printed Books

ISBN 9781138274501
Published July 11, 2017 by Routledge
322 Pages

USD $52.95

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Book Description

Illustrating the Past is a study of the status of visual and verbal media in early modern English representations of the past. It focuses on general attitudes towards visual and verbal representations of history as well as specific illustrated books produced during the period. Through a close examination of the relationship of image to text in light of contemporary discussions of poetic and aesthetic practice, the book demonstrates that the struggle between the image and the word played a profoundly important role in England's emergent historical self-awareness. The opposition between history and story, fact and fiction, often tenuous, provided a sounding board for deeper conflicts over the form in which representations might best yield truth from history. The ensuing schism between poets and historians over the proper venue for the lessons of the past manifested itself on the pages of early modern printed books. The discussion focuses on the word and image relationships in several important illustrated books printed during the second half of the sixteenth century-including Holinshed's Chronicles (1577) and Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563, 1570)-in the context of contemporary works on history and poetics, such as Sir Philip Sidney's Apology for Poetry and Thomas Blundeville's The true order and Method of wryting and reading Hystories. Illustrating the Past specifically answers two important questions concerning the resultant production of literary and historical texts in the period: Why did the use of images in printed histories suddenly become unpopular at the end of the sixteenth century? and What impact did this publishing trend have on writers of literary and historical texts?

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Historical afterimages and history after images; Printing books 'with the pyctures': the context for illustration in 16th-century England; Transforming truth: Hilliard, Sidney, and the emergence of an anti-materialist aesthetic; Stories and icons: reorienting the visual in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments; From 'universal cosmography' to narrative history: The evolution of Holinshed's Chronicles; Vision into verse: John Derricke's Image of Ireland and the decline of visual history; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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James A. Knapp is an assistant professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University. His essays on book-illustration and cultural poetics have appeared in Criticism, Disputatio, and ELH, as well as a variety of essay collections. He is currently the co-editor of JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory


'A beguiling volume with a provocative thesis concerning the rise and fall of images in the books and texts of early modern England. Its lucid arguments tease out fascinating connections in the spaces between words and pictures, between history and representation.' Leonard Barkan, Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

'... contribute[s] valuably to what may be emerging as a new topic in early modern studies: the question of how people experienced their history.' Renaissance Forum

'This book represents a significant contribution to our understanding of sixteenth-century book illustration...' Literature & History

'This is an extremely ambitious interdisciplinary endeavor, written at the crossroads of literary theory, art history, historiography, and the history of the book... The result of all this complexity and multidisciplinarity is a book which is fascinating to read and makes some genuine insights...' Sixteenth Century Journal

'Knapp's landmark study is a welcome reassessment of early modern book illustration that promises to inspire further work on the relationship between early modern print and visual culture.' Clio

’This fascinating volume [...] addresses a hitherto neglected topic of the broader intellectual and economic implications of woodcut illustrations during this early period of printing history in England.’ Journal of Printing Historical Society