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Ina's Reflection

2 min read

I noticed that many of the projects have their own website to display their research and data. The Friends’ Asylum Project had a website dedicated to the Asylum and its patients. It was very neat and organized with separate subpages for the projects, data visualisation, patient profiles and even the Quaker theology. This inspired me to want to create my own website so that my own data and research are not so scattered and so that I can more clearly see the progress I made. There were also another projects focused around Storymaps. The Beyond Penn’s Treaty project had a website with a map containing the locations visited by travelers with a link to a separate page that has a digital exhibition of the manuscript and its history. Perhaps I can do a storymap of one of the adventure novels along with the locations being linked to the page they are mentioned and perhaps the history of the location during the 18th century in relation to England. The Peer Workshop provided me with some useful feedback about my project such as focusing on Defoe then expanding on that so that there is a comparison between Defoe and nonfiction travel literature. They also pointed out that I could add a link to the locations on the map redirecting the user to a page about England’s relation with that place, or maybe just a brief history of that place.

Bryn Mwar Trip

3 min read

Friends’ Asylum: Data Visualization

  • Quaker patients in a Friends’ Asylum
  • Data Visualization on patients from 1800s
  • Positions: Wage Earner, Wife of Wage Earner, Daughter of Wage Earner, etc
  • Occupation: Lawyers, Teachers, Laborers, etc
  • There were a lot of teachers in the Asylum
  • Mania was the most common mental illness
  • It was an Asylum for people who didn’t have faith in the Quakers. Sent them there to regain their faith.
  • Website: qmh.haverford.edu (very neat and organized, perhaps useful inspiration for creating my own website to display my project)

Beyond Penn’s Treaty: Website

  • Updating pre-existing website about the history of Quakers when in contact with Native Indians
  • Digitization of manuscript on those travelers and story map
  • Simplified links and added story maps with images of Manuscript
    • John Clark’s Journey
  • Map of Travelers and the locations they visited
  • Clicking on those location markers directs the reader to the manuscript and its history
  • My thoughts: Maybe I should make my own website with info on the text and history (Story Map). Useful for linking a visualization of the data with informational text.

Modeling the Past: An Object-oriented approach to the history of women in science

  • VR of an old chemistry room where women studied in science
  • The VR is meant to show an understanding of how women practiced biology (like a virtual tour of ancient places)
  • Unity 3D, Sketchup, HTML, CSS, and PHP

Racial Reception of Anime

  • Anime was very popular in the black community
  • Black Childhood: Karate movies, Dragon Ball Z, etc
  • These forms of eastern entertainment inspired rappers
  • Themes: Fighting and masculinity resonate with young black men
  • Opposed to white community where anime is mocked and parodied

Speech-to-Text for Accessibility

  • Accessibility in education system. Used as an asset to any students benefiting from this.
  • Lecturer speakers (node.js) > The Speech is streamed to Microsoft transcription server (node.js) > Text is returned in 5-10 second chunks and sent to a Google sheet where each chunk is written to a new line (node.js) > A student logs in to a web portal to view the text in real time!
  • Interesting and rather difficult project considering that the technology would have to account for each professor’s accent, dialect and pronunciation. Why Google Sheets and not Google Docs?

Change & Continuity in Muhlenberg’s Theatre History

  • Digital Timeline of physical documents of theatre (yearbooks and plays)
  • First play written by them (written on a lemon shaped book): The story of a Bunch of Lemons or a Green Pot of Paint (Not a very serious play but funny)
  • The Yearbook includes humorous descriptions of each member such as their apparent skill with a sword (in a play)
  • Method (Structured):
    • Timeline JS: Story Map
    • Google Sheets displaying the text such as the subject and the heading and the text
    • Media Column links to Zenfolio with pictures
    • Copy and paste URL of Google Sheets into Timeline JS

Digital Gamelan Learning

  • Digital Exhibition Website of Gamelan Gongs
  • Can play the instrument on the website

