Books and Authors Before Print Canterbury Tales: English 115b
Chaucer’s Words to Adam Scriveyn Adam scriveyn, if ever it thee bifalle Boece or Troylus for to wrytennewe, Under thy long lokkes thou most have the scalle, But after my makyngthowwryte more trewe; So ofteadaye I mot thy werkrenewe, It to correcte and eke to rubbe and scrape, And al is thurghthi negligence and rape. (apparently written for Adam Pinkhurst, a real late fourteenth-century scribe whose hand identified on numerous documents since 2004)
Troilus and Criseyde:Parting Words Go, litel book, go litelmyntragedie, TherGod thy maker yet, er that he dye, So sende might to make in somcomedie! But litel book, no making thou n'envye, But subgit be to allepoesye; And kis the steppes, wher-as thou seest pace Virgile, Ovyde, Omer, Lucan, and Stace. And for ther is so greet diversitee In English and in wryting of our tonge, So preye I God that noon miswryte thee, Ne thee mismetre for defaute of tonge. And red wherso thou be, or ellessonge, That thou be understonde I God biseche! But yet to purpos of my rather speche. (Troilus and Criseyde 5.1789ff)
The Troilus Frontispiece The frontispiece to Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 61 (fol. 1v) depicts the poet Chaucer (on the right, standing) reciting his work to a royal audience. Although we cannot identify each figure in the illustration, many scholars believe the golden-robed man in the center is King Richard II (his face is now rubbed out), and the woman in pink standing next to him is Queen Anne. Some scholars also suggest that the crowned woman in blue (in the front row) is Joan of Kent, the King's mother.
The Arrival of Print William Caxton, London merchant, introduced print to England, 1476. Canterbury Tales first book printed. (http://molcat1.bl.uk/treasures/caxton/search.asp) Notice strong similarity to manuscript pages (Ellesmere). Typefaces used specially cut for England. Introduction of Italian fonts in C16 gives “modern” look. Spread of printing in late C15/early C16. Early identification with two important intellectual movements: 1) Humanism, a “classicizing” movement intent on “correctness”; 2) The “Reformation”: a) made practical use of printing, as the chief means of international c controversy, much of it sustained by “polemics” or “tracts” written for and against various positions b) ideologicaluse of printing in relation to printing vernacular Bibles, “God’s law,” and disseminating as widely as possible – while claiming that manuscript culture, combined with priestly interference, had restricted this circulation. (William Tyndale.) Very large claims are still made for the “revolutionary” effects of printing, not all of them helpful, and the study of printed books is largely separate from that of manuscripts. “Print revolution” standard phrase. Ongoing area of scholarly study/controversy.
The Differences of Print 1 Printing was initially modeled on manuscript production. But it involved or allowed several crucial innovations or changes. • A new level of consistency of production, speed of production – though early printing was laborious compared to modern digital printing. Both these hard to attain with hand-written copies, though late-medieval scriptoria (predecessors of print shops) worked towards this. See “Adam Scriveyn” again. Also gain in quantity, anticipated in the early 1400s by the introduction of new, cheap paper, a far less durable, but easier, medium than parchment. • These changes not necessarily an “advantage” in an absolute sense. By contrast, manuscripts tend to be tailored to local needs: • manuscript “books” can consist of a whole series of texts, not necessarily closely related in theme or type or even language, which happen, for reasons various, to be useful to the people who copied it or for whom it was copied. • Manuscripts have more diversity than printed books, and often tell us more about their early owners and readers. This includes dialectal diversity, as Chaucer notes in Troilus and Criseyde.
Thynne’s 1532 Chaucer http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/chaucer/works.html (remarkable web exhibition of early manuscripts and prints of Chaucer)
Differences of Print 2 2. A new level of centralization, because the technology is more expensive. Printers often set up shop in the same places that groups of “scribes” or copyists worked (especially in London), and the two worked in tandem for some decades. Manuscripts were also produced at many other centers, locally: schools, universities, monasteries, offices of law, government, etc all produced their own books. So did many private individuals, whose books were not necessarily less official looking than many professional productions. The range of kinds of “scribe” was more varied than that of printers. If printing brought more books to more people (as it did), it thus also hardened the gap between authors, scribes, and readers. (NB In practice people continued to produce books by hand, for limited circulation, well into the C18; and of course still do.) 3. A new level of surveillance and censorship. 1533: destruction of first entire print run of an English work, The Nun’s Prophecies, by Elizabeth Barton (‘the holy maid of Kent’, subsequently executed). “Censorship” in the pre-print era necessary different, more difficult, harder to enforce. 4. A commercialization of book production. Printing, if it was not subsidized, was inherently “for profit” in a way manuscript production only was in certain cases. Print gradually moves texts into the nexus of the cash economy.
