English Paleography and Manuscript Culture, 1500-1800 Kathryn James

Publication date:
14 Jul 2020
Beinecke Rare Book Library
288 pages: 292 x 225mm
313 color illus.
Sales territories:

An engaging, accessible introduction to reading and understanding early modern English manuscripts

This engaging book provides an essential introduction to the manuscript in early modern England. From birth to death, parish record to probate inventory, writing framed the lives of the early modern English. The book offers a detailed technical introduction to the handwriting of the period, from “secretary hand” through the “copperplate” that defined the early British Empire. Case studies trace the significance of manuscript to British cultural identity, exploring the intersections of manuscript and print, the roles of manuscript in the bureaucracy of the early modern state, and the complex practices surrounding manuscript in the lives of early modern readers and writers. Exercises offer the opportunity to practice reading and transcription, pointing to examples ranging from John Lydgate through William Wordsworth. Richly illustrated and drawing extensively on Yale University collections, this book opens the study of early modern English manuscript to a new generation of students and scholars.

Kathryn James is Curator of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

“[This book's] accessible and elegant descriptions of the practicalities of everyday writing and material culture in early modern England will educate students and remind scholars for generations to come.”—David Scott Gehring, Journal of British Studies

“This is a superb book—and an essential one. There is no better way to approach the fascinating diversity of English Renaissance manuscripts than this beautifully illustrated volume. Read and reread it.”—Peter Stallybrass, University of Pennsylvania