Visualizing the Instability of Early Modern Normative Knowledge
Instability was a typical feature of early modern printed books. In the early decades of print, a book was not considered an accomplished and definitive work. Once published, early modern books were rethought and reorganized several times, and this instability was not only dependent on the author’s intention but also on external reasons related to the printer’s technical and economic needs.
The same held true for legal books. But how did this instability affect normative knowledge? What effects did the transformations of texts related to the printing press have on legal thought?
Working with the Manual for Confessors by Martin de Azpilcueta, these are but a few of the questions the project aims to address. The book had a great impact on normativity both in the old and in the new world. It had an incredible number of editions and translations during the author’s life, and many of them were viewed as opportunities for rethinking, updating, reorganizing, and managing the legal knowledge within the book in a new way. What historiography has up till now considered “the” Manual was in fact comprised of many different Manuals: the erudite 1573 large in quarto Latin edition was very different from the first small 1549 in 8° Portuguese edition.
The project will provide a searchable text of the main editions of the Manual as well as a synoptic overview. The starting point will be the parallel view of the four editions that underwent the most important changes: the two first Portuguese editions: Coimbra, 1549; Coimbra, 1552; the Spanish edition printed in Salamanca, 1556; and the Latin edition published in Rome, 1573. The project aims to visualize the differences between the editions, thus showing how the text changed from edition to edition and from language to language, in the “self-translation” process (Azpicueta himself translated the text into Spanish and Latin) that characterized the editorial history of the book.
We will be providing both the full text, encoded in XML TEI, and high resolution images in order to allow the user to get a sense for the materiality of the pages, checking the transformations of the media from one edition to another, and looking specifically at those material aspects (like typographic signs, indexes, summaries, use of marginal notes) that helped 16th-century readers access the text, while at the same time, making him aware of the differences between the editions.