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The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain
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Book description

This volume of The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain presents an overview of the century-and-a-half between the death of Chaucer in 1400 and the incorporation of the Stationers' Company in 1557. The profound changes during that time in social, political and religious conditions are reflected in the dissemination and reception of the written word. The manuscript culture of Chaucer's day was replaced by an ambience in which printed books would become the norm. The emphasis in this collection of essays is on the demand and use of books. Patterns of ownership are identified as well as patterns of where, why and how books were written, printed, bound, acquired, read and passed from hand to hand. The book trade receives special attention, with emphasis on the large part played by imports and on links with printers in other countries, which were decisive for the development of printing and publishing in Britain.

Reviews

‘This volume and its successors should have a place in any library concerned with British history, for it convincingly demonstrates the contribution of books at a critical time.'

Peter Hoare - Library Association

‘… undoubtedly the definitive book on the subject.'

Source: Journal of Documentation

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Contents


Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - Literacy, books and readers
    pp 31-44
  • View abstract

    Summary

    An overall growth in the ability to read and write English during our period is certain enough. To what precise extent the same applies to Latin literacy is less clear. That books large and small were composed is beyond dispute. That there was a reading public for them, varying in size from one person to many, from book to book and according to means, motive and opportunity, is therefore equally certain. Church institutions recognize the danger of misorder and abusion in Church and state implicit in the ability to read. The confiscations and bonfires of books under Wolsey and Cuthbert Tunstal, Bishop of London, in the 1520s, the warnings to booksellers, the processes against De Worde, Berthelet and others in the 1520s and 1530s and the rest, all imply a readership, if of indeterminate size, at least with determination to read. So do known instances of the prosecution of known individual readers.
  • 2 - Foreign illuminators and illuminated manuscripts
    pp 45-64
  • View abstract

