Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

'Hit is false poynted in many places': Paratextual Communication on Punctuation in Early English Prologues, Title Pages and Errata Lists

List of AuthorsMatti Peikola


Publication year2018

JournalStudia Neophilologica

Journal name in sourceSTUDIA NEOPHILOLOGICA

Journal acronymSTUD NEOPHILOL

Volume number90

Issue numberSupplement 1

Start page50

End page67

Number of pages18





This article explores paratextual references to punctuation (pointing) in prologues, title pages and errata lists in Late Middle and (early) Early Modern English texts. The aim is to discern what this paratextual evidence may reveal about text and book producers' ideas about the purposes of punctuation and their attitudes to its (correct/incorrect) application in reading and writing during a period which largely predates the publication of theoretical works on punctuation. The three paratextual elements (prologues, title pages and errata lists) were chosen because they serve partly different kinds of communicative function in the book. The primary sources for the study of prologues include both manuscript and printed texts; for title pages and errata lists, the research is based on sixteenth-century printed materials obtained from the Early English Books Online database. The findings highlight some particular kinds of writing in which correct punctuation seems to have mattered to such an extent that text producers chose to alert the reader to it paratextually, for example devotional and liturgical texts intended for (communal) oral delivery. Paratextual statements concerning punctuation may include comments on the punctuation system in the actual material text/book at hand (a manuscript copy or a printed edition) or relate to the benefits of correct punctuation more generally. The infrequent inclusion of faulty punctuation in the studied sample of approximately fifty errata lists might be partly explained by visual and typographical constraints that affected the capacity of such lists to express corrections addressing punctuation.

Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 09:01