Mary Beth Winn


Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

My field of research is the history of the book, and specifically the publication of texts during the first decades of printing, primarily in Paris where the earliest printing press was established in 1470. My work has grown out of an examination of the approximately 300 editions produced by the Parisian publisher-bookseller, Anthoine Vérard (1485-c.1512). In addition to selling books from his shops, Vérard prepared deluxe copies printed on vellum, with illustrations painted by the best artists of the day, to present to noble patrons, including the kings of France and England. Vying in quality with the illuminated manuscripts that continued to be produced in the same period, these printed books are now conserved in rare book collections worldwide. The French king’s copies entered the royal library, now the Bibliothèque Nationale, and I have been privileged to examine the copies in the « Réserve des livres rares et précieux ». When therefore the French television network produced a special broadcast on the library, I was asked by the Director to be interviewed by the reporters. The result is a brief clip of me in the rare book room (see minute 2:42), consulting King Charles VIII’s deluxe copy of Lancelot, in a program televised nationwide in March 2015.

Because my research involves various kinds of texts, their illustration, and sometimes their setting to music, as well as the patrons for whom these books were prepared, I am increasingly involved in collaborative ventures with colleagues in the US and abroad. A critical edition with musicologists Barton Hudson (West Virginia University) and Laura Youens (George Washington University) of the 16th-century chansons composed by Thomas Crecquillon garnered a prize from the American Musicological Society in 2012. An edition of the chansons of Jean Mouton was completed in 2014 in collaboration with Thomas G. MacCracken, and the chansons of Jean Courtois are soon to be published in collaboration with Laura Youens.

In addition to publishing articles for journals and books published in Europe and the US, I am now collaborating with a Belgian art historian for a book on Louise de Savoie, one of Vérard’s major patrons and mother of king Francis I. In preparation for the longer study, we are completing an article for a forthcoming collection on « Women and Power at the French Renaissance court », edited by a scholar in Australia. For an international colloquium to be held at the Château de la Bretesche in France this June, I am investigating the performance of music and poetry in the vast prose romance, Tristan, in manuscripts and early printed editions from 1489 to 1533. My critical editions and studies of two major literary texts, the prose Tristan published in 1489 and Robert Gobin's Loups ravissans from 1505, are in progress. All of these projects expand our knowledge of society and culture at the turn of the 16th century in France while addressing issues of reading, creating, and publishing that continue to engage the contemporary world.

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