This essay explores the long genealogy of sewing in books from the stab-stitched quartos and octavos in early modern bookshops to the sewn-in corrections, repairs, and embellishments of manuscript pages in the Middle Ages. Broadening the default chronology of book and literary history to encompass material practices that persisted across the medieval-early modern divide, we find in English book culture a deeper tradition of “craft” textualities than modern catalogs and bibliographic protocols permit us to see. This essay traces the spread of needlework in books from basic structural binding supports to unexpected, idiosyncratic stitching done by readers in paper pages, speculating that print opened up and diversified opportunities for crafting text rather than closing off the book from manual interventions more familiar to us from medieval manuscript culture.
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September 1, 2015
Jeffrey Todd Knight; Needles and Pens: Sewing in Early English Books. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2015; 45 (3): 523–542. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3149143
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