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Introduction

Introduction

English version
Sylvie Mikowski
p. 1

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1The History of the Book is a rapidly developing area of study, which brings together several branches of the humanities, such as history, cultural history, sociology, literary theory and bibliology. Thanks to the study of the modes of production and of distribution of books, and that of the evolution of readership and of modes of reading, the History of the Book introduces a brand new approach to the interpretation of texts. Several national « Histories of the Book » are in the process of being completed, following the example of Roger Chartier’s Histoire de l’édition française. There are now numerous Centres for the study of books, among which we can mention the Institut d’Histoire du Livre in Lyons and the Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies at the University of London. The University of Ulster and the National University of Ireland in Galway have also launched their own projects on the History of the Irish Book. The Oxford History of the Irish Book, to which several of the authors in the present volume have contributed, is due to be released very soon. The History of the Irish Book as such raises numerous fascinating questions, considering for instance the major role played by Irish monks in the creation and the spreading throughout Western Europe of manuscripts containing the basic texts of classic as well as of Christian culture.  It is thanks to the expertise and the efforts of Irish scribes that these invaluable texts have come down to us. Over the centuries, the different waves of invasion and colonisation of Ireland not only put an end to that golden age but also threatened the survival of a culture which remained vigorous in a predominantly oral form. Yet one must not underestimate the importance of popular print culture in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, nor of course the energy of the Celtic Revival at the end of the nineteenth century. The latter event raises its own questions, such as the compromises faced by Irish writers determined to publish their works at a time when most of the means of production and distribution of books were in the hands of the English coloniser. The ensuing birth of the Irish State created new conditions for book-publishing, a crucial aspect of which was censorship; but one must also take into account the boom in the Irish publishing industry in the 1970s.

2This issue of LISA e-journal includes most of the papers given at a conference organised in May 2004 in Troyes, the hometown of the famous 17th century Bibliothèque Bleue, which inspired one of the contributors to draw interesting parallels between France and Ireland. The articles gathered here cover the wide range of issues embraced by the History of the Book, from a historical point of view — since the periods tackled range from the seventeenth to the twentieth century — as well as from a thematic one. Three contributions trace the itinerary of individual texts. Charles Dillon thus records the history of the translation of St François de Sales’ Introduction à la vie dévote into Gaelic, which helped the Irish Catholics to fight the growing influence of the Reformed Church, but also broadened the spectrum of the Irish language, due to the need to find accurate wordings to render de Sales’ text. Taura Napier shows how an unpublished manuscript written by Lady Gregory contained the seeds of her future work but also announced the preoccupations of the Celtic Revival as a whole. Emily Ussher’s half-forgotten The Trail of the Black & Tans, an Irish Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is revealing of the Anglo-Irish community’s difficult stance at the time of the struggle for independence, caught up as they were between the defence of their own interests, those of the Nationalists and those of the British, a situation reflected by Anglo-Irish authors’ tense relations with their British publishers at the time. Another important branch of the History of the Book is the History of reading, here brilliantly exemplified by Máire Kennedy’s vivid evocation of Irish people’s reading habits in the eighteenth century; this analysis is completed by Niáll O’Ciossáin who deals with popular literature at the same period, with a particular emphasis on the almanac, the basis of a comparison between France and Ireland. The articles by Claire Reniero, Elizabeth Tilley and Kevin Molloy, each illustrate a different aspect of the History of the Book, whether it be the history of children’s books, that of periodicals, or that of colonial literature. Finally, Mathew Staunton’s examination of the use of Gaelic print-types should be considered in the light of Roger Chartier’s statement that “writers do not write books: they compose texts which subsequently become copied, typed, carved, printed, and today, computerized, artefacts.”

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Sylvie Mikowski, « Introduction », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. III - n°1 | 2005, 1.

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Sylvie Mikowski, « Introduction », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. III - n°1 | 2005, mis en ligne le 27 octobre 2009, consulté le 01 octobre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/2438

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Sylvie Mikowski

Professor(Rheims, France)

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Les contenus de la Revue LISA / LISA e-journal sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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