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"Gentyll reader ye shall understande": practical books and the making of an English reading public, 1400–1600

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TitleInfo
Title
"Gentyll reader ye shall understande": practical books and the making of an English reading public, 1400–1600
Name (type = personal)
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Reynolds
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Melissa Buckner
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1984-
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Melissa Buckner Reynolds
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author
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Alastair
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Alastair Bellany
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chair
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Masschaele
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James
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James Masschaele
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Bell
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Rudolph
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Rudolph Bell
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DeVun
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Leah
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Leah DeVun
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Advisory Committee
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internal member
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Blair
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Ann M.
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Ann M. Blair
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Advisory Committee
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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School of Graduate Studies
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theses
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2019
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2019-05
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2019
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English
Abstract (type = abstract)
This dissertation examines the composition, use, and reuse of practical manuscripts and early printed practical books in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England. I locate the origins of an English “reading public” in the everyday interactions men and women had with late medieval almanacs, prognostications, and collections of craft, medical, and agricultural knowledge. I argue that from around 1400, non-elite English men and women became accustomed to interacting with the written word thanks to the proliferation of these utilitarian manuscripts. These pragmatic texts remained largely unchanged and immensely popular well into the sixteenth-century, transferring easily into print. Drawing from the methodologies of the history of the book, I compare 120 practical manuscripts with over 180 editions of printed practical books. This comparison reveals how incremental changes to the presentation and circulation of mundane knowledge transformed how English people saw themselves as readers, writers, and consumers of knowledge. Thus, this study contributes to a narrative that posits the printing press as an agent of change, even as it also reveals the continuity of everyday concerns that structured English life over the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a period of seismic social, political, religious, and cultural change.
Chapter one offers a brief synthesis of scholarship on manuscript culture in England prior to 1400, as well as a survey of patterns of book ownership, literacy, and manuscript production in fifteenth-century England. Chapter two explores how late medieval readers interpreted icons and symbols in manuscript almanacs comprised almost wholly of pictures, and then examines how and why this visual language collapsed in a culture in print. Chapter three asks how readers understood the collection of useful knowledge in manuscript, and then follows the commercialization of this same practical knowledge in print. I argue that printers’ marketing techniques convinced readers of the novelty of centuries-old recipes, thereby encouraging them to search for new knowledge in the world. Finally, chapter four demonstrates that the margins of medieval practical manuscripts were ideal locations for early modern writers to experiment with informal scribal practices. I locate the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century men and women who left signatures, records, and bits of correspondence in their practical manuscripts and argue that these reader marks illustrate how the non-elite became accustomed to wielding the pen, and with it, the authority of the written word.
Through the study of everyday habits of reading, writing, and collecting knowledge, this dissertation contributes to scholarly debates on the Reformation, the rise of the New Sciences, and the growth of the public sphere. It offers a timely early modern perspective on a question roiling our present-day politics: how is a society transformed when its citizens access the same old information in entirely new ways?
Subject (authority = local)
Topic
Early modern England
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
History
Subject (authority = LCSH)
Topic
Literacy -- England -- History
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Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_9618
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application/pdf
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1 online resource (xii, 319 pages) : illustrations
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references
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School of Graduate Studies Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore10001600001
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/t3-dwmn-fd42
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Rights

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The author owns the copyright to this work.
RightsHolder (type = personal)
Name
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Reynolds
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Melissa
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Buckner
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Permission or license
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2019-03-27 17:16:24
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Melissa Reynolds
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Rutgers University. School of Graduate Studies
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Author Agreement License
Detail
I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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Embargo
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2019-05-31
DateTime (encoding = w3cdtf); (qualifier = exact); (point = end)
2021-05-30
Detail
Access to this PDF has been restricted at the author's request. It will be publicly available after May 30th, 2021.
Copyright
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Copyright protected
Availability
Status
Open
Reason
Permission or license
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2019-03-27T18:07:10
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