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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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8 Literacy and Cultural Identity in the Dutch Immigrant Community of Sandwich, 1561–1650

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ABSTRACT

This chapter examines the distinctive cultural identity of the Dutch-speaking immigrant community in Sandwich in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Examining surviving Dutch immigrant probate documents the chapter focuses on the small number of bilingual members of the community acting as professional interpreters, writers and translators particularly in legal matters of probate and follows their related roles and repute within the community. It explores the evidence for the value placed on literacy and education – a function of their Calvinist religion and commercial economy – shown in book ownership and the provision of educational opportunities. It explores the idea that a small group of wealthy merchants expressed their status through the ownership of books and cultural artefacts influenced by commercial and familial contacts in England and the Dutch Republic.

During the late sixteenth century and for a considerable part of the seventeenth century, the port and town of Sandwich on the east coast of Kent contained within its population a substantial and distinct community of immigrants from the Low Countries, Flemish in origin but most frequently called Dutch. While this immigrant community was associated with its particular commercial, industrial and agricultural activity, it was defined by a distinctive cultural identity: a high level of literacy marked out this community in which reading and writing were valued and nurtured and book ownership was important.

This distinctive cultural identity was linked to a number of factors relating to the particular circumstances in which...

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