Ralph Crane and Early Modern Scribal Culture
This thesis investigates the twenty-six manuscripts which survive in the hand of the scribe Ralph Crane (1565?-1632?), and the manuscript culture in which he wrote and circulated these copies. It introduces six previously unknown Crane manuscripts, and fully evaluates Crane's scribal work as a whole for the first time.
Chapter One considers the place of manuscript copies in early modern England. It introduces Crane as one of the figures responsible for the production of these copies, and details what is known of his life and career. Chapter Two situates Crane's work alongside that of other scribes, using the manuscript circulation of Sir Henry Mainwaring's early 1620s naval dictionary 'Parts and Things belonging to a Ship' as a case-study. Chapter Three looks at Crane's eight dramatic manuscripts, and argues that the presentational habits for which Crane is known were consciously adopted in order to turn dramatic texts into private, literary, presentation manuscripts. Chapter Four introduces two new Crane manuscripts, both of which contain early copies of Francis Bacon's correspondence. It considers how these Bacon manuscripts fit into the rest of Crane's scribal corpus, and how they capture an early moment in the construction of the statesman's literary legacy. Chapter Five examines Crane's manuscript poetry collections, and the other scribal circles in which these poems can be found. It finds that professional scribes, though operating separately, employed similar strategies. Finally, this thesis concludes by examining how all these copies can help to illuminate a recently discovered manuscript that otherwise gives little away.
Crane's manuscripts show that he was an active textual agent: his activity arose from a responsive engagement with his texts, a consideration of their use, and a desire to produce professional and valuable volumes. His manuscripts are important witnesses to the role of the professional scribe and the manuscript circulation of literature in early modern England.