Subido por María Jesús Lacarra

Portada X shevlin

"To Reconcile Book and Title, and Make 'em Kin to One Another": The Evolution of the
Title's Contractual Functions
Author(s): Eleanor F. Shevlin
Source: Book History , 1999, Vol. 2 (1999), pp. 42-77
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL:
Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article:
You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide
range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and
facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
The Johns Hopkins University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and
extend access to Book History
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
The Evolution of the Title's
Contractual Functions
Eleanor F. Shevlin
For it is an antient [sic] maxim of the law, that no title is completely good, unless the right of possession be joined with the
right of property; ... And when to this double right the actual
possession is also united, . . . then, and then only, is the title
completely legal. (Blackstone Commentaries [1765-69])1
"What use, what profit, what account it turns to, what 'tis good for: how it
answers the Name; how to reconcile Book and Title, and make 'em kin to
one another," ponders John Dunton in A Voyage Round the World (1691).2
Without a doubt, Dunton, the late seventeenth-century anything-but-staid
author and bookseller/publisher,3 understood the business of titles. He knew
that the title as a complex device performed many more functions than simI am grateful to the 1998 Folger Evening Colloquia for the opportunity to present an earlier
version of this essay. I would also like to thank Peter W. M. Blayney, Jonathan Rose, the
anonymous readers of Book History, Vincent Carretta, and William Sherman for reading earlier drafts of this essay and commenting with care and intelligence. I am especially indebted to
Calhoun Winton and Paula McDowell not only for responding so insightfully to earlier versions of this work but also for their unfailing, generous support of the larger project from
which this article is drawn.
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
ply identifying texts, and that the effective rec
text could foster success for the work at several
cates, the eighteenth-century British jurist Will
stood titles. Blackstone, however, was not concer
rather with the title as a legal term that design
While these two senses of this English word-its
legal one-occupy distinctly separate realms, his
In these overlaps, the textual title often emerges
title's function as a claim to property. The evolut
tionship in England coincided and, at times, int
ment of the textual title's function as a commercial and aesthetic device.
These collective developments resulted in the acquisition and institutionalization of the textual title's modern contractual nature. Recognizing and
understanding the emergence of the title's modern contractual roles can cast
new light on titles as a field and on the ways titles can serve as an investigative tool for print scholars, literary theorists, and cultural historians.
Today we have internalized the textual title's diverse roles, often over-
looking the ways that titles influence us. Framing one's approach as it
shapes perceptions of the text, a title can evoke an entire tradition, or it can
simply allude to a single work. A title can serve as an urtext, as when an
author has only a title from which the whole story will originate. The title
can supply a context, as in "What the Bullet Sang," a title that situates its
poem's ensuing action on a literal battlefield of war rather than on the barren fields of a love lost. The title can act as a pretext, as when a title compels
a browser to buy an unfamiliar work by an unknown author or when a title
deliberately misleads, as in the case of the eighteenth-century author who
named his moral essays La Jouissance de soi-meme in hopes of attracting
and then reforming libertines. Or the title can function as a subtext, as when
the title creates a pervasive motif either by literally resurfacing from time to
time in the text or by providing an overriding allusion to another work,
tradition, or situation. Titles effect implicit contractual relationships with
readers, authors, and publishers. Unlike a frontispiece, which may well visually encapsulate the themes of the text that follows, the title of a written
work is made wholly of verbal matter and thus is identical to the material
that forms the text. Yet the title also enjoys an external as well as internal
contractual relationship with the text it labels. Whether its distance from
the text it names is as close as a book's spine or as removed as a question in
a conversation about what one has lately read, the title participates in the
world outside that text. Situated on the border of the text, the title commands a far larger audience than the actual work that it labels-a location
that presents vast opportunities for its participation in cultural arenas. By
casting such a wide contractual net, titles embody the potential to illuminate
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
not just individual works,
publishing practices, market
Titles, however, did not al
teenth century marks the t
the word "contract" and it
that titles enact between re
and legal connotations reson
ment. The particular suitabi
tionship that developed bet
from titles acquiring a com
this acquisition occurred dur
when titles secured an insti
cation of their commercial
distribution networks, the
marked expansions of read
an industry, and the evolut
to an even greater commer
following the invention of
1799 thirty-four statutes r
to just five statutes from 1
experienced during this cen
tention to these changes.5)
of the book during the fina
middle decades of the eigh
marketing tool as it helped
Investigating how and why titles came to shoulder these respo
can richly augment our understanding of literary history and t
role books have played in time. Many scholars have recommende
suit of such a study.6 Derrida, Adorno, and Genette7 have su
(though briefly) theorized about the title. Yet the title's develo
practice and the theoretical underpinnings of these practices hav
surprisingly scant attention.8 The late Stanley Morison once as
the history of the title page charts to a great degree the history of
Studying the history of the title offers an even broader histori
With a history intimately tied both to pre-Gutenberg manuscr
printed works, the title proffers a means of exploring the history o
physical, aesthetic, and cultural objects from antiquity to the p
account of the title before it acquired its roles as a sophisticated
vehicle, authorial aesthetic device, and a formal tool of the law
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
how contractual relationships gradually formed b
bels and what the title gained through assuming
Titles: Their Evolution, Early
and Original Functions
Typically chosen arbitrarily and thus lacking co
the title in antiquity seems to have operated for t
cation. Writing about Old Testament texts, Thom
erything in Ecclesiastes was Solomon's "ex
Inscriptions ... which ... seem to have been made
That early textual labeling existed exclusively to
important implication about the title as entity: th
cally determined notion whose appearance is close
of its contractual functions. In other words, pro
ing function, an authoritative status, or a contra
ent attributes of titles, but rather are features ascri
Titles functioned primarily as denotative conv
cepts such as authorship and publication lacked c
The appearance of the creator's name in titles poi
the ensuing role titles would play among writer,
The Gospel According to Saint Luke, Cicero de A
creon provide just a few examples. The incorpor
as a predominate part of the title persisted for
1651, Thomas Hobbes felt a need to remind reade
the subject is marked, as often as the writer."10 I
opment, the penchant for including the author's
enduring stage in its history. In terms of print cult
trend furnishes a concrete historical record from which to reconsider what
Michel Foucault has deemed the "author-function."11
The placement of the title proper remained haphazard until the appearance of the title page between 1475 and 1480. The codex, which emerged
between the second and third century, had continued the practice of beginning immediately with the text itself.12 Copying faithfully the look of these
manuscripts, the first printed books also started with the actual text and
omitted any prefatory information detailing the work's name, authorship,
date, or publisher. Although titles during this time could appear elsewhere,
they were most often found at the end of the work, in the colophon,13 along
with other publishing information pertinent to the given work. Here titles
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
typically adhered strictly to
shared space with informati
be bought or with other, es
touted the printer/publisher
from a 1485 colophon illust
taught by the Frenchman J
Cease ye, Venetians, sending
references to Venetians, a F
score the tensions and comp
a product in the marketplac
other promotional moves wo
rather than its back door. T
ensconced feature of books,
merly was the colophon's pr
izing the book as a physical
printing, the title page effe
dardization. By heralding th
identified the book as a com
for the book's production in
manufactured object. As cop
encapsulated this production
of relationships among creat
these associations as interac
Before the advent of title page, readers had enjoyed a more
relationship with authors. The incipit, common in medieval ma
and early printed books, featured an author directly addressing
readers, an address informally announcing what the text wo
Works like Everyman and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales that
"Here begynneth . . ." typify this practice. Incipits behaved lik
tional markers that featured authors introducing readers to th
matter. This behavior was especially pronounced in manuscripts
numerous texts. Unlike the colophon, the incipit's extinction c
cancy that only the title, and not the title page as a whole, cou
title page formalized, as it made less intimate, the initial encou
readers, accustomed to being greeted by the incipit, had with
texts. Often promoting the publisher (or printer or bookseller) o
early title pages created situations in which the presence of th
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
intervened between the reader and the text and
trast, not only introduced the text, but it offe
discourse about the text at hand could transpir
turies before the title would fully sustain its
voice, but the potential for such vocalization ne
title as part of the title page replaced the incipit.
Akin to the direct addresses that the incipit a
that were prevalent before printing matured
author (or, as frequently was the case, the read
logues of sorts. Walter Ong has discussed how
and incunabular periods regularly involved phr
(on) to form incomplete statements; these frag
complete the title by supplying the missing u
or the like.16 As Ong points out, here was "a w
of a book is less an object, a 'thing,' than a bi
he concludes his discussion by noting how the
verted this aural world to a visual one: "Boo
were becoming objects . .. or receptacles with
tacles, they will imperceptibly drift, to some exte
course, where they had been moments in dialo
ever before, objects in a world of space approa
sion" (313). According to Ong, titles took part
becoming "detached labels" that were, "typica
case, and, specifically, nouns which are not mer
discourse but which directly 'stand for' the b
While Ong's assessment is accurate in many r
titles as detached labels and books as receptacl
brought about by printing obscures rather than
vative here. Printing did not invent the book
detachable label. But it did work to transform the nature of the book as
object and the function of the title as the book's free-floating sign. The earli-
est known form of titles were literally detached labels affixed either to rolls
or to the receptacles in which the physical contents (that is, the book rolls
themselves) were stored. The title's role as a separate label in ancient book
rolls differs markedly from its later role as a detachable textual feature. If
divorced from the book roll, the label lost its value; it could no longer function as an identifier of the roll's contents. Yet in the aftermath of the inven-
tion of printing, as innovations in book production and distribution
fostered a broader desire for and increased the availability of books, titles
became not only a way of identifying and describing texts but also a procedure for advertising and disseminating works in the public arena.
Before printing changed the parameters of production, one could have a
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
copy of a work made as lon
was accessible. The cost diff
work-setting the type, dres
contrast, a different pricing
form.17 While one could com
with ease as long as an existi
necessitated either a proven
could be generated, or an ex
ented production concerns t
importance of fostering a de
precedent for how to mark
faced with inventing ways t
tool that identified texts, t
by assuming the additional
hawking a work. Thus, not
printed word as a formidabl
tion that this technology en
the title page as a permanen
Titles and the Visualization of the Verbal
The title's ability to circulate without its text in tow made it an invaluable
tool for accomplishing several tasks that all required the title to act as a
stand-in for the work. As books came to function more and more as com-
modities, their titles also acted as harbingers for the works they identified.
Posted on booksellers' stalls, mounted in cleft-sticks, hung over shop doors,
tacked on public posts, and even pasted on church doors, the title page
acted as a flyer for advertising forthcoming and already available works.
Publishers (or their hirelings) first began posting title pages in the late sixteenth century, and the tradition extended well into the eighteenth century
as the long written record documenting this practice attests. For whether it
is Ben Jonson bemoaning having "my title-leaf on posts or walls, / Or in
cleft-sticks,... "18 or Alexander Pope scoffing at Bernard Lintot's "rubric
post"19 and exclaiming "What tho' my Name stood rubric on the walls? /
Or plaister'd posts, with Claps in capitals?"20 references to posting title
pages repeatedly crop up throughout this period. Of the hundreds, and in
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
some cases possibly thousands of extra title pages p
many were destined for distribution and display
matter where they were exhibited, title pages duri
phasize, more than even the works themselves, ho
as "objects in a world of space approached chiefly i
The idea of a book as a viewable object in space, as Ong acknowledges,
existed before printing. Illuminated manuscripts, especially with their elaborately rendered, pictorial initial letters, invited visual contemplation and
offer an immediate example of the visual, spatial component of texts that
predate printed works. But the book's heightened capacity as a commodity
engendered by the introduction of printing prescribed a new role for the
visual. Rather than serve simply as a source for reflection or a gloss, the
visual acquired a commercial function as well. Title pages led the way in
appropriating the visual as a marketing tool. Frequently it was the visual
aspects of title pages that initially tempted potential readers and buyers to
examine a work. If detached from its text, as when serving as an advertising
flyer, the title page bore the responsibility first of attracting passersby via its
visual appeal and then of conjuring up the absent work and inculcating a
desire for its presence-making its absence a loss that could be assuaged
only by the material presence and subsequent purchase (or so publishers
fervently hoped) of the actual book. Yet while the title page's reliance on
the visual to hook prospective readers and purchasers advanced the book
as a commodity, this same reliance inhibited, at first, the development of the
title as a hook in its own right.
Although the title occupied a standard location by the end of the first
quarter of the sixteenth century, the types of contracts it effected were only
in the fledgling stages. Whether engulfed by ornate title borders, overshadowed by copy promoting the publisher (as well as booksellers and printers),
or broken up by indiscriminate segmentation and scaling, the title itself
could easily elude a potential reader's fleeting glances. That some titles were
awash in such seas of distractions is symptomatic of their function at the
time. Writing in 1613, Thomas Dekker comments, "The title of books are
like painted chimnies in great country-houses, make a shew afar off, and
catch Trauellers' eyes; but comming nere them, neither cast they smoke, nor
hath the house the heart to make you drinke."21 Not only does Dekker's
complaint indicate the prevalence of titles erecting facades that belie a
work's actual content, but his analogy, by treating titles in the primarily
visual terms of painted chimnies, also suggests the relative insignificance at
this time of titles as purely verbal constructs with substantive ties to the
texts that they named. On many occasions the words making up a title were
broken up, squeezed, and arranged indiscriminately to fit a pattern, as in
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
the representative but rath
presentation, like those of m
first half of the seventeenth
visual temporarily held over
This emphasis on the visua
world was perceived and un
appearance of "speculum" an
vides a rich illustration of m
charts the history of the mi
tween 1500 and 1700 and fu
as a prelude to his discussion
and literature.23 As Grabes n
antiquity, but beginning in t
of "speculum," "mirror," an
N A-
med t1e g~oucrnour,b~te
Suyfedbyf fr omas fElot
Figure 1. (Reproduced by
Permission of the Folger
a-CT-- 5 34
Shakespeare Library)
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
frequent until its peak during the middle decades
Although mirror-titles would later develop de
tions with certain kinds or genres of texts, it is f
the mid-seventeenth century the use of "mirr
titles served as a general substitution for the t
mon to almost all mirror-titles . .. is the fact t
book itself to be a 'mirror.' "24 Rather than r
vogue, the immense popularity of mirror-titles
ticular nature of knowledge during the centuri
ished. Like tropes such as the microcosm or th
of book-as-mirror encapsulates Renaissance co
vast network of resemblances.25 Language, as
not occupy a neutral place outside this networ
gral part of this system of correspondences. Th
of distinction "between what is seen and what
and relation" that, in turn, ends up constitutin
in which observation and language intersect t
trope epitomized better this intersection of l
that of the book-as-mirror.
Mirror-titles graced all sorts of texts rangin
widely diverse secular works. Instead of textu
class or content, these titles announced the per
covering resemblances. They proclaimed the p
drawing parallels between printed works and m
each. That the production of these two commo
larity further affirmed the doctrine of corres
mirrors required skills in fashioning molds an
raw materials of tin and antimony, and these
those needed for casting type.27 By presenting th
asked readers to "see" the contents-to consider
thing shown or reflected. Mirror-titles often
readers' role as "viewers" of a given text by as
selves and others in the context of its contents
folkes. Wherein they may plainly see their
mirrour of allegiance. Or a looking-glasse for t
reade their duty towards God and their Kin
glass, wherein they may behold the frailties an
the sun ... (1660) furnish examples of such inv
third-person pronouns-"they may behold" o
ties"-in these and many other titles strategical
themselves from the subject matter and instead
terested observers.
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
Frequently the title pages f
bled the decorative frames s
as it invoked perspective by
would enter via the prelimin
era featured frames suggest
Governor (Fig. 1) supplies a
bally expressive of what is
highly visual title pages, esp
encourages us to treat the g
one of its synonyms as ver
producers and publishers pl
sance modes of thought, the
stresses, "mirror-titles, with
which is not primarily-or e
with producing an aesthetic
titles during the final decade
reality and a move to more
tively, these developments p
fidence in the ability of wo
title's acquiring contractual
velopments, this move away
tural shift in Western thoug
separation of things and wor
predicated on marketing aim
tents or provide a name aest
In other words, commercial
title as a commercial tool at
explained by considering wh
work to the public. Since pu
author but by the publisher
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
If he [seller of Bookes] gett any vvritten
likely to be vendible, whether the Author b
publish it; And it shall be contriued and na
his owne pleasure: which is the reason, so m
forth imperfect, and vvith foolish titles. N
bookes such names as in his opinion will m
there is little or nothing in the whole vol
Elsewhere Wither points out how unscrupulous practitioners of the trade33
would "without consent of the writers . . . change the name some[t]yms,
both of booke and Author (after they have been ymprinted) and all for
their owne priuate lucre" (10-11) and how they do not hesitate "when the
impression of some pamphlet lyes upon [their] hands; to imprint nevv Titles
for yt, (and so take mens moneyes twice or thrice, for the same matter under
diuerse names)" (121). In short, Wither identifies the main uses that unprincipled publishers found for the title: assigning titles that bore no relationship
to the texts they labeled; altering the author's name or title or both to gener-
ate greater interest; and devising new titles and printing new title pages to
resurrect old texts, all in the name of increased sales. That books were sold
as unbound sheets, enabling publishers (or perhaps booksellers in some
cases) to create their own title pages and their own marketing slant, no
doubt contributed to these problems in some quarters.
Wither's laments about "foolish titles" intimate that as early as the 1620s
some thought was being given to the title as a type of promise about what
the work would offer. At this time, however, authors retained virtually no
control over the names of their works and consequently no control over the
promises that titles extended. Instead, the publishers generally held the reins
in deciding the nomination by which a text would enter the world. That the
publisher's practice of revamping or replacing an author's title at will met
with acceptance-or at least was treated matter-of-factly-for much of the
century stems from the institutional circumstances surrounding publication.
From the 1550s through the lapse of the Licensing Act of 1695, the right to
publish printed material was limited to certain individuals by custom of the
trade and by law; only members of the Stationers' Company or those retaining royal printing patents could publish works.34
During much of this time, the title operated in its legal sense as a designator of ownership claims. By custom, entry of a work in the Stationers' Com-
pany's Register Book marked a person's claim to the exclusive right to
publish that work, and entering this claim included recording the textual
title of a work. Providing "the only unquestionable evidence of ownership,"
entrance in the Register Book was not mandatory until the Star Chamber
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
decree of 1637 "unambiguou
printed thereafter . . . 'shall
Company of Stationers.' "35
33), the Stationers' Company
copies was legally secured by
in the Registers a matter fo
rounding entitlement to cop
cultural control that publish
role that commercial interes
works' published titles did n
an entity entirely separate f
the title is part of the autho
tions and text. A true forer
contemporary Ben Jonson s
makes public his authority,
person possessive pronouns i
tors and compilers common
assigning such titles as "To
departs from the convention
and booksellers at the time;
would have bestowed titles such as "To his Booke" or "To his Booke-
seller.""37 Yet widespread recognition of the title's function as an auth
assertion about given texts developed slowly. While an interest in tit
an integral part of texts existed on the part of some (if not many) aut
at the time,38 the legal, cultural, and market conditions for them to fo
through and effect implicit contracts with their readers via their title
Expectations that titles glossed a text's subject steadily increas
seventeenth century, and with this increase arose a greater emp
title's linguistic import. Mid- and late sixteenth-century titles-A
Gallery, of gallant Inuentions. Garnished and decked with diuers
deuises ... (1578) or The Worthines of Wales: VVherein are mo
thousand seuerall things rehearsed:... (1587), to name two39
ployed alliterative patterns to generate notice, but their wording did l
reveal the contents of the ensuing text. While seventeenth-century tit
relied on methods such as alliteration to catch the potential purch
these methods now gestured to providing some sense of what th
would offer: A Svvarme of Sectaries and Schismatiqves ... (1641),
as true as Steele, To a Rusty, Rayling, Ridiculous, Lying Libell ...
the name of "An Answere to a foolish Pamphlet Entituled, A Sw
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
Sectaries and Schismatiques" (1641), and Mad
out of Fashions, or, The Emblems of these D
rhythmic effects of these mid-seventeenth-ce
comparable to modern-day advertising jingles,
suggested their texts' involvement in contempo
versies and turmoil.
That sociopolitical upheavals and subsequent breakdowns in printing
and trade controls in the 1640s resulted in an unprecedented flow of printed
texts into the English marketplace is well known. The interpretation of these
events (and ones leading up to and immediately following) and their complex relationships to changing practices surrounding authorship, reading,
and publishing as well as notions of censorship and a rudimentary "public
sphere," however, are still being articulated and debated.40 While the
changes that titles underwent during these years were certainly enmeshed in
these sociohistorical developments, they cannot be adequately addressed
here. However, two points can be made. First, the flood of print enhanced
the need for titles to hone their marketing capabilities and encouraged the
increased emphasis on their verbal nature. Second, the types of "implicit
social contract between authors and authorities" that Annabel Patterson
and others have claimed as being in place at this time41 are not equatable t
the title at this stage in its contractual development. While textual titles
could be objects of state censorship,42 titles were still functioning as primar-
ily commercial tools and not authorized vehicles of textual significance.43
Most seventeenth-century titles either followed an all-inclusive trend or
adhered to a snappy headline approach. Lengthy titles acted essentially as a
bill of fare, posting a complete list of what the book would serve with vary
ing degrees of thoroughness. Offering a ready example, John Bunyan's long
standing bestseller was issued into the world as The Pilgrim's Progress from
This World to That which is to come: Delivered under the Similitude of a
DREAM Wherein is Discovered, The manner of his setting out, His Dangerous Journey; And safe Arrival at the Desired Country (1678). Such titles
can be found through the first half of the eighteenth century with those o
Daniel Defoe providing particularly well-known illustrations:
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c.
Who was Born in NEWGATE, and during a Life of continu'd Variety
for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a
whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother) Twelve
Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last
grew Rich, liv'd Honest and died a Penitent, Written from her own
This content downloaded from
ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff on Thu, 01 Jan 1976 12:34:56 UTC
All use subject to
racy wording to attract re
Times (1645), a nonrisqu6 ex
work's contents-general me
events-yet does so with a m
vealing its specific political
approach, alternate or doub
Wears the Breeches (printed
to sustain their appeal for m
headline types of titles, desp
of the increased notice accor
descriptive relationship to th
While both trends served c
long titles is especially sugg
glish market was. In compar
French practice of brevity d
tions surrounding the two b
faced with a highly competi
on advertising to compete, a
a full outline of their conten
gent state and Parisian guild
shorter titles. Printer and n
to the booksellers' overuse of
ments provide more compell
duction of the Term Catalog
quarterly listings of recently
ness; the adoption of period
Understanding (1690), John
cating complex ideas efficie
complex ideas, without part
case than a bookseller, who
unbound, and without titles,
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
awareness of the title as not just a means of ident
enabling one to talk about it, but as a conveyor of
well. As titles assumed more and more descriptive
tions, some yielding complex, thematic guidelines f
the nature of and possibilities for discourse change
enablers of discourse, but potential and actual parti
as well. In the hands of "publishers," the title serve
and control over the work's public appearance. Whe
hold of their titles, another sense of the word "cl
title as an assertion about how a text should be read
on this second sense of "claim," titles create exp
they guide readers' textual responses to works. No
expansion of the title's claims. Rather publishers,
readers all contributed to the title's evolving funct
shared awareness that titles generate implicit contr
their public.
Titles and the Development
Contractual Relationships
As purely denotative devices, titles primarily ident
ing their subject matter. Once titles assumed descri
however, they became vehicles of textual meaning
channel textual meaning stemmed from authors ass
names of their works. In England, titles of works
garded as part of the author's province during the
seventeenth century. Much work remains to be do
the causes and extent of this shift, but changing c
including notions of commercial publication as un
tainly supply one plausible explanation. What we h
sive individualism," Lockean notions of property,
about contractual models of society and governme
conducive to regarding the title as a contract. By
heightened meaning, the shift to authorial contro
significant advance in the title's contractual nature
gard titles as authorial statements that formed an
Late seventeeth- and eighteenth-century readers
title's textual import through increasing literary
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
and their functions. A cogen
oured Uncle, on his Poem, c
entirely on titles as contract
Some specious titles fix
And tantalize the Read
And doth peruse the B
Expecting still, th' Hyp
Do all along so close ke
That he who reads you
Surely each Page thereo
Although the writer of this
who are fixing "specious tit
that he is indeed speaking ab
tions of titles are reflected i
by titles and the virtue of k
In The Unlucky Citizen: Ex
fortunes of an Unlucky Lon
and author as well as the op
brary,5so repeatedly draws a
After discussing his choice o
to it in his preface, he opens
gives his Reason for the Tit
paragraph to this explanatio
generated by the work's nam
tended by the title. Through
it. The final line of his narra
solicits the reader's agreeme
conclude with me that hithe
full circle, The Unlucky Citiz
parts of texts, not just adver
Despite the growing sense t
mercial role of titles as mark
this role became even more
sense of raising curiosity and
operate (as they still essentia
absent property and fluctua
time when print was flexing
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
modity, the ability of titles to attract and r
just the success of an individual work but, incre
genres as well. "How to reconcile Book and T
another" now involved balancing the title's re
with its commercial function.
The formative negotiations between these two contractual functions coincided with the appearance of copyright laws and related legal cases that
laid the groundwork for significant changes in the book trade's structure
and, much later on, for new conceptions of authorship and its accompanying rights.s3 With the passage of the first "copyright"54 act in 1710, one's
legal claim of property in a work could and would be recognized only if its
title had been registered with the Company of Stationers:
. . . nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to extend to
subject any Bookseller, Printer, or other Person whatsoever, to the
Forfeitures or Penalties therein mentioned, for or by reason of the
Printing or Reprinting of any Book or Books without such Consent,
as aforesaid, unless the Title to the Copy of such Books or Books
hereafter Published shall, before such Publication be Entred [sic],
in the Register-Book of the Company of Stationers ... (Act 8 Anne,
c. 19/21)ss
Although the phrase "Title to the Copy" invokes foremost the legal meaning of the word "title" as a claim of ownership, the assertion of this claim
was accomplished by recording the textual title-that is, the name of the
book. The Printing Act of 1662 had legislated entry in the Stationers' Company's Register Book, but it did not mention the word "title" in this context. The word's specific mention in the 1710 Act in the context of entries
created a situation that encouraged semantic slippage between the two
meanings of "title." Moreover, the 1710 Act replaced the issue of textual
regulation-by which I mean an emphasis on monitoring both the trade and
what is printed-with conceptions of textual property. This move to "textual property" shed previous overtones of supervision (as exercised inter-
nally by the Court of Assistants, a ruling body within the Stationers'
Company) and censorship (as exercised externally by the government and
Crown) and placed weight instead on the text as a form of property to be
Thus, the title secured its official status as an indicator and protector of
property claims in the legal realm at roughly the same moment that it was
expanding its capacity for evoking tacit contracts among publishers, authors, and readers in the marketplace. These dual occurrences heightened
the importance of the title as a device.57 During the sixteenth and first half
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
almanacs, and the like.58 But
vidual ownership of copies
presses and provincial printe
Stock contributed to the em
teenth, very valuable litera
titles produced by renowne
Dryden, and Pope.59
As the title assumed new functions and underwent the institutionaliza-
tion of its newer and older roles, the relationships among these various roles
became considerably more complex. Although authors were attending more
to their titles and their right to title their works, this contractual development did not mean that writers exercised exclusive power over titling, as
remarks by Bertrand Bronson would lead one to believe:
"Printers," Richardson once wrote to Aaron Hill, "have often the
Honour of being heard in the Business of Titles"; but obviously the
author's wishes have primary rights in deciding what the title-page
shall contain. Whether it shall be determinative, descriptive, or suggestive; whether to include or omit the writer's name; whether to
add a motto, and of what sort: these decisions reveal the author. It
was not Bowyer or Lintot who decided for The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope or picked the long Ciceronian motto.60
In reality, Pope's heavy involvement in the press preparations for his Works
(1717) did not represent the norm.61 Rather, the growing control and interest that authors were exercising over their titles served to encourage collabo-
ration with printers and publishers.62 This collaboration was especially
important since readers increasingly expected titles to proffer promises that
the ensuing text would fulfill.
Since many authors recognized that titles played an important role in
selling works, they were often willing to give printers, booksellers, and pub-
lishers "the Honour of being heard in the Business of Titles." Some of these
voices were louder than others. Defoe's title choices usually correspond to
the titles given in the head and running titles of his works. The lengthy
additions to his base names-additions that essentially amounted to plot
summaries and that can be found on the title pages to his works-reflect the
efforts of his congers to ensure sales.63 At other times, especially as the cen-
tury progressed, authorial voices and those of publishers engaged in dialogue over titling decisions. The exchanges that we find in correspondence
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
between these parties and authors frequently i
balance the title's role as an authorial expressio
diminishing its usefulness as a marketing devi
increasingly treated the title as a contract betw
and the work's reading public.
Assigning titles appropriate to their works'
important ramifications for fulfilling reader
not infrequently crops up in exchanges betwe
as well as between authors and publishers. A c
cation and labels was of course a hallmark of
root in the latter decades of the seventeenth ce
to explain his choice of generic designation in
Year of Wonders, 1666. An Historical Poem" (1
of this concern: "I have call'd my Poem Histor
the Actions and Actors are as much Heroick,
since the Action is not properly one, nor that
cesses, I have judg'd it too bold a Title for a fe
Eighty years later, the boldness of "epic" as
fuels Samuel Richardson's anxiety over Aaron
the Patriot. An Epic Poem as a title. In a 17
expresses his misgivings:
As to your ... title ... I have your pardon
consideration, whether epic, truly epic, a
to call it epic in the title-page; since hundr
will not, at the time, have seen your adm
Displaying much tact and a sensitivity to the
thor might well harbor for a given label, Rich
the embarrassment that he feels might ensue
poem as an epic. In Richardson's eyes (the eye
knows how works sell), the value that "epic" c
bespeaks the assumption of a mastery of (or p
well as an adherence to established rules. Unlik
record rationalizing his decision to retain "A
ascribe "epic" to his poem despite Richardson'
to his confidence in his abilities and the label's
aesthetic and/or marketing boost that such a
we do have on record via this letter is a demonstration of Richardson's
understanding of how titles set in motion complex signals between authors,
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
their works, and the mark
and public tensions at work
The letters of publisher/a
pation with titles in gener
publisher over title choice
emerges the strong sense
tractual terms. Thus we wi
ing to Dodsley what he wil
I am not at all satisfied
publish a Collection of
wch too have already be
adorned would make m
not apprehend, that thi
to the Sale of the book.
phlet of a shilling or tw
customers, whose eye is
Very much attuned to mar
reputation, Gray rebukes D
ate not only because it mis
eously targets the impulse
bespeak authority, leaving
Anticipating Dodsley's bott
title change would not pre
readers whom a showy titl
bearing the title Designs b
Gray's mandate, excepting
In contrast to Gray's conf
dence in keeping with a po
tle-known George Tymms
the experienced Dodsley:
an Essay upon Monop
Friend.-- ... N.B.: I giv
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
A vicar, Tymms begins his letter by confessing t
reluctance [that] I commence Author at this t
assuring Dodsley that he will "be accountable to
and other Expences or printing" because he is "ve
buy, if they cou'd see more of it than the Title."
the piece, it appears as an anonymous work bear
Monopolies, or Reflections upon the Frauds
Wholesale Dealers in Corn and Flour.7' Dropping
a Friend," Dodsley forgoes the personal, intimate
title. He substitutes a more public and timely al
shortages and hoarding that had drawn public an
for the past few years,72 striving for more sales an
the Gray and Tymms cases demonstrate how th
the title, once it achieved a balance with descrip
came to participate in the creation of textual mea
lar aspects of texts.
Readers were not passive parties to these contra
discussions about the effectiveness of particular
excerpt from an ongoing exchange involving Sam
Edwards, a Mr. Wray, and others over the merit
for The Feminiad (1754):
Your friend Mr. Wray quarrels also with
combe's poem; while his father . . . defends
"Perhaps," says he, "your friends would not
the ... [title], if they had not been disguste
poems ending with ad .... " The chief object
that it was not clear enough. Perhaps this t
objection, The Feminead, or Female Genius,
Confirming the era's penchant for glossing subti
and the fleeting life of successful formulas that
exchange points to the willingness of readers to c
revamping the original title.
By frequently discussing the names of works, o
propriateness, eighteenth-century reviewers enc
readers to consider titles while simultaneously pu
ers on alert. The Critical Review's evaluation of
History of Miss Arabella Waldegrave conclud
snidely, "To do our author justice, however, his
able; for Miss Arabella Waldegrave's constancy r
of the many very extraordinary efforts which a
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
to the man on w
report of Histoi
stresses that the "author t
mention'd in his title, to s
have his report."75 A Mon
Groans of Great Britain, r
entitled the groans of Gre
will continue such to all, b
equal propriety have called
these reviewers' discussions is the notion that the textual fulfillment of a
title's promises indicates that its text has at least some merit.
Spurred in part by public discourse surrounding the evaluation and re-
ception of titles, authors continued to discuss and defend their titular
choices well into the eighteenth century, and their commentary evinces the
growing sophistication of the contracts that titles generated. Such discussions typically occur in the prefatory material, as in the case of Lord Kames,
who expounds on why he has omitted the definite article from the title Elements of Criticism;77 or that of John Kidgell, who in the guise of apologizing
for his novel's title, The Card (1755), urges the reader to discover its propriety by reading on.7" Lord Kames's emphasis on a seemingly insignificant
verbal omission underscores the ways in which a title's individual words
combine to form densely packed verbal formulas that embody cultural
codes and that make specific promises to readers about textual content. Kidgell's remarks reveal the sophisticated aims that the title's contractual functions could now support. By refraining from shedding light on his title (a
title not typical of like fiction of the 1750s, and thus arguably requiring an
explanation), Kidgell teases the audience to generate curiosity. His move
highlights the title's function as a seductive tool as it invites readers to claim
ownership of the title's meaning. Yet the control that Kidgell ostensibly
hands over to readers can be gained only if they read his text.
With the growing importance of the title's ability to execute diverse roles,
these responsibilities in turn placed the title in a double bind of sorts. In The
Adventures of an Author (1767), these pressures on the title to act as both
an authorial assertion and a marketing tool become part of a chapter's plot.
Employing the title as a plot device within the body of the text reinforces
the importance that titles held for authors; this plot simultaneously reveals
to readers the prominent role a title could play in relationships between
authors and their booksellers as each party tries to balance the title's duties.
Having had his work accepted, the author encounters Mr. Folio, the bookseller, on the morrow only to find that the piece is now rejected. Folio explains that his ready acceptance was based solely on the work's name, but
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
after having perused the manuscript, he discov
Upbraiding the author, Folio fumes, ". .. you p
seemed one side of the question, and proved t
palpable fraud-I might have been ruined and n
the trade, published a book without reading
tents.""79 A sly dig at the trade, the bookseller's c
common charges brought against titles when t
fect between readers, authors, and publishers
While the failure of some titles to deliver what th
miscommunication, in other cases the cause w
intentional fraud.
The Title as Imposter and G
Complaints about titles as marketing ploys"new" titles masking recycled works-had exis
Wither and were lodged regularly, well into th
such charges in the sixteenth and first half of th
ally arose from authorial dissatisfaction with p
late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was
titles were increasingly performing hermeneut
this new role did not eradicate marketing abu
authorial interest in titling practices resulted
ships with publishers, in which either party co
The Adventures of an Author, the bookseller, M
having been victimized by the author's use of
"you put a piece into my hand, that seemed o
proved to be on the other."82 Yet in the same b
specifically publishers, for such problems thro
they publish: ". . . had I, like half the trade
reading a single word of the contents."83 Since
marketing tasks, they typically bore the onus
in the eyes of authors and other publishers. Re
that authors assigned titles and thus tended to
The practices of the eighteenth-century pub
Curll, who aroused the ire of authors, publishe
the complexities surrounding these marketpla
share of complaints for titles and title pages
more than they delivered to indulge in intent
prominently printed a phrase such as "by Mr.
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
when it referred to an epig
a new title for a slow-sellin
could also grudgingly ackn
"You [Curll]," says he, "w
of Title-Pages (however li
a Book) as any Man, I me
ers, must have known th
have furnished you with
Multitude of Purchasers
And excel at marketing he
signed for Jane Barker's Ex
Curll reduced his risks in p
mance."86 After presenting
New Romance. in Two Parts
the Instruction of some You
Burney notes how its word
elements of the work." It a
tures of Telemachus, which
McBurney points to the do
from that reference: one of
text of Tld~maque that Cur
selling Barker's work, Curll
ects. Beyond marketing go
readers also enhanced its ro
Barker title, the layers of r
ated her text generally with
and specifically with a book
vernacular version of a classical narrative.
Hostility over titles did not place just authors and publishers in opposition. In some cases authors and publishers found themselves pitted against
a printer's tampering with titles, as this December 1737 letter published in
the Craftsman loudly laments: "[I]f an Author or Bookseller, cannot trust
his Title or his Copy to a Printer, without having it pyrated, it must as
effectually put an End to the Liberty of the Press as any Law for that Purpose."88 Although this letter was responding to printers who appropriated
the titles of newspapers and periodicals, the point that the title signifies an
element of control applies equally to altering the names of individual works,
whether the texts involved are classified as verse, fictional narratives, or
essays. Michael Harris has detailed how printers during the 1730s and
1740s displayed higher levels of independence and played more prominent
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
roles in newspaper production than is often r
claims he offers three cases, all of which tellin
in contests between authors, publishers, and
certain publications.90
I should stress that the duplication, recyclin
words in creating titles for newspapers and in
mon practices and certainly did not always
Often the similarities among titles reflected
bonding, savvy marketing, or any combinatio
the matter of cloning and appropriating title
quences in some situations than others. "Py
Craftsman letter writer uses to describe prin
established titles, and " 'twas a palpable fraud
uses to characterize the author's ironic title in
tures of an Author. Rather than simply signa
contracts generated by these titles, both insta
that titles as actual contractual tools elicit by
concrete legal charges. While the Folio examp
speak more to the breaking of an ethical cont
an author or a publisher and readers, the stig
certain title maneuverings was often justifiedfenses was difficult. For example, when a pri
herself to publish essentially the same newsp
the same title but for different financial backe
Michael Harris reminds us, "had no legal prot
Thus, instead of the ensuing battle being waged
usually fought out their claims by taking adve
by furnishing notices in the "new" or "old" p
the inaugural issue of the Independent London
London Journal being dropt, in a manner very
of the principal Shares; the Publick is obliged w
The Independent London Journalist; which
Character the Title bears."92
Although the title had secured its legal role several decades earlier with
the passage of the 1710 Act, the parties concerned in these and similar title
disputes that occurred through the mid-eighteenth century lacked a legal
recourse. Since the title acted as legal evidence for ownership claims, one
might be puzzled by the newspaper proprietors' inability to take legal action
by claiming a right in their titles. However, much like the title's odd positioning on the border of the text discussed earlier, the title also occupies a
peculiar position in the legal realm. While titles came to serve as the guarantor of texts legally, titles themselves could not-and still cannot-be copy-
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
righted.93 Those seeking leg
intentional misrepresentatio
the printers' appropriation o
guarantor proved ineffectua
ical or newspaper would con
documents. Moreover, ever s
granting legal protection to
refused to accord such prot
this refusal derives from a
Both the frequency with w
tory," "life," and the like ap
(compared to their texts) m
works unrealistic candidates
a dual role as both the text'
acquisition of its modern m
seen, the title also came to
stand-in for its text, but so
text in the marketplace.
