Ann Blair

Early Modern Attitudes Toward Delegating Copying and Note-taking

Ann Blair, Harvard University

Discussant: Arnold Hunt, British Library

Some early modern pedagogues recommended taking dictation and copying as a mental and physical discipline that sharpened attention and retention. On the other hand copying was also described by others at the time as a mechanical process best delegated to helpers. In practice some scholars did a lot of writing themselves, while others dictated and delegated copying, for a variety of reasons. I hope to contribute some examples from which we can discuss the various intellectual, practical, and social factors governing decisions by scholars to involve others (family members, students, or paid helpers) in writing activities ranging from scribing to note-taking. The conditions of survival of information about relationships with helpers is an important element in assessing what we can know about them.

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