This paper will focus on the Chronicles of John Cannon, a ploughboy turned exciseman and writing master living in the Somerset levels who described himself as a “Tennis Ball of Fortune.” Cannon's story of self‐education and writerly self‐fashioning took striking material form in an illustrated manuscript book he produced in the first decades of the eighteenth century. As a work and an object, the Chronicles stages a series of conversations between print and manuscript. In exploring this unique case study, we expose how the mixed medium of the manuscript book could present different and mutually supportive forms of authority. In this case, print is referred to through citation, graphic imitation, and paratextual format, whilst at the same time, the virtuoso scribal acts of transcribing and refining within the volume operate as an alternative index of textual fidelity and credibility. Our case study also pushes us to reconsider some of the clustered assumptions around the nature of the manuscript book in this period: this is the work of a male, non‐elite writer, an amateur production. It is not a family or coterie production, and rather than offering a miscellany of genres and hands, it subsumes its varied contents into the narrative of a single life. How do we understand this unique blended form in the context of existing narratives about the nature of the manuscript book? And how might we edit such materials to retain a sense of their hybridity? Cannon's Chronicles also helps us connect the study of the manuscript book to a concern with the social dimensions of manuscript forms in a community of mixed literacies. Cannon's copying and writing became an important performance of professional competence in a culture of amateur literary production. As a case study, his work challenges expectations of gender and class in eighteenth‐century manuscript studies and reveals how the affordances of the pen might reflect the burgeoning print culture of the period.

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