The Material Letter in Early Modern England: Manuscript by J. Daybell

By J. Daybell

The 1st significant socio-cultural examine of manuscript letters and letter-writing practices in early glossy England. Daybell examines a very important interval within the improvement of the English vernacular letter sooner than Charles I's postal reforms in 1635, one who witnessed an important extension of letter-writing talents all through society.

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Extra resources for The Material Letter in Early Modern England: Manuscript Letters and the Culture and Practices of Letter-Writing, 1512–1635

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45 As levels of literacy rose towards the end of the sixteenth century, letters became increasingly private spaces associated with personal writing technologies and detached from the secretarial gaze. Business secrets were conveyed in writing personally; husbands and wives traded intimacies in correspondence; young girls were encouraged to practice their epistolary skills in order to allow them greater control over their own affairs in later life; clandestine or highly sensitive information was transmitted using ciphers, informal codes and secret devices.

At other times neat copies of outgoing correspondence were specially made for filing. Duplicate copies of original letters assume varying forms. They were reproduced as separates (or single leaf manuscripts, usually in the form of full sheet cut in half or folded into a bifolium with four writing sides) required for record-keeping. Letters were also copied as entries into Renaissance letter-books, a form of recording incoming and outgoing correspondence that has its root in classical and medieval epistolary culture.

While there is need for such research, it is well beyond the remit of the present study. Nonetheless, focusing on the materials, tools and technologies of letter-writing a series of general questions arise relating to their consumption, ownership, use and social meaning. How widespread was the ownership of writing materials? Where, how often and at what cost were items purchased for letter-writing? Which things was it necessary to buy and what could be made oneself? A survey of gentry and noble household accounts, of women as well as men, and of mercantile and municipal expenses over the period 18 The Material Letter in Early Modern England reveals the frequent consumption of consumables like paper, ink, wax and quills, as well as the purchase of more durable goods, including desks, standishes, penners and seals.

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