Accessing the Community of Readers

15 min read

Levi Pawling was born in 1773, admitted to the bar in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1795 and married in 1804 to Elizabeth Hiester. He was a career lawyer, and though his local government was largely run by Democrats, he also served as a one term senator as a Federalist from March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1819. Pawling wore many hats over the course of his life, from congressman to burgess of Norristown to president of the board of directors of the Bank of Montgomery County to father. Over the course of his marriage to Hiester, Pawling fathered seven children: Elizabeth, Ellen, Rebecca, Mary, Joseph H., James M., and Henry DeWitt (Wiley 419). Ellen, born in 1816, married another Pennsylvania lawyer from Norristown, Henry Freedley, in June of 1845, just before her father’s death in September of that year. After Ellen’s own death in 1850, her sister Rebecca, born in 1815, married her widower. The marriage of Rebecca and Henry Freedley was even shorter than that of Ellen and Freedley, however, as Rebecca died in November of 1851, only eight months after her wedding (Bull 54). Though Freedley lived a much longer life, surviving until 1894, he, Rebecca, Ellen, and Levi are all buried in the churchyard of the parish that Levi founded and presided over as church warden, St. Johns Episcopal Church in Norristown, PA. Levi’s other daughter, Mary, born 1819, married yet another Pennsylvania lawyer, Sylvester Norton Rich in 1846. Their marriage lasted much longer than either of her sisters’, continuing until Rich’s death in 1893. Rich and Mary were both buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia.

But between that, between all of the marriages and politics and birth and death, Levi Pawling owned an edition of The Works of Laurence Sterne (1790), an eight volume collection of Sterne’s novels, letters, sermons, and various bits and pieces he had written for other publications. Levi signed his name in several of the volumes, with his name first appearing in volume three. The inscription reads: “Levi Pawling’s Oct. 1st 1800.” His daughter Rebecca’s name is in six of the eight volumes, sometimes written more than once. On a half title page at the start of volume one, Rebecca followed a similar inscription pattern to her father, writing: “Rebecca Pawling, January 6th 1836.” Her eventual husband’s name, Henry Freedley appears on the full title page in every volume in the exact same spot, as “Henry Freedley C.E.” is inked in between the words “COMPLETE IN EIGHT VOLUMES” and “CONTAINING.” Mary Pawling’s name appears only once, at the top of page 173 in volume eight, containing Sterne’s sermons. But whether these family members inscribed their names once or a hundred times, the inscriptions allowed them to generate a community of readers. As the lovers in John Donne’s “The Canonization” are immortalized and interred in the poem which acts as their urn, so are the Pawlings contained in these volumes, together and interacting for as long as the books continue to exist. Mary and her husband may have been buried in a different cemetery from the rest of the members of the family whose names are inscribed in this book, but in these pages they reside together, and the inscriptions help to create a narrative out of their relationships. Levi had the book first, obviously, as none of the others were born yet in 1800, the date of the first inscription. After that, perhaps, it passed to Rebecca, who would have been twenty one when she put her own name in the volumes. Or maybe Mary went through them first, reading and marking up the passages that mattered to her, and then passed it onto her sister. From Rebecca, they might have passed to Henry.

In light, feathery pencil, someone has written “January 1832” on page 144 of volume seven. A similar light and feathery pencil has used the book as a sketch pad, doodling myriad birds and flowers in the margins, and sketching various ladies and gentlemen in many of the blank spaces left at the end of chapters. Someone has even taken the trouble to illustrate a scene from A Sentimental Journey in which a character named Maria sits with a dog in her lap under a tree. In this case, there was not enough blank space to accommodate the artist, who instead composed her illustration on a small sheet of paper and attached it to the page with an actual pin, similar to the type of pin used for hemming clothing. All of the margin notes are also in pencil, though there is no telling whether the same hand made them all. It is possible that Levi Pawling, Rebecca Pawling, and Henry Freedley signed their names in ink at the start in order to make bolder and more permanent claims of ownership, while they made margins notes in pencil so as not to overwhelm the text. However, it is also possible that the pencil marks, the words written in the margins, and the sketches that might have been a product of the artistic component of the education of young ladies in the nineteenth century might have all been produced by Mary Pawling, whose name also appears in pencil and in the middle of a text, as if in the midst of reading she suddenly felt the urge to put herself in these pages and test out a signature. The placement of Mary Pawling’s name is more suggestive of usage than ownership.

On these details, I can only speculate, though that speculation itself results in more detail being added to the web of this family’s pattern of association as their names are brought into contact again and again in varying ways and orders. In fact, the speculation greatly expands the web, for now, I can add my own name to the web. Now I have had contact with Levi and Rebecca and Mary and Henry, similar to the way they had contact with each other. The community of readers has expanded, but both includes me and does not include me.

