This book ranges over private and public reading, and over a variety of religious, social, and scientific communities to locate acts of reading in specific historical moments from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. It also charts the changes in reading habits that reflect broader social and political shifts during the period. A team of expert contributors cover topics including the processes of book production and distribution, audiences and markets, the material text, the relation of print to performance, and the politics of acts of reception. In addition, the volume emphasises the independence of early modern readers and their role in making meaning in an age in which increased literacy equaled social enfranchisement and interpretation was power. Meaning was t simply an authorial act but the work of many hands and processes, from editing, printing, and proofing, to reproducing, distributing, and finally reading.
Kevin Sharpe is fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the English Association. He has authored and edited 11 books, including Remapping Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2000) and Criticism and Compliment (1999). Steven Zwicker is Elkin Professor of Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. He has written widely on seventeenth-century literature and politics, and together with Kevin Sharpe has edited Refiguring Revolutions: Aesthetics and Politics from the English Revolution to the Romantic Revolution (1998) and Politics of Discourse: The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England (1987). His own monographs include Politics and Language in Dryden's Poetry: The Arts of Disguise (1984) and Lines of Authority: Politics and English Literary Culture, 1649-1689 (1993).