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Jonathan Olson

‘The Enlargement of Reprints in Sixteenth-Century European Print Culture’ 

February–May 2013

My project as a Visiting Research Fellow contributed to a monograph in progress titled The Culture of Revision in the Book Trade from Shakespeare to Milton. Last autumn I completed a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship that supported research on the focus of the monograph, the revision and enlargement of reprints in seventeenth-century England. The Mellon Foundation’s support for this fellowship at Warwick’s Centre for the Study for the Renaissance enabled me to research an additional chapter on sixteenth-century European reprints, consult with other scholars at Warwick, attend many seminars and conferences, visit several British libraries, and spend a week at the Newberry.  

By the end of the sixteenth century it was common for London publishers to advertise reprinted English texts on their title-pages as corrected, revised, or enlarged. Another technique for selling reprints was to include supplementary texts and advertise them as never before printed. On the continent, however, these editorial and advertising methods were already common in Latin and vernacular books in the first half of the sixteenth century. The publishers of English books in London were usually booksellers who sold not only their own books and those of other London publishers, but also books imported from the continent. European books were therefore an immediate context of the printing and advertising of English texts, and my project at Warwick explored the possibility that English publishers learned their advertising techniques from European publishers whose books passed through the London bookshops. The primary focus of my monograph remains the English book trade and my analysis of European reprinted texts could not be comprehensive, so during my fellowship I analysed as case studies the publication histories of particular Latin, Italian, German, French, and Spanish texts that advertise revisions, corrections, and enlargements.

Being based in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance was a valuable aspect of the fellowship, and afforded me several opportunities to discuss research with other CSR scholars. The hospitality and advice of Maude Vanhaelen, Tess Grant, Eugenio Refini, and Femke Molekamp are most appreciated. I am particularly grateful to Paul Botley for his generosity and for drawing my attention to the competitive enlargements of Greek-Latin dictionaries carried out between the rival presses of Basle and Paris in the early sixteenth century: the dictionaries published by Valentine Curio (Basle, 1519 and 1522), Petrus Vidovaeus (Paris, 1521), and Gilles de Gourmont (Paris, 1523) prominently advertised on their title-pages the present edition’s manifold improvements to the other city’s most recent dictionary.

Working on the Warwick campus enabled me to attend a number of papers in the Global History Research Seminar, the Medieval Seminar Series, the STVDIO/Early Modern Seminar, and the Medieval to Renaissance Lunch. I also attended several one-day conferences at Warwick and nearby institutions: the 47th British Milton Seminar (at the Birmingham & Midland Institute); ‘The Struggle of Creation: Rethinking Michelangelo’s Poetry’ (at Warwick); ‘Working It Out: A Day of Numbers in Early Modern Writing’ (at Birkbeck, London); and ‘Collecting Cultures: The Eighteenth Century’ (at Birmingham), a Joint Annual Workshop sponsored by the Warwick Eighteenth-Century Centre and the Birmingham Eighteenth-Century Centre. All four of these day conferences were excellent, and closely related to different aspects of my project. The Mellon Foundation also funded short research visits to the British Library, Wellcome Library, Bodleian Library, National Library Scotland, University of Edinburgh Library, and St Andrews Library, to examine particular copies of the books I was investigating.

One of the highlights of returning to Warwick for an extended period after the two-week Reading Publics workshop last summer was the opportunity to discuss research with other fellows whose tenures coincided with mine: Jake Halford, Gabriella Addivinola, Jason Baxter, and Sarah Parker. Jake and I had several discussions in February and March which helped me consider new approaches to the analysis of title-pages, and we are now developing a potential collaborative research project. One of the most exciting developments during my fellowship was the organization, led by Sarah Parker, of four Reading Publics-themed panels at RSA 2014. Thanks to the sponsorship of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Newberry Library, Andie Silva, Jake Halford, and I will present very complementary papers on the panel ‘Reading Publics I: Marketing the Book in Early Modern Paratexts’. My paper on ‘Claims of Novelty on Sixteenth-Century Title-Pages’ will focus on the results of this fellowship project.

To conclude my fellowship, the Mellon Foundation also supported a week-long visit to the Newberry Library in Chicago on my return trip. I am grateful to Ann Brenner and Diane Dillon for making me feel at home at the Newberry and to Paul Gehl for his hospitality and expertise. Thanks to Paul’s guidance towards particular holdings I was able to look at over three hundred engraved title-pages during my brief visit. I also wish to thank Paul Saenger for his generosity with his research.
I thank the Mellon Foundation for generously supporting a fellowship that enabled so many forms of research and collaboration. Not only was this fellowship an ideal opportunity to explore research questions that arose in the Reading Publics workshop in July 2012, but it is already ramifying into more than one direction for future collaborative projects. I thank Maude Vanhaelen, Simon Gilson, and David Lines for their encouragement across both the workshop and fellowship, and I am grateful for the incomparable support of Jayne Brown, sine qua non.