for the history-of-the-book methods she employs. As Benton explains, ï¬ne editions frequently became monuments to the printing arts that disregarded, obscured, or evacuated their contents; they were extravagant productions that required lavish expenditures on materials in an escalating search for distinction. Value was thought to inhere in features such as custom type, elaborate illustration, handmade paper, and printersâ watermark signatures, and not in the texts themselves, which were, after all, familiar enough to be ignored. As Bob Grabhorn remarked of the celebrated Grabhorn Press edition of Whitmanâs Leaves of Grass: ââ[O]f course youâre not going to read [it]ââ (114). As an interdisciplinary ï¬eld devoted to analyzing the mediation of culture by historically speciï¬c practices of textual production and reception, book history is not well equipped to handle books that are indiï¬erent to their own content; an analysis of the materiality of ï¬ne editions can describe but not explain them. While Benton deftly integrates bibliographical analysis with a social and cultural history of ï¬ne printing, she repeatedly runs up against the limitations of her subject. Books that have slight regard for their contents have to be about something else; Benton needs to reach beyond the self-enclosed world of ï¬ne
American Literature – Duke University Press
Published: Dec 1, 2003
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