Significant space in manuscript letters

Gibson, Jonathan (1997). Significant space in manuscript letters. The Seventeenth Century, 12(1) pp. 1–10.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0268117X.1997.10555420

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0268117...

Abstract

Blank space in early modern letters was of social and interpersonal significance. The amount of blank space left (in particular between the end of a letter's text and its subscription and signature) correlated with the relative social status of author and addressee--thus, the more space a letter-writer left, the more deference she or he showed towards the addressee. In this article, I draw attention to the existence of this practice, arguing that it should be taken into account by editors of early modern letters. Instructions for the deployment of significant space in early modern epistolographies are discussed, as is a particularly vivid example of significant space in a letter by Sir Walter Ralegh. The article closes with some comments on the importance of conventions (sometimes clashing with each other) in early modern letter-writing.

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