‘[P]rophane fidlers’: Medical Paratexts and Indecent Readers in Early Modern England

  • Harry Newman
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw an enormous proliferation of printed vernacular texts that discussed and illustrated the female reproductive organs. These gynaecological and obstetrical texts, which included midwifery manuals as well as sections in large anatomical works, inflamed moral outrage (even within the medical establishment) and were stigmatised as forms of pornography. While literary, social and medical historians have addressed the relationship between medical and erotic literature in the early modern period, little has been written on the significance of book history to such discussions. In particular, paratexts (not only title-pages, dedications and prefaces, but also readers’ annotations) can tell us much about the connections between the rhetorical or ‘literary’ qualities of these books and their material life during publication and reading processes. Focusing on Helkiah Crooke’s anatomical work Mikrokosmographia; or a Description of the Body of Man (1615, 1616, 1618, 1631, 1651) and its ‘portable’ octavo epitome Somatographia Anthropine (1616, 1634) as a case study, this chapter combines archival work with analysis of rhetoric and illustrations to examine the ways in which paratexts negotiated anxieties attendant upon publishing women’s ‘secrets’ in early modern England. It considers how prefatory writers—not just authors but also translators and publishers—justified the publications to ‘legitimate readers’ (modest women and medical professionals) and admonished the intrusiveness of ‘illegitimate readers’ (laymen). These writers employed rhetorical strategies which, while explicitly establishing the publications’ legitimacy, fetishised the books as marketable erotic objects, making them more attractive to consumers driven by prurient curiosity. Through bibliographical analysis of a wide range of copies based in the UK, the USA, and Canada, comparisons are drawn between the implied readers constructed by medical paratexts and the actual readers (both male and female) who produced their own.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

