Reading in the Eighteenth Century

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 10:19am -- baglio

Eighteenth-Century Manners of Reading: Print Culture and Popular Instruction in the Anglophone Atlantic World

By Eve Tavor Bannet

The market for print steadily expanded throughout the eighteenth-century Atlantic world thanks to printers' efforts  to ensure that ordinary people knew how to read and use printed matter. Reading is and was a collection of practices, performed in diverse, but always very specific ways. These practices were spread down the social hierarchy through printed guides. Eve Tavor Bannet explores guides to six manners or methods of reading, each with its own social, economic, commercial, intellectual and pedagogical functions, and each promoting a variety of fragmentary and discontinuous reading practices. The increasingly widespread production of periodicals, pamphlets, prefaces, conduct books, conversation-pieces and fictions, together with schoolbooks designed for adults and children, disseminated all that people of all ages and ranks might need or wish to know about reading, and prepared them for new jobs and roles both in Britain and America.

Reading 1759: Literary Culture in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and France

By Shaun Regan

Reading 1759 investigates the literary culture of a remarkable year in British and French history, writing, and ideas. Familiar to many as the British “year of victories” during the Seven Years’ War, 1759 was also an important year in the histories of fiction, philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. Reading 1759 is the first book to examine together the range of works written and published during this crucial year. Offering broad coverage of the year’s work in writing, these essays examine key works by Johnson, Voltaire, Sterne, Adam Smith, Edward Young, Sarah Fielding, and Christopher Smart, along with such group projects as the Encyclopédie and the literary review journals of the mid-eighteenth century. Organized around a cluster of key topics, the volume reflects the concerns most important to writers themselves in 1759. This was a year of the new and the modern, as writers addressed current issues of empire and ethical conduct, forged new forms of creative expression, and grappled with the nature of originality itself. Texts written and published in 1759 confronted the history of Western colonialism, the problem of prostitution in a civilized society, and the limitations of linguistic expression. Philosophical issues were also important in 1759, not least the thorny question of causation; while, in France, state censorship challenged the Encyclopédie, the central Enlightenment project. Taking into its purview such texts and intellectual developments, Reading 1759 puts the literary culture of this singular, and singularly important, year on the scholarly map. In the process, the volume also provides a self-reflective contribution to the growing body of “annualized” studies that focus on the literary output of specific years.

 

By Abigail Williams
 
Two centuries before the advent of radio, television, and motion pictures, books were a cherished form of popular entertainment and an integral component of domestic social life. In this fascinating and vivid history, Abigail Williams explores the ways in which shared reading shaped the lives and literary culture of the time, offering new perspectives on how books have been used by their readers, and the part they have played in middle-class homes and families.
Drawing on marginalia, letters and diaries, library catalogues, elocution manuals, subscription lists, and more, Williams offers fresh and fascinating insights into reading, performance, and the history of middle-class home life.
 
 
E. Jennifer Monaghan brings to vibrant life the process of learning to read and write in colonial America. Ranging throughout the colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia, she examines the instruction of girls and boys, Native Americans and enslaved Africans, the privileged and the poor, revealing the sometimes wrenching impact of literacy acquisition on the lives of learners. For the most part, religious motives underlay reading instruction in colonial America, while secular motives led to writing instruction. Monaghan illuminates the history of these activities through a series of deeply researched and readable case studies. An Anglican missionary battles mosquitoes and loneliness to teach the New York Mohawks to write in their own tongue. Puritan fathers model scriptural reading for their children as they struggle with bereavement. Boys in writing schools, preparing for careers in counting houses, wield their quill pens in the difficult task of mastering a "good hand." Benjamin Franklin learns how to compose essays with no teacher but himself. Young orphans in Georgia write precocious letters to their benefactor, George Whitefield, while schools in South Carolina teach enslaved black children to read but never to write.
  
