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Making the Miscellany

Making the Miscellany
Poetry, Print, and the History of the Book in Early Modern England

Megan Heffernan

336 pages | 6 x 9 | 33 illus.
Cloth 2021 | ISBN 9780812252804 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £52.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
Published in cooperation with the Folger Shakespeare Library

"In Making the Miscellany, Megan Heffernan makes a significant contribution to the study of the poetic design of early modern printed books, how volumes of compiled poems responded to changes in media, the material organization of printed poetry, the contribution of conventions and innovations of arrangement to vernacular poetic craft, and the consolidation of individual authorship...Heffernan has untangled the tangled tale of book matter, design, printing, culture, and history in relation to the making and reading of poetry then and now."—Renaissance and Reformation

"By decentering the author as the imagined source and originator of the poetry collection, Megan Heffernan is able to attend to the agency of stationers and compilers, as well as the agency of poetry itself. In one of her most exciting claims, Heffernan argues that the poetry shapes the material form of the printed book in these early poetry collections. Indeed, she shows, these innovative arrangements shaped the development of vernacular poetic craft and notions of authorship in the seventeenth century and after."—Jenny C. Mann, author of The Trials of Orpheus: Poetry, Science, and the Early Modern Sublime

In Making the Miscellany Megan Heffernan examines the poetic design of early modern printed books and explores how volumes of compiled poems, which have always existed in practice, responded to media change in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Heffernan's focus is not only the material organization of printed poetry, but also how those conventions and innovations of arrangement contributed to vernacular poetic craft, the consolidation of ideals of individual authorship, and centuries of literary history.

The arrangement of printed compilations contains a largely unstudied and undertheorized archive of poetic form, Heffernan argues. In an evolving system of textual transmission, compilers were experimenting with how to contain individual poems within larger volumes. By paying attention to how they navigated and shaped the exchanges between poems and their organization, she reveals how we can witness the basic power of imaginative writing over the material text.

Making the Miscellany is also a study of how this history of textual design has been differently told by the distinct disciplines of bibliography or book history and literary studies, each of which has handled—and obscured—the formal qualities of early modern poetry compilations and the practices that produced them. Revisiting these editorial and critical approaches, this book recovers a moment when compilers, poets, and readers were alert to a poetics of organization that exceeded the limits of the individual poem.

Megan Heffernan is Associate Professor of English at DePaul University.

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