Reading is sometimes viewed as an act of consumption. Writers produce and readers consume. However, reading is more complicated than that. Readers must produce in the same way that writers do, absorbing the words and building the framework around them, picturing scenes and bringing characters to life. The problem with that is that there is no physical trace of that. When one writes, one makes something that other people can see. When one reads, one makes something that only they can see. Marginalia provides a middle ground between those two acts; marginalia is the physical result of reading, and the physicality of it allows for continued community building.

Books in the Early Novels Database’s corpus such as these volumes of Sterne might contain hundreds of years of readers and reader reactions, with eighteenth, nineteenth, and maybe even twentieth century marginalia. The community far outlasts the people who are a part of it, but it also grants them a sort of immortality, similar to the kind that we are so keen to grant to writers. Men like William Shakespeare, for example, or the aforementioned John Donne, are sometimes thought to have beaten death, living eternally through their works so that as long as their works are still read, they still exist in this world. When we write literary criticism of these authors, we use the present tense, “Shakespeare writes” or “Donne chooses” as if they are still here with us, in an eternal present. In some sense, they get to live forever. Marginalia allows for a similar life to be given to readers. Henry Freedley, and Levi, Rebecca, and Mary Pawling are still part of a community because the volume containing their names has survived beyond them.

While cataloging these volumes, I attempted to authorize their identities in VIAF (Virtual International Authority File) and WorldCat, but could not, because such databases only keep track of writers and those involved in printing and publishing. When I search WorldCat for the names of the men who printed these books, when I search “P. Wogan,” I not only find Patrick Wogan, I find links to people whose names appeared in print often in conjunction with him. WorldCat suggests the record for Patrick Byrne, John Rice, James Moore, and Arthur Grueber among others. Their community is solidified in print and proliferated in the thousands of copies of books that they worked on professionally. But most of the men and women who formed these communities of readers were not professional readers, and as such, official sources like WorldCat usually will not have any record of their interaction with these texts. They owe their continued existence as communities and as living people to their marginalia, for that is how, 200 years in the future, some random teenage girl was able to touch them. When I searched one name at a time-- just Levi Pawling or just Henry Freedley--- I was unable to match a person to the name. It was not until I began searching all of the names together that I was able to find them. It is only their presence in each other’s company in the pages of these Sterne volumes that allowed me to touch them.

Yes, I touched them, but I could not join them, for the existence of these books in the rare books library at the University of Pennsylvania means that they might be looked at, but not used, not in the same way that Mary Pawling used them. For reasons that are seemingly obvious, rare books libraries do not allow their patrons to go around marking up the books in their collections. Eighteenth century marginalia is valuable to them, but anything added now might be considered vandalism. The libraries preserve these books, but in preserving them, do not allow them to be really read, and there appears to be no way around this. If the books are to be preserved, it seems we must be shut off from the community of readers.

But, trapped in this apparent paradox, we must ask ourselves why the books must be preserved. Presumably, our urge to preserve comes from a sense of the historical value of the books. From the perspective of a historian, they ought to be frozen in time, preserved exactly as they are in order to allow us to see, relatively unobscured, what the original readers were like. But in a purely literary sense, this might be an incorrect approach. Assuming these books are meant to persist is a big assumption. Perhaps books are meant to be used and used and used until they disintegrate into nothingness. We cannot possibly hold onto everything, after all. Perhaps books are like that couch that exists in many a mother’s parlor room-- no one is ever allowed to sit on it, making you wonder why she bought it at all. Perhaps there is more value in building the community of readers and allowing it to grow to include modern readers than in perfectly preserving the past. History is all a matter of representation anyway. What we know about the past may be no less fictional than what we know about Narnia. Why prioritize history over literature?

