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Title: Writing and rewriting Henry Hills, printer (c. 1625-1688/9)
Author: Durrant, Michael William
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 0323
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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In recent years a number of important studies have emerged that focus on the lives of the human agents who operated in the early-modern book trade. This marks a scholarly shift away from the technologies of book production towards the figures who operated, profited from, and helped to shape, print technologies and their related products. In this critical movement the identities of printers, publishers, and booksellers have come to matter, both in terms of our understanding of what constitutes ‘print culture,’ and in efforts to narrativise the history of the book. However, although scholars have become increasingly familiar with a critical vocabulary that links early-modern print with textual transience, and the archive with paradigms associated with absence, disputation, and authenticity, biographies related to the lives of book-trade professionals have tended to privilege the representational stability of the documentary evidence we use to reconstruct past lives. This thesis aims to address this critical vacuum by analysing the life and career of one highly controversial, although critically neglected, 17th-century printer, Henry Hills (c. 1625-1688/9). By drawing together methodologies associated with bibliography, the history of the book, and the study of literatures, the thesis seeks to self-reflexively respond to the absences, doublings, missing or fabricated texts, revisions, accretions, and amendments that seem to mark, and have come to shape, the story of Hills’ life. Theories and approaches associated with the materiality of early-modern lives, critical biography, and the archive are used to fully explore the way Hills functioned both in his own time and after as a metonymic figure who has been actively written and rewritten with different historically specific agendas in mind. Ideas of elusiveness, how his contemporaries struggled to represent Hills, and the problem of locating him in the documentary evidence, are also investigated. In the process this thesis casts new light not only on Hills but on the 17th-century printing trade and the printer as a cultural emblem, 17th-century history and culture, and the way we research lives in the early modern period. Each of the chapters of this thesis discusses archival sources that critical biography and bibliography have traditionally looked to for biographical details of Hills’ life. These include a Particular Baptist confession-cum-conversion account entitled The Prodigal Returned, said to have been composed by Hills in 1651 while he served a prison sentence in the Fleet for adultery. I also discuss three accounts of Hills’ high-profile conversion to Catholicism in the mid-1680s, which were authored between 1684 and 1733. The thesis provides a detailed analysis of a conspiracy story, first published in 1697, which posthumously cast Hills as a key player in a bibliographical scandal that is said to have taken place in 1649. I also pay close attention to Hills’ last will and testament, a document that spawned a number of very public legal contestations amongst members of the Hills family. Through a close, historicised reading of these materials, this thesis adds new discussions of the way in which Hills was read and contested by his contemporaries, later historians, and bibliographers, and throughout I retain a sense of the highly mediated nature of the evidence we use to reconstruct Hills biographically, while stressing his importance in the cultural imagination of the period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early Modern ; Autobiographical studies ; Biography ; Print culture ; Archive ; Particular Baptist ; Catholicism ; Textual lives