“We have often misheard Renaissance printed books,” Jennifer Richards writes in the introduction to Voices and Books in the English Renaissance: A New History of Reading, and the achievement of her superb book is to show us how we might learn to listen (31). That this comes as a provocation is a sign of how much we have come to think of books as unspeaking objects, as texts consumed by silent readers. The ascendancy of the history of the book in early modern studies over the last three decades has only sharpened this presumption of silence. In treating books as material objects, scholars have learned implicitly to privilege the visual over the aural. After all, the mark of a pen lasts; the speaking voice does not. For this reason, often in spite of themselves, early modernists have tended to reaffirm the thesis—articulated most influentially by Marshall McLuhan and Walter...

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