What Books Taste Like Bacon and the Borders of the Book

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Jonathan P. Lamb


This paper explores the language of book taste in early modern England to argue that a key shift occurred in Francis Bacon’s famous aphorism about eating books: “Some bookes are to bee tasted, others to bee swallowed, and some few to bee chewed and digested: That is, some bookes are to be read only in partes; others to be read, but cursorily, and some few to be read wholly and with diligence and attention.” Writers for the next century would quote and adapt this line, a process that would culminate in a shift from “taste” in the sense of sample to “taste” in the sense of discrimination and distinction.


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Textual Studies: Century by Century