Memory's Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern England

Memory's Library: Medieval Books in Early Modern England

by Jennifer Summit
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In Jennifer Summit’s account, libraries are more than inert storehouses of written tradition; they are volatile spaces that actively shape the meanings and uses of books, reading, and the past. Considering the two-hundred-year period between 1431, which saw the foundation of Duke Humfrey’s famous library, and 1631, when the great antiquarian Sir Robert

Overview

In Jennifer Summit’s account, libraries are more than inert storehouses of written tradition; they are volatile spaces that actively shape the meanings and uses of books, reading, and the past. Considering the two-hundred-year period between 1431, which saw the foundation of Duke Humfrey’s famous library, and 1631, when the great antiquarian Sir Robert Cotton died, Memory’s Library revises the history of the modern library by focusing on its origins in medieval and early modern England.

Summit argues that the medieval sources that survive in English collections are the product of a Reformation and post-Reformation struggle to redefine the past by redefining the cultural place, function, and identity of libraries. By establishing the intellectual dynamism of English libraries during this crucial period of their development, Memory’s Library demonstrates how much current discussions about the future of libraries can gain by reexamining their past.

Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
"An innovative survey [with an] ambitious scope. . . . Memory''s Library [is] an original work that will repay careful study, both by library historians and by literary scholars, and it should provoke thoughtful consideration of the significance and meaning of libraries today."-Pamela Robinson, Times Higher Education
Publishing Research Quarterly
Original, erudite, supple, and eloquent, Memory's Library . . . presents the tangible space of the library as an ephemeral space of reading and memory. . . . The brilliance of Memory's Library lies in its synthesis, which suggests that the present is inextricably tied to the past.

— William Kuskin

Studies in English Literature
"Summit's wonderful monograph about the history of libraries provides a strong material basis for rethinking the traditional boundary between the Middle Ages and Renaissance."
American Historical Review
A stimulating and rewarding book, well calculated to make us rethink many aspects of the history of late medieval and early modern libraries.

— Elisabeth Leedham-Green

Seventeenth-Century News
This painstaking study of the place of medieval manuscripts in the formation of the important libraries of England provides fresh insight into how primary sources have come down to us and gives us new ways to consider their origins. . . . A very important book that should be standard reading for scholars of literary and intellectual history. It establishes a critical agenda for studies in the history of the book for generations to come.

— William E. Engel

Journal of British Studies
A huge achievement, a tour de force convincing the reader of its argument right from the start. . . . Her main achievement in the book is to demonstrate the premodern library's active role in textual culture, ensuring that it will be understood from now on as not simply a space in which books were stored and protected but one in which history was created. . . . [The book] should be on the shelves of not only historians of the medieval and early modern book but everyone fascinated by the way the past both shapes and is shaped by the present.—Gordon McMullan, Journal of British Studies

— Gordon McMullan

David Wallace
“The early fifteenth century is not a great age of English literature: yet it inaugurates, Jennifer Summit argues, a process of great English library building that flourishes for two hundred years. It is a joy to encounter a book that restores the presence of medieval books as active agents within Renaissance culture through their power to disturb and provoke. And to learn how our own reading habits, as English-speaking moderns, have been decisively shaped by this singular history of collection, ruination, and reassembly. Memory’s Library is a brilliant, lucid, and generous book that deserves the widest possible audience.”

William H. Sherman
Memory’s Library is not (just) a history of important books and the powerful people who collected them. In Jennifer Summit’s erudite and elegant account, English libraries emerge as theaters of memory and agents of change, sites of conflict and commemoration that play a major role in the construction of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and modernity itself. It deserves a place on every scholar’s bookshelves.”

Stephen G. Nichols
“Jennifer Summit offers persuasive—and original—views of the role played by Renaissance librarians in seeking and defining scientific knowledge. With deft strokes, she paints a picture of how collecting medieval manuscripts helped humanist scholars create the concept of textuality we still live with. Without the librarians, Summit shows, literature, and knowledge generally, would look very different.”

Publishing Research Quarterly - William Kuskin
"Original, erudite, supple, and eloquent, Memory's Library . . . presents the tangible space of the library as an ephemeral space of reading and memory. . . . The brilliance of Memory's Library lies in its synthesis, which suggests that the present is inextricably tied to the past."
American Historical Review - Elisabeth Leedham-Green
"A stimulating and rewarding book, well calculated to make us rethink many aspects of the history of late medieval and early modern libraries."
Seventeenth-Century News - William E. Engel
"This painstaking study of the place of medieval manuscripts in the formation of the important libraries of England provides fresh insight into how primary sources have come down to us and gives us new ways to consider their origins. . . . A very important book that should be standard reading for scholars of literary and intellectual history. It establishes a critical agenda for studies in the history of the book for generations to come."
Journal of British Studies - Gordon McMullan
"A huge achievement, a tour de force convincing the reader of its argument right from the start. . . . Her main achievement in the book is to demonstrate the premodern library's active role in textual culture, ensuring that it will be understood from now on as not simply a space in which books were stored and protected but one in which history was created. . . . [The book] should be on the shelves of not only historians of the medieval and early modern book but everyone fascinated by the way the past both shapes and is shaped by the present."—Gordon McMullan, Journal of British Studies

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226781709
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
05/01/2011
Pages:
354
Sales rank:
1,237,130
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Summit  is associate professor of English at Stanford University. She is the author of Lost Property: The Woman Writer and English Literary History, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >