The Tears of the Press

by

Introducing the Clark’s latest exhibition:

THE TEARS OF THE PRESS:

PRINT AND AUTHORITY IN 17TH-CENTURY ENGLAND

Curated by Dr. Stephanie Koscak and students in her UCLA History Department capstone seminar, Media and Politics in Early Modern England: Nicholas Barlow | Hillary Rose Cleary | Ricardo Aaron Garcia | Brian Jordi Thomas Knight | Amber Ward | Maksim Wynn | Sean Patrick Yancey

Whig Medley

INTRODUCTION TO THE EXHIBITION

“What age ever brought forth more, or bought more printed waste paper?”, asked the anonymous author of the 1681 tract The Tears of the Press, with Reflections on the Present State of England. The temporary and then permanent lapse of prepublication print licensing, the emergence of violent party politics, and political revolution redefined the relationship between print and political authority for the English in the later seventeenth century. Packed with supposed lies, controversies, and fallacious news, readers consumed print like never before: “The ink hath poyson in it,” lamented our above author, yet “pamphlets these late times hath swarmed.”

This obsession with paper and the press in seventeenth-century England reflects new anxieties, tensions, and possibilities surrounding representation in an age of increasingly mass textual and graphic print. By the turn of the eighteenth century, the press had expanded beyond all previous bounds with the explosion of ephemeral print, particularly newspapers, pamphlets, engravings, satires, and broadsides. This exhibition, curated by students in Dr. Stephanie Koscak’s undergraduate capstone seminar in the Department of History at UCLA, “Media and Politics in Early Modern England,” aims to capture the vitality and novelty of print in this period. Collectively, these rare texts and images demonstrate the ways in which authority was constructed through print while addressing contemporary anxieties about veracity and misrepresentation. Topics include: the development of newspapers, the construction of royal authority in graphic images and printed pamphlets, the invention of mass partisan propaganda, the channels of printed communication undergirding the mid-century witch crisis, and emerging genres of engraved visual satire, such as political playing cards. Like the printer George Bickham’s large, hand-colored trompe l’oeil engraving The Whig’s Medley (1711), included in the exhibit, print playfully reflected back on its own complexities. Authors and artists asked contemporaries to read dialogically, to compare multiple representations, and to cultivate sharp interpretive skills necessary for England’s new media landscape.

SCENES FROM THE EXHIBITION OPENING

Tears of the Press opening 1

Dr. Koscak

Tears of the Press 2

Tears of the Press opening 3

The exhibition will be open through September 2014. If you’d like to see it, make an appointment for a tour via http://clarklibrary.ucla.edu/tour or visit during one of our summer events!

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