in Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender (1579)
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Recontextualizing Spenser’s 1579 Shepheardes Calender according to book history, the author analyzes its characteristics as a material text. The circumstances of its publication and of the stationer involved, Hugh Singleton, indicate that it was probably subsidized by the Earl of Leicester. The book’s complex design was deeply innovative, and the poet himself appears to have conceived its most unusual features, including its incorporation of a newly devised illustrative program and a commentary, both atypical for a first edition of imaginative fiction or poetry. His Calender samples and reinterprets diverse literary and nonliterary forms and discourses, ranging from humanist eclogues and emblem books to various calendars and popular almanacs, as well as their norms of print. The bibliographical format, paper, typography, and decoration, and the choice, arrangement, and sequence of the various textual parts recall English and continental precedents for printing eclogues and other kinds of books, as well as commentaries, and yet the book introduces various important changes. The twelve original woodcuts were probably devised according to Spenser’s own designs, and the author reveals elaborate symbolism in several selected pictures to show that the 1579 Calender’s illustrations profoundly interact with its poetry. Shedding much new light on its genesis and contents, including its poetics, politics, and satire of the queen’s prospective marriage to the duc d’Anjou, this comprehensive inquiry into the Calender’s first materialization as a book provides invaluable means to advance knowledge of Spenser’s first major poem, his poetic development, and his early reception.

Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calender (1579)

An analyzed facsimile edition

Editor: Kenneth Borris


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