  1. Blount, Thomas. 1656. Glossographia: Or A Dictionary. London. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Cotgrave, Randle. 1611. A Dictionary of the French and English Tongues. London. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Crooke, Helkiah. 1615. Mikrokosmographia [Greek]. A Description of the Body of Man. Together with the Controuersies Thereto Belonging. Collected and Translated Out of All the Best Authors of Anatomy, Especially Out of Gasper Bauhinus and Andreas Laurentius. By Helkiah Crooke Doctor of Physicke, Physitian to his Maiestie, and his Highnesse Professor in Anatomy and Chyrurgerie. Published by the Kings Maiesties especiall Direction and Warrant according to the first integrity, as it was originally written by the Author. London. Re-issued 1616 and 1618. Print.Google Scholar
  4. ———. 1616. Somatographia Anthropine [Greek]. Or A Description of the Body of Man. By Artificiall Figures Representing the Members, and Fit Termes Expressing the Same. Set Forth Either to Pleasure or to Profite Those Who Are Addicted to This Study. By W.I. Printer. London. Re-issued 1634. Print.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 1631. Mikrokosmographia [Greek]. A Description of the Body of Man. 2nd ed. London. Print.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 1651. Mikrokosmographia [Greek]. A Description of the Body of Man. 3rd ed. London. Print.Google Scholar
  7. Guillemeau, Jacques. 1612. Child-Birth or, The Happy Deliuerie of Women. Trans. anon. London. Print.Google Scholar
  8. Norton, Thomas, and Thomas Sackville. 1570. The Tragidie of Ferrex and Porrex. London. Print.Google Scholar
  9. Paré, Ambroise. 1634. The Workes of That Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey Translated Out of Latine and Compared with the French. by Th: Johnson. London. Print.Google Scholar
  10. Raynalde, Thomas. 2009. The Birth of Mankind: Otherwise Named, The Woman’s Book, ed. Elaine Hobby. Farnham: Ashgate. Print.Google Scholar
  11. Rüff, Jakob. 1637. The Expert Midwife, or an Excellent and Most Necessary Treatise of the Generation and Birth of Man. Trans. anon. London. Print.Google Scholar
  12. Sandys, George. 1615. A Relation of a Journey Begun An: Dom: 1610. London. Print.Google Scholar
  13. Vesalius, Andreas. 1998–2002. On the Fabric of the Human Body. Trans. William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman. 5 vols. San Francisco: Norman. Print.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Birken, William. 2004. Crooke, Helkiah (1576–1648). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6775. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.
  2. Camille, Michael. 1997. The Book as Flesh and Fetish in Richard de Bury’s Philobiblon. In The Book and the Body, ed. Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, 34–77. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  3. Craik, Katharine. 2007. Reading Sensations in Early Modern England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cressy, David. 1997. Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cuttica, Cesare. 2012. Sir Robert Filmer (1588–1653) and the Patriotic Monarch: Patriarchalism in Seventeenth-Century Thought. Manchester: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eamon, William. 1994. Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Emery, Anthony. 2000. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales: 1300–1500. Vol. II: East Anglia, Central England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Finkelstein, David, and Alistair McCleery. 2013. An Introduction to Book History. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Furdell, Elizabeth Lane. 2002. Publishing and Medicine in Early Modern England. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer.Google Scholar
  10. Gilbert, Ruth. 2002. Early Modern Hermaphrodites: Sex and Other Stories. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gray, Todd. 1992. Fishing and the Commercial World of Early Stuart Dartmouth. In Tudor and Stuart Devon: The Common Estate and Government, ed. Todd Gray, Margery Rowe, and Audrey Erskine, 173–199. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.Google Scholar
  12. Green, Monica Helen. 2000. From ‘Diseases of Women’ to ‘Secrets of Women’: The Transformation of Gynaecological Literature in the Late Middle Ages. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30 (1): 5–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hackel, Heidi Brayman. 2005. Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Harvey, Elizabeth D. 1992. Ventriloquized Voices: Feminist Theory and English Renaissance Texts. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Harvey, Tamara. 2008. Figuring Modesty in Feminist Discourse Across the Americas, 1633–1700. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  16. Hingley, Sheila. 2004. The Oxindens, Warlys and Elham Parish Library: A Family Library and Its Place in Print Culture in East Kent. PhD Thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University College, 2 vols.Google Scholar
  17. Hitchcock, Tim. 1997. English Sexualities, 1700–1800. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobby, Elaine. 2008. ‘Dreams and plain dotage’: The Value of The Birth of Mankind (1540–1654). In Literature and Science, ed. Sharon Ruston, 35–52. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.Google Scholar
  19. Iser, Wolfgang. 1978. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Johnson, Francis R. 1950. Notes on English Retail Book-Prices, 1550–1640. The Library 5 (2): 83–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kassell, Lauren. 2013. Medical Understandings of the Body, c. 1500–1750. In The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present, ed. Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher, 57–74. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Keller, Eve. 2007. Generating Bodies and Gendered Selves: The Rhetoric of Reproduction in Early Modern England. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  23. King, Helen. 2007. Midwifery, Obstetrics and the Rise of Gynaecology: The Uses of a Sixteenth-Century Compendium. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  24. LaCapra, Dominick. 1985. History and Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Linster, Jillian. 2017. Books, Bodies, and the ‘Great Labor’ of Helkiah Crooke’s “Mikrokosmographia”. PhD Thesis, University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  26. McKeown, Deidre. 2014. Researching the Provenance of Seventeenth Century Anatomy Books. Blog-post, June 13. http://worcestercathedrallibrary.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/researching-provenance-of-seventeenth.html. Accessed 2 Sept 2016.
  27. Moulton, Ian. 2000. Before Pornography: Erotic Writing in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. O’Malley, C.D. 1968. The Fielding H. Garrison Lecture: Helkiah Crooke, M. D., F. R. C. P., 1576–1648. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 42 (1): 1–18.Google Scholar
  29. Paster, Gail Kern. 1993. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. Ithaca/New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Russell, Kenneth Fitzpatrick. 1963. British Anatomy, 1525–1800: A Bibliography. Parkville: Melbourne University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Saenger, Michael. 2006. The Commodification of Textual Engagements in the English Renaissance. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  32. Sawday, Jonathan. 1995. The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Sherman, William H. 2008. Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith, Helen. 2012. ‘Grossly Material Things’: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith, Helen, and Louise Wilson. 2011. Introduction. In Renaissance Paratexts, ed. H. Smith and L. Wilson, 1–14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stanivukovic, Goran V. 2001. Introduction: Ovid and the Renaissance Body. In Ovid and the Renaissance Body, ed. Goran V. Stanivukovic, 3–18. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sugg, Richard. 2007. Murder After Death: Literature and Anatomy in Early Modern England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Thompson, Roger. 1979. Unfit for Modest Ears: A Study of Pornographic, Obscene and Bawdy Works Written in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Toulalan, Sarah. 2007. Imagining Sex: Pornography and Bodies in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Traub, Valerie. 2002. The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Trim, D.J.B. 2004. Champernowne, Sir Arthur (b. in or before 1524, d. 1578). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Online ed., May 2009. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/71675. Accessed 14 Sept 2016.
  42. Wall, Wendy. 1993. Prefatorial Disclosures: ‘Violent Enlargement’ and the Voyeuristic Text. In The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance, 169–226. Ithaca/New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Williams, Gordon. 1994. A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature. 3 Vols. London: The Athlone Press.Google Scholar
  44. Willoughby, Edwin. 1934. A Printer of Shakespeare: The Books and Times of William Jaggard. London: Philip Allan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry Newman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEghamUK

Personalised recommendations