The Typographic Imaginary in Early Modern English Literature: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Typographic Imaginary in Early Modern English Literature

1st Edition

By Rachel Stenner


204 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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The typographic imaginary is an aesthetic linking authors from William Caxton to Alexander Pope, this study centrally contends. Early modern English literature engages imaginatively with printing and this book both characterizes that engagement and proposes the typographic imaginary as a framework for its analysis. Certain texts, Rachel Stenner states, describe the people, places, concerns, and processes of printing in ways that, over time, generate their own figurative authority. The typographic imaginary is posited as a literary phenomenon shared by different writers, a wider cultural understanding of printing, and a critical concept for unpicking the particular imaginative otherness that printing introduced to literature. Authors use the typographic imaginary to interrogate their place in an evolving media environment, to assess the value of the printed text, and to analyse the roles of other text-producing agents. This book treats a broad array of authors and forms: printers’ manuals; William Caxton’s paratexts; the pamphlet dialogues of Robert Copland and Ned Ward; poetic miscellanies; the prose fictions of William Baldwin, George Gascoigne, and Thomas Nashe; the poetry and prose of Edmund Spenser; writings by John Taylor and Alexander Pope. At its broadest, this study contributes to an understanding of how technology changes cultures. Located at the crossroads between literary, material, and book historical research, the particular intervention that this work makes is threefold. In describing the typographic imaginary, it proposes a new framework for analysis of print culture. It aims to focus critical engagement on symbolic representations of material forms. Finally, it describes a lineage of late medieval and early modern authors, stretching from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries, that are linked by their engagement of a particular aesthetic.

Table of Contents


List of Figures v

Acknowledgements vi

Note on Quotation vii

Abbreviations viii

Introduction: Print and the Difference it Makes 1

Implications 7

Critical Mapping 16

Cases 26

Chapter 1: Instructional Texts and Print Symbolism: Christopher Plantin, Hieronymus Hornschuch, and Joseph Moxon 51

Processes 55

People 69

Conclusion 77

Chapter 2: An Emergent Typographic Imaginary in William Caxton’s Paratexts 86

Life in Literature, Diplomacy, and Commerce 88

The Benefits of Printing in Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye 90

Imagined Typographic Space 96

Reorganising Continuity: Mirrour of the World 104

Conclusion 112

Chapter 3: Robert Copland, Thomas Blague, and the Printer-Author Dialogue 124

Printer-Author Dialogue and its Mutations 126

Characterising the Printer: Gatekeepers of the Press 130

Print and Metacommunication: Uses of the Dialogue Form 145

Conclusion 153

Chapter 4: Protestant Printing and Humanism in Beware the Cat: Undoing Printing 164

Protestant Printer and Humanist Scholar 168

Dead Bodies and Printer’s Devils 174

Printing and Penning 178

Conclusion 183

Chapter 5: George Gascoigne and Richard Tottel: Negotiating Manuscript and Print in the Poetic Miscellany 193

Typographic Value in the Prefatory Poses of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres 199

The Benefits of Printing in The Posiesof George Gascoigne Esquire 209

Conclusion 215

Chapter 6: Edmund Spenser’s Early and Mid Career: Public Image and Machine Horror


Early Career Self-Presentation: The Shepeardes Calender and Three Proper, and Wittie, Familiar Letters 225

Monstrous Typographic Fertility in The Faerie Queene 232

Resonant Errour in ‘The Teares of the Muses’ 244

Conclusion 247

Chapter 7 St Paul’s Churchyard and the Meanings of Print: Pierce Penilesse His Supplication to the Divell 259

Nashe’s Mosaic of the Print Trade 266

Waste and Matter 274

The Figurative Authority of Print 280

Conclusion 282

Conclusion: Love and Loathing in Grub Street 289

About the Author

Rachel Stenner lectures in Renaissance Literature at the University of Sheffield, UK.

About the Series

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture

This series provides a forum for studies that consider the material forms of texts as part of an investigation into early modern English culture. The editors invite proposals of a multi- or interdisciplinary nature, and particularly welcome proposals that combine archival research with an attention to the theoretical models that might illuminate the reading, writing, and making of texts, as well as projects that take innovative approaches to the study of material texts, both in terms the kinds of primary materials under investigation, and in terms of methodologies. What are the questions that have yet to be asked about writing in its various possible embodied forms? Are there varieties of materiality that are critically neglected? How does form mediate and negotiate content? In what ways do the physical features of texts inform how they are read, interpreted and situated? Consideration will be given to both monographs and collections of essays. The range of topics covered in this series includes, but is not limited to:

-History of the book, publishing, the book trade, printing, typography (layout, type, typeface, blank/white space, paratextual apparatus)

-Technologies of the written word: ink, paper, watermarks, pens, presses

-Surprising or neglected material forms of writing

-Print culture


-Manuscript studies

-Social space, context, location of writing

-Social signs, cues, codes imbued within the material forms of texts

-Ownership and the social practices of reading: marginalia, libraries, environments of reading and reception

-Codicology, palaeography and critical bibliography

-Production, transmission, distribution and circulation

-Archiving and the archaeology of knowledge

-Orality and oral culture

-The material text as object or thing

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