Social Authorship and the Advent of Print
How did academic and literary writers living in rural Britain in the 1680s establish their careers and find audiences for their work? What factors influenced 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 engaging 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.
Ezell's 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. An underlying question, Ezell notes, is whether the Internet will inspire the reemergence of the "social" author, whose work can be circulated to readers without the assistance of a publishing firm.
About the Author
Margaret J. M. Ezell is the John Paul Abbott Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A & M University. Her books include Writing Women's Literary History, also available from Johns Hopkins.
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.
Ezell's is a beautifully written and cogently argued study [and] an unqualified success.
Margaret Ezell's most recent book, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print, as her previous work, The Patriarch's Wife (1987) and Writing Women's Literary History (1993), is a revisionist literary history at its best.
Ezell eloquently challenges her fellow scholars' equation, conscious or unconscious, of authorship with publication.
In concise yet detailed fashion, Ezell shows us how commercial print culture eclipsed its vibrant manuscript counterpart.
Lucid and engaging in both style and argumentation.
Opens a new chapter in our understanding of writing and print in the Early Modern Era.
Ezell's work has become the gold standard for responsible, revisionary literary historicizing in the early modern period... Her work is groundbreaking in the most refreshing and dynamic sense.
This is an important contribution to our knowledge of writing and publishing practices of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. As one has come to expect of Ezell, there is here a lot of new information dug out of sources that have been largely ignored, and there is a subtle redrawing of important outlines of literary history. And there is wit and style in the presentation. It is a splendid and important book.
Other Titles by Margaret J. M. Ezell
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