Manuscript After Print:<br>The Influence of Print on<br> Post-Gutenberg Manuscript Culture


International Conference

Austrian Academy of Sciences

Vienna, 6th–7th April 2017


Guðrún Ingólfsdóttir (independent scholar, Reykjavík)

"Just a housewife? A lower class Icelandic housewife, her miscellany and printed books"

The lecture will focus on a miscellany made for a lower class woman, Guðrún Jónsdóttir (1741–1796), a housewife at the farm Sandhill (Sandhólar) in Eyjafjord. Guðrún also owned printed religious texts to use for private devotion. Not all women during the 18th century were lucky enough to become a housewife, i.e. female head of the house. Most women spent the majority of their lives as farm laborers. Eventhough we may find the role of a housewife unimportant today, that was hardly the case in former times. It was a role both complicated and demanding. The housewife was supposed to take care of her children’s basic education, supervise the household, cook and keep the home clean, nurse those who were sick and most importantly ensure that peace prevailed. We sometimes forget that the farm was the largest working place in the country, and most feasts took place there. To shed light on Guðrún’s education and her role as a housewife, the interplay between her miscellany and printed texts will be examined.

Jürg Glauser (Universities of Basel and Zurich)

The Simultaneity of Media: Manuscripts and Printed books in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

During the 15th and 16th centuriesa profound change of media took place which was marked by the invention of the printing press. Traditional literacy studies described this change as a clear cut and one-way development and put, on the basis of technological criteria, the newly invented media of the printed book in a strict opposition to the old medial form of handwritten texts (see Eisenstein, Ong and many others). Accordingly, manuscripts and printed texts were conceived of as belonging to two completely different time periods and mental constellations. However, more recent scholarship has shown very clearly that there are many instances which point to the contrary, i.e. that the manuscript and the print existed, at the same time, side by side as actively used means of communication. The media history in the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period shows, e.g., that the coming of the printing press did not at all lead to a sudden end of the traditional, late medieval handwritten manuscript. Rather, one has to speak of a situation which was characterized by the simultaneity of different media as a specific phenomenon of early modern textual culture. In this paper I intend to look at examples taken from this rich and interesting late medieval and early modern material. I will pay special attention to the complexity of medial instances which can be observed in handwritten and printed texts at this crucial moment in the history of literary and media history. The aim is to show how from a mediality-focused stance oral, written and visual elements define the specific textuality of manuscripts and printed books in Northern Europe after the import of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries. The paper draws i.a. on results of a large-scale research project on pre-modern mediality at the University of Zurich, “Mediality. Historical perspectives” (

Margaret Ezell (Texas A&M University, College Station, TX)

Going Scribal: Gender and post-1700 print into handwriting practices

This talk evokes the modern phrase “going viral” to consider what types of texts women selected from print culture to reproduce in handwriting and what the switch in media might suggest about women as readers and curators of texts as well as the creators of them. Looking at the process of moving from commercial print into individual handwritten texts also asks us to reconsider elements of the more traditional understanding of the ways in which women’s handwritten texts migrated into print.

Margrét Eggertsdóttir (Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Reykjavík)

"Possibilities of Publication in 17th Century Iceland"

In my paper I will discuss the possibilities poets and authors in Post-Reformation Iceland had of promoting their works and sharing them with readers through publication. One of the most important poets in this period was Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674). His works were printed early on but they also circulated widely in manuscript, making them an interesting subject of research on the interaction between manuscript culture and print culture. He himself made several copies of his most famous work, Passíusálmarnir, 'The hymns of the Passion' (1659), and sent them to women who were related or in some other way connected to men of rank and influence. The Hymns were also printed at Hólar in 1666, and sources tell that the poet was not at all pleased with the publication. The preservation of poetry depended among other things on genre, so that secular poetry had fewer possibilities of preservation and publication than religious texts. The aim of my paper is to throw light on the connection between the publication, preservation and popularity of literary texts in early-modern Iceland.

