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"Libraries," wrote Francis Bacon in 1605, "are as the shrines, where all the reliques of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved, and reposed." But in Jennifer Summit's account, libraries are more than inert storehouses of written tradition; they are volatile spaces that actively shaped the meanings and uses of books, reading, and the past. Considering the two-hundred-year period between 1431, which saw the foundation of Duke Humfrey's famous library, and 1631, when the great antiquarian Sir Robert Cotton died, "Memory's Library" revises the history of the modern library by focusing on its origins in medieval and early modern England.Summit argues that the medieval sources that survive in English collections are the product of a Reformation and post-Reformation struggle to redefine the past by redefining the cultural place, function, and identity of libraries. By establishing the intellectual dynamism of English libraries during this crucial period of their development, "Memory's Library" demonstrates how much current discussions about the future of libraries can gain by reexamining their past.
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About the Author

Jennifer Summit is professor of English at Stanford University. She is the author of Lost Property: The Woman Writer and English Literary History, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Reviews

"An original work that will repay careful study, both by library historians and by literary scholars, and it should provoke thoughtful consideration of the significance and meaning of libraries today." (Times Higher Education) "A stimulating and rewarding book, well calculated to make us rethink many aspects of the history of late medieval and early modern libraries." (American Historical Review)"

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