Am reading in Jennifer Summit’s ‘Memory’s Library’ how early modern English book-collecting and library-building were driven more by politics than by antiquarian interest. The manuscripts’ ‘worthiness of preservation’ depended on their ability to advance different political causes. That would explain why so few manuscripts which survived the 16th century tidal waves of biblioclasm were discarded by their temporary saviours for not falling into the right categories. It seems to me that Summit’s leading argument, so far quite compelling, is that 16th-century taxonomical developments created the ‘Middle Ages’ as a significant concept in historiography and an object of study. Equally interesting are the author’s insights into how libraries, not only as physical spaces but as an an abstract concept and metaphor developed during the 16th and 17th centuries.
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