Matthew Driscoll (Arnamagnæan Institute, Copenhagen/Ulster University, Derry)

Print features in the manuscripts of Magnús Jónsson í Tjaldanesi

Magnús Jónsson í Tjaldanesi (1835-1922) was one of the last – and one of the most prolific – in a long line of Icelandic “popular“ scribes, ordinary people with little or no formal education who copied texts seemingly for their own amusement. About 40 of Magnús’s manuscripts have survived, the earliest from around 1850, the latest from 1916. All are very similar in size and format: short, squat quartos mostly of exactly 800 pages. In terms of their design, Magnús’s manuscripts were heavily influenced by printed books, incorporating features such as title-pages, tables of contents, prefaces and running titles. In my paper I will present these features and show how they developed over time, perhaps also suggesting what Magnús’s immediate models might have been.

Meidhbhín Ní Úrdail (University College Dublin)

"From script to print: Some evidence in the Ó Longáin corpus of manuscripts"

This paper will provide some evidence for the contact with print culture which is evident in the Ó Longáin corpus of manuscripts. A central aspect for discussion will be the copies by members of this family of devotional texts that were first published in the Irish language and in Gaelic script in the seventeenth century by the Franciscans on the Continent. It will also address translations into Irish of religious and didactic material originally published in Latin and English.

Michelle Levy (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby/Vancouver)

"Women’s Manuscript Culture and the Rise of Romantic Print"

My paper focuses on the unique challenges women faced in negotiating between script and print during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a period of unprecedented growth in print production and the book trades. Manuscript culture, as Margaret Ezell and others have shown, was of great significance to Early Modern women, but how does their use of manuscript change as print becomes more dominant, commercial, and ubiquitous? On the one hand, women were more likely to be in need of the economic rewards offered by print, however slight they often proved to be; on the other, women were more likely to be cautious of publicity, and in particular of the critical reception of their work, a justified concern after the founding of the notoriously severe Edinburgh Review in 1802. Examining four women, Jane Austen, Anna Barbauld, Charlotte Smith, and Dorothy Wordsworth as case studies, this paper describes the impact of print on the composition and dissemination of their manuscript works.  Throughout, evidence emerges for the particular challenges women faced: the difficulties in keeping their manuscript writing from print; the temptation to print, and its consequences; the contested standards for print; and the ongoing need for a separate space for sharing literary writing outside of print, for a variety of purposes, from enabling satirical expression to fostering sociability.

Nioclás Mac Cathmhaoil (Ulster University, Derry)

"Muiris Ó Gormáin’s miscellanies and the development of canonicity"

Muiris Ó Gormáin (c. 1710 – c. 1768) was one of the most productive scribes in eighteenth-century Ireland, having written at least ninety-eight manuscripts and worked for some of the most prominent patrons of the age, including Charles Vallancey and Charles O’Connor of Belnagare. Though of modest means, he was a keen collector of manuscripts and books, and managed to compile an extensive personal manuscript library. He was involved in the production of some printed books, including Reliques of Irish Poetry (Charlotte Brooke, 1778) and Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards (Joseph Cooper Walker, 1786).

Given the absence of print miscellanies or chapbooks in Irish from this period, any ‘popular canon’ must be sought in manuscripts, and prolific scribes such as Ó Gormáin played a central role in promoting the popularity of given texts and in shaping the literary tradition itself. In this, Ó Gormáin and other prolific scribes had a function similar to that of printers and editors of literary miscellanies in other contemporary print-centric cultures. This paper will examine possible links between the printed miscellany and Ó Gormáin’s manuscript miscellanies, focusing particularly on paratextual content and rationale for choice of different texts.

Pádraig Ó Macháin (University College Cork)

"The Irish Paper Manuscript"

This paper will discuss recent progress in the continuing study of the beginnings of the Irish paper manuscript. In particular it will address:

(1) interaction between the Irish scribes and the new material of paper in the 16th century; and

(2) the wider context of paper in Ireland at that time.

The paper will also discuss the presentation of research results arising from the study of watermarks in paper used in Ireland.

Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh (Abersytwyth University)

"From Manuscript to Print and Back Again in 18th Century Anthologies of Irish Verse"

This paper will examine two of the earliest and least-known anthologies of Irish language verse, published by the London-based, Anglo-Irish journalist and editor Charles Henry Wilson:

Poems Translated from the Irish Language into the English [1782]

Select Irish Poems Translated into English [1792]

Focusing on the production of these two anthologies as a collaborative process, one involving Wilson, Irish-language scribes and Anglophone antiquarians, much can be learnt about the emergence of a market for the printed Irish book in the late eighteenth century. An examination of the manuscript sources highlights the degree to which the printed book influenced manuscript book culture in Gaelic Ireland and also raises questions of agency in the eighteenth-century publication of Irish-language literature. The complex relationship between print and manuscript culture in Ireland is further indicated by the fact that there are more handwritten, manuscript copies of the printed volumes than there are surviving printed copies of the volumes. Taking these two anthologies, I intend to track their metamorphosis, from manuscript to print and back again, to gain insight into the history of the Irish book in manuscript and print, and the relationship between the two. 