The title's assumption of new
seventeenth century and the
of the eighteenth marked a
these developments, especiall
devices with limited descrip
legal, marketing, and aesth
roles as agents of diverse co
timeless givens about titles:
ings, including at least these
of what follows it; (ii) the a
(which means, in fact, a com
title always has a double fun
the title's deictic function,
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
stages of the commercialization of the book.
tion the most was the emergence of the title's
stered by the growing expectation that autho
into its own in England during the long eightee
Although delivered squarely in the context o
comments about titles that open this essay are
gence of the textual title's enunciating funct
that "no title is completely good, unless the r
with the right of property,"98 he unwittingl
changes that textual titles were undergoing at
no title could be "completely good" as an inte
without the belief that titles carried authorial sanction. As the author's
"right of possession" as creator of the text became joined with his or her
acknowledged right to name that text, then the possibilities for fully recon
ciling book and title, and making them aesthetically kin to each other, became a reality. Throughout much of the eighteenth century, the property
rights surrounding textual titles were in flux. Not until 1774, when the
Donaldson v. Becket ruling lead to the enforcement of the 1710 Act of Anne
and the issue of intellectual property came to the forefront, would the author's double right as creator and namer of texts be united with the authorial right of property in his or her intellectual labors. "And when to this
double right the actual possession is also united,.. . then, and then only,"99
could the textual title be completely modern in its contractual functions.
1. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First
Edition of 1765-1769, 4 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 2:13.199.
2. John Dunton, A Voyage Round the World (London: 1691), 2.2.
3. Although the modern sense of the word "publisher" as the party who arranges and
pays for the publication of text was not the term commonly used in the early book trade in
England, I will use it here to indicate the function of arranging and paying for publication. For
a thorough discussion of the difficulties in terminology surrounding "printer," "bookseller,"
and "publisher," see Peter W. M. Blayney's "The Publication of Playbooks," in A New History
of Early English Drama, ed. John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1997), 389-92. When it comes to the issue of titles, this confusion in terminology only becomes more complex. While the "publisher" would most frequently be the on
in control of the name used to usher a work into the world, printers and booksellers (and
sometimes one person would fulfill both roles) could on occasion take charge of the title. In
the case of printers, the wording of the title could fall under the jurisdiction of production
matters. When booksellers decided to move a text that had not been selling well by assignin
a new title page and, thus, often a new title in the process, they too were exercising control of
the text's name.
4. For an introduction to these developments, see Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin,
The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800, trans. David Gerard (London:
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
NLB, 1976); John Feather's A Hi
and his The Provincial Book Trad
University Press, 1985); Marjorie P
ing and Sale of Books, 3d ed. (Lon
Isabel Rivers, Books and Their Rea
tin's, 1982).
5. Statistics are drawn from the
to "The English Book Trade and
6. See Hazard Adams, "Titles, T
Art Criticism 46.1 (Fall 1987): 7-2
of This Book," in "The Friday Bo
nam's Sons, 1984); John Fisher,
Modes (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvar
du titre (The Hague, Paris, and Ne
dock's Eyes': A Note on the Theor
Form, 2d ed. (New Haven: Yale U
ping Names: The Poetics of Titles,
(Spring 1975): 152-67; Laurence Le
ture, ed. Laurence Lerner (Totow
Title as a Literary Genre," Moder
"Titles," Journal of Aesthetics an
"Questions of Entitlement: Some
ed. D. C. Greetham (Ann Arbor:
7. See Jacques Derrida, "TITLE
(1981): 5-22; Theodor Adorno, "A
cholsen, Notes to Literature (Ne
"Structure and Functions of the T
720, and "Titles," in Paratexts: Thr
Culture, Theory 20 (Cambridge: C
and Adorno's remarks could be c
outline of the title's functions from
8. The sole entry for titles in th
to this subject's current status with
suggests promising coverage of th
footnote. John Mulvihill's 1994
Iowa), offers an exception, as does
ford: Stanford University Press, 19
titles. Both Leo H. Hoek's La marqu
furt: Klostermann, 1986) offer boo
translated into English.
9. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan,
3.33.421; my emphasis.
Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell Uni
ture point, many have focused on
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
ownership and strict copyright rules were established (tow
beginning of the nineteenth century)" (124-25) as the moment
Yet Foucault (in his typically slippery treatment of dates) al
function of discourse dates at least to the Middle Ages if no
Roger Chartier rightly points out, his association of this fu
misplaced. See Chartier, The Order of Books, trans. Lydia
University Press, 1994), 30-32.
12. In History of the Book (New York: Scarecrow Pre
passing that by the fifth century "it became a regular practic
of the work as well" (26). Yet Dahl's other remarks strongly su
proper but rather the incipit.
13. D. C. Greetham's caveat about confusing scribal subscr
when dealing with manuscripts is worth noting. As Greetham
information directly related to the text's composition and i
provide information about place and date of copying the
Scholarship (New York: Garland, 1994).
14. Quoted and translated in S. H. Steinberg, Five Hund
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 132.
15. For an overview of these tensions, see James Raven, "
1450-1800," Publishing History 34 (1993): 5-19.
16. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (C
versity Press, 1958), 312.
17. John Feather, English Book Prospectuses (Newton, P
18. Ben Jonson, "To my Bookseller," vol. 8, The Works
Esq. (London: Bickers and Son, 1875), 146.
19. Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, ed. James Sutherland, v
of the Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, 2d ed. (N
1953), 1728A version, 1.35.
20. Alexander Pope, "An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," ed. J
ham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt
sity Press, 1953), 215-16.
21. Dekker, Thomas. A Strange Horse-Race, At the end
pols Masque ... (London: Printed for losep Hunt, and are t
neere Moore-field Gate, 1613), A 3.
22. Elizabeth Eisenstein's assertion that we "need to think
to word' " (38) is worth noting here. This remark forms par
pering impressions that the printing displaced the visual wi
cussing images in a broad sense, her statement that "[a]fter
multiplied, signs and symbols were codified; different kind
communication were rapidly developed" (38) is relevant to m
The emphasis on the visual that many title pages displayed p
iconographic communication. See Eisenstein, The Printing
rope (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
23. See Grabes, The Mutable Glass: Mirror-Imagery in
Ages and English Renaissance, trans. Gordon Collier (1973; C
Press, 1982).
24. Ibid., 38-39. Grabes's statistical compilation reveals that during the Middle Ages speculum ranked third in frequency among book titles after liber and summa (19).
25. In furnishing the historical contexts in which the mirror-metaphor prevailed, Grabes
asserts that this metaphor's dominance "can be explained both by the nature of the prevailing
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
world-view and by the specific n
of conceptualizing that marked t
cations and correspondences" and
of operation than worldviews, M
of the seventeenth centuries: "r
knowledge of things visible and
See Foucault, The Order of Thing
Vintage, 1971), chap. 2. Grabes, h
26. Foucault, The Order of Things, 39.
27. Frederick G. Kilgour, The Evolution of the Book (New York: Oxf
1998), 85-86.
28. Indeed, Grabes provides many reproductions of mirror-title page
inclusion was not just decorative but rather demonstrated the close re
verbal and the iconographic (9).
29. By the eighteenth century the ornate borders and pictorials on
way to vignettes, that is, small design ornaments; the layout and present
had clearly become a decided concern; and even the number and len
typical title pages had decreased. This does not mean that the visual
Rather, and this is part of my point, the textual was extracted from
the visual and set forth in its own right. Illustrations and frontispieces s
components to texts that clearly embraced the visual, but their presence
accoutrements to the textual and not equal partners in the communica
30. Foucault, The Order of Things, 43.
31. Exactly who assigned a particular title is still hard to determine du
authorial complaints, the fact that a single text could bear different t
printed it, and other evidence suggest that the bookseller/printer most o
course, authors who also possessed exclusive rights to print their wor
moot issue. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it was gen
author owned his or her manuscript and that the printer/bookseller had
permission to print before doing so. However, once the author had re
script, he or she also relinquished any say over the text.
32. Wither, Miscellaneous Works of George Wither, vol. 1 (The
1872; New York: Burt Franklin, 1967), 121-22; my emphasis. All futur
will appear parenthetically in the text.
33. The Scholars Purgatory was "IMPRINTED For the Honest Station
34. As Peter W. M. Blayney asserts, "Neither the author of a text n
paper on which it was written had the right to publish, so neither of
that right" ("Playbooks," 394). Blayney is working on what will no do
tive work about the Stationers' Company in the early modern period
den, The Stationers' Company: A History, 1403-1959 (Cambridge, Mas
Press, 1960), esp. 31-33; Feather, A History of British Publishing, 29-
Piracy, and Copyright (London: Mansell, 1994), 10-36; and Mark Ro
ers: The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Universi
35. Blayney, 403. For a thorough explanation of the terms "auth
"entrance," the changes in their usage during the early modern period
erroneous assumptions that have arisen due to misunderstandings surrou
pp. 396-405.
36. Ferry credits Jonson with being the first English poet to exercise
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
name his poems and thus stake claim to his titles (Title to th
she distinguishes as having "been exceptionally prominent in
of titling in English," all, save Jonson, belong to the nineteent
37. Ferry, The Title to the Poem, 43. A look at Jonson's ti
habit of employing the nominative case, tempers somewhat
author's attitudes. Rose rightly remarks that Jonson's conce
"had to do principally with the integrity of his texts and with
(Authors and Owners, 27). As Rose reminds us, Jonson wa
Stuart court and promoted the idea of the absolutist state. Yet
"my,". "mine," and the like in his titles suggests that he coul
conception of the individual as essentially independent and cr
that his allegiance to the absolutist court rules out this poss
opposition to Milton, "the autonomous private man" (28). No
Pensees about an author's use of first-person personal pronou
'My commentary,' 'My history,' etc. resemble those bourgeo
are always saying 'chez moi'-'qui ont pignon sur rue, et touj
See Les Pensees de Pascal, ed. Francis Kaplan (Paris, 1982),
"The Trade of Authorship in Eighteenth-Century Britain,"
ety, ed. Nicolas Barker (London: British Library, 1993), 129.
or situation-that is, Jonson's affiliation with the Stuart court
sense of artistic independence-a look at his titling practic
yes, contradictory view of Jonson's sense of himself as author
38. A more extended study of authorship through the lens
in serious challenges to those who see the roots of the prop
dating from the eighteenth century. Along these lines, Cyn
colophons to uncover one early sixteenth-century French aut
with his publishers. See Brown, "The Interaction between Au
Colophons of Early French Imprints," Soundings 23.29 (19
39. As William Roberts explains in his The Earlier Histor
Detroit: Gale Research, 1967), late sixteenth-century bookse
title-pages, ... The great aim, of course, was to obtain an att
often than not was half the battle towards selling out an ed
immediate or remote reference to the subject-matter does n
material,-or in fact whether it had reference to anything at
40. See Cyndia Clegg, Press Censorship in Elizabethan E
University Press, 1997); Shelia Lambert, "State Control of th
The Role of the Stationers' Company before 1640," Censor
England and France, 1600-1910, ed. Robin Myers and Mich
Bibliographies, 1992), 1-32; Annabel Patterson, Censorship
tions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (M
Press, 1984); Elizabeth Skerpan, The Rhetoric of Politics in
1660 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992); and Nig
tion in England, 1640-1660 (New Haven: Yale University Pr
41. Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation, 17. Elizabeth
terson's notion of this social contract in her arguments for
during the English Revolution.
42. Both the 1637 Star Chamber Decree for the Regulating
Act of 1662 mention the need for the textual title to be lawful
but they both do so in the same breath as epistles, prefaces,
and dedications. That is, they lump textual titles with other
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
labels and as its stand-in.
43. Shelia Lambert has demonstrated how erroneous it is to view the Stationers' Company
as an extended arm of state censorship during the years leading up to the Civil War and has
also shown the care that must be taken in making claims for extensive censorship.
44. Veylit, "A Statistical Survey and Evaluation of the Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Cat-
alog" (Ph.D. diss., University of California Riverside, 1994; Ann Arbor: UMI, 1994), 174 n.
45. Tellingly, in discussing the phenomenon of lengthy descriptive titles, Gerard Genette
relies exclusively on English examples, primarily the titles of Defoe's works, and supplies no
examples of such titles written in his native French tongue.
On a different note, James McLaverty has also speculated that "a long title was advantageous as more adequately defining the book" in terms of registering it as property in the
Stationers' Registers ("Questions of Entitlement," 178). Although many works were not registered early on, even a quick glance over the eighteenth-century titles in the Stationers' Registers
will confirm that full titles were recorded, thus bolstering McLaverty's hypothesis.
46. Veylit, "A Statistical Survey and Evaluation of the Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Cat-
alog," 174 n. 15.
47. Samuel Richardson, The Correspondence of Samuel Richardson, 6 vols., ed. Anna
Laetitia Barbauld (London: printed for Richard Phillips, 1804), 1.122.
48. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 2 vols., ed. Alexander Campbell
Fraser (New York: Dover, 1959), 2:143.
49. Ran: Jones[?], "To his honoured Uncle, on his Poem, call'd Money Masters all things,"
Money Does Master All Things (York: printed by John White, for the author, and sold by Tho:
Baxter bookseller in Peter Gate, 1696), lines 1-4, 11-14.
50. Feather, A History of British Publishing, 57.
51. Kirkman, The Unlucky Citizen (London: Printed by Anne Johnson, 1674), 1-2.
52. Ibid., 196.
53. Harry Ransom's enduring monograph, The First Copyright Statute: An Essay on An
Act for the Encouragement of Learning, 1710 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1956), treats
the historical roots leading up to the specifics of the 1710 Statute. Lyman Ray Patterson's
Copyright in Historical Perspective (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968) examines
the roots of Anglo-American copyright laws, including early government control in England,
from the stance of a legal historian. The 1980s witnessed a spate of work on copyright fashioned outside the domain of traditional legal studies. Martha Woodmansee initiated this discussion with her essay "The Genius and the Copyright: Economic and Legal Conditions of the
Emergence of the 'Author,' " Eighteenth-Century Studies 17 (1984): 425-48. Her work was
followed by Mark Rose's "The Author as Proprietor: Donaldson v. Becket and the Genealogy
of Modern Authorship," Representations 23 (1988): 51-85, and his Authors and Owners: The
Invention of Copyright. Although he is sometimes guilty of errors, John Feather has written the
most about copyright's history in recent years. See "The Book Trade in Politics: The Making
of the Copyright Act of 1710," Publishing History 8 (1980): 19-44; "The Publishers and the
Pirates: British Copyright Law in Theory and Practice, 1710-1775," Publishing History 22
(1987): 5-32; A History of British Publishing; and Publishing, Piracy, and Copyright.
