English 241 Second Writing Assignment: Printed Texts and Archives
There is no minimum page length. I would prefer that your writing would take up no more than five pages when printed, though you may include features that would make it more sensible to read it as a digital text. I want to emphasize concentrated, sophisticated thinking in your writing, rather than length or sheer accumulation of ideas. The topics below are intended to simulate, not limit, your creative engagement with the issues we have been discussing. You may well find that you have more to say than you can fit into five (virtual) pages. Remember that you can return to these topics in the final research projects, though I hope most of you will want to work with books from Goucher's Special Collections.
1) How does the construction of the book we studied in our hand-press book leaf laboratory compare with books you are familiar with? This entails a more "essay-like" examination of the hand-press book's features, though it still should draw upon your observations of the hand-press book leaf you used in the laboratory. In your essay, think about its page design, or even section/"chapter" design, its type font, its paper, its punctuation and spelling, and other physical features of the document with which you worked. How would the contemporary readers' experience of this text have differed from specific kinds of your experience of printed texts, and are there any kinds of modern printed texts which serve the same or similar functions in a modern culture (possibly but not necessarily our own). For this topic, you should have examined all of our leaves from the older edition, and you should be at least somewhat aware of the famous text it contains in its various print and digital forms. Contemporary readers' use of the lab specimen book would have been markedly different from the typical uses modern readers would have for most books, today. Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section. Click here for a bibliography of potentially useful sources for papers on the Hand-Press Book Leaf Lab.
2) How does the content of the book we studied in our hand-press book leaf laboratory compare with texts you have read elsewhere? What does its rhetoric tell you about its audience's interests, attitudes, and beliefs? (Beyond the obvious point that they're late-Medieval-Early-Modern Christians, of course!) How does the narrative appeal to them? What modern genres of literature (and cinema and games) do these narratives resemble? Compare the experience of reading the same narrative in the hand-press edition with the experience of reading a modern printed edition or digital edition. How do the physical formats of the texts affect expectations readers bring to "performing" and interpreting them? Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section. Click here for a bibliography of potentially useful sources for papers on the Hand-Press Book Leaf Lab.
3) Produce an edition of the text of your leaf in a "diplomatic transcription," following the original spelling and punctuation exactly as it appears on the leaf's two sides, and annotate your transcription by comparison with a modern edition of the text. You will be helped to read the text by comparison with the digital edition available online, but do not fall into the trap of trusting the digital edition to be identical with yours. The digital edition has been prepared by a modern editor who used a different exemplar as his text, and he made many changes in the text when digitally "setting the type" from his exemplar, most obviously modernizing the spelling. As you compare your leaf's version of the text with the digital edition, annotate your transcription with any "substantive variants" you detect when comparing your text with the digital edition's allegedly more accurate text. Remember that modernized spelling is not, ordinarily, a "substantive variant" because it does not change the meaning of the text, but it might be if the editor has turned an archaic word into a familiar Modern English word that does not mean what the archaic word meant. Use the OED to check these changes. Other examples of substantive variants are changes in punctuation that alter the meaning of the sentence, changes in words or phrases or whole passages, and typographic details that paratextually direct readers' interpretations. Do you see any pattern in your edition's differences that might indicate a planned series of alterations by the printer, or do the differences appear the result of errors? If the former, what motives might explain the changes? If the latter, what kinds of errors seem to have occurred? Explain your reasoning for the whole edition in a short (several paragraphs) introduction or appendix. Remember to document your use of both primary and secondary sources using MLA in-text citations and a properly formatted Works Cited section. Click here for a bibliography of potentially useful sources for papers on the Hand-Press Book Leaf Lab.
4) Using the digital images of the printed book leaves, compile an "alphabet" of the printer's type font, both upper and lower case. For comparison, see Paul Needham's alphabet of the type font used by Guttenberg for the 42-line Bible (class handout). Using typographic scholarship in the library's collection and elsewhere, describe this font and this particular book's production. This requires extremely careful measurement and comparisons that will require use of the individual leaves, themselves. as well as the digital images. Click here for a bibliography of potentially useful sources for papers on the Hand-Press Book Leaf Lab.
5) Using the single woodcut in our leaf collection (St. Jerome and his lion) as your starting point, search for other images of de Worde woodcuts and discuss the aesthetic significance of their design. This is an "art historic" approach to the hand-press book's construction and its interpretation by readers. Do not attempt this if you do not have at least some training in the analytical description of images. A short bibliography of sources that might get you started is available from this hyperlink, but do not neglect to do you own search of both the Library print catalogue and JSTOR's Art database. De Worde is widely known as one of the first "modern" printers in England, influential for introducing such innovations as title pages, major woodcut sequences, and other attributes to help customers navigate and understand his editions. Think about printers' introduction of woodcuts as an attempt to give readers what they wanted, a graphic para-text that commented on and enhanced the experience of the alphabetic text. What images are signed out and how do they represent their subjects? In the case of Jerome and the lion, how are the two figures constructed and related to each other in their frame. How else have they been represented and why might de Worde have chosen this particular one for the edition we are studying?
6) Consulting the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC online), the Karlsruhe University Virtual Catalog, WorldCat, and other resources, construct the publishing history of the lab specimen's text up to and including this edition. That means the specific English translation of the Latin original, so ignore its many Latin editions and begin with its first English edition. How many times and in what formats (folio, quarto, octavo, etc.) was it produced? What kind of paratextual guidance did its printers give the successive generations of readers, like title pages, prefaces, afterwards, glosses, foliation or pagination, etc.? Remember that the multiplication of paratext tells us things about readers' developing needs and expectations. How do the editions "evolve" in their subsequent appearances? Click here for a bibliography of potentially useful sources for papers on the Hand-Press Book Leaf Lab.