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Gothic Romance

Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere by Ina Ferris

By Ina Ferris

This publication re-reads the tangled kin of e-book tradition and literary tradition within the early 19th century through restoring to view the determine of the bookman and the effaced historical past of his e-book golf equipment. As outliers placing themselves into the matrix of literary construction instead of last inside that of reception, either provoked debate by means of generating, writing, and circulating books in ways in which improved basic issues of literary orientation in lateral instructions now not coincident with these of the literary sphere. Deploying quite a lot of old, archival and literary fabrics, the learn combines the heritage and geography of books, cultural conception, and literary background to make obvious a bookish array of alterative networks, genres, and destinations that have been obscured by means of the literary sphere in developing its authority as arbiter of the fashionable booklet.

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Motifs of romance and commerce mingle, as do archaic and modern idioms: ‘What a day was this ROMAUNT DAY! Producing for the coffers of John Duke of Roxburghe, somewhere between five and six thousand pounds’ ( (Decameron 3:68n). Most telling, however, is Dibdin’s framing of the Roxburghe sale with two portraits, not of the titled book collectors involved in the sale (as might be expected) but of the booksellers associated with the event: George Nicol, co-founder with William Bulmer of the renowned Shakspeare Press, who prepared the catalogue for the sale; and Robert Harding Evans, whose debut as an auctioneer at the sale launched a long career in this role.

Most telling, however, is Dibdin’s framing of the Roxburghe sale with two portraits, not of the titled book collectors involved in the sale (as might be expected) but of the booksellers associated with the event: George Nicol, co-founder with William Bulmer of the renowned Shakspeare Press, who prepared the catalogue for the sale; and Robert Harding Evans, whose debut as an auctioneer at the sale launched a long career in this role. ‘Let Messrs Nicol and Evans move quietly down to a future age, by the side of each other,’ Dibdin writes, ‘as they were once conjointly busied in the Roxburghe contest’ ( (Decameron 3:51n).

66 He clarifies the point in an anecdote. When shown ‘the original written copy’ of Milton’s Lycidas at Trinity, Lamb reports, he recoiled, ‘staggered . . to see the fine things in their ore! interlined, corrected! as if their words were mortal, alterable, displaceable at pleasure! as if they might have been otherwise, and 42 Book-Men, Book Clubs, and the Romantic Literary Sphere just as good’ (Works 2:346). Puncturing the idea of literary inspiration and harnessing literature to an ideal of print, the anecdote reverses the standard valorization of printed word/natural world, and takes a mischievous pleasure in deflating the literary word’s vaunted power to transcend time by turning it into a function of mechanical reproduction.

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