Paul Duguid and John Seely Brown, "The Social Life of Documents"; and Elizabeth Eisenstein, "Some Features of Print Culture"; both in Writing Material, 104-22 and 124-33.   Alberto Manguel, "Best Punctuation; Point of Order," The New York Times Magazine, 4/18/1999 available

Talking points/quotations/issues:

Duguid and Brown:

106  Anselm Strauss "social worlds" created by texts and (107) the "404" problem caused by online texts--is print culture more stable than digital culture?

107  Benedict Anderson "imagined communities" --print enables events like the shared awareness of being colonized (in the C18 British American colonies).

108  Jan Huizinga "awareness of spiritual unity" as central to the American Revolution and evolution to C20.  [Jefferson on the importance of the C18 novel (Richardson and Fielding and Burney etc.) in creation of empathic identification with and participation in the consciousnesses of people who are not us.  Class identity; class action.]

110  Stanley Fish "communities of interpretation"--but Fish argues these communities are "always already" in place to control individuals' interpretation of texts.  How many ways can those texts shape the interpretive practices of those interpretive communities?

114 Bruno Latour "mobility" and "immutability" as characteristics of texts--is the printed text really "immutable"?  (See Williams and Abbott on W.W. Greg, re: transcription and variation, p. 20 of W and A); Richard Lanham, "economy of attention" (development of readers' aids like tables of contents, page numbers, indices, printed glosses, etc.)

115  Julian Orr documents "patrol and control" the boundaries of expertise and authority (can you read this web page?--if so, you're "in" English 341, but if not, you might not really be "in 341" even if you are registered for it and attending the class meetings--contact me!)

115  Leigh Star and James Greisemer, "boundary objects" (e.g., for English majors, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volumes 1 and 2)


126  "standardization of error"--press variants create the need for "corrigenda" lists or whole pages (vs. scribal "crux")

127  "standardization of design"--two dominant scribal hands become type fonts (Gothic and Roman); dominant page designs become standard printed book page designs (leaf structure and text block design)

128-9 Author as a "solitary singular self" whose opinions and ID matter; author as "reasoning and writing being"  (vs. the TEXT as "auctoritas," the "author of knowledge," in manuscript era)

130  Awareness of places and selves that are not one's own place and self--travel writing and illustration; BUT interchangeability of images of self and place (all types of persons and places look the same--131-2: BUT notice the error in the first edition caption to the illustration in which the "above" and "below" descriptions are reversed--or is it the images which are reversed in printing?

133  Standardization of behavior--guidebooks for social roles--Castiglioni/Hoby, The Courtier (1528/1561) and various guide books for right behavior published by Caxton.

133  Layout decisions influence mental development in readers: McLuhan, "scanning lines of print affects thought processes" (See Ralf Schneider!) 


Manguel provocatively asserts: "Anxious to get going, we require nothing to signal our beginnings, but we need to know when to stop: this tiny memento mori reminds us that everything, ourselves included, must one day come to a halt."  The alert reader might object that he does "signal [his] beginning" of this sentence.  How?  Does it matter?  Try reading this passage with all those beginning signals stripped out.

Manguel quotes several authors who use the period as a metaphor for death.  He also cites Quintilian's assertion that a sentence ought to be as long as one can speak with a single breath.  What might be some other relationships between punctuation and life, and between sentences and breathing?

         If you want to know more about the invention of punctuation, one of the truly momentous achievements of early hand-press printers and their compositors (and a medieval scribe named Alcuin of York), as me for a copy of David R. Thomas, "Whence the Semicolon?: Thoughts on Sign and Signal in Western Script," in Early English and Norse Studies: Presented to Hugh Smith in Honour of His Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Arthur Brown and Peter Foote (London: Methuen, 1963), 191-5  [photocopy].  If you are a total punctuation fan-geek, the scholar to seek is Malcolm Parkes'  Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West  (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983) [Available at the Goucher Library, 411.P245p]. 

        If you are impatient and want to pursue Thomas now, you also can read my "talking points" excerpts below.

