Producing Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' in the Early Modern Low Countries

Paratexts, Publishers, Editors, Readers


Author: John Tholen
Printers in the early modern Low Countries produced no fewer than 152 editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. John Tholen investigates what these editions can tell us about the early modern application of the popular ancient text. Analysis of paratexts shows, for example, how editors and commentators guide readers to Ovid’s potentially subversive contents. Paratextual infrastructures intended to create commercial credibility, but simultaneously were a response to criticism of reading the Metamorphoses. This book combines two often separated fields of research: book history and reception studies. It provides a compelling case study of how investigation into the material contexts of ancient texts sheds new light on early modern receptions of antiquity.

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John Tholen studied Classics and Book History, and obtained a Ph.D. degree at Utrecht University (2019) for his research on early modern Ovidian paratexts. He currently works as Curator of Special Collections at Rotterdam Public Library.
List of Figures

Introduction: Early Modern Paratexts to Ovid’s Metamorphoses
 1 The Material Text
 2 Material Reception
 3 Printing Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the Low Countries
 4 Research Corpus
 5 Analytical Approach and Structure of This Book

1 The Title Page: Creating Commercial Credibility
 1 The Commercial Value of the Early Modern Title Page
 2 Textual and Visual Self-Representation
 3 The Textual and Visual Presentation of the Edition
 4 Conclusions

2 The Front Matter: Responses to Criticism of Ovid
 1 Paratextual Functions of the Preface and Dedication
 2 Countering Criticism of the Metamorphoses
 3 Framing an Intended Reader
 4 Authorisation by Ovid
 5 Conclusions

3 The Commentary: Negotiating Ovid’s Dangerous Side
 1 The Commentary Tradition
 2 Four Domains of Interpretation
 3 Negotiating Obscenity
 4 Conclusions

4 The Index: A Filtering and Framing Device
 1 Book Producers’ Special Interest in the Index
 2 Access through Filtering and Framing
 3 Conclusions

5 Paratextual Interaction: Two Case Studies
 1 Combining Divergent Reading Contexts
 2 The Metamorphoses as a Dutch Poem (Amsterdam 1671)
 3 Conclusions

 1 Innovation and Tradition
 2 The Lack of Paratextual Guidance
 3 The Actual Reader

Appendix 1: Bibliography of Editions of Ovid’s Metamorphoses Printed in the Low Countries (1479–1700)

Appendix 2: List of Library Abbreviations
All interested in book history, reception of antiquity, history of reading, and cultural history of the early modern period, and anyone with a particular interest in Ovid’s Metamorphoses or paratext.