English Research Seminar: Dr Aditi Nafde (Newcastle)
‘They write so beautifully that they themselves cannot read what they have written’: Revaluing Manuscripts after Print
Dr Aditi Nafde (Newcastle)
The quotation in the title is taken from Erasmus’s On Handwriting. It is preceded by the line, ‘Nowadays the art of printing has led to the situation that some scholars do not write down anything at all’. Erasmus’s exasperated comments are usually taken to be part of a familiar narrative about the ‘shift from script to print’, that the invention of the printing press first supplemented and then supplanted the handwritten book. But what Erasmus shrewdly points out is that print did not spell the end of manuscripts; rather, print changed the handwritten book. This paper examines the way scribes were rethinking what it was to make a book after print, with evidence from their books acting as witnesses to broader changes in the book trade and to the culture of adaptation and negotiation between book forms. It looks at the way writing was adapted after print and its value reasserted afresh.