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Duncan Frost (Long-Term Frances Yates Fellow): ‘Songbird Training Texts: Advertising, Consumption and Readership’

Training songbirds was an increasingly popular and socially diverse practice in the early modern period. The printed literature which provided instructions on how to catch and then train songbirds was ostensibly addressed to a community of male readers, who were presented as educated gentleman. However, this obscures the true range of bird-keepers' identities. This printed information could be found in a range of different print formats from large folios to small, cheaper octavos or duodecimos. Furthermore, evidence suggests that this was a practice which may have been particularly popular with the upwardly mobile ‘middling sort’ who wanted to display an educated, male mastery of nature. By examining paratextual evidence and reader engagement, this talk will reconstruct the world of songbird training manuals: investigating how they were marketed, to whom, and then comparing this to physical evidence of readership and ownership.

The Work in Progress seminar explores the variety of subjects studied and researched at the Warburg Institute. Papers are given by invited international scholars, research fellows studying at the Institute, and third-year PhD students.