Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doodling in a Copy of Guarini's "Il Pastor Fido"

frontispiece and title page
Battista Guarini, Il Pastor Fido=The Faithful Shepherd: a pastorall / written in Italian by Baptista Gvarini, a knight of Italie ; and now newly translated out of the originall. 
London : Printed by R. Raworth, M DC XLVII [1647].
[12], 223 p. : ill., port. ; 20 cm.
Translated by Richard Fanshawe.

Renaissance Center copy is in later (18th-century?; a signature dated 1660 is partially trimmed) calf (rebacked; inner hinges cracked; all before B2 and 2F2-4 detached; some worm damage to outer margins, which occurred before the current binding); extensive scribblings on several leaves at front and at back, including drawings and names, presumably of owners: John Penrose (title page; dated both 1647 and 1660); Bernard Penrose (2F4v; dated 1704; and on V3v and X4v, undated); Thomas Penrose (front free endpaper; and V1v, dated 1701; and 2F4v, dated 1708); Francis Penrose ((a)2v, undated; and as "Frank Penrose" on M2r, undated); Edward Penrose (F3r and 2F4v; undated); Margarett Penrose, James Lake, and Robert Olivier (all 2F4v, undated); John James Sampson (2E4v; undated). 
Although a number of my posts on early modern manuscript annotation characterize the practice as a serious affair, practiced by diligent scholars or readers deeply invested in their reading material, one can't ignore the frivolous act of doodling as one of the most common forms of book annotation. Children and bored students (both in the early modern and modern periods) frequently doodled in the blank leaves of their books, both as a form of writing practice ("pen trials") and no doubt to alleviate the boredom of tedious classroom lessons.

The subject of this post is the most copiously doodled book in our collection, a 1647 English translation of Guarini's Il Pastor Fido. The play is well known as one of the first tragicomedies ever written and its author's writings on the genre influenced a number of early seventeenth-century English playwrights. Beaumont and Fletcher's plays Philaster and The Faithful Shepherdess are both indebted to Guarini's experimentation with tragicomedy.

But this post isn't about tragicomedy, it's about doodling, copious doodling. This particular copy's title page and frontispiece (in addition to the blank recto of the frontispiece leaf) bear a complex layering of pen trials, drawings, tracings, signatures, and sums, stemming from the ownership of nine different people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (many of them from the Penrose family).

 Let's begin with the frontispiece leaf:

recto of frontispiece leaf
Perhaps the most obvious items of note on this page are the amateurish drawings, one of which is clearly a tracing of the frontispiece on the other side of the leaf. Probably in imitation of the fairly decent tracing job, a second would-be artist (undoubtedly a child) has added a second rendition of Guarini's face, upon which a third illustrated figure leans. A number of pen trials and other forms of handwriting practice litter the page, including the strange, owl-like forms in the bottom left-hand corner, clearly intended to train writing students in the formation of specific pen strokes. The page also contains (in no particular order) sums, transcriptions of the book's title, an armorial drawing, the initials of Baptista Guarini, and a line from an unidentified text.

Of course the frontispiece itself supplied the image for the tracing, and in its margin another annotator has drawn a couple fairly accurate human heads.

detail of margin on frontispiece leaf: drawings of heads
The title page contains a number of different sorts of doodles, including many items seen on the reverse page (a transcription of the book's title and another armorial drawing, for instance). The amateur drawing also continues with several images of birds and wings, apparently drawn by the same person responsible for the human figure on the reverse side of the leaf. One of the title page annotators has copied "London" from the book's imprint, writing it in both English and Latin. Another has written a number of early capital "block" letters (several "B"s, and "E," and an "H").

title page
There are also plenty of signatures on the title page and elsewhere in the book, identifying a total of nine different owners or readers from various time periods. One of the most interesting ownership marks elects not to use the typical signature for self-identification, but instead the rebus, that strange admixture of words, letters, and images we usually associate with children's literature.

detail of ownership rebus

As part of the witty, playful, and sometimes secretive literary culture of the day, writers could adopt the rebus as a way not only to mask their identities, but also to playfully incorporate text and image into the presentation of their names. If you haven't already figured it out, this rebus reads "T [Pen] [Rose]," or Thomas Penrose, one of the many owners identified elsewhere in the book. The rebus incorporates the Tudor Rose into an interesting amalgam of local (the Penrose family) and national identity, and I suspect its form was passed down through the family for some time. The illustration of the pen drawing the rose, albeit clearly appropriate for someone named "Penrose," is also interesting in light of the many drawings and pen marks displayed in this book, since it depicts the very material processes responsible for the doodling. Along with my earlier post on children's annotation, this example clearly demonstrates a relationship between the book and reader based less on serious intellectual engagement than on casual and playful interaction with a material object.

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