‘The Theatre of the Book’: Marginalia and Mise en Page in the Cardiff Rare Books Restoration Drama Collection

by Melanie Bigold*

Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, Occasional Publications No. 1

The Bigold abstractvalue-added aspect of both marginalia and provenance has long been recognized.  Ownership marks and autograph annotations from well-known writers or public figures increase the intellectual interest as well as monetary value of a given book. Handwritten keys, pointers, and marginal glosses can help to reveal unique, historical information unavailable in the printed text; information that, in turn, can be used to reconstruct various reading and interpretive experiences of the past. However, increasingly scholars such as Alan Westphall have acknowledged that the ‘study of marginalia and annotations’ results in ‘microhistory, producing narratives that are often idiosyncratic.’ While twenty to fifty percent of early modern texts have some sort of marking in them, many of these forays in textual alterity are unsystematic and fail to address, as William Sherman notes, ‘the larger patterns that most literary and historical scholars have as their goal.’

On the other hand, Heidi Hackel Brayman has shown that our commitment to ‘the singular “ideal” or transhistorical reader and the extraordinary male reader’ fails to take into account ‘less extraordinary readers.’ In particular, the reciprocity between such readers and their ‘recreational’ texts is often overlooked in the early modern cycle of textual production. Surviving exemplars of these types of texts can, however, reveal varied attitudes towards books and reading from a vast range of early as well as later readers. The types of annotation evident in the Cardiff Rare Books collection reveal patterns of engagement on the part of readers that challenge critical orthodoxies—particularly in relation to the evolution of the play text. The attached paper explores, therefore, the mediations between performance and text, between stage and page, as it appears in terms of authors’, publishers’, but, most importantly, readers’ alterations to the mise en page – the layout of the printed text.

Click here to download the publication (173pp, inc. essay plus 800 records). [The file is also available for download from Research > Scholarship.]

* This research was made possible by generous funding from the Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (CUROP), and the School of English, Communication, and Philosophy at Cardiff University. My research assistants, Lewis Coyne and Emma Feloy, contributed blog posts on their own findings here and here. I would like to thank Lewis and Emma for their diligent and exemplary work on this project, and the team in Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR): Peter Keelan, Ken Gibb, and Alison Harvey, for their invaluable guidance and help.


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