Managing Readers explores the fascinating interchange between text and margin, authorship and readership in early modern England. Printed marginalia did more than any other material feature of book production in the period between 1540 and 1700 to shape the experience of reading. William W. E. Slights considers overlooked evidence of the ways that early modern readers were instructed to process information, to contest opinions, and to make themselves into fully responsive consumers of texts.
The recent revolution in the protocols of reading brought on by computer technology has forced questions about the nature of book-based knowledge in our global culture. Managing Readers traces changes in the protocols of annotation and directed reading--from medieval religious manuscripts and Renaissance handbooks for explorers, rhetoricians, and politicians to the elegant clear-text editions of the Enlightenment and the hypertexts of our own time. Developing such concepts as textual authority, generic difference, and reader-response, Slights demonstrates that printed marginalia were used to confirm the authority of the text and to undermine it, to supplement "dark" passages, and to colonize strategic hermeneutic spaces. The book contains twenty-two illustrations of pages from rare-book archives that make immediately clear how distinctive the management of the reading experience was during the first century-and-a-half of printing in England.
William W. E. Slights is Professor of English, University of Saskatchewan. He is also author of Ben Jonson and the Art of Secrecy.