The ephemerality of artwork is a concept to which we are already accustomed. In an article for African Arts, Allyson Purpura explores this tension between what she views as a Western desire to preserve things and the temporary nature of some forms of artwork, asking readers to consider that whenever they see an art installation that was tailor made for one particular space, they are viewing ephemeral artwork. When the next exhibit is ready to be put in, the old one is taken out and can never again exist as it did. Other forms of artwork rely upon that ephemerality, existing because of it, not in spite of it, such as the rice flour paintings of Hindu women in India that are washed away by rain or smudged by passers by who step on them. Purpura claims that the purpose of this artwork is not a product, but the act of producing something (12). The continued process is the goal in itself, not any preservable piece of artwork. These women’s paintings in particular felt relevant to the case of the ephemerality of the eighteenth century novel, as the preface of Each Sex in their Humour, published in 1764, jumped to mind, which, though it frames the text as a found manuscript, includes a note from the author, who writes, “This was begun at a Time when I had nothing better to do, and carried on at Intervals of Leisure…” (ii). Though this is only a conceit, the novel similarly suggests that it was written for the sake of writing it, not necessarily of finishing it. At a time in which the author had nothing else to do, she took up writing to stave off boredom in her “voluntary exile,” just as Stephen Huyler, whom Purpura quotes in her discussion of the rice flour paintings, claims that those Hindu women are painting as “a means of coping with the present.” They are not for the future and they are not about preserving the past. They are about occupying the present.

Occupying the present is all that we can ever really do, and all these objects can do, even the ones that are historically significant. As Michèle Valerie Cloonan argues in an article concerning the future of archiving, these objects can never be entirely abstracted from the modern context in which they now exist (235). The object in front of us now is not quite the same object that was in front of a reader in 1817. Context strongly affects the way we perceive objects’ meaning and the way we construct narratives around them. Even when we attempt to place ourselves in the mindset of someone from 1817, part of that process involves imagining their mindset, and we imagine their mindset differently now than we did even ten years ago because we are constantly acquiring new information and writing and rewriting narratives. Furthermore, as Cloonan aptly points out, putting these books away in a rare books library does not actually stop them from aging. Simply the fact that time passes is enough to change these books, even if it may be in a small way. Pigments fade and oxidize, ink fades and bleeds, and pages become brittle. No matter how well we take care of these books, they still age, and as such, still have an expiration date of sorts, even if it is long deferred.

That expiration date may not be a bad thing, however. As Purpura alleges, “The ephemeral amplifies the present by giving it a temporal frame” (14). It is the limited nature of the objects and concepts that exist in the ephemeral present that makes them more valuable to us. Knowing that something is temporary forces us to pay attention to it while it is there; the good that it does is concentrated. Instead of small, steady goodness, the ephemeral object displays an intense flash of goodness. Linking this back to marginalia, it suggests to me that though these books may not survive their own usage, they might have a more significant impact on their readers if we allow them to be ephemeral objects. Instead of many people having brief encounters with these books, fewer people might have passionate affairs with them. The communities that exist within them might not be immortal, but they will be strong and complex. If we were to allow special collections books to continue collecting marginalia, to allow twenty first century readers to access the historical community of readers, we would lose these books, but we would truly use them first.

Works Cited:

Bull, James H., Commodore. Record of the Descendants of John and Elizabeth Bull: Early Settlers in Pennsylvania. The Shannon-Conmy Company, 1919.

Cloonan, Michèle Valerie. “W(H)ITHER Preservation?” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, vol. 71, no. 2, 2001, pp. 231–242. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4309507.

Each Sex in their Humour: or, the Histories of the Families of Brightley, Finch, Fortescue, Shelburne, and Stevens. Printed for the Editor, 1764.

“The History of St. John’s.” St. John’s Episcopal Church. http://www.stjohnsnorristown.org/history.html. Accessed 23 June 2017.

“Pawling, Levi, (1773-1885).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=P000147. Accessed 23 June 2017.

Purpura, Allyson. “Framing the Ephemeral.” African Arts, vol. 42, no. 3, 2009, pp. 11–15. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20627005.

Sterne, Laurence. The Works of Laurence Sterne: Complete in Eight Volumes. Printed for the Proprietors, 1790. Currently housed in the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center.

Wiley, Samuel T. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch. Biographical Publishing Company, 1895.

Project Write-up: A New Edition of Genuine Copies

6 min read

Throughout the summer, the two things I relished the most about cataloging were: 1. Feeling and imagining the accumulated histories of the books as I paged through them; and, 2. Discovering bits of these histories as came upon inscriptions, marginalia, doodles, and scraps of fabric in each book. It was delightful and honestly a little magical to flip the last page of back free end paper in a book and find it covered in somebody’s original poem. Or to see somebody’s childish handwriting (incorrectly) subtract 1792, the year of a book’s publication, from a year in the 1800s, with which they inscribed the book. Seeing this, I immediately subtracted both 1792 and the 1800s date from 2017 on my phone, just to feel those temporal differences.

