Cut/Copy/Paste

Fragments from the History of Bookwork

2021
Author:

Whitney Trettien

READ ONLINE: MANIFOLD EDITION

How do early modern media underlie today’s digital creativity? 

In Cut/Copy/Paste, Whitney Trettien journeys to the fringes of the London print trade to uncover makerspaces and collaboratories where paper media were cut up and reassembled into radical, bespoke publications. Bringing these long-forgotten objects back to life through hand-curated digital resources, Trettien shows how early experimental book hacks speak to the contemporary conditions of digital scholarship and publishing. 

"Whitney Trettien’s Cut/Copy/Paste is a seriously delightful book, and a delightfully serious one. She travels to the fringe of the book trade to show how makers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries created assemblages from pre-existing print books, making entirely new works of art that both drew on traditional culture and simultaneously reinvented it. In the process, she herself reinvents that it means to do book history, drawing exciting parallels between the near past and our transitional moment as we move from print to digital culture. Highly recommended for book historians, media theorists, and anyone who loves a good story."—N. Katherine Hayles, author of Postprint: Books and Becoming Computational

In Cut/Copy/Paste, Whitney Trettien journeys to the fringes of the London print trade to uncover makerspaces and collaboratories where paper media were cut up and reassembled into radical, bespoke publications. Bringing these long-forgotten objects back to life through hand-curated digital resources, Trettien shows how early experimental book hacks speak to the contemporary conditions of digital scholarship and publishing. As a mixed-media artifact itself, Cut/Copy/Paste enacts for readers what Trettien argues: that digital forms have the potential to decenter patriarchal histories of print.

From the religious household of Little Gidding—whose biblical concordances and manuscripts exemplify protofeminist media innovation—to the queer poetic assemblages of Edward Benlowes and the fragment albums of former shoemaker John Bagford, Cut/Copy/Paste demonstrates history’s relevance to our understanding of current media. Tracing the lives and afterlives of amateur “bookwork,” Trettien creates a method for identifying and comprehending hybrid objects that resist familiar bibliographic and literary categories. In the process, she bears witness to the deep history of radical publishing with fragments and found materials.

With many of Cut/Copy/Paste’s digital resources left thrillingly open for additions and revisions, this book reimagines our ideas of publication while fostering a spirit of generosity and inclusivity. An open invitation to cut, copy, and paste different histories, it is an inspiration for students of publishing or the digital humanities, as well as anyone interested in the past, present, and future of creativity.

Whitney Trettien is assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is coeditor of Digital Sound Studies, author of the creative print/digital project Gaffe/Stutter, and cofounder of the digital zine thresholds.

Whitney Trettien’s Cut/Copy/Paste is a seriously delightful book, and a delightfully serious one. She travels to the fringe of the book trade to show how makers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries created assemblages from pre-existing print books, making entirely new works of art that both drew on traditional culture and simultaneously reinvented it. In the process, she herself reinvents that it means to do book history, drawing exciting parallels between the near past and our transitional moment as we move from print to digital culture. Highly recommended for book historians, media theorists, and anyone who loves a good story.

N. Katherine Hayles, author of Postprint: Books and Becoming Computational

In Cut/Copy/Paste, Whitney Trettien dives deep into the wonderfully strange book worlds of Little Gidding, Edward Benlowes, and John Bagford to uncover new ways of thinking about media, print, the codex, fragments, and manuscripts. This powerful rethinking of what a book was, and what it might be, is enacted through the form of Cut/Copy/Paste: a print–digital hybrid that opens up multiple routes through, around, and beyond its subject.

Adam Smyth, Balliol College, Oxford University

Contents

Introduction: Find Something New in the Old

1. Cut: Little Gidding’s Feminist Printing

2. Copy: Edward Benlowes’s Queer Books

3. Paste: John Bagford’s History of the Book

Epilogue: Goodbye to Much That Is Familiar

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index