Jerry Brotton recommends the best books on The Renaissance

But the fact that it becomes possible to produce a book that is exactly reproducible so you can have, say, an index is completely transformative. You can’t have indexes in manuscript books because you can’t create that sense of exact replicability. For her, it changes everything. It transforms how we understand trade and how we understand science. It is particularly important in science because you can print a book in London and that book can go to Antwerp, to Vienna, to Venice, and people can read the same book and correspond with each other about, say, footnote twenty-five on page sixty, or a reference in an index. And this is what starts to happen. You start to get networks of scholars sharing ideas in a way that is so much greater than you can get with manuscript culture where you can only circulate it among four or five people.

.. I teach my undergraduates that there are three different printed versions of Hamlet circulating during and just after Shakespeare’s lifetime.

.. With Hamlet we realize that one version says, ‘To be or not to be, ay there’s the point,’ and another says, ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’

.. At the moment, the field is obsessed with book history. It is the leading area of interest in Renaissance Studies.