54. The word "copyright" is actually never used in either the Act's title, An Act for the
Encouragement of Learning by vesting the Copies of printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies during the Times therein mentioned, or its text. However, for ease of reference and following tradition, I will refer to this act by this shorthand. For a discussion of the
word's origins and early use, see Donald W. Nichol's "On the Use of 'Copy' and 'Copyright':
A Scriblerian Coinage?" Library, sixth series, 12.2 (June 1990): 110-20. While Nichol found
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
early eighteenth-century appearances of variations of the
"copyright" in relation to intellectual property would not tru
55. The Statutes of the Realm Printed by Command of hi
in Pursuance of an Address of the House of Commons of G
New York: William S. Hein & Co., 1993), 9:256; my emph
of the statute, this act is cited as "Act 8 Anne c. 19." In the C
(1984), the current official register of English (and, after var
utes, "c. 21" is given.
56. As Mark Rose notes, "The passage of the statute m
from censorship and the reestablishment of copyright under
regulation" (Authors and Owners, 48).
57. Bearing the title "An Act for the Encouragement of L
printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copie
tioned," the act arguably addressed, at a very elementary leve
authors, readers, and publishers. Yet although it called atte
notion that an author had property in his or her text was no
the needs of readers in its claims for the "Encouragement of
able book pricing, the publishers dominated this legislation
act would eventually dismantle what the publishers who p
secure-perpetual rights to copies.
58. As P. M. Handover asserts, "The most discerning p
sixteenth century] recognized that it would be more advant
to a class of books rather than to individual titles. Thus, R
John Day the ABC and Catechism, William Seres all books o
were the books that brought in the profits. They were also
pirated" (27). See Handover, Printing in London from 14
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).
59. Tellingly, many of the cases put before the Privy Co
rights to copies during the late 1570s and 1580s involved p
Latin grammars-all classes of books--while the most fre
cases leading up to and including Donaldson v. Becket all in
60. Bronson, Printing as an Index of Taste in Eighteen
New York Public Library, 1958), 20.
61. Indeed, in reading this collection's physical detail alo
and responses to his detractors, Vincent Carretta justifiably f
for professing Pope's involvement in such matters as titling
ages Reflect from Art to Art': Alexander Pope's Collected W
Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections,
versity of North Carolina Press, 1986), especially 195-96.
62. There were earlier examples of such collaborations or
Nashe's second edition of Pierce Penilesse is a letter in whi
shorten the title, complaining that it was too long in the f
complied: the second edition bears a shorter title.
63. See Rodney Baine, "The Evidence from Defoe's Title
25 (1972): 185-91.
64. As Anne Ferry rightly notes, "Toward the end of the
cording to kind began to sort out these confusions [that is
and about the audience's familiarity with formal generic cl
the preferred style of presentation" (Title to the Poem, 142).
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
1:50. Anne Ferry discusses Dryden's
Mirabilis," Ferry provides an astute
about his decision to designate it an
modest generic claim from accusatio
charges of ineptitude for failing to
66. Richardson, Correspondence,
67. Hill had completed this poe
An Heroick Poem" as one of two
Account of the Lives and Writings
York: Garland, 1970), 298. Note th
Jacob's work was issued in 1720, fou
of the poem was finished, we have n
whether Hill at this juncture was c
reception, Theophilus Cibber note
ers' "; see The Lives of the Poets of
Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968), 5:261
69. Ibid., 367.
70. Ibid., 366, 367.
71. Ibid., 367 nn. 2, 4.
72. See James Tierney's synopsis of the situation as well as his bibliographical suggestions
for further information in ibid., 368 n. 7.
73. Richardson, Correspondence, 3:85.
74. Vol. 27 (June 1769): 471.
75. Vol. 1 (February 1735): 144.
76. Vol. 8 (April 1753): 311.
77. Henry Home, Lord Kames' Elements of Criticism (1762; Anglistica & Americana.
Hildesheim and New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 1970), 17.
78. John Kidgell, The Card, 2 vols. (London, 1755; New York: Garland, 1974), 1:viii-ix.
79. Adventures of an Author (London, 1767; New York: Garland, 1974), 1:66-67.
80. Later in this novel, when the narration slips back to first person after a long interval in
third, the narrator turns to the volume's own title to solve the dilemma of who is speaking. Yet
the title he cites-"The Adventures of an Author. Written by Himself"-lacks the "and a
Friend" tag that appears on the title page. Ironically neither the incomplete title nor the full
title printed at the start of each volume would necessarily settle the perplexity surrounding
who is narrating.
81. Depending on the state of arrangements, authors could abandon one publisher for
another if their desires were not being met-just as they do today. When Barbara Graham
selected "Women Who Run with the Poodles" as her title (a play upon Clarissa Pinkola Estes's
title Women Who Run with the Wolves), word spread among others in the industry before her
work was published. Beset by a flurry of negative reaction and indignation, HarperSan Francisco, Graham's publisher at the time, urged her to change the name. Rather than alter her
title, Graham switched publishers, and Avon issued the work under the author's desired title
("Wolf Pack," New York Times Magazine, 19 June 1994, 13).
82. Adventures of an Author, 1.66.
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to
83. Ibid., 1.66-67.
84. Ralph Strauss, The Unspeakable Curll (London: Ch
85. J. H., Remarks on Squire Ayre's Memoirs (n.p.), quot
86. McBurney, "Edmund Curll, Mrs. Jane Barker, and
Quarterly 37.4 (October 1958): 387.
87. Ibid., 388.
88. Letter, Craftsman (3 December 1737), 595.
89. Michael Harris, London Newspapers in the Age of
Associated University Presses, 1987), 82.
90. Harris, 86-88.
91. Ibid., 88.
92. Independent London Journalist 1 (19 July 1735), quoted in Harris, 86.
93. Although it was published almost half a century ago, Harry Ransom's article "Ownership of Literary Titles" (University of Texas Studies in English, 31 [1952]: 125-35) furnishes
a still-useful overview of the legal reasoning used against copyrighting titles from the eighteenth century through the twentieth. I am grateful to Simon Stern for bringing this article to
my attention.
94. In The Marketing of Literary Property (London: Constable & Constable, 1933), Herbert Thring explains that one could use copyright law to protect the invasion of one's literary
property if the invasion occurred because of the printing of an unauthorized edition, the importing or selling of a foreign one, or the appropriation of another's labor. Yet if one wished
to pursue someone selling one's work under the title or name of another, one would turn to
Common Law and the statutes governing fraud and fair trade (200-205).
95. As Thring clarifies, copyright law was not applicable because recourse was not based
on the registration of the title or its treatment as an invention, but rather in the title's use.
Laws governing fraud, on the other hand, would apply since one could receive satisfaction if
one could prove that the same title was used to pass off another text as the first work (205).
96. In "Ownership of Literary Titles," Ransom elaborates on these points (127-29), noting how similarities (and even exact matches) in authorial names meant that "possibilities of
conflict in name-and-title combinations were big" (127). How might one tell the difference
between "The Works of Samuel Johnson" and "The Works of Sam Johnson" or "The Works
of Samuel Johnson," when only the first was written by the Johnson? Legally even these combinations could not be copyrighted. Such leeway clearly suited the tactics of a Curll. Legal prob-
lems due to such duplication, as Ransom explains, have been kept in check by distances in
time between writers, contrasts in choices of genre and general writing careers, and the basic
"good will" of authors (127-28 n. 3).
97. Roland Barthes, "Textual Analysis of Poe's 'Valdemar,' " in Untying the Text: A PostStructuralist Reader, ed. Robert Young (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), 138-39.
98. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 2:13.199.
99. Ibid.
This content downloaded from on Tue, 16 Jun 2020 12:02:40 UTC
All use subject to