The Polack Archive

British Library Paratexts


My research on Maria Polack and her novel, Fiction Without Romance, led to the discovery of two sets of paratexts for this novel. Paratexts are the pages that frame and contextualize the novel. The British Library copy of the book contains a different set of paratexts from every other known copy of the novel.

GĂ©rard Genette explains that "More than a boundary or sealed border, the paratext is rather a threshold, or. . . a 'vestibule' that offers the world at large the possiblity of either stepping inside or turning back. It is an 'undefined zone' between the inside and the outside" of the book.1 He adds, the paratexts create a zone of "transaction" whereby they exert "an influence on the public" aimed at "the service of a better reception for the text."2

The Polack Archive makes both sets of paratexts of the novel available to the public. A comparison of these framing texts, particularly the title page, shows how each uniquely construct the author's identity.

The novel's subscription list offers a record of Polack's funding model. As I explain in greater detail in The Archive's East End, Polack used subscription to raise funds for the printing of her novel. The list's record of her broad, trans-Atlantic audience preserves evidence of the intellectual reach of her work, while demonstrating global dimensions of East End cultural life. I have used the identities of the subscribers as a key to subtle but important features of the novel's content. Written on the eve of the abolition of slavery, Fiction Without Romance and the unusual paratexts from the British Library evoke a silent archive of enslaved voices. See The Archive's East End for further discussion of the significance of the subscription list in registering East End cultural production, Jewish global networks, and the silent archive of slavery.

The paratexts in the six known copies of Fiction Without Romance appear in the archive edition of the novel.


1. Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, Translated by Janet E. Lewin, Forward by Richard Macksey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 1-2.

2. Genette, 2

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