15.01.09, Meale and Pearsall, eds., Makers and Users of Medieval Books

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Kathleen E. Kennedy

The Medieval Review 15.01.09

Meale, Carol M., and Derek Pearsall. Makers and Users of Medieval Books: Essays in Honour of A. S. G. Edwards. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2014. Pp. 275. ISBN: 9781843843757 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Kathleen E. Kennedy
Penn State-Brandywine

Thanks to his foundational work in book studies, it is immensely right that Tony Edwards would be honored in a festschrift. Festschrifts, loosely gathered collections of essays around themes pursued in a scholar's career and the strongest thread running through them all, can sometimes be the scholarly link that ties each author to the honoree. Since Edwards is a scholar of books, however, Makers and Users gains a special level of intertextuality: this festschrift is books, books all the way through. More specifically, thanks to the tendency of medieval books to be miscellanies or anthologies of materials that were of interest to the original owner (or that we assume could have been of interest to that owner), Edwards' festschrift reads very much like a medieval book itself.

Like the materials making up many medieval miscellanies, the essays contained in Makers and Users tend to point outward to other texts, and this can be both delightful and frustrating, and sometimes both at once. J. A. Burrow takes a bit of both--Wynnere and Wastoure and Piers Plowman--and walks readers through the connections between the two, wondering again about Langland's inspirations in earlier alliterative poetry. Kathleen L. Scott lists merchants whom she has identified as having owned books. Her article consists largely of two tables: one based on ownership inscriptions in extant books and the other noting statements about books made in wills and other documentary evidence. This short article serves as a sort of bookmark alerting the audience to a much larger database that Scott hopes to make available in the future. Surely we are all pleased to have such advance notice and eagerly await the database itself. Alfred Hiatt's article on Abbot of St. Albans John Whethamstede's encyclopedic reference work, the Granarium, must be the kernel of a larger project concerning late medieval English scholasticism and its lively relationship to humanism. Nicholas Barker's essay on the binding history of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Tanner 190 arises directly from detailed descriptions of the rebinding of this volume in the past. Such work sheds more light on the Scales Binder and also on the history of reuse and refurbishing of books in the later Middle Ages.

One type of medieval miscellany, the civic miscellany, can be quite tightly focused on the owner's city, trade, and personal interests, and likewise many of these essays emphasize minutiae and the meticulous care necessary to study books. Martha Driver expands one of Edwards' notes into an article and explores in detail the capacious English definition of "pageant." While literary scholars are most familiar with pageants referring to plays or the wagons on which they were staged, Driver highlights how the term also referred to painted wall hangings, allegorical imagery in processions, or scenes derived from life. Orietta da Rold and Susanna Fein painstakingly use the physical description of existing manuscripts to locate the texts found in these volumes in time and place. Da Rold concentrates on using one manuscript--Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 108--to explore in intense detail the codicological features that might mark a manuscript crafted in thirteenth-century Oxford. Fein considers the filler material in the Auchinleck manuscript in order to argue for the importance of the literature of the Western Midlands to the London book culture developing in the fourteenth century. A. I. Doyle offers a suitably masterful short course in identification of early print issues using Thomas More's Responsio ad Lutherum. Likewise Toshiyuki Takamiya presents here a series of short prosopographical sketches of English people who owned books printed on the continent and that today form part of the Takamiya Collection. Like codicology, every paragraph of prosopography requires many hours of laborious work with primary sources. Carol M. Meale's essay highlights this painstaking research into archival as well as literary sources in making her argument for Katherine de la Pole's role as a book patron in East Anglia. John Scattergood's entry about a clerical miscellany highlights the unknowable intent behind the collection choices underlying any medieval miscellany.

Thanks to Edwards' research into both manuscript and early print, the essays in this volume cross that boundary as well, as did medieval miscellanies such as that owned by the London grocer, Thomas Hill. Moreover, miscellanies lend themselves to development over time, and we have ample evidence that some medieval miscellanies continued to be modified long after their original production. In Makers and Users we see essays trace the editorial processes that developed a canon and that then brought canonical medieval literature to later audiences, although not always in the intended fashion. Lotte Hellinga reveals how Caxton adapted Poggio's Facetiae for English tastes by making use of previously printed German and French additions to the work. John J. Thompson featly traces how printed versions of Nicholas Love's Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ offered an interiorized religion to readers during the early years of the English Reformation. Such interiority could remain private and therefore relatively protected from the doctrinal swings that marked these decades. Thompson also links medieval editing with modern editorial projects and underscores the potential utility of massive collaborative projects, such as "New Communities of Interpretation: Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe" headed by Sabrina Corbellini, to trace religious change in the later Middle Ages. Jane Griffiths recreates one reader's response to a copy of Crowley's Piers Plowman, and suggests that this reader resisted the reading strategies that Crowley recommended through his editorial paratext. Griffiths begins her argument using Crowley's frontispiece, a layout over which editors usually had little say, and continues using one reader's marginalia to demonstrate the limits of the control Crowley's marginal paratext might exert over audiences. Simon Horobin writes about eighteenth-century editions of Chaucer that were imagined but never came to be. Horobin's essay here recalls Lawrence Warner's recent work on later engagement with Piers Plowman. Both scholars highlight how post-medieval editorial practices create and refract through the modern canon.

Some of the detail-oriented essays central to Makers and Users show the potential to enrich a range of scholarship. To a general reader some of this material will be far too detailed to be of interest or use. Nevertheless, it is precisely this sort of research that can offer clinching evidence for arguments about premodern books and the texts contained in them. It is vital that there remains a publishing space for this level of evidence. I am convinced that Edwards himself appreciates the role that his festschrift and the range of research it contains can play in an area of scholarship to which he is so devoted.

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Kathleen E. Kennedy

Penn State-Brandywine