Waste, offcuts, remains, reuse: or, what is the history of books in pieces?

Anna Christina Reynolds

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Using Robert Darnton’s influential communications circuit as its model, this chapter tells the history of the early modern book in pieces. It outlines how waste paper was produced and used in the print shop, bookshop, and bindery, as well as more generally in the urban and domestic environment. It uses Thomas Urquhart’s Ekskybalauron (1652) as a case study: by attending to the textual genealogy told within its prefatory pages alongside the waste that we encounter, if we look for it, in Darnton’s circuit, we uncover additional dimensions in the history of the book. Building on recent scholarship on the mutability of early modern texts, we find a messy, multi-temporal, and non-linear history of loose sheets, bound books, and fragments. These books, book parts, and offshoots of books are central to both the material and imaginative lives of texts, and so shaped the literary culture of the period.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook to the history of the book in early modern England
EditorsAdam Smyth
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780191881336
ISBN (Print)9780198846239
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2023


  • Waste paper
  • Fragments
  • Manuscripts
  • Print trade
  • Paper trade
  • Bookbinding
  • Thomas Urquhart
  • Robert Darnton


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