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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2021

Sarah Neville
Ohio State University


Early Modern Herbals and the Book Trade
English Stationers and the Commodification of Botany
, pp. x - xiii
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022


This project was born, as was I, on the northern shores of Lake Ontario, which are the traditional lands of the Huron-Wendat, the Mississaugas of the Credit River, and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It and I grew together on the banks of the Wolastoq, the traditional and unceded territory of the Wəlastəkokewiyik. Later, we moved south, where, beside Keenhongsheconsepung, we were nurtured and we thrived in the land of the Delaware, Miami, Shawnee and Wyandot Peoples. I am, and remain, grateful for the traditional caretakers of the lands on which I live and work.

Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to be often in the presence of teachers whose curiosity, empathy, and integrity have become a model for my own. My work on herbals is beholden to my undergraduate and graduate professors, without whom this work would neither have germinated nor have come to fruition. I am deeply obliged to Ian Lancashire, who, by sharing his enthusiasm for noncanonical books, planted the seed of this project in an undergraduate seminar long, long ago. David Galbraith has watched me sprout from a foolish undergraduate to a slightly less foolish professor, and his deep knowledge and deft kindness have always arrived just in time to save me from myself. I cannot express enough how grateful I am, both for his steadfast friendship and for the model of scholarship he provides.

My parents taught me to read, but Randall McLeod taught me to stop reading and to start appreciating that every book is foremost an object assembled by human hands. In Randy’s world, a world he invites students to share with him, every book is different, and it is this difference that makes books wonderful to behold. If I have been able to show my readers any “strangeness” in the subjects – and the objects – they think they know, it is due to Randy’s inimitable influence. David L. Gants showed me how to think quantitatively and critically about historical and bibliographic evidence, and how to move effortlessly between the general and the particular in both book history and the vicissitudes of academic life.

A spur-of-the-moment decision to change courses during my master’s degree solidified my view that literature exists within an ecosystem of intertextuality. Peter W. M. Blayney’s grip on the history of the London Stationers’ Company created a gravitational pull so strong that it sucked me into its orbit, forever changing the nature of my scholarship and my approach to the early modern period. Blayney is to book history what Linnaeus is to natural history – the figure who brings precision to a mass of information, variously organized by his predecessors, with the design of explaining the relationships that govern how individuals are related to each other and to a larger pattern. His influence runs like an electric current throughout this project, for, once I saw early modern printed books as commodities produced in a shared community of physical and intellectual labor, my research was never the same.

My approach to scholarship also changed through discussions with friends and colleagues at meetings of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Modern Language Association, the Medical Humanities Health Studies Seminar at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, the Renaissance Society of America, the International Shakespeare Conference, and the Society for Textual Scholarship, where, at various times and places during the past fifteen years, parts of this work were presented. For their encouragements, curiosity, and aid, I especially would like to thank Douglas Bruster, Ryan Claycomb, Jen Drouin, Lowell Duckert, Roger Gaskell, Geoff Georgi, Sara Georgi, Jean Howard, Dani Ghatta, Joshua Graham, David Scott Kastan, Sujata Iyengar, Laura Kolb, Peter Kuling, Zachary Lesser, Erin McCarthy, Kirk Melnikoff, Steve Mentz, Vin Nardizzi, Lorraine Nolan, Jason Woodman Simmonds, Gary Waite, and Erin Whitmore. My textual thinking improved immeasurably by spending half a decade sparring with Terri Bourus, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Gabriel Egan, and, most especially, Francis X. Connor, my colleagues on the New Oxford Shakespeare.

