Casting off blanks: hidden structures in early modern paper books

Gibson, Jonathan (2010). Casting off blanks: hidden structures in early modern paper books. In: Daybell, James and Hinds, Peter eds. Material Readings of Early Modern Culture: Texts and Social Practices, 1580-1730. Early Modern Literature in History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 208–228.



In this chapter, I coin the term 'casting off blanks' to refer to a procedure often used in manuscript construction in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the practice of leaving several pages of a manuscript blank in order to create distinct sections into which to copy an as yet undecided number of texts. I describe the types of manuscript in which blank casting off tends to occur, the main forms it takes and methods for detecting it. In the second half of the article, I examine specific manuscripts in which blank casting off seems to have been used, often without the knowledge of modern editors and critics, focusing in particular detail on Anne Southwell's 'commonplace book' (Folger Shakespeare Library MS Vb.198. I conclude with some suggestions about the directions future research on this topic might take.

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