The Work of Print

Authorship and the EnglishText Trades, 1660-1760

Lisa M. Maruca

  • Published: 2007
  • Subject Listing: Literary Studies; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 10 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Literary Conjugations
  • Contents

The Work of Print traces a shift in the very definition of literature, from one that encompasses the material conditions of the production and distribution of books to the more familiar emphasis on the solitary author's ownership of an abstract text. Drawing on contemporary accounts of those involved in the trade - printers, booksellers, publishers, and distributors - Lisa Maruca examines attitudes about the creative process and approaches to the commodification of writing. The "work of print" describes the labors through which literature was produced: both the physical labor of making books and the underlying cultural work performed by a set of ideologies about who counted as a maker of texts.

Printers' manuals, tracts on typography, legal documents, and booksellers' autobiographies reveal that print workers conceived of their roles as central to the production of literature. Maruca's insightful readings of these documents alongside traditional works of fiction and authors' correspondence show that the claims of print workers and booksellers were part of a struggle for ownership and control as the concept of author as proprietor of his or her intellectual property began to take hold in the mid-1700s, gradually eclipsing print workers' contributions to the process of textual creation.

The print trade asserted its authority using a rhetoric of hierarchical and binary sexuality and gender, which affected women working in the industry and limited the type of work they were allowed to perform. In response, women developed strategies to redeploy conventional ideas of gender to gain concessions for themselves as publishers and distributors of printed material, strategies that formed a foundation for the rise of female authorship later in the eighteenth century.

Encompassing the histories of literature, labor, technology, publishing, and gender, The Work of Print ultimately offers significant insights into the ideology of authorship and intellectual property and our understanding of textuality and print in the digital age.
Lisa Maruca is associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit.

"Maruca stresses that there was no hard and fast qualitative distinction between what we would call authors and those who worked to produce printed volumes. Her purpose is to recover not only the collective achievement of authorship, but the process by which that collectivity came to be obscured and our own heroic concept of the author instituted. She is on the track of one of the major components of modern creativity, with a topic that makes the subject of seventeenth-century print genuinely consequential for us today."
-Adrian Johns, author of The Nature of the Book

"An extremely thought-provoking study, one which convincingly balances its sophisticated theoretical awareness with its historicism."
-Margaret J. M. Ezell, author of Social Authorship and the Advent of Print

1. Introduction: Printing Production Values
2. Printers' Manuals and the Bodies of Type
3. Citizen, Hero, or Midwife? Re-presenting the Bookseller
4. From Authorized Print to Authoritative Author: The Regulated Trade
5. The Printer as Author: Samuel Richardson, Intellectual Property, and the Feminine Text
6. The Ghost in the Machine: Invisible Print in a Digital Age

"Ms. Maruca's knowledge of the systems, methods, and personnel of the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century London publishing world is admirably broad and detailed."
-James E. Tierney, The Scriblerian, Spring 2011

"... whether one hails from an English Department or a History Department, Professor Maruca's research and conclusions offer much to anyone interested in the history of texts and their production.... with the right sources in her capable hands, Maruca makes The Work of Print an eye-opening and excellent study."
-Sixteenth Century Journal