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Scott Sowerby, review - Brian Cowan, The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell | H-Albion, H-Net Reviews. August, 2014.
Cowan’s erudite edition of primary sources charts contemporary reactions to the Sacheverell trial. Cowan sees the trial as an instance of the personalization of political ideas, as long-standing debates about church and state became “focused on one figure—Sacheverell, who could now be cast as either a hero or a scoundrel, depending upon one’s politics” (p. 15, emphasis in original). Unlike so many studies of print culture that focus on production, this volume is attuned to reception, with reproductions of commonplace books and marginalia that alternately endorsed and disputed the standard printed accounts of the trial. Cowan’s edition assembles sources from eleven libraries on two continents. Most of his selections are from unpublished manuscripts; five are from publications so rare that they are found in only one repository. The footnotes alone are worth the price of admission, providing a blow-by-blow account of the trial for the uninitiated. The volume is splendidly illustrated, with photographs of manuscripts, satirical prints, engravings of Sacheverell’s portrait, and depictions of the courtroom. The extended introduction surveys the history of printed transcripts of the trial, from Jacob Tonson’s official record to competing accounts by Tory and Whig authors. A helpful timeline and a comprehensive biographical guide round out the edition.
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