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Ina Cataloging Post

Ina Cataloging Post

Cataloging is like my stress reliever. When I am stressed, I usually start rearranging the furnitures or cleaning up the basement or organizing the files on my laptop to give me some semblance of control. It makes me feel as though I am doing something about my stress rather than sitting there and freaking out. Cataloging is a lot like rearranging files and furniture in that it is a stress relieving. Sometimes it can be frustrating when I miss something or make a mistake (like those mistakes in math where you have to go back and look over your work because the finished product is wrong). These books are fragile and sometimes I forget that we can’t open them fully or you can’t put certain things on them.

Cataloging also makes me think about our society’s relationship with books. There were a lot of books written during the 18th century yet our modern society is only aware of a scant hundred out of thousands. Most of the books in our collection were forgotten and left in the dust while there are multiple copies of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travel on the net. Why are these books so well-known today as opposed to these other ones? Was it the authorship claim or the advertisement or the genre? What makes them so special compared to other similarly written books that are forgotten? Maybe in our future, people will only know of a couple thousand books from the millions written.

The books that usually stand out to me are the ones with errors. There is this one book called The Messiah where the pages were out of order and full of spelling mistakes. For example, there’s this one page where the running title says “f the Pagans” rather than “Of the Pagans.” Then there are the books with interesting titles like “Laugh and Be Fat” or the “Joan!!!” Another book that stood out to me was Tristam Shandy. There was a drawing in the book that follows the motion of a flourishing cane. There is also a page that has a plot line signalling how much he deviates from the main plot.

Cataloging Reflection

Cataloging Reflection
Cataloging Reflection

Over the past couple of weeks, my cataloging experience with END has taught me about the many aspects of library science. Finding a book that is rich in metadata (such as having a lot of marginalia, inscriptions, or paratext) is both the most ideal and the most undesirable thing I as a cataloguer has experienced. The cataloging process is painstaking, and to be frank, a tedious task that requires a good eye for detail. On the other hand, I genuinely worry about not catching every interesting bit of metadata. Though this process is made even more efficient by first and second reviewers, I find that there is a sense of personal fulfillment in being the first to find particularly strange pieces of information within the early novels.

One early novel that I was particularly fond of cataloging was “Laugh and be fat, or the merry companion”, which had no attributable author. The book was comprised of multiple short stories. Each story had a title and one that stood out the most was called “The willful drunkard; or, the shoemaker made a cuckold by the Devil”. I’m not surprised it was published anonymously because it contained such amusingly bawdy subject matter.

The only slight inconvenience I had when cataloging this book was putting the full title, “Laugh and be fat, or the merry companion; containing great variety of comical and diverting stories, a curious collection of poems, a select collection of epitaphs, a long string of out o'th' way conundrums and answers, and a choice collection of songs, sung at the public places of diversion”, into the “989” field. Other than that, “Laugh and be fat” was a joy to both catalog and read. It is a great example of British bawdy humor, which exists in stark contrast to the tediously repetitive and morally lofty Gothic narratives than I usually do.

Reflections on Cataloguing, Summer 2018

Reflections on Cataloguing, Summer 2018
Reflections on Cataloguing, Summer 2018
Reflections on Cataloguing, Summer 2018

I think the red rot permanently stuck between my keyboard keys will not let me forget this summer of cataloguing. Physically handling the books we catalogued, with the care it was ensured we would take, closed the distance between what I thought rare books would be like, used books from the 18th century would be like, and what they actually were. It’s a different thing to imagine a dusty, fraying, leather-bound volume from over two hundred years ago and holding in your hands a dusty, fraying, leather-bound volume from over two hundred years ago. It’s great to have digitized so much of these novels, but I don’t think we can every really (digitally) capture the tactile experience of slowly setting a book on a foam board, paging through it with caution, and basically taking care of it as though it were to fall apart at any second (which, okay, it probably were).

The most interesting part about cataloging this summer was probably cataloguing the 10-volume Sterne collection. While it didn’t have much marginalia or any physical signs of having been read and used and passed along (the books had actually been rebound and were in very good condition), there was much to catalogue- with paratext that I mostly had to put into the 500 fields or 520 “other”, because there was no controlled term for a black “marble” page, or squiggly lines to indicate the trajectory of the plot (I believe there were about 25 520 fields alone).

All the other novels I catalogued stood out perhaps in the marginalia they contained, or their illustrations, or their publication information (I do want to mention the scribbled note I found in a book I catalogued on my first day: “I know not whose book this is”). These books were notable because of the text itself (especially Tristram Shandy). Also a nice reprieve from Gothic or righteously moral fiction.

Data Visualization 2 (Map of All Publishing Cities)

Data Visualization 2 (Map of All Publishing Cities)

I used Google Fusion map to reveal all the publishing cities listed in the END database. I was surprised to find that it included cities out farther west in the United States, considering that it seems highly unlikely that there would be cities that far out west during this time period. This is mostly likely due to the fact that many cities in the U.S are named after cities in England and other countries.

