As first published in 1579, Spenser’s verbal-visual Shepheardes Calender is a most extraordinary early modern book, and its particular characteristics have major interpretive importance. This present volume freshly reassesses that first edition as a material text in relation to previous book history, and provides the first clearly detailed facsimile reproduction of it available as a book. Almost all previous surrogates for the 1579 Calender, whether disseminated as printed books, in microfilm, or online, as well as the reproductions of its twelve woodcuts typically included in modern editions, lack sufficient clarity to represent the original book reliably. This problem has especially impaired understanding of the Calender’s pictures, each of which was designed to complement one of Spenser’s twelve eclogues. In this way and others, such as the inclusion of a full commentary on the poetry, the 1579 Calender’s total design as a book radically rethought the bibliographical possibilities for presenting imaginative fiction and new poetry. This volume illuminates its antecedents, development, and production, the profound interconnections of its illustrations and poetry, its redefinition of pastoral, its bold redefinition of the proper role of poets and insistence on the national significance of poetic achievement, its daring political satire, and its creative singularity. For many years to come, An Analyzed Facsimile will be essential for study of Spenser’s Calender, this poet, and his importance for English literary history.
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.