Memory's LibraryMedieval Books in Early Modern England

Memory's LibraryMedieval Books in Early Modern England

Jennifer Summit

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226781716

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In this book, libraries are more than inert storehouses of written tradition; they are volatile spaces that actively shape the meanings and uses of books, reading, and the past. Considering the two-hundred-year period between 1431, which saw the foundation of Duke Humfrey's famous library, and 1631, when the great antiquarian Sir Robert Cotton died, the book revises the history of the modern library by focusing on its origins in medieval and early modern England. The author argues that the medieval sources that survive in English collections are the product of a Reformation and post-Reformation struggle to redefine the past by redefining the cultural place, function, and identity of libraries. By establishing the intellectual dynamism of English libraries during this crucial period of their development, the book demonstrates how much current discussions about the future of libraries can gain by reexamining their past.