Cover of After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures

The eighteenth century has generally been understood as the Age of Print, when the new medium revolutionized the literary world and rendered manuscript culture obsolete. After Print: Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Cultures, an edited collection published by the University of Virginia Press in April 2020, reveals that the story isn’t so simple. Manuscript remained a vital, effective, and even preferred forum for professional and amateur authors working across fields such as literature, science, politics, religion, and business through the Romantic period.

The contributors to this book offer a survey of the manuscript culture of the time, discussing handwritten culinary recipes, the poetry of John Keats, Benjamin Franklin’s letters about his electrical experiments, and more. Collectively, the essays demonstrate that what has often been seen as the amateur, feminine, and aristocratic world of handwritten exchange thrived despite the spread of the printed word. In so doing, they undermine the standard print-manuscript binary and advocate for a critical stance that better understands the important relationship between the media.

Contributors: Leith Davis, Simon Fraser University * Margaret J. M. Ezell, Texas A&M University * Emily C. Friedman, Auburn University * Kathryn R. King, University of Montevallo * Michelle Levy, Simon Fraser University * Marissa Nicosia, Penn State Abington * Philip S. Palmer, Morgan Library and Museum * Colin T. Ramsey, Appalachian State University * Brian Rejack, Illinois State University * Beth Fowkes Tobin, University of Georgia * Andrew O. Winckles, Adrian College

After Print is a long overdue and rich collection filled with archival gems deftly assembled to illuminate a world of manuscript strikingly different than the one incessantly reproduced by the stubborn teleology of print. King enjoins readers to see the printed page not as opaque but as lucent and, in doing so, not only to examine the layered quality of media in eighteenth-century print culture but also to recalibrate their perspective from that of print’s primacy to that of multimodality.”

Wendy Raphael Roberts, Early American Literature

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