This week’s seminar on early modern print and authorship took place in Marsh’s Library, Dublin. This was a particularly interesting class as the resources of Marsh’s Library helped to bring the lecture topics to life. On of the most engaging topic of the day was the exploration of the relationship between handwritten marginalia and the layout of the printed book. This evolution could clearly be seen by examining the books themselves. Firstly, there was a sixteenth-century grammar school textbook, Ioachimi Fortij Ringelbergij Antuerpiani Rhetorica (1554), which had both interlinear marginal handwritten annotations – a record of early active reading. Another type of development of the book could be seen in Ben Jonson’s Volpone (1607) which contained a handwritten list of contents. This was inserted before the idea of genre has really developed, so it was interesting to see that it was listed alongside other comedies and tragicomedies. This also illustrated the fact that books continued to be developed after they were printed. This in turn led to printed marginalia, which could be seen in a 1601 version of Ovid’s complete works. The verse itself was situated in the centre of the pages surrounded by the marginalia, which would have been compiled from a number of sources and supplied to the print shop to assemble.
The library also contained A complete collection of the historical, political, and miscellaneous works of John Milton (1698). This is quite a unique copy in that it sets Milton up as a canonical author. The text is set up almost as a commercialisation of the author. This can be compared to the way in which the production of the Folios of Jonson and Shakespeare also operated in a commercial manner. This raises questions about the role of the author in the early modern period and the importance of authorship. The printing of these Folios was revolutionary in that up until this point printing was reserved for high status documents such as historical, religious and legal documents. The trip to the library ended with a very informative talk on book preservation from the Conservation Binder.