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.
“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. ☛ ☞
Nearly every rare book library has at least one extra-illustrated book; many archives hold hundreds of them. Yet the polarizing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practice of extra-illustration has rarely been studied in its own right. Instead it is generally mentioned only briefly as part of larger arguments about marginalia, book use, and private libraries. Lucy Peltz’s extravagantly illustrated and extraordinarily well-researched Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840 offers a strikingly new approach as it both defines extra-illustration against similar “bibliographic activities” (5) and traces the rise and fall of what might be called its golden age. ☛ ☞
This issue also serves as a celebration of the five hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Gutenberg’s death. Appropriately the first four contributions deal with early printed editions of the Bible. ☛ ☞
Megan J. Elias. Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. 296p. ISBN…