    Summary

    No account of the history of the manuscript book in Britain in the fifteenth century would be complete without a discussion of the extent to which foreigners were involved in the native book trade, and of the several manuscripts written and illuminated abroad which were imported at this time. This chapter distinguishes five classes of production and/or importation of books. First, foreign illuminators may have themselves migrated to work in England. Secondly, manuscripts may have been made abroad and then imported and sold in England speculatively to buyers who had not specifically commissioned them. Thirdly, owners may have acquired manuscripts abroad and brought them back to England. Fourthly, manuscripts may have been sent from abroad as gifts. Fifthly, manuscripts may have been specially commissioned abroad by owners who remained in or returned to England. In the later Middle Ages, certain major patrons attached illuminators to themselves as household servants, the Duke de Berry being a well-known example.
  • 3 - Printing
    pp 65-108
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Printing had forced the book-trade rapidly to develop channels by which to market the merchandise that could now be produced on a big scale. In the medieval England, book production was almost entirely dependent on materials, techniques and skills brought in from overseas. Typographers and printers had to decide what was relevant to convey their message, and what variant forms could be dispensed with. A set of conventions regarding styles of type was developed early and was based on distinctions made in scribal traditions. In the period up to 1557 (and long after), printers in England and Scotland were almost fully dependent on the printing types that could be obtained from suppliers on the Continent. The printing press was a less sensational invention than that of movable type, and developed over the first decades of printing. Procedure and practice could vary considerably between different countries, towns and individual printing houses.
  • 4 - Bookbinding 1400–1557
    pp 109-127
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter discusses bookbinding in Britain during the period 1400-1557 by giving a general picture, drawing on surviving evidence, while also indicating some of the variations in practice that can be found. The materials most frequently used for end-leaves at this time were vellum or parchment and plain white paper. Late in the fifteenth century, parchment end-leaves were gradually replaced by paper. The shape of a binding and the way it was constructed depended to a large extent on its function and on the way the book was stored. The boards of fifteenth-century bindings were usually made of wood, although limp and semi-limp vellum or parchment bindings are also found. The most common covering material was tanned leather, usually calf, sometimes sheep, while tanned goatskin was occasionally used for fine bindings from the 1540s onwards. Towards the end of the fifteenth century, cheaper structures and less time-consuming practices were developed to keep pace with the increase in book production.
  • 5 - The rise of London’s book-trade
    pp 128-147
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Any study of the late medieval history of the book in Britain must eventually turn to London where, from the fifteenth century onwards, the book trade made the City dominant in national book commerce. In City of London archives, the first mention of the trade is in 1403, when various book craftsmen sought to form a common fraternity. Migration to Paternoster Row or to streets and lanes nearby continued steadily throughout the fifteenth century; as many as 136 stationers and book artisans, at various times, established business premises and residence in the environs of St Paul's. As security for a book order or for craft services provided to a customer, some form of agrement or acorde was required by a stationer or by an artisan directly engaged by the customer. William Caxton's death, probably in the early spring or late winter of 1492, marks the beginning of a new phase in London's developing market for printed books.
  • 6 - The customs rolls as documents for the printed-book trade in England
    pp 148-163
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The importation of early printed books into England was not an interesting sideline, but a primary factor in the history of the English book-trade. The richest single resource for assessing the scale of imported books is the series of customs accounts, both national and local, of London and other ports. This chapter presents a survey of the evidence for book importation residing in England's and London's customs records through 1557. There is an extensive body of relevant data which contributes significantly to the picture of England's printed-book trade during its first generations. To see the data in their appropriate context, the chapter analyzes several background topics: the dutiable distinctions between natives of England, general aliens, and Hansards; the survival rate of the customs rolls; the quantification of books on the customs rolls; and the customs duty on books.
  • 7 - The book-trade under Edward VI and Mary I
    pp 164-178
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The reigns of Edward VI (1547-53) and Mary I (1553-8) exemplify sharply contrasting responses to the use of the book-trade as an ideological and political instrument and to the dissemination of religious propaganda. A massive amount of publication appeared during the early part of Edward VI's reign, when English printers produced books at a higher rate than at any point since William Caxton's establishment of the first English printing press. Protestant propaganda comprised the great bulk of the flood of Edwardian publication. Provincial printing was a distinctive feature of the Edwardian booktrade. Mary's coronation heralded defeat for the Protestant reformers in England. A sequence of proclamations, injunctions and other measures forbade the printing and sale of works of religious controversy. Parliament also revived the medieval statutes against heresy. Under Mary, reformist printers and publishers reverted to the Henrician practice of relying upon surreptitious publication. The chapter also gives the STC statistical data of book production for the years 1547-1558.
  • 8 - Importation of printed books into England and Scotland
    pp 179-202
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Unlike manuscripts, which were produced in England and Scotland as well as on the Continent, no printed books were produced on native soil before William Caxton set up his shop in Westminster in 1476. This chapter treats England and Scotland separately in the discussion of the importation of books. They were separate countries, had different foreign alliances, different trade routes and looked to different intellectual centres. The imported books themselves underline these differences. If the individual centres of printing for patterns of importation to England are examined, Venice emerges as the leading supplier of books, followed by Paris, Basel, Cologne, Lyons, Strasbourg and Nuremberg. For Scotland, Venice dominates in both importation and production in the 1480s, but in the 1490s is almost on a par with Paris. There is no dramatic leap in the 1490s, but rather a sharp, then steady, rise in imports from France and Germany after 1500.
  • 9 - Private ownership of printed books
    pp 203-228
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter is based on a sample of over 4,300 printed books which bear clear evidence of having been in private ownership in Britain before 1557. It examines who owned books, what books they owned and what factors influenced that ownership. Apart from availability, the primary factors influencing book ownership were need and means. Several features of book ownership overall emerge from the sample, in Scotland as well as in England. On a basic level, people owned books which they needed: books were professional tools. For lay owners, such as the gentry and merchants, social networks influenced their ownership of books. In addition to demonstrating by the sheer quantity of certain texts that need determines book ownership, the books by and on Aristotle highlight the features of book ownership in England. Students in the higher faculty of theology would have needed texts of systematic theology, but students of all levels needed more humble texts of pastoral theology.
  • 10 - Monastic libraries: 1400–1557
    pp 229-254
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The century and a half from 1400 to the Dissolution of the Monasteries is one of the most interesting in the history of monastic libraries. The period also witnessed the full impact of the universities, and the dissemination of a great deal of religious literature in English. Between the middle of the fourteenth and the early sixteenth century, the number of readers among the non-clerical population of England increased dramatically. This literacy was primarily vernacular literacy. In the fifteenth century, the universities had an immense impact on the monasteries. Monks who had studied at university naturally had an effect on the libraries of their mother-houses. The fifteenth century was also a period of intellectual stagnation in most men's houses. But the period also witnessed the building of new libraries and a renewal of activity on the part of librarians. Monasteries, friaries, cathedrals and colleges were interested in the construction of new book-rooms and new facilities.
  • 11 - The early royal collections and the Royal Library to 1461
    pp 255-266
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Edward IV is usually considered to be the founder of the English royal library as it is known today. This chapter focuses on the Lancastrian period, the reigns of Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. The payments in 1401-2 for works at Eltham Palace, which was rebuilt for Henry IV and was one of his favourite residences, describe a new study, one of the rooms attached to the King's new chamber. The rediscovery at Eton in 1978 of a copy of Henry V's last will of 10 June 1421 and its codicils of 1422 has added valuable information about Henry's books and his intentions for them. There can be little doubt that by 1421, Henry possessed a considerable learned library. A large number of Latin books, over 140 at least, were kept in the Treasury during the minority of Henry VI, to 1440 or later.
  • 12 - The Royal Library from Edward IV to Henry VII
    pp 267-273
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Despite constantly accumulating evidence of the ownership of books and of arrangements for their storage and care during earlier reigns, King Edward IV remains clearly identifiable as the founder of the old Royal Library. The bulk of Edward's manuscripts are large-scale copies of well-known and widely distributed library texts in French of original Latin texts. Several members of Edward IV's immediate family are known to have owned books. The next major contributor to the English Royal Library was the first Tudor sovereign, Henry VII. His own acquisitions seem to have been the result of gifts. A particularly grand gift was offered during the last year of the reign by the French ambassador, Claude de Seyssel, who presented a richly illuminated copy of a translation of a work by Xenophon from a Greek manuscript in the French royal library at Blois. The King's mother Lady Margaret Beaufort, owned at least one very grand contemporary Hours from a leading Parisian workshop.
  • 13 - The Royal Library under Henry VIII
    pp 274-282
  • View abstract

