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Title: The sound of books - books, book publishing and cultural connectivity in classical Rome
Author: Winsbury, Rex
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 6718
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis examines the Roman book, its materials and manufacture, the process of composition, how it was 'published' and distributed, the role of a literary text in an oral society, and how the book contributed both to the selfself- justification of the ruling elite and to popular culture. It rejects the traditional picture of how 'publishing' took place in the period 80 BCE to 120 CE, the period of greatest Latin literary productivity, and substitutes a different picture, based on the literary evidence, of what a Roman author did to gain recognition. The roles of alleged 'publishers', bookshops and libraries are discussed. Also discussed are the pros and cons of materials (papyrus versus parchment or paper), format (Roman scroll versus codex) and presentation of text (without punctuation or word spaces). The thesis argues that retention or adoption of papyrus, the scroll and the 'river of letters' was neither conservative nor retrograde, but derived from the social circumstances and types of use of the Roman book. The contribution of slaves as the 'enabling infrastructure' of Roman literary life is emphasised. As a physical object, the Roman book is recognised as having a range of functions - cultural icon, elegant prestige symbol, item in a gift-exchange culture, memento to the author's life. The text itself is defined as an 'enabling device' which, like a music score, is both a record of some past oral performance or reading-aloud, and a means to generate future oral performances, whether private readings (probably aloud), after-dinner entertainments, theatrical performances, or adaptations as libretti for the Roman dance theatre (the 'pantomime'). The hazards that faced a Roman book and its author are discussed, ranging from bookworms and fire to imperial book-burning and treason. The thesis concludes that the Roman book was both a product of, and contributor to, Rome's elite culture, and a product of, and contributor to, the common fund of references and stories that helped to define for all classes what 'being Roman' meant as part of their 'Romanitas'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available