Data Visualization 1 (Line Graph of Top 6 Publishing Cities)

Data Visualization 1 (Line Graph of Top 6 Publishing Cities)

I had experimented with different forms of data manipulation, and I ultimately chose to use relatively simple techniques or my data visualizations. My two data visualizations provide a presentation of publishing cities found in the END database and showcases the rise and decline of the top six publishing cities throughout this time period. One is in the form of a line graph and the other is in the form of a map.

This Google Fusion Tables line graph reveals that London had, for the most part, published the most books compared to the other top publishing cities during this time period. London experienced its peak in the 1810s and immediately plummeted by the 1820s. Of the American cities, Philadelphia was, for the most part, consistently in the lead in comparison to New York and Boston.

Summer project map

Summer project map

I found this map of Edinburgh in 1825 that has been geocoded. I plan to see if I can discover the locations of some publishers and printers in Edinburgh during that time period. If I can, I will be using the exact, or as close as I can get, locations of these places to map them using StoryMaps and ArcGIS software. In doing this, I can get a clearer idea of who was in this industry and determine whether or not proximity had an effect on the printing industry and the partnerships between publishers and printers. I will also be able to see if all of these locations are in a certain area of the city. All of this will be overlayed onto a map of present-day Edinburgh so viewers will have a clearer picture of where this all took place.

END t-shirt concept

END t-shirt concept

"END 2016: Putting the 'cat' in cataloging."

Illustration: Gripe-men-all, arch-duke of the furr'd law-cats, from Rabelais's works.

Bob Lovelace

Bob Lovelace

What can it be, Bob?

Love,
Yumi and Kat

Untitled

Images of hands in google books make the human labor that goes into their production visible, working against the fetishization of the image. Images like this one can be read as texts about the underpaid and undervalued labor, carried out largely by people of color, that keeps silicon valley and higher ed functioning.

Source: http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com/post/140144630800/employees-hand-from-p-259-of-the-souls-of

What do we digitize? Not novels...

What do we digitize? Not novels...

I spent a lot of time collecting full texts from the 1760s with genre terms in the title as part of my project. The results are pictured in the graphs above. I calculated the percent of texts based on the list of all 1760s titles we've compiled (one of them on the initial edition-specific list and the other two on a later de-duplicated version of that list) and the (high quality) full text files I found. I double counted works that included multiple genre terms in their titles.
These graphs and the work they are based on privilege genre keywords, although most researchers and institutions digitizing files aren't usually thinking about genre when they choose what texts to work on. Genre, however, overlaps with many of the things that do motivate digitization choices - namely texts that are considered important or "good" enough to preserve. Many of my texts come from ECCO TCP, and I couldn't find a statement about their methodology (how and why they choose the texts they choose for digitization), but regardless of what that methodology is, unless it is random, it is probably influenced by what we think is "worth" preserving.
The results in this bar graph give an idea of how genre plays into this - 1760s "novels," or works that at the time were willing to claim that label, are comparatively underrepresented in digitization efforts.
What we think is good or important work, based on what we digitize, is not a novel in the 1760s. And we know that in the 1760s, "novel" was not yet an established and respectable genre. Johnson’s 1775 dictionary defines novel with the following short phrase: “A small tale, generally of love.” He diminishes the novel - it is literally small. In the explanatory quotes below (not sure if they are in the dictionary or added to the online version, but they are contemporary), the novel is qualified with “trifling” and as the possession of a coxcomb. Clearly, novel is not high art in 1755, and probably has not climbed up to that status in the five years that lead up to 1760.
Authors who chose the label novel, then, were not claiming the status of high art. Their texts were trying to achieve something else - perhaps entertainment value and commercial success. But the lack of digitized 1760s novels also tells us something about where literary research tends to look - towards what was, seemingly both then and now, considered “good” literature. Popular culture is left to the historians looking at newspaper clippings, and the underbelly of literary history is overlooked. What makes this oversight particularly interesting is the respect attributed to the term novel today. To some extent, that respect is accompanied by investment in the history of the novel, evident in something like the possibility of Gaby’s research on rise/history of the novel type classes. But that has still not translated into the creation of an accessible archive of low-brow novels.
Part of what digital humanities seems to be looking at, based on some of the things we’ve read, is the broader field of literature and literary history technology allows us to look at. But that is hard to do when the data we have access to is still dictated by the research biases that have defined much of literary scholarship.
Unfortunately, because this 2% of 1760s novels I found full texts for is only one book, I will not be using the novel category going forward with my project, and so I will continue to contribute to skewed research. But the good news is that being mindful of holes in data is at least a preliminary step in correcting them.

Theorist Frequency Graph

Theorist Frequency Graph

In order to make the visualization somewhat manageable, I only counted theorists who had been taught at least twice. That was only 22 out of the 93 theorists, or 24%.

The Early Awkward Family Photo

The Early Awkward Family Photo

Click for better image quality.

Bacon's crest includes... a pig?!

Bacon's crest includes... a pig?!

Found in Caumont de La Force's The Secret History of Burgundy