This is a SSHRC-funded study of Chaucer’s writing about books and about medieval economies and materials for textual reproduction. An initial chapter describes the conditions for book production and distribution in Europe in the fourteenth century; subsequent chapters treat topics from Chaucer’s works, some very specifically about books (bindings, the durability of writing surfaces) and some broader and conceptual - the nature of impressions, the price and value of books and the texts they contain, and the making and dissemination of fixed, authentic, and counterfeit copies of texts.
John Stow’s Medieval Books
Fifty years ago, the scholar William Ringler described the need for “a checklist of the literary manuscripts that were in [John] Stow’s, possession, with an analysis of his marginalia . . . . If this were done, Stow might appear as the most important preserver and cataloguer of early poetry before Thomas Warton.” It might answer other kinds of inquiry into Stow’s importance – the relevance of his collection to the Elizabethan chronicle tradition; the books that he handled that passed between members of Elizabethan textual communities including the Parker circle; the London manuscripts that underpin his Survey of London; the controversial religious material he owned that attracted the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities. This SSHRC-funded study provides such a checklist: it catalogues and transcribes relevant marginalia from over a hundred medieval manuscripts and pre-Reformation printed books annotated, owned, or handled by Stow. It is accompanied by essays that assess the importance of his manuscript collections to the history of Tudor, and medieval, England.
Bookbound: Structure in Medieval English Manuscripts
This study is based on a survey of surviving medieval English bookbindings. It argues, from a series of cases studies of books – made for private and institutional collections; bound between boards or parchment; stitched, tacketed, clasped, strapped, chained, or tied – for the importance of formal examination of manuscript structure to an understanding of the social and symbolic significance of medieval books.
“Books and Booklessness in Chaucer’s England.”The Oxford Handbook to Chaucer. Ed. Suzanne Akbari. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
“Fiction and the Origins of Print.” The Oxford History of the Novel. Ed. Thomas Keymer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
“Bookbinding.” A Companion to Early Printing in England. Ed. Vincent Gillespie and Susan Powell. Woodbridge: Boydell.
“Book History and the Absence of the Book.” Critical Theory Handbooks: A Handbook to Middle English Studies. Ed. Marion Turner. Oxford: Blackwell.
Manuscript Studies in an Interoperable Digital Environment
I am principal investigator of a cluster of studies being undertaken within this Mellon Foundation-funded project, and am also leading one of these studies, on the Elizabethan scribes and scholars who annotated medieval books in the library of Matthew Parker. For details, see the project website.