Professor Mayer’s book is an insightful, eye-opening exploration of the emergence of a new type of literary celebrity at the beginning of the nineteenth century based on close readings of Walter Scott’s correspondence. Considered by Byron himself as “the first man of his time,” Scott is an ideal case study due to the immense popularity he enjoyed during his lifetime as a result of his poetic and novelistic output, especially the Waverley cycle. Beautifully contextualized through comparisons with predecessors such as Pope and Johnson, contemporaries such as Wordsworth, Southey, and Byron, and successors such as Dickens, Hardy, and Hemingway, this study sheds considerable light on the evolution of literary celebrity in general and on the brand of celebrity that Walter Scott embodied in the public consciousness of his time in particular.
In the introduction to Textual Distortion, a volume of essays published as part of the English Association’s “Essays and Studies” series, Elaine Treharne notes that the process of distortion “remains resolutely associated with the undesirable, the lost or the deceptive” (1). In response to this primarily negative view of distortion, the nine essays that Treharne and her co-editor, Greg Walker, have assembled in this collection document the “varied, dynamic and often positive role of distortion in the transmission and reception of texts” (5). Many of the essays approach distortion from a bibliographic or book-historical perspective, examining the distorting effects of various processes of textual transmission, such as scribal intervention, photo-facsimile reproduction, and digital manipulation. Other essays treat distortion as a mediating factor in the transmission of historical and literary discourse.
Simone Murray’s The Digital Literary Sphere has a set of ambitious and interrelated objectives. The book proposes to understand digital writing as the product of an industry that is also becoming digital, touching on the ways that the digital sphere creates its own conceptualizations of authorship, marketing, book reviewing and reading. The Digital Literary Sphere additionally features a rationale for thinking of “the digital’s significance for literary culture” (1) via some of the methods and concerns of book history, media studies, and a specific aspect of electronic literary studies. Along the way, Murray considers, and for the most part discards, other ways of understanding digital writing, including literary studies more generally, the Digital Humanities, cultural studies, approaches making use of Bourdieu’s conception of the literary field, and literary sociology. ☛ ☞
“Until well into the 19th century typographical craftsmanship was passed down from generation to generation in the workshops where printing was practised, in the printing houses,” argued Frans A. Janssen in his monumental 1982 edition of David Wardenaar’s Beschrijving der Boekdrukkunst (1801), the oldest Dutch printer’s manual. Apprentice typographers learned the trade on the job; instruction manuals were wasted on them. That such books were made all the same is owing to “the relative small number of the most educated and ambitious master printers and overseers” (Janssen, ed. Wardenaar, 11). One such man was Joannes Josephus Balthazar Vanderstraelen from Antwerp who, in 1784–5, wrote an instruction manual explaining how to place type for different formats into the forme in the correct manner. In 2006 the Grolier Club managed to acquire the manuscript containing Vanderstraelen’s “Overslag-Boek.” Eugene S. Flamm, president of the Club from 2010–14 and author of the foreword to this facsimile, is understandably proud of the acquisition and of the present edition by Janssen – the expert par excellence in the field of typesetting and printing in the Low Countries. ☛ ☞
Following work at the Bodleian Library, Mark Purcell became responsible for libraries in the care of the British National Trust, and he is now in the research-collections department at Cambridge University. With this background, and with his own scholarly focus on private and country-house libraries, he was eminently qualified to write this fine book. It has more than 225 illustrations, many of them in color. ☛ ☞