Patterns of print

Women’s textual patronage in the “early” early modern period

Authored by: Patricia Pender

Routledge Companion to Women, Sex, and Gender in the Early British Colonial World

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472479945
eBook ISBN: 9781315613772
Adobe ISBN:


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Women’s patronage of print culture in early modern England commences with a figure who is technically late medieval but whose activities challenge traditional demarcations of periodization in intriguing ways. Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII’s grandmother, is recognised as one of the most prominent patrons of early English books, and her promotion of textual production provided a model of royal patronage from which later Tudor women, from both sides of the Reformation religious divide, would draw inspiration and authority. In this chapter, I present Beaufort’s patronage program as an important precedent for the royal Tudor women who followed her, establishing her as a necessary if hitherto neglected figure in the history of early modern women’s textual production. I argue that Beaufort’s extra-authorial literary labour – in this case her patronage of print culture – needs to be fed into our emerging awareness of her signal position in the women’s literary tradition of the long early modern period. By way of illustration, I examine two very different patronage projects undertaken by queens at each end of Henry VIII’s reign – Catherine of Aragon’s patronage of Juan Luis Vives’ Instruction of a Christian Woman (1523) and Katherine Parr’s patronage of the English translation of The Paraphrases of Erasmus Upon the New Testament (1548). I explore how the very different dynastic, political, and religious agendas informing these projects could both be served by emulating the example, or “pattern,” of Henry VIII’s grandmother.

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