Differences of Print 3/Authorship Does print make “authorship” in modern sense possible? Is the “author” born along with the possibility of reproducibility, censorship, and profit? (claim associated with Michel Foucault in particular) Evidence might be the Thynne edition of Chaucer, 1536 (at a time when there was massive censorship of religious writings, and Canterbury Tales itself was nearly forbidden, but excused on the grounds “they were but fables”) Thynne’s Chaucer first attempt to gather all works of a vernacular author into a single printed volume: sets model later taken over by Ben Jonson and by the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works (partly organized by Johnson) But Thynne’s ‘canon’ of Chaucer largely based on lists Chaucer himself left behind: in The Retractions and in Prologue to the Legend of Good Women. Both these lists, interestingly, do implicitly involve censorship or disapproval: if they offer us a canon of Chaucer’s works, it is an ironic canon.
Chaucer’s Retractions Now preye I to hem alle that herkne this liteltretys or rede, that if ther be any thynge in it that liketh hem, that therof they thankenoure lord JhesuCrist… I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye for me that Crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; and namely of my translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees, the whiche I revoke in my retracciouns: as is the book of Troilus; the book also of Fame; the book of the XXV. Ladies; the book of the Duchesse; the book of SeintValentynes day of the Parlement of Briddes; the tales of Caunterbury, thilke that sownen into synne; the book of the Leoun; and many another book. If they were in my remembrance, and many a song and many a leccherous lay; that Crist for his grete mercy foryeve me the synne. But of the translacion of Boece de Consolacione, and otherebookes of legendes of seintes, and omelies and moralitee, and devocioun.
What is an author? Bonaventure (c.1260) on four kinds of writer: There are four ways of making a book. Sometimes a man writes others' words, adding nothing and changing nothing; and he is simply called a scribe (scriptor). Sometimes a man writes others' words, putting together passages which are not his own; and he is called a compiler [compilator]. Sometimes a man writes both others' words and his own, but with the others' words in prime place and his own added only for purposes of clarification; and he is called not an author but a commentator [commentator]. Sometimes a man writes both his own words and others', but with his own in prime place and others' added only for purposes of confirmation; and he should be called an author [auctor]. (source: John Burrow, Medieval Writers and Their Work, p. 31)
Ironic Authorship Chaucer as “scribe” Canterbury Tales as compilation What sholde I mooreseyn, but this millere He nolde his wordes for no man forbere, But tolde his cherles tale in his manere. M' athynketh that I shalreherce it heere. And therfore every gentilwight I preye, For goddes love, demethnat that I seye Of yvel entente, but for I moot reherce Hirtales alle, be they bettre or werse, Or ellesfalsensom of my mateere. And therfore, whoso list it natyheere, Turneover the leef and chese another tale; For he shalfyndeynowe, grete and smale, Of storialthyng that touchethgentillesse, And eek moralitee and hoolynesse. Blamethnat me if that ye cheseamys. But first I pray yow, of yourecurteisye, That ye n' arette it nat my vileynye, Thoghthat I pleynlyspeke in this mateere, To telle yow hirwordes and hircheere, Ne thogh I spekehirwordesproprely. For this ye knowen al so wel as I, Whoso shaltelle a tale after a man, He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan Evericha word, if it be in his charge, Al speke he never so rudeliche and large, Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe, Or feynethyng, or fyndewordesnewe.