T 191-2  Thomas starts by speculating about Caxton's instructions to his typesetter about how to punctuate the manuscripts they were "casting off" (counting out lines of type) to prepare them for print.  He does not mention that medieval manuscripts are not typically punctuated with much more than a virgule (/), capital letters at the start of what we might call "paragraphs," and the occasional full stop or period.  He does cite Blades' description of the three punctuation marks in Caxton's Number 1 type fount: what we would call comma, colon, and period (192).  Caxtons editions use even those few punctuation marks very sparingly--see the British Library's digitization of either the first or second edition of Canterbury Tales (1478, 1483).  Why didn't he need much punctuation to sell his Chaucer?

T 193  The semi-colon of Thomas's title makes its appearance in books printed by Aldus Manutius' son, "Aldus Manutius, the younger," as early as 1569, and the mark is adopted by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp by 1564.  Thomas interestingly waffles between calling this mark (and the virgula [/] a "sign" and a "signal, or rhetorical value."  What's the difference?  See also 194 where he says the term "semi-colon" becomes commonly used around 1692 "as a sign, though later to take over the colon's signal, at least rhetorically."

T 193-4  Following McKerrow and Ames, Thomas positions the first English semi-colon in about 1569 and says it was not common until 1589, but I have seen, in a photocopy of a manuscript letter by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42) to Henry VIII, a bona fide semi-colon.  Can you explain that?  Try checking out Wyatt's life and career, and think about what kind of text-user/creator he represents.  He did some other stuff very early, too, like the first sonnets in English.

T 194-5  Thomas concludes, perhaps prematurely in 1963, that the "commonsense minimal pointing of today" uses a "tripartite system" (comma, colon, period) rather than the "quadrapartite system" (comma, semi-colon, colon, period).  Based on the varities of text you see most often every day, how would you describe current American "pointing"?

T 195  Thomas assumes printers "regularize" punctuation use (and orthography of words, "spelling"), but you might object that other forces now are more powerful.  What are they and what are they doing to our punctuation?

T 195  Where do you imagine the semi-colon might have originated? Who else other than scribes and printers uses marks like that?

        This link will take you to a "bullet-point" history of Anglo-European punctuation, largely based on Thomas and Malcolm Parkes'  Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983) [Available at the Goucher Library, 411.P245p]

What Duguid and Brown call "the social life of documents" will be seen in images of several books in the Garrett Library collection: the Nuremberg Chronicle  (Kroberger, 1493), Richard Eden's Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India (London, 1553) , and Paolo Piranesi's grand engravings of his imaginary Imperial Rome (1749-50)  Even Louis XIV's coronation festival book shows us a document that serves as a "conduit" (Reddy 105) that creates a "social world" (Strauss 107) containing "imagined communities" and "communities of interpretation" (Anderson 107-8 and Fish 110).  The intensively glossed early printed Bible  Earle Havens will show us is an interesting combination of marginal deliberation leading to new ideas and a "boundary object"that establishes theological orthodoxy for the Bible's meaning (Huizinga 111 and Star and Greisemer 115).  Those of you who know the classic C20 film, Casablanca (1941-2) will remember its use of documents to "patrol and control" the characters' lives, from the fictional "letters of transit" to the famous "Your papers please" scene in the opening montage.  Our "papers" or documents can be "fixed or fluid," depending on the social context and the way we use them.  Our manuscript signatures on contracts or credit card readers establish identity in a world where document "fluidity" renders identity, itself, fluid and capable of forgery (AKA "identity theft").  Elizabeth Eisenstein points out that moveable type printing multiplied certain kinds of documents so greatly, and beyond any government's power to recall or destroy them, and that rapidly spread habits of mind printers helped readers to associate with books' structure (alphabetical order, standardization of contents including standardized errors (see the incorrect caption on page 132 and the dittographic repetition of "the new" on 133!).  As we move backward into the social and psychological domain of the hand-press book, we can begin to discover which parts of our current consciousness owe their existence to those early printers and readers.

Robert George Collier Proctor, inventor of the "Proctor Order" for study of "incunabula" or "cradle books" printed in the first century of print (1450-1501), disappeared at age 35 while hiking in the Alps.  No body was recovered.  If you like mysteries, read on: