Literary Folios and Ideas of the Book in Early Modern by Francis X. Connor (auth.)

By Francis X. Connor (auth.)

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As also if any defecct be found in the Eclogues, which although they were of Sir Phillip Sidneis writing, yet were they not perused by him, but left till the worke had bene finished, that then choise should haue bene made, which should haue bene taken, and in what manner brought in. 56 The editor, therefore, needs to decide how to handle the Eclogues, which Sidney never fully integrated into the work. However, the changes are also motivated by “the more ease of the Readers”—the book reimagines such courtly 40 M Literary Folios and Ideas of the Book gestures as a commercial consideration designed to make the page more comprehensible for readers and book consumers.

Notably, Sidney explicitly directs his ire at printed poetry; he feels that few poems in print have the requisite “poetical sinews,” and too many are rhetorically weak and nonsensical. By introducing print as a malicious influence in his narrative of poetry’s fallenness, Sidney attributes the advent of printed poetry to the decline in the genre’s reputation. In a similar vein, he later attacks the “prose-printers” who, due to their lack of eloquence, compose poems according to “the method of a dictionary” (246).

To “reforme” and “amend” his work, Spenser first needs to gather them before he can print them in an authoritative volume. The manuscript poems that escaped his control have been subject to “retractation”—cancellation—and rendered Manuscript to Print in Arcadia M 33 unnecessary by the printed edition. Spenser here reveals a preference for printed publication over manuscript publication because print can “reforme” his texts that had previously been “scattered abroad” in manuscripts. Spenser’s comparison of manuscript and print indicates how early modern poets could understand print as a corrective to the limits of manuscript publication.

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