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Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Although English Renaissance print culture granted celebrity status to authors such as William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, many writers still chose the privacy and discretion of anonymity when they published or circulated their literature. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, anonymity was a well-known authorial practice, a useful printer's convention, and sometimes simply the condition of a text that had lost its author over time or through manuscript transmission. It was less a bibliographical category and more a set of devices, traditions, expectations, and circumstances that framed and introduced a text. Pseudonyms and ambiguous initials as well as missing names functioned to make a text anonymous. Early readers encountered anonymity every day. Anonymity commonly accompanied ephemeral and cheaply printed literature, but it also introduced readers to some of the more influential and innovative writing of the period, including Bishop John Jewel's Apologie of the Church of England (whose 1564 edition was translated by ‘A. B.’—Lady Anne Bacon), the incendiary Catholic publication A true reporte of the death and martyrdome of M. Campion (1582), the important revenge prototype The Spanish tragedie (1592), and Joseph Swetnam's provocative Araignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women (1615), which reinvigorated an ongoing debate about the worth of women. Among ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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