An indigeus can of letters, Ross argues, had been both the hope and aim of English authors since the Middle Ages. Early authors believed that promoting the idea of a national literature would help publicize their work and favour literary production in the vernacular. Ross places these early gestures toward can-making in the context of the highly rhetorical habits of thought that dominated medieval and Renaissance culture, habits that were gradually displaced by an emergent rationalist understanding of literary value. He shows that, beginning in the late seventeenth century, can-makers became less concerned with how English literature was produced than with how it was read and received. By showing that can-formation has served different functions in the past, The Making of the English Literary Can is relevant t only to current debates over the can but also as an important corrective to prevailing views of early modern English literature and of how it was first evaluated, promoted, and preserved.