    Summary

    At one time or another, Henry VIII owned more than fifty palaces, each presumably with its own collection of books. In the first decades of the sixteenth century the main collection was housed at Richmond. In 1534, William Tyldesley was designated Keeper of the King's library in the manor of Richmond and elsewhere. The most significant development in the history of the royal collection during the sixteenth century was a direct consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s. When Henry VIII and his advisers started gathering together materials relating to the royal divorce, it was logical for them to turn to the monastic libraries. By the early 1530s, texts relating to the powers of the pope and medieval councils, as well as some historical items, began to trickle in. In 1549, Bartholomew Traheron, the Royal Librarian, was specifically empowered to bring books from other royal libraries to Westminster.
  • 14 - The humanist book
    pp 283-315
  • View abstract

    Summary

    The activities typical of the humanist were the editing and exposition of Latin and Greek texts, and the translation of Greek into Latin, with the aim of recovering and reviving ancient knowledge and ancient eloquence. This chapter deals with humanist books including their copying, printing and importation, and the book-sellers, book-buyers and the publication patterns of humanist books. The first Latin classic to be printed in Britain was a brief student text: Cicero, Pro Milone, which came, about 1483. Classical and humanist texts owned and used in England came in from Italy, Germany, France and the Low Countries. The chapter also talks about the British, Scottish, Italian and French humanists, Erasmus and Christian humanists including John Colet, Sir Thomas More, Thomas Linacre, and the humanist books at the Oxford and Cambridge libraries, and at the Corpus Christi College. The Duke of Gloucester, Humfrey patronized humanist books in Britain. His manuscripts later served as exemplars for copyists in England.
  • 15 - University libraries and book-sellers
    pp 316-353
  • View abstract

    Summary

    It was in the university libraries that the standard texts, the embodiment of the received curricula, accumulated and it is against this background that the provision and use of books in the universities is best viewed. Until the last quarter of the fourteenth century, college libraries grew gradually usually given or bequeathed by Fellows. The less valuable books were made available on loan to the Fellows, and sometimes the Scholars, in order of seniority, at electiones. In the latter part of the fifteenth century, access to the communal libraries was a privilege of which many were glad to avail themselves. Changes in syllabus have seldom, until modern times, provided sufficient impetus for universities to undertake large-scale revision of statutes. The major transition, including from a medieval syllabus to a humanist one, took place largely independently of any formal declaration that these things should be. The chapter also talks about the facilities available to university book-sellers.
  • 16 - Text-books in the universities: the evidence from the books
    pp 354-379
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Text-books are linked directly to the curricula of schools and universities and their history reflects the evolution of institutional teaching. In the sixteenth century, student notes were often printed without the consent of the lecturer/author. Thereby a type of material previously restricted to a fairly local area became accessible throughout Europe; this, in turn, weakened local traditions. While the teaching within individual institutions became less uniform, European universities with similar religious attitudes became more alike, as the same, or similar, text-books became available throughout the Continent. Many grammar, logic and rhetoric text-books were in use in the later Middle Ages, but many had lost their text-book function, themselves becoming the basis for extensive and advanced commentaries. Several of John Vaus's books can be related to his work on the Doctrinale. Vaus explained that he had chosen to work on the Doctrinale because that was the text his students would expect to use.
  • 17 - Text-books: a case study – logic
    pp 380-386
  • View abstract

