"Ancient Letters and Old Paper: How Matthew Parker (1504 - 1575) Understood Medieval Books." Book History 26.2 (Fall 2023), forthcoming.
This article examines the efforts of Matthew Parker and his scholarly circle to understand the medieval books that he collected as archbishop of Canterbury. It argues that Parker made sense of his books by connecting them to what amounted to an emerging history of the book. That is, Parker began to piece together the formal features of different medieval books into a rough but increasingly refined timeline of the history of book production in order to contextualize any given manuscript. The evidence can be found scattered throughout Parker’s library, in the form of annotations, transcripts of passages, copied illustrations, and printed books that offer a wealth of information about how Parker’s team understood the books they handled. This documentation reveals how they combined scribal knowledge with textual information, to powerful ends. By connecting Parker’s practices to contemporary developments in other areas of knowledge production, from alchemy to conjectural emendation, this article offers a new way forward for scholarly analysis of the early modern study of older books, especially for our analysis of early modern practices and paradigms that do not fit modern definitions of paleography and codicology.
“Feuding Fathers: How John Jewel Read Erasmus’s Jerome on the Origenist Controversy.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 27 no. 3 (2020): 379 – 402. Available online.
This article explores how John Jewel (1522 - 1571), bishop of Salisbury and popular polemicist for the Church of England, exploited historical disagreement among the church fathers, turning the more conventional idea of patristic concord on its head. By comparing Jewel's annotations with his publications, it shows how influential Erasmus’s patristic editions were in providing a framework for readers in the Reformation to approach late antiquity. Ultimately, it reveals that sixteenth-century Protestant polemic, including Jewel’s insistence that the fathers had feuded, was based on humanist rhetoric rather than on a new sense of historicism.
“Matthew Parker and the Practice of Church History.” In Confessionalisation and Erudition in Early Modern Europe: An Episode in the History of the Humanities. Edited by Nicholas Hardy and Dmitri Levitin. Proceedings of the British Academy 225: 116 – 153. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Available online here.
The Elizabethan archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker is best known for his efforts to collect medieval manuscripts, which had changed hands or been repurposed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and to construct from these sources a new history of the church in England. This essay looks at the complete process of how Parker and his circle collected, used, and printed books for their historical project. It argues that Parker’s work was not as pointedly confessional as it has typically been seen, in part because of the shifting sands of early modern religious discourse and in part because of how Parker engaged with the medieval sources he encountered. He learned from what he read—perhaps especially from late medieval historians. His practices in constructing church history are revealing of the extent to which he viewed himself in a continuous historiographical tradition, even as he sought to reform an ecclesiastical one.
“Polemic in Translation: Jerome’s Fashioning of History in the Chronicle.” In Historiography and Identity I: Ancient and Early Christian Narratives of Community. Edited by Walter Pohl and Veronika Wieser. Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 24: 219 – 246. Turnhout: Brepols, 2019. Available online with open access.
While Jerome's most famous translation is that of the Bible, his translation of Eusebius's Chronicle is familiar to scholars of medieval Europe, as it became the foundation for many continuations, establishing a chronicle tradition. Building on the work of researchers who compared Jerome's text of the Chronicle with an Armenian translation of Eusebius (as the Greek original is no longer extant), I examine Jerome's additions to the base text and argue that he translated the chronicle in more ways than one for a Latinate, and (to his mind) "orthodox" audience. His attention to his audience and self-presentation in the chronicle can be contextualized in late antique historiography more broadly rather than being dismissed (as earlier scholars did) as superficial history-writing.
“Licking the ‘beare whelpe’: William Lambarde and Matthew Parker Revise the Perambulation of Kent.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 81 (2018): 154 – 171. Available online here.
This essay focuses on the drafts and discussions that went into the first (1576) edition of the Perambulation. Lambarde’s autograph drafts and letters set his work in dialogue with other contemporary efforts to study the English past, in particular Matthew Parker’s De antiquitate Britannicae ecclesiae (1572). This book developed in tandem with Lambarde’s. Lambarde and Parker created and shared drafts in manuscript and print as they delved into Kentish church history. Remnants of their conversations about sources like the Textus Roffensis can be found in their books and even in the manuscripts under discussion. Revision, like reading, was a particular social enterprise with its own conventions. The line between a finished printed presentation copy and a manuscript draft was completely blurred: both constituted a ‘beare whelpe that lacketh licking.’
(with R. Calis, F. Clark, C. Flow, A. Grafton, and J. M. Rampling) “Passing the Book: Cultures of Reading in the Winthrop Family, 1580 – 1730.” Past & Present 241, no. 1 (November 2018): 69 – 141. Available online with open access.
Large numbers of annotated books that belonged to members of the Winthrop family — which included the founding governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other individuals prominent in the early modern British Atlantic world — survive in libraries across the Northeastern United States. The notes in their margins reveal how the Winthrops responded to a vast array of material, from alchemical recipes to political tracts. Once deciphered and compared with other documents, such as letters and diaries, they show not only the ways in which the members of the family read these varied books, but also how they learned to do so and how they passed their skills on to new generations. Most important, they reveal that reading played a central role in the family's life and in its members' responses to political and religious crises.
Please contact me if you are having trouble accessing any of these publications; I am happy to share a PDF with interested students and scholars and would be delighted to hear about your research.
"Unboxing the Saints: A Curious Case from Early Modern Milan." Not Even Past. August 31, 2021.
"An Archbishop's Lost Library Catalog." Not Even Past. January 26, 2021.
“Interpreting Miracles.” (book review of Karin Vélez, The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto and Robert A. Orsi, History and Presence). Los Angeles Review of Books: Marginalia. August 23, 2019.
“Conciliar Conversations.” JHI Blog. May 25, 2016.
“Representing Material Evidence: The Catacombs in Print.” JHI Blog. March 28, 2016.
“Holy Portraits: New Icons and Ancient Likenesses after Trent.” JHI Blog. January 13, 2016.
(with R. Calis) “The Winthrops and their Books: A Transatlantic Tale.” The Junto. November 20, 2015.
“Passage and Place: Loci in Humanist Travel Writings.” JHI Blog. November 9, 2015.
“Making a Case for Bishops’ Authority in the Second and Seventeenth Centuries.” JHI Blog. September 21, 2015.
“Reflections on ‘Treasured Possessions’ and Material Culture.” (review of Fitzwilliam Museum exhibit, “Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment”). JHI Blog. August 10, 2015.
“Annotations and Archives in Nineteenth-Century New York.” New York Society Library Blog. July 27, 2015.
“Jane Austen’s Emma in Early America.” New York Society Library Blog. May 4, 2015.
“The Bookends of Chronicles: Decisions about Time.” JHI Blog. March 27, 2015.
“Imaginary Iconoclasms in Early Modern Haarlem.” JHI Blog. March 18, 2015.
“The French Reformer and the Church of England: The Limits of Early Modern Ecumenism.” JHI Blog. March 4, 2015.
“Histories of Tithes: Religious Controversy and Changing Methodologies.” JHI Blog. February 18, 2015.
“Records of Student Life in Early Modern Europe.” JHI Blog. January 28, 2015.
“The Politics of Unearthing New Amsterdam in 19th-Century New York.” JHI Blog. January 14, 2015.
“What Does Early Modern Bibliography Have to Do with a Blog?” JHI Blog. December 31, 2014.