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Title pages and other prelims are often missing from early modern printed books, and this is particularly true of well-used family bibles and prayer books. Over the decades and centuries, these textual beginnings bear the brunt of use and re-use, opening and closing, turning and folding, and as a result front matter and titles pages can get ripped out, or they crumble to dust. Some early readers attempted to intervene on these scenes of loss, and this essay will reflect on their manuscript interventions, which are usually geared towards recreating the lost mise-en-page arrangement of a printed page, including typeface, decorative initials, and other ornaments. It focuses on several religious and devotional printed book objects from Bangor University’s Archives and Special Collections—including a 1541 edition of the Great or ‘Cranmer’ Bible, Bangor Cathedral’s copy of a 1611 King James Bible, and a 1664 Welsh-language Book of Common Prayer—in which we find early modern readers lovingly repairing the beginnings of their texts, offering up new paratextual starting points in the absence of lost or damaged ones. The devotional, and sometimes even the parodic, implications of these restorative interpolations will be explored, and particular attention will be paid to the highly sociable nature of such forms of reader-generated recovery and conservation.


  • Book History, Early Modern, Print Culture, Materiality
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-61
JournalInscription: the Journal of Material Text - Theory, Practice, History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
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