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Kentish Book Culture

Writers, Archives, Libraries and Sociability 1400-1660

Edited By Claire Bartram

This volume explores the writing practices and book collections of a range of individuals in early modern Kent including monks, a mariner and an apothecary as well as members of the gentry and clergy and urban administrators. In a county with ready access to metropolitan, courtly and continental influences, a vibrant provincial book culture flourished, in which literacy was prized and book ownership widespread. Reinforcing the important social role played by the literate and revealing something of their creative potential, the essays gathered here also uncover an appetite for debate, reflected in the books owned, lent, written and published by the Kentish in the period covered. Underpinning all of this is an enduring culture of sociability, centred around the book as an object to be shared.

Interdisciplinary in approach, this collection brings together specialists in the history of the book, literary scholars, social historians and librarians to explore the nature of authorship and the dynamics of the market for print and manuscript books outside London. It demonstrates the rich potential of regional archival study to extend our understanding of medieval and early modern literature.

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As this collection of essays is centrally concerned with the ways in which sociability supports and promotes textual production, it is appropriate that my first debt of thanks is to the contributors for their patience, generosity and good humour, and for sharing and understanding this passionate interest in cultural life in the provinces. It is a privilege to be able to showcase their research together in one volume.

Canterbury has been and remains an exciting intellectual hub. This project evolved from doctoral work at the then Centre for Medieval and Tudor Studies at the University of Kent under the inspirational supervision of Andrew Butcher. I still feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to study in such a rich interdisciplinary environment. The agenda for the volume was also stimulated by the questions posed at viva by Professors Alexandra Walsham and Kenneth Fincham who valuably encouraged me to more broadly contexualise my work on the Elizabethan gentry.

In the School of Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University, the provision of study-leave and the inculcation of a conducive research environment in recent years has been much appreciated and special thanks are due to our Head of School Dr David Grummitt. I am also especially grateful for the support and encouragement of friends and colleagues who have helped this project on its way: Michael Bintley, Karen Brayshaw, Gillian Draper, Mary Dixon, Carolyn Oulton, Catherine Richardson and Sheila Sweetinburgh.

Grateful thanks are also due to...

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