units of play-reading; or, the amazing disappearing ¶

[This post was inspired by recent correspondence with Keith Houston, author of the terrific blog Shady Characters ❧ The secret life of punctuation and the book of the same name. A few days ago, Houston posted about "the death of the paragraph" over at his site. What follows here expands on Houston's conclusions with some meditations on the disappearance of the pilcrow (¶) in early modern printing, specifically playbooks.

I have just returned from Montréal, where I attended the annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (or, SHARP). There, I presented a paper on damaged or incomplete or imperfect—comme vous voulez—copies of printed playbooks (all from the Folger Shakespeare Library's collection) whose missing pages have been supplied in manuscript. I don't wish to rehearse that whole argument of that paper here, but the way these manuscript supplements compel us to consider the wholeness of the book offers a good entry point for the topic of this post: the various ways in which units of play-reading came to be defined. 

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