    Summary

    In the period 1400 to 1557, we would expect great changes in the logic text-books used at Oxford and Cambridge. Indeed, there were great changes, but their timing is somewhat unexpected. This chapter focuses on the fortuna of just one type of logic text in use between 1400 and 1530, namely the treatises devoted to obligationes, or the rules prescribing what one was obliged to accept and reject in a certain kind of logical disputation. It is necessary first to consider the place of logic in the curriculum and the type of instruction which was offered, then to say something about fourteenth-century logicians and the obligationes texts used in the fifteenth century, and finally to examine the Libelli Sophistarum and other early printed texts in relation to fifteenth-century manuscript collections. The logic curriculum did not change substantially in the first decades of the sixteenth century.
  • 18 - The canon law
    pp 387-398
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter describes what is known about the existence and the use of canon law books in Britain. The canon law always maintained a distinct identity. Many books dealt primarily with canonical problems or texts, and the canon law was in a real sense the dominant partner in the ius commune. Together with rules drawn from the Roman law, the canon law provided the principal source of the jurisprudence in the English ecclesiastical courts. Englishmen and Scotsmen were importers rather than producers of books relating to the canon law. The great canonists were Italian, French, German and Spanish. However, the Manipulus curatorum, written by the Spanish jurist Guido de Monte Rochen, was not simply imported. This book on duties of parochial clergy was printed in England seven times between 1498 and 1520. Of the imported texts, the comprehensive work on the Gregorian Decretals by Nicolaus de Tudeschis was particularly popular before the turn of the sixteenth century.
  • 19 - The civil law
    pp 399-410
  • View abstract

    Summary

    During the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth, civil law underwent important changes which affected both the text of the collections encompassed in the Corpus iuris civilis and legal scholarship. The quasi-monopoly of Italian authorities was only very gradually eroded by scholars from transalpine universities. The reliance of non-Italian authors on the major fourteenth- and fifteenth-century authors contributed to ensure that the late medieval commentaries, collections of consilia, treatises and other works continued to circulate extensively throughout the western European market, England included. The English libraries contained on the whole substantially more canon law books than civilian literature. The chapter also talks about the availability of civil law literature in the standard civil law library, the scholarly library, the practitioner's library, and the ecclesiastical and monastic libraries. The standard civilian library, usually achieved only partly in specific collections, was the ideal for both private and institutional collections.
  • 20 - The books of the common law
    pp 411-432
  • View abstract

    Summary

    This chapter deals with several aspects of common law during the medieval period in England such as law libraries, law cases and readings, law books and practice manuals, the law book trade including press and printing, and the legal profession itself. There were no common-law libraries comparable with those of the universities or large monasteries. The Inns of Court had nascent libraries around 1500, but few books in them, not all legal. Lawyers went on reporting current cases in manuscript, and some collections reaching back into the 1530s and 1540s were printed in later times. The first requirement for any common lawyer was a knowledge of the writs and forms of action whereby justice was distributed through the royal courts. Precedents of conveyancing and pleading were made by lawyers for their own use, the former largely by lowly practitioners, the latter (in the form of Latin books of entries) by prothonotaries and clerks.
  • 21 - Medicine and science
    pp 433-448
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Linda Voigts's survey of manuscript book production in England between 1375 and 1500 demonstrates the multi-lingual character of most medical and scientific books. That is to say, Middle English and Anglo-Norman are to be found alongside the Latin of the scholastics. The fifteenth century is the first for which we have a number of commonplace books written by practitioners. One example is the Practica and surgery written by Thomas Fayreford, a medical practitioner in north Devon and Somerset in the first quarter of the century. Access to scientific books of the sort Fayreford required was probably only available at Oxford and Cambridge, where both institutional and private collections were built up with a deliberate bias towards medicine and science. Roger Marchall's commissioning, purchasing, annotating and disposing of books gives us an idea of how a fifteenth-century academic and medical practitioner might have used manuscripts. The scientific best-seller of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was undoubtedly the almanac.
  • 22 - Schools and school-books
    pp 449-469
  • View abstract

    Summary

    Schools open to the public may also have originated in Saxon times. In the medieval period-English universities, students often needed remedial instruction in elementary Latin grammar, while advanced Latin grammar formed part of the undergraduate course. Once pupils had mastered basic Latin, they continued their studies with texts in Latin itself. The difficult task of compiling an English dictionary with Latin equivalents was accomplished by a Dominican recluse of King's Lynn, who completed the work, called Promptorium parvulorum, in 1440. In the great lay households, boys and girls of the nobility and gentry were trained for lay careers rather than ecclesiastical ones, with greater emphasis on the vernacular than on Latin. When printed books became available in England, from English presses or through importation, large possibilities existed for selling educational books to noble households, and schools in towns and religious houses. Printers other than William Caxton sought to exploit the market in school text-books.

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