Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities
2012—2013 Forum on Peripheries
Matter in the Margins of Printed English Handwriting Manuals, 1600-1700
The calligraphic texts that graced the pages of printed penmanship manuals in Renaissance England were usually enclosed within borders of elaborate flourishes and swirling free-hand drawings. These specimens, in turn, often came to be surrounded by readers' scribbles and attempts at "faire writing". I argue that, as displays of showmanship, printed decorative borders were instrumental to writing-masters' success, increasing the pedagogical and commercial value of their books by enhancing perceptions of their prowess. I read the manuscript marginalia in copybooks, meanwhile, as crucial evidence of utility and proliferation which reveals the complex nature of early modern English literacy. In engaging with these peripheral page elements, I ascribe material-cultural significance to the marginal or negative spaces in books that modern readers are not trained to see.