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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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1 Reading, Writing and the Culture of Books at Canterbury Cathedral Priory in the Fifteenth Century

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ABSTRACT

The culture of Benedictine monasticism was founded on the Rule, written by St Benedict in the sixth century. St Benedict expected his monks to read and to think. This chapter surveys reading and writing practices in the Benedictine Priory of Christ Church Canterbury demonstrating the rich culture of writing and copying within this monastic community; the provision for education, for private study and book ownership. In its particular focus on the writing practices of two monks, William Glastonbury and John Stone, the chapter highlights the importance of independent study in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and the value placed on the recording of custom and precedent.

Each of the essays presented in this volume relates to the importance of reading and writing practices in a number of specific communities and how those practices help to define the culture of that community. This essay considers such practices within the context of the community of the Benedictine Priory of Christ Church Canterbury in the fifteenth century. Life at Christ Church Priory was dependent on the written word in a wide variety of forms, and both reading and writing were a fundamental part of the culture of the monastic community. Numerous written texts from the Priory survive including charters; registers and letter books; financial accounts; liturgical texts; written sermons; chronicles, annals and common-place books; necrologies and martyrologies; works of scripture, theology, philosophy and canon law, and many others. In recent decades the research of monastic historians...

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