Prologue to “Sir Thopas Chaucer as “auctor” This were a popet in an arm t' enbrace For any womman, smal and fair of face. He semethelvyssh by his contenaunce, For unto no wightdooth he daliaunce. Sey now somwhat, synoother folk hansayd; Telle us a tale of myrthe, and that anon. Hooste, quod I, ne bethnatyveleapayd, For oother tale certes kan I noon, But of a rym I lernedlongeagoon. Ye, that is good, quod he; now shul we heere Somdeynteethyng, me thynketh by his cheere. Whanseyd was al this miracle, every man As sobre was that wonder was to se, Tilthat ourehoostejapenthobigan, And thanne at erst he looked upon me, And seyde thus: what man artow? quod he; Thou lookest as thou woldestfynde an hare, For evere upon the ground I se thee stare. Approcheneer, and looke up murily. Now war yow, sires, and lat this man have place! He in the waast is shape as wel as I;
“Heeretaketh the makere of this book his leve” Concluding thoughts: 1) the status of modern, vernacular authorship still unclear in Chaucer’s lifetime and practice. His tendency to avoid the issue. The use of his works, nonetheless, to construct an idea of vernacular authorship in manuscript then in print. 2) the relation between this unclarity and the “play of voices” in CT, where the “authors” of the tales are either its tellers or, sometimes, even authors of the sources of the tales (with The Clerk’s Tale we’ll come to an example, also a source of the idea of the “laureate” poet) 3) the further relation between this unclarity and the unfinished status of the poem: its division into “fragments,” units never stitched together in a definitive way. 4) the possibility in that fragmentation of selection and augmentation. Some manuscripts of the Tales are selective, in various ways. Some poets write their own “Canterbury Tales”: Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes, a Cook’s Tale, a Plowman’s Tale, and several others, attach to the tales in manuscript and, sometimes, print.
Astrolabe Prologue 1 • LyteLowys my sone, I aperceyvewel by certeyneevydencesthynabilite to lerne sciences touching nombres and proporciouns; and as welconsidre I thy besypraier in special to lerne the tretys of the Astrelabie. Than for as mochel as a philosofresaith, "he wrappith him in his frend, that condescendith to the rightfullepraiers of his frend," therfore have I latitude of Oxenforde; upon which, by mediacioun of this liteltretys, I purpose to teche the a certeinnombre of conclusions aperteynyng to the same instrument. I seie a certein of conclusions, for thre causes. The first cause is this: trustewel that alle the conclusions that han be founde, or ellys possibly might be founde in so noble an instrument as is an Astrelabiebenunknoweparfitly to eny mortal man in this regioun, as I suppose. An-other cause is this, that sothly in any tretis of the Astrelabie that I have seyn there be somme conclusions that wol not in allethingesparformen her bihestes; and somme of hem ben to harde to thy tendir age of ten yeer to conceyve.
Astrolabe Prologue 2 This tretis, divided in 5 parties, wol I shewe the under full light reules and naked wordes in Englissh, for Latyn ne canst thou yit but small, my litelsone. But nathelessuffise to the these trewe conclusions in Englissh as wel as sufficith to these noble clerkesGrekes these same conclusions in Grek; and to Arabiens in Arabik, and to Jewes in Ebrew, and to the Latyn folk in Latyn; whicheLatyn folk had hem first out of otheredyverselangages, and writen hem in her ownetunge, that is to seyn, in Latyn. And God woot that in alle these langages and in many moo han these conclusions bensuffisantlylerned and taught, and yit by diverse reules; right as diverse pathesleden diverse folk the righte way to Rome. Now wol I preiemekely every discretpersone that redith or herith this liteltretys to have my rude endityng for excusid, and my superfluite of wordes, for two causes. The first cause is for that curious endityng and hard sentence is fulhevy at onys for such a child to lerne. And the secunde cause is this, that sothly me semith better to writen unto a child twyes a god sentence, than he forgete it onys.
Astrolabe Prologue 3 • And Lowys, yf so be that I shewe the in my light Englissh as trewe conclusions touching this mater, and not oonly as trewe but as many and as subtileconclusiouns, as benshewid in Latyn in eny commune tretys of the Astrelabie, konne me the more thank. And preie God save the king, that is lord of this langage, and alle that him feithberith and obeieth, everich in his degre, the more and the lasse. But considrewel that I ne usurpe not to have founden this werk of my labour or of mynengyn. I n'am but a lewd compilator of the labour of oldeastrologiens, and have it translatid in mynEnglisshoonly for thy doctrine. And with this swerdshal I sleenenvie.