My graduate students in a course on the Early Modern Medical Marketplace sharpened my investigations into herbals and healing in early modern English literature and culture. Amrita Dhar, Richard Dutton, Hannibal Hamlin, Jennifer Higginbotham, Chris Highley, Elizabeth Kolkovich, and Luke Wilson, my Renaissance area group colleagues at the Ohio State University (OSU), have offered sustained mentorship and provided me with a long-awaited community. Other OSU colleagues, particularly Sara Butler, Scott DeWitt, Molly Farrell, Harvey Graff, Richard Firth Green, Marcus Jackson, Mira Kafantaris, Erin K. Kelly, Sandra Macpherson, Victoria Muñoz, Jacob Risinger, Jennifer Schlueter, Lauren Squires, Christa Teston, Lisa Voigt, Elissa Washuta, Nick White, and Robyn Warhol, raised my spirits, took me out, brought me snacks, read drafts, and gave me models for how to do the work. A chance meeting with Damon Jaggars over lunch made me aware of TOME: Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem, a program that has made it possible for me to make this work widely accessible and freely available to all who wish to read it. A manuscript preparation grant from the Ohio State College of Arts and Sciences funded the cost of image permissions. At Cambridge University Press, I was lucky to have had this project marshaled through the press by Emily Hockley. The anonymous readers she found for me were exacting, generous, detailed, and very, very much appreciated. I thank them both wholeheartedly.

While I was a graduate student, my work was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and my capacity for investigating the language of rare books is the result of a scholarship in Descriptive Bibliography at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. My investigations into the incredibly popular little Herball that started it all were supported by two blissful months of fellowship at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. I owe a special obligation to the Huntington’s dedicated staff, in particular Suzi Kraznoo, Catherine Wehrey-Miller, Meredith Berbée Jones, Juan Gomez, and Kadin Henningsen, who kept me out of trouble when the reading room was open and in the pub when it was not. My work on John Gerard was made demonstrably better through the assistance of Pamela Forde, archivist of the Royal College of Physicians in London. A 2018 weekend seminar on “Digging the Past” at the Folger Shakespeare Library, led by Frances Dolan, showed me the breadth of early moderns’ interactions with nature and gave me a community of like-minded folks.

As a wayward and sometimes weird scholar, I cannot express emphatically enough my gratitude to the librarians everywhere who make imaging, document delivery, and interlibrary loans possible. To the reference, special collections, and circulation librarians of the Harriet Irving Library at the University of New Brunswick, the Wise and Downtown Libraries of West Virginia University, and the Thompson Library of OSU, the following bibliography is as much your work as it is mine. An especial thanks to Robin Rider of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Special Collections and to Eric Johnson of OSU’s Rare Books and Manuscripts, both of whose stewardships have supplied images for this book. Aaron Pratt of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin cannot be spoken of in anything but superlatives: his knowledge of bibliography is so vast and his generosity so limitless, and I am grateful to call him a friend.

The supportive presence of my friends and family has lasted even through the vicissitudes of time and distance. My parents and siblings have been my steadfast supporters from afar, and I remain grateful for the humor and love of Louise Paquette Neville, Bruce Neville, Désirée Arian-Neville, Ashley Neville Moate, Adam Neville, Matthew Neville, and Rea Godbold. (This is your official notice: you can now remove that copy of my dissertation from the coffee table.) My small dog posse of Lexicon Ignatius, Lucy Boethius, Tinkerbell Pericles, and Luna Erasmus made and make sure that, wherever I am, I always keep my heart close to the ground and my eyes on the ball. I have been held with loving care by many friends, whose advice and help were never more than a phone call or email away: Piers Brown, Glenn Clifton, Vicki Graff, Brett and Fen Greatley-Hirsch, Brecken Hancock, Janelle Jenstad, Merrill Kaplan, Tara Lyons, Rod Moody-Corbett, Pashmina Murthy, Emily Pawley, Hilary St. John, Steven Urkowitz, and Valerie Wayne. I cannot express enough what their fierce support and tireless love has meant to me. The labor and care of others also made it possible for me to finish this book during the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. I am particularly indebted to my in-laws, Sally Farmer, Elizabeth Linde, and Jens Linde, who have provided childcare, fancy cocktails, image corrections, and encouragement throughout the home stretch.

At long last: there are not enough thanks to spare for Alan Farmer, my perfect audience, my most exacting reader, and my best, most sympathetic friend. You are worth losing my Canadian accent for. Finally, thank you to Charlie, who taught me that “waiting is not easy” but who himself was worth every moment of the wait. Yes, we can play cars now.

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