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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0343.  Monday, 6 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 May 1996 20:45:45 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0338 Re: Texts

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 05 May 1996 15:53:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0338  Re: Texts


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 May 1996 20:45:45 +0100
Subject: 7.0338 Re: Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0338 Re: Texts

John

>I would be a little more persuaded by Gabriel Egan's use of the term
>"fetishise" if he could convince me that the late 16th or early 17th century
>book trade was a full-blown capitalist activity.

Would you settle for 'fetishize' = 'irrationally invest with significance'?
The Shakespearean Originals do not do diplomatic transcription, despite the
claim of the General Introduction. To retain some accidentals and not others
without a stated set of criteria has the effect of privileging certain
textual features without good reason.

Gabriel Egan

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Sunday, 05 May 1996 15:53:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0338  Re: Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0338  Re: Texts

John Drakakis writes:

>I would be a little more persuaded by Gabriel Egan's use of the term
>"fetishise" if he could convince me that the late 16th or early 17th century
>book trade was a full-blown capitalist activity.  In what ways was the author,
>and/or the compositor alienated from the fruits of his labour? In what ways did
>the book represent a fetishized object?  How might that differ from the ways in
>which we treat books as commodities now?

These are very valuable questions and well asked.  In the past half century, we
have learned more about the book trade in the late 16th and earlier 17th
century, but, for example, what was the economic function of man like Thomas
Thorpe?  He seems -- and I mean "seems" -- to have been some kind of capitalist
middle man.  But was he really a "publisher" in the 20th century meaning of
that word?  Was he the man who put up the capital, paid for the printing, and
then distributed the books to the booksellers? Did he get a percentage from the
sales? Did he pay royalties of a sort to writers in his stable?

Or was the 16th-17th century book trade really very much a "vanity" trade? Did
men like Thorpe act as agents for people who wanted to have their books
published?  Did he get money up front from writers who paid his fees? IF
Shakespeare used Thorpe as an "agent," wouldn't Thorpe expect to get paid for
his time? (Note the "if.") I'd love to know for sure.

If by "fetish" we mean "an object of unreasonably excessive attention"
(possibly sublimated sexual attention), then books seem to have had that value
by the early 17th century.  See the Epistle to the quarto of *Troilus and
Cressida* which hints at a lively second-hand book trade: when Shakespeare's
"Commedies {are} out of sale, you will scramble for them, and set vp a new
English Inquisition" (A1v). Couldn't you argue from this statement to "book
fetish"?  This sounds like biblioholism to me.
 

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