 
By Robert Darnton
The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France traces the merging of philosophical, sexual, and anti-monarchical interests into the pulp fiction of the 1780s, banned books that make fascinating reading more than two centuries later. French literature of the eighteenth century means to us today Rousseau and Voltaire and the "classic" texts that, we imagine, gave rise to the Revolution. Yet very few of the standard works of the Enlightenment were as widely read as books whose names we have never heard, books that were the currency of a huge literary underground during the reign of Louis XVI. Included in this volume are Darnton's translations of excerpts from three of these works. After twenty-five years of research, Darnton has summarized his findings in one brilliant work that examines the reciprocal relationship between private literature and the public world, the (illegal) spread of Enlightenment thought, and the interesting possibility that the writings of some not-so-famous authors contributed to the fall of the French aristocracy.


By Ira D. Gruber
Historians have long understood that books were important to the British army in defining the duties of its officers, regulating tactics, developing the art of war, and recording the history of campaigns and commanders. Now, in this groundbreaking analysis, Ira D. Gruber identifies which among over nine hundred books on war were considered most important by British officers and how those books might have affected the army from one era to another. By examining the preferences of some forty-two officers who served between the War of the Spanish Succession and the French Revolution, Gruber shows that by the middle of the eighteenth century British officers were discriminating in their choices of books on war and, further, that their emerging preference for Continental books affected their understanding of warfare and their conduct of operations in the American Revolution. In their increasing enthusiasm for books on war, Gruber concludes, British officers were laying the foundation for the nineteenth-century professionalization of their nation's officer corps. Gruber's analysis is enhanced with detailed and comprehensive bibliographies and table.


By William J. Gilmore
Readers interested in the underlying patterns of material life will find in it an exhaustively researched and copiously documented monograph on the economic dimensions of rural life on the eve of industrialization. Readers interested in the dynamics of institutional change will find it in a broadly concieved and boldly argued analysis of the "communications revolution" that swept northern New England in the half century between the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1788 and the Panic of 1837. And readers interested, like Gilmore, in the intersection of material and cultural life will find in it a searching meditation on the social-psychological implications of the first "mass culture" to emerge in the United States.
 

By Susanne Schmid
British salons, with guests such as Byron, Moore, and Thackeray, were veritable hothouses of political and cultural agitation. Using a number of sources - diaries, letters, silver-fork novels, satires, travel writing, Keepsakes, and imaginary conversations - Schmid paints a vivid picture of the British salon between the 1780s and the 1840s.


By  Richard B. Sher
The late eighteenth century witnessed an explosion of intellectual activity in Scotland by such luminaries as David Hume, Adam Smith, Hugh Blair, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson, James Boswell, and Robert Burns. And the books written by these seminal thinkers made a significant mark during their time in almost every field of polite literature and higher learning throughout Britain, Europe, and the Americas. 
In this magisterial history, Richard B. Sher breaks new ground for our understanding of the Enlightenment and the forgotten role of publishing during that period. The Enlightenment and the Book seeks to remedy the common misperception that such classics as The Wealth of Nations and The Life of Samuel Johnson were written by authors who eyed their publishers as minor functionaries in their profession. To the contrary, Sher shows how the process of bookmaking during the late eighteenth-century involved a deeply complex partnership between authors and their publishers, one in which writers saw the book industry not only as pivotal in the dissemination of their ideas, but also as crucial to their dreams of fame and monetary gain. Similarly, Sher demonstrates that publishers were involved in the project of bookmaking in order to advance human knowledge as well as to accumulate profits.  The Enlightenment and the Book explores this tension between creativity and commerce that still exists in scholarly publishing today. Lavishly illustrated and elegantly conceived, it will be must reading for anyone interested in the history of the book or the production and diffusion of Enlightenment thought.


By Robert Darnton
The publishing industry in France in the years before the Revolution was a lively and sometimes rough-and-tumble affair, as publishers and printers scrambled to deal with (and if possible evade) shifting censorship laws and tax regulations, in order to cater to a reading public's appetite for books of all kinds, from the famous Encyclopédie, repository of reason and knowledge, to scandal-mongering libel and pornography. Historian and librarian Robert Darnton uses his exclusive access to a trove of documents-letters and documents from authors, publishers, printers, paper millers, type founders, ink manufacturers, smugglers, wagon drivers, warehousemen, and accountants-involving a publishing house in the Swiss town of Neuchatel to bring this world to life. Like other places on the periphery of France, Switzerland was a hotbed of piracy, carefully monitoring the demand for certain kinds of books and finding ways of fulfilling it. Focusing in particular on the diary of Jean-François Favarger, a traveling sales rep for a Swiss firm whose 1778 voyage, on horseback and on foot, around France to visit bookstores and renew accounts forms the spine of this story, Darnton reveals not only how the industry worked and which titles were in greatest demand, but the human scale of its operations. A Literary Tour de France is literally that. Darnton captures the hustle, picaresque comedy, and occasional risk of Favarger's travels in the service of books, and in the process offers an engaging, immersive, and unforgettable narrative of book culture at a critical moment in France's history.

