Pet Book 7 – The Book Business

I was drawn to the quotation within Gitelman’s text, “blanks don’t have authors” and started to question the intricate nature of authorship. It is not ludicrous to assume that any text, document or piece of writing entails authorship and thus a person behind the writing. So, I am forced to wonder why blank documents are said to be devoid of authorship. Whether a hospital document, ballot card or diploma certificate – there are blanks for an individual’s pen (or type) to fill. If a blank document is perceived to lack authorship in its primary state, then surely the moment pen touches paper an author is created. After all, this signature or entering of details is acting as a social claim and expression – I would go as far as to say that these two aspects are central to authorship.

This view on social claim and expression within authorship caused me to question the multiple authors within my PET Book. Blair, Gray and Goldsmith are all respectively sole authors of their poems, this is undeniable – yet, I wonder whether the authorship changes when these poems are chosen and placed within a collection. I believe that there should be attention paid to the possibility of Hill’s authorship. Hill is the ‘originator and instigator’ of the works, deciding that these poems have a relationship worthy of standing side by side – whilst he did not write the poems, he perceived an effect given by these poems within a collection. Hill may have viewed the message of these three poems different to that of them standing alone. So, does Hill in fact have a part in the authorship of this text? This could also be addressed in question to the extensive reproduction of Gray’s Elegy Written in A Country Churchyard – due to the parodies and imitations of this poem, does Gray have in part authorship of these reproductions? After all, it was his ideas and messages that writers like Headley interpreted, rewrote and respected in his own poem. This makes me wonder whether the view of limited authorship hints at a possible ignorance within readers.

On another note, I’ve become intrigued with Isaac Hill. As previously mentioned, he was a politician as well as a newspaper editor. Hill published this collection during his time as owner and editor of the New Hampshire Patriot newspaper. The Book Business entailed a certain part of risk taking – what if I print too many copies of a poetry collection containing graveyard poetry when romantic poetry is most popular? However, I believe that it is his career as a newspaper editor that allowed him to access knowledge to the perceived popular poems of the time. Poetry was frequently published in newspapers – therefore Hill will have had a good idea of what the favoured type of poetry was at the time.

Within the first stages of my research, I looked to this collection (though it be particularly small) of poetry as a personal ‘pocket book’. However, when looking at the use of canvassing books to judge the popularity of binding, images and to get an idea of how many people would buy the book – I wonder whether this edition was in fact a ‘practise run’. I feel like these past two weeks have stood as a helpful turning point in my research of this ever-interesting text.

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