What did didactic literature teach? Change-ringing manuals, printed miscellanies, and forms of active reading

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This paper takes the practice of change-ringing as a case study to examine the forms, transmission, and effects of early modern didactic literature. The novelty of change-ringing, which was invented and very quickly spread in the seventeenth century, offers an opportunity to test out the contours of learning from printed books. Tracing the dissemination of its instructions in printed miscellanies of instructional literature, and comparing didactic miscellanies to poetic ones, I suggest that what might be most at stake in change-ringing’s written texts is the creation of an educated audience for, rather than practitioners of, the practice. I situate my argument among recent work on instructional literature to propose a renewed role for the literary techniques of textual analysis and bibliography in the study of early modern manuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-704
Number of pages19
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number5
Early online date25 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Didactic literature
  • Manuals
  • Miscellanies
  • Change-ringing
  • Print

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