By Keven J. Hayes
When it comes to the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton are generally considered the great minds of early America. George Washington, instead, is toasted with accolades regarding his solid common sense and strength in battle. Indeed, John Adams once snobbishly dismissed him as "too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation." Yet Adams, as well as the majority of the men who knew Washington in his life, were unaware of his singular devotion to self-improvement. Based on a comprehensive amount of research at the Library of Congress, the collections at Mount Vernon, and rare book archives scattered across the country, Kevin J. Hayes corrects this misconception and reconstructs in vivid detail the active intellectual life that has gone largely unnoticed in conventional narratives of Washington. Despite being a lifelong reader, Washington felt an acute sense of embarrassment about his relative lack of formal education and cultural sophistication, and in this sparkling literary biography, Hayes illustrates just how tirelessly Washington worked to improve. Beginning with the primers, forgotten periodicals, conduct books, and classic eighteenth-century novels such as Tom Jones that shaped Washington's early life, Hayes studies Washington's letters and journals, charting the many ways the books of his upbringing affected decisions before and during the Revolutionary War. The final section of the book covers the voluminous reading that occurred during Washington's presidency and his retirement at Mount Vernon. Throughout, Hayes examines Washington's writing as well as his reading, from The Journal of Major George Washington through his Farewell Address. The sheer breadth of titles under review here allow readers to glimpse Washington's views on foreign policy, economics, the law, art, slavery, marriage, and religion-and how those views shaped the young nation..
Ultimately, this sharply written biography offers a fresh perspective on America's Father, uncovering the ideas that shaped his intellectual journey and, subsequently, the development of America.

By Dorinda Outram
The Enlightenment is that crucial, and profoundly exciting, period between the late seventeenth century and the French Revolution. It was the great age of rationalism and tolerance, an age of boundless curiosity about the physical universe and the nature of the human mind, an age that rejected superstition in favor of observation and experiment to arrive at the truth--an age, in fact, that laid the foundations for the world in which we live. With nearly four hundred illustrations selected from a wide array of sources, the book tells the fascinating story of the men and women of the Enlightenment in their search for definition and redefinition of the values of their time. Included are the range of ideas they explored--from coffee-house conversations to astronomy, from voyages of discovery to the investigation of dreams, from the first dictionaries and encyclopedias to new attitudes on marriage and women's rights. Theirs was an enthralling journey that reflected the intellectual revolution that transformed human consciousness.
 
 
 
By Carl J. Richard
Is our Greek and Roman heritage merely allusive and illusory? Or were our founders, and so our republican beginnings, truly steeped in the stuff of antiquity? So far largely a matter of generalization and speculation, the influence of Greek and Roman authors on our American forefathers finally becomes clear in this fascinating book-the first comprehensive study of the founders' classical reading. Carl J. Richard begins by examining how eighteenth-century social institutions in general and the educational system in particular conditioned the founders to venerate the classics. He then explores the founders' various uses of classical symbolism, models, "antimodels," mixed government theory, pastoralism, and philosophy, revealing in detail the formative influence exerted by the classics, both directly and through the mediation of Whig and American perspectives. In this analysis, we see how the classics not only supplied the principal basis for the U.S. Constitution but also contributed to the founders' conception of human nature, their understanding of virtue, and their sense of identity and purpose within a grand universal scheme. At the same time, we learn how the classics inspired obsessive fear of conspiracies against liberty, which poisoned relations between Federalists and Republicans. The shrewd ancients who molded Western civilization still have much to teach us, Richard suggests. His account of the critical role they played in shaping our nation and our lives provides a valuable lesson in the transcendent power of the classics.