Does your worship think it is an easy thing to make a book? Don Quixote, Part II (1615)

One constant during Thomas Nashe’s ten-year run in print, from his prefatory epistle to Greene’s Menaphon (1589) to Lenten Stuffe (1599), was his fascination with the labor involved in making books. Over the course of the 1590s his work comprised a not quite fully articulated summation of the changing conditions of authorship in the age of Elizabethan print. As early modern scholarship reconsiders the cultures of prose fiction and the book market, Nashe’s practice of prose clarifies the tenuous position of the newly professionalized author in early modern England. Nashe’s understanding of authorship divides the labor of making books between the extemporal flow of writing and the mechanical work of printing: writing with pen and ink allows Nashe’s persona to flow out from himself, and this liquidity gets hardened back into a fixed shape by the press. His sense of authorship derives from the tension between these aspects of literary labor. The liquefaction of the act of writing terrifies him, and his attraction to the stability of print can be read as an escape from writing itself.1

Print replaces and reforms the inherent disorder produced through writing.2