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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 81, Number 2, Spring 2018


"That ye mowe redely fynde . . . what ye desyre": Printed Tables of Contents and Indices, 1476-1550

How the conventions governing the structure and divisions of codices and the characteristic features of their parts made their way from the scholarly manuscripts of the late medieval period into printed books has been only cursorily examined by scholars. This essay traces the development in English print before 1540 of two paratextual elements, the table of contents and the index, which were at this time not strictly distinguished from one another. How did English printers describe tables of contents and indices, and what can these descriptions tell us about why printers found them worthwhile additions? The essay contends that writers and printers marketed these features as time-saving innovations and—in the case of early Reformation works—valued them as means to shaping and constraining how readers read.

Embroidery and Information Management: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick Reconsidered 

This study examines a group of late sixteenth-century embroideries by Mary Queen of Scots (1542–1587) and the English countess "Bess of Hardwick" (ca. 1527–1608). While scholars have tended to regard these textiles as status-driven proclamations of rank and power, Nicole LaBouff argues that they functioned as aids for self-instruction in natural history, the wisdom of the ancients, and the art of discourse. Recent histories have shown "information overload" to be a pervasive problem among Renaissance male intellectuals. These embroideries reveal women also struggled with it. Bess and Mary found their solution in embroidered cabinets of curiosity, needlework notebooks, and stitched mnemonic devices.

Tradesmen in Virtuoso Culture: "Honest" John Bagford and His Collecting Network, 1683–1716 

This essay investigates the status and activity of a neglected figure in the history of collecting, John Bagford, and other tradesmen navigating the elite world of the virtuosi. It argues that tradesmen were not merely passive suppliers of specialist services to their gentlemen patrons but active shapers of virtuoso culture with a strong sense of collective identity. It outlines the various strategies used by Bagford to stake out a valued position in this elite world of collecting, such as his ability to create and maintain networks between collectors. It also discusses Bagford and his tradesman friends' promotion of ballads and playing cards as "curious" collectibles, which had the effect of both demonstrating their intellectual curiosity and enhancing their retailing opportunities.

Notes and Documents

Varying Arrangements: Observations on Some Copies of Henry Vaughan's Silex Scintillans (1655) 

Tactics of Publishing and Selling Fiction in the Long Eighteenth Century

Review Essay
Measure for Measure: Social and Legal Thought in Early Modern England