How exactly were books printed in the Middle Ages, before the age of printing? As Thomas Cahill's book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, dramatically demonstrates that without the medieval Irish monks' devotion to transcription, much of the knowledge of Western civilization would have been lost forever. At that time, the author was often his own scribe and almost invariably his own editor and publisher. In the age of manuscript culture, every copy of every book had to be copied by hand and so every copy was physically unique.Peter J. Lucas explores what is known about the medieval publishing process by close study of the work of friar John Capgrave (1393-1464), a prolific author and one of the most learned Englishmen of his day. What distinguishes Capgrave from other medieval English authors is the wealth of manuscript evidence from the author's scriptorium. Lucas focuses on how works newly composed by an author were prepared in a form suitable for patrons and readers. Capgrave's linguistic and scribal usages are set in the socio-historical context of the fifteenth century, and related to the growth and development of English literary patronage in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Lucas, who teaches Old and Middle English at University College, Dublin, was awarded the Gordon Duff Prize by Oxford University for his work on Capgrave.
"This is a valuable book which reproduces pieces which are not all easily available in their original form. The volume is to be welcomed because it brings into greater focus an author who has much to tell us about medieval writing and publication. It should help to make the significance of Capgrave more widely appreciated and understood. It will also help to show how detailed study of the work of an individual author can help change our assumptions about medieval authorship and thus to put the work of more popular writers like Chaucer in a wider framework" N. F. Blake, Sheffield, English Studies 79 (6) 1998 "This book brings together twelve papers by Peter Lucas on the fifteenth-century English theologian, scholar and writer, John Capgrave (1393-1464). They reflect over 25 years of unflawed interest both in the works of this Augustinian friar and in the palaeographical and philological aspects of the surviving mms of his writings." E. Kooper, Bulletin Codicologique 1, 1998 "Lucas has produced a very accessible if highly specialised book on the fifteenth-century John Capgrave 'an author in search of his public'." Books Ireland, Sept 1998 "Although the essays are very detailed, they are always clearly structured, with carefully-signalled conclusions, and as such they are models of exposition and analysis. The volume is packed with information and full of references to other scholarship." Oliver Pickering, University of Leeds, Journal of the Early Book Society, 1999 "Lucas displays a detailed knowledge of his author's working habits and an intellectual sensitivity to his literary and scholarly priorities." Review of English Studies Vol 50 No 198 1999
Capgrave's life and works; Capgrave as scribe; Capgrave as "publisher"; Capgrave as copyist of his own work; a copyist at work; William Gybbe of Wisbech, scribe and copyist of Capgrave; readability of the text; the author's writing habits and methods; continuity and change in Capgrave's orthographic usage; growth and development of English literary patronage in the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance.