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Social Authorship and the Advent of Print [Hardcover]

Margaret J. M. Ezell


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Book Description

August 1999
How did academic and literary writers living in rural Britain in the 1680s establish their careers and find audiences for their work? What factors influence the choices of essayists and dramatists who lived outside London and the university cities? Who read the works of regional poets and natural scientists and how were they circulated? In this study of the development of literary industry and authorship in early modern Britain, Margaret Ezell examines the forces at work at a time when print technology was in competition with older manuscript authorship practices and the legal status of authors was being transformed. She also explores the literary concepts that subsequently developed out of new commercial practices, such as the rise of the "classic" text and the marketing of uniform series editions. The interdisciplinary approach draws together the history of the book and cultural history. The result allows the reader a glimpse of literary life as practiced by "social" authors in the context of the development of commercial publishing and the formalization of copyright laws defining texts and authors. Ezell examines how early modern publishers went about choosing books to publish and why some groups of writers - "social" authors - were successful without relying on the growing publishing and bookselling industries. She concludes that, especially for writers living away from large cities, privately produced and circulated manuscripts remained the best means of transmitting literary or academic work and achieving recognition as an author.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (August 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080186139X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801861390
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 463 g

Product Description

Review

"A complex, nuanced portrait of English reading and writing during the Restoration and early eighteenth century... Ezell's deeply intelligent, challenging book will thus interest not only early modern specialists, but a more general readership concerned with issues of authorial identity and technological change." -- Marjorie Swann, Rocky Mountain Review

About the Author

Margaret J.M. Ezell is the John Paul Abbott Professsor of Liberal Arts at Texas A & M University. Her books include Writing Women's Literary History, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief but excellent June 19 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Social authorship" -- publication by manuscript transmission, rather than via the printing press -- did not cease with the advent of print or even with the emergent capitalist literary economy of the 18th century. Instead, as Margaret Ezell demonstrates in splendidly researched and presented detail, many writers -- women, folk outside the metropolis, members of various social circles -- continued in the 18th century to eschew print. Perhaps the suprising chapter in this book is Ezell's discussion of "The Very Early Career of Alexander Pope," about Pope's habit of allowing his early poems to mature during several years of manuscript transmission (and revision) before committing them to print. Throughout, however, this is a remarkably readable and illuminating study.

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