Richard Sharpe (University of Oxford)

"Génair Pátraicc: Old Irish between Print and Manuscript 1647-1853"

Among the range of Irish texts of which manuscript copies derived from printed books were in circulation in the eighteenth century, two paired poems stand out. Génair Pátraicc and Ní car Brigit had been printed by John Colgan in 1647. Supposed to have been written by authors dated to the fifth and seventh centuries, they became acknowledged representatives of the earliest period of Irish and as such were copied with Colgan's Latin translation. English versions were also attempted at an early date and a modern Irish version was printed en face with the Old Irish texts in 1791, marking an unusual and early return to print. Of the two known early manuscripts, the one that remained in Ireland during this period was not used to improve the quality of the text until the 1860s. In the second half of the nineteenth century the two poems were much printed along with the early medieval scholia that had grown around them. They have been neglected in the twentieth century. Contemporary reflections on their early printed status and on their linguistic difficulty are rare but unusually interesting. The two poems date from the Old Irish period, and they provide the only example of direct and self-conscious engagement with Irish of that period during the eighteenth century and after.

Silvia Hufnagel (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna)

"Old and New: How Old and New Media Influenced each other and Society in Iceland during the 16th and 17th Centuries"

Iceland, an island often considered rather isolated at the Atlantic fringe, had a long and outstanding manuscript culture. Major historical changes appeared in the sixteenth century, such as the Reformation and the introduction of paper and the printing press. The latter did not lead to the abolishment of the handwritten medium, though. To the contrary, manuscript production grew to new qualitative and quantitative heights. And although early books, particularly incunabula, emulate manuscripts, they soon developed specific layouts and other features. In return, post-Gutenberg manuscripts were not free from influence from printed books: we can see major changes in these manuscripts, such as title pages, which were a true innovation of the printing press.

In an interdisciplinary project funded by a Marie-Sklodowska-Curie fellowship, I analyse the influence and interrelationship between the two media, the protagonists behind the codices and their aims and goals, and the impact that the changes had on society. The focus is on title pages in Icelandic post-Gutenberg manuscripts from the 16th and 17th centuries, and methods that I use for my analyses include content analysis from literary studies, quantitative codicological analysis from book and manuscript studies and iconographic/iconologic analysis from art history.

In this paper I will give a short introduction to the manuscript and print culture of Iceland and my project, including statistical analyses of age, material and genre of manuscripts with title-pages. I will give a description of the earliest title pages, their scribes and the socio-cultural background. Then I will present some typical examples of title pages and how (and why) they were copied by later scribes. Comparisons with title pages from printed books will complete my paper.

Ulrike Hogg (National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh)

"A Time of Change: Scottish Gaelic Scribes and Manuscripts from the 17th to the 18th Century"

Scotland took its time in establishing its first printing press. However, the country's scholarly and religious connections abroad encouraged a thriving book import business, so that the printed book was well known in Scotland long before its own first printers set to work in 1507. The first Gaelic book printed in Scotland, Bishop John Carswell's translation of the Book of Common Order, was published in 1567, although further Gaelic publications were slow to follow. Scottish Gaelic scribes, educated within the scholarly environment of the Gaelic-speaking world, for a long time remained loyal to scribal practices and manuscript design dating back to pre-Gutenberg times. The breaking-up of Gaelic cultural and social foundations in the 18th century, the education of Highlanders at Lowland universities, and the increasing availability of printed books also in Gaelic, meant that educated Gaelic scribes were increasingly following printed models and non-Gaelic scribal conventions. This paper will begin by looking at manuscripts of the 17th century and the extent to which their writers accepted the aesthetics and practicalities of the printed book. It will then examine the impact that the loss of the Gaelic learned traditions, and the increased influence of the printed book, had on Gaelic manuscript production.