Pet Book Report #9: Scribes and Serialists

Pet Book Report #9: Scribes and Serialists

During our discussion in class on Monday, Professor Cordell spoke about how serialized novels were created and published over time, their authors adding to the story with each monthly edition (or so). Similarly, the scribe or scribes who created the Dragon Prayer book wrote the prayers over time, and the prayer book’s binding was further changed during the book’s lifetime. Marginalia was added, as were tabs and clasps, and later, those clasps broke and were separated from the book. In my midterm response, I wrote, “because we have only been able to date the prayer book based on the prayers we have found, that date is after c.1461-, a date which, by being open-ended, represents surprisingly well how the book has been adapted for modern readers over time.” Serial novels, too, seem open ended until they have been published as novels, and no more can be added to the story.

Both scribes and serialists cemented their writing as they wrote– the scribes with ink on the page and the serialists with each printed installment. Still, while they wrote, the scribe’s style of handwriting could change (or perhaps an entirely different scribe began work on the book), as could the serialist’s plotline. In “The National Era Version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Historical and Textual Introduction,” Wesley Raabe writes, “The story ran much longer than the editor or author had expected.” Raabe’s comment shows how plans for a serialized novel could easily change as each installment was published. Because the public is able to read the story as it is being written, public opinion could influence how long a story was able to run. In the case of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe planned to write three or four installments, and ended up writing much more. Perhaps the Dragon Prayer Book was not meant to be over 600 pages when it was first begun. By studying these style changes in both manuscript and serial one might be able to tell where these changes occurred, but this might not be the most accurate method, since, at least with the manuscript, pages could have been tipped in when the book was rebound. Ultimately, I think considering both the prayer book and serial novels as works created over time can provide the reader with some understanding of the difference between these works and works created in private, where the author is not forced to write sequentially.  

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