The Scribal Circulation of Early Modern Letters
2011 Seminar Series / Thursday 2 June, 2011
Professor James Daybell (University of Plymouth) provides a sophisticated overview of the ‘complex textual afterlives’ of letters beyond their initial composition, sending, and receipt; a conceptualization which challenges prevailing views of early modern epistolarity as a private, historically anchored exchange between only two individuals. By means of a rich range of political and religious examples from early modern England, Daybell traces out several consecutive phases of subsequent manuscript dissemination: the controlled circulation of epistolary separates through private copying within discrete manuscript networks; a less discriminate casting abroad; commercial scribal publication within anthologies and miscellanies; and finally, in many cases, print publication. Daybell also provided insights into the postal conditions which facilitated scribal transmission in early modern England, a surprisingly makeshift mixture of different delivery methods (ordinary posts, royal posts, messengers, carriers, servants, and chance travellers) until the introduction of a more stable and predictable postal structure with the founding of the post office in 1635.