(Re)producing the English Printed Past

Antiquarian Knowledge-Making Practices in Joseph Ames’s Typographical Antiquities (1749)


  • André de Melo Araújo University of Brasília




History of Knowledge, Antiquarianism, Empiricism, History of the Book, Joseph Ames, Typographical Antiquities (1749)


In this paper, I investigate how Joseph Ames construed knowledge about the past as he examined early English printed artifacts. I analyze Ames’s Typographical Antiquities (1749) and three main groups of handwritten sources directly related to his editorial project. In a first step, I follow Ames’s papers to showcase how an eighteenth-century antiquarian developed a laborious system for managing bibliographical data, about which he was either informed or which he had judiciously observed. The second part of the paper delves into the groundbreaking innovation of the book published in 1749: the study and classification of types. Here, I explore how evidence of the English printed past was not only collected and classified but also (re)produced in Ames’s printed work. In the third and fourth steps, I investigate how the plates commissioned in the eighteenth century for the English Typographical Antiquities could authoritatively visualize fifteenth-century (typo)graphical evidence. Here, handwritten, drawn, and printed testimonies related to the making of those plates reveal that an empirical approach to the material remains of the past was pivotal to the construction of early modern knowledge.

Author Biography

  • André de Melo Araújo, University of Brasília

    André de Melo Araújo is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Brasília, Brazil. His research focuses on the History of the Book and the History of Historiography from the perspective of the History of Knowledge.