the myth of print culture

Dane, Joseph A. The Myth of Print Culture: Essays on Evidence, Textuality, and Bibliographical Method. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Thanks to Ian for the recommendation. A lengthy blockquote is below the fold.

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technologies old and new

In the foyer of the British Library, they have this very large electronic kiosk for you to flip through some of their collection. I’d estimate that the screen is about 30 inches across and 18 inches high. Displayed on the screen in this photo is “Baybars’ Magnificent Qur’an,” which you can also view online.

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book production and distribution, 1625-1800

Book Production and Distribution, 1625-1800,” by H. G. Aldis, M.A., Peterhouse, Secretary of the University Library
(from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature: An Encyclopedia in 18 Volumes).

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adaptation of conditions

D. F. McKenzie. “Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices.Studies in Bibliography 22 (1969).

…if I were to give this paper an epigraph, it might well be that quoted by Sir Karl Popper from Black’s Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry published in 1803: ‘A nice adaptation of conditions will make almost any hypothesis agree with the phenomena. This will please the imagination, but does not advance our knowledge.’ Our ignorance about printing-house conditions in the 17th and 18th centuries has left us disastrously free to devise them according to need; and we have at times compounded our errors by giving a spurious air of ‘scientific’ definitiveness to our conclusions.

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research update

Just a quick note here, dear reader, as I’m grabbing some free WiFi in a dining hall with an etiquette notice forbidding the use of laptops. My flight over was fine, and I managed to put in a brief appearance yesterday at the British Library, even though my lack of sleep made me feel like a real zombie, not just the Internet kind. As fate would have it, I encountered a former student who is now finishing up his PhD in English. I last saw him when he was a freshman in one of my sections of intro to British literature at the University of Maryland. Time flies!

I’m looking at British evangelical periodicals at the BL, and I may have more to say about the fruits of my research in the coming days. Or I may keep it to myself until print publication. What’s interesting is that I’m seeing the same names involved in these publishing ventures crop up again and again.

There’s also a thread I want to follow involving the controversy surrounding the claim of a publisher that a certain set of printed sermons represent the authentic words of a particular preacher who, conveniently enough for the publisher, happened to be dead at the time of publication. The sermons were purportedly taken down in shorthand by an audience member, then transcribed, then printed. This is one of those threads you don’t expect to find, but that you are obliged to follow once you do. You know me: I’m a sucker for the whole “speech-script-print” thing

Oh, and I bought a surprisingly affordable CD-ROM of “the worlds earliest complete survival of a dated printed book.”

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