For my personal project, I wanted to consider the timeline of the books we catalog. How have they been read, used, interpreted, and handled - and how will they be in the future? How does a book act as a record of its own history, and how does it communicate this history in paratextual ways? My objective was to build on these questions and create a physical object that captures the multiple, intersecting existences of a novel as a text, as a book, and as a specific object, or copy of that book—when we catalog a specific copy we interact with not only the authors, publishers, and editors of the text, but also all of the people who have previously read, owned, borrowed, or cataloged that book. In this way, the book exists not only as a container for the novel’s text, and its story, but also as an object in itself. The specific copy that we catalog has its own history, and its addition to the END dataset adds to that timeline. If every pencil underline or aspect of design in a book is intended to inform future readers of how that particular publisher or owner has interpreted it, then our END code adds another layer. We write our own interpretations into the catalog. And, as time passes, the book begins to exist in multiple planes: physically, in the library; digitally, as code and as a digitized edition; in memory, as a book meant for popular enjoyment; in academia, as an object of study; in END, as a multifaceted point in a dataset.

The book that I chose to work with was Genuine copies of all the love letters and cards which passed between an illustrious personage and a noble lady during the course of a late amour, a juicy epistolary novel dated around 1770 by the actual scandalous lawsuit between Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, and Henriette, Countess Grosvenor. This book had been recently scanned into END’s Digital Collection and read with Optical Character Recognition. This summer, I used my laptop to correct the .txt file generated by the OCR. As I corrected each of the numerous misspellings involving the letter “s,” I saw the novel’s timeline as a series of changing media: written, printed, and digital. Thus, for my project, I initially planned separate editions of Genuine copies, designed to represent the differences between the media they encapsulated.

However, I soon found myself reconsidering the validity of these divisions. Print, written, and digital media cannot exist independently; the ways we produce and consume various kinds of media are actually inseparable from each other. Digital facsimiles of printed text rely on print media and print form, and print media is designed to contain the medium of the written word. Computer-read OCR text must be hand-corrected by rearranging print, and digital files are often printed out, so that they can be written on by hand. The media timeline does not move forwards, in a line, but rather back and forth, to include all the media that have been worked with before. The digitization of a book like Genuine Copies also makes easier the book’s reprinting. Reprinting, in turn, gives rise to more of the written inscriptions that we at END so enthusiastically document.

Thus, for my new edition of Genuine Copies, I aimed to reflect on the movements back and forth, or between, various kinds of media, rather than the clean-cut differences that mark written, print, and digital texts. Instead of a fully easy-to-read text, the result is, in a way, a documentation of END’s cataloging process. To put together the pieces of the story, one has to page through the text of another book, The Matter of My Book: Montaigne’s Essais as the Book of the Self, which I conveniently obtained from the Kislak Center’s free book cart. As the series of letters and cards shows the royal affair building up and then falling apart, the text’s presentation also changes. It moves from the fictional/factual handwritten letter, to a print, to a scan, and then a reprinting, layered with metadata and paratexts about how the novel exists on copy-specific, personal, or library planes.

The book is messy, containing many printed screenshots, useless and casual marginalia, inscriptions by all of the 2017 END students, a leaf from the garden of Mark’s Café in Van Pelt Library, post-it notes from my secondary reading, cut-outs from old Sotheby’s catalogs (also from the Kislak cart, potentially representing the book as an object) and 1.5 sticks of washable school glue in its pages. It can be interpreted as a new edition, a timeline, a scrapbook collage, or merely a destruction of a perfectly fine copy of Richard L. Regosin’s 1977 book, The Matter of My Book. Either way, what I hope to have captured in the book is the fun and magic of cataloging: the excitement of finding evidence that someone did the same thing as you long ago, and the excitement of knowing someone might do the same in the future. Books embody and record human interactions, not only through what they communicate but how—in design, in paratextual additions, in the creation of rich catalogs like END. Part of this must explain the importance and interest of not only cataloging, but also books and reading as a whole.

Works Consulted

Genette, Gérard. Paratexts: thresholds of interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2001. Print.

Gitelman, Lisa. Always already new: media, history and the data of culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Mak, Bonnie. How the Page Matters. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2014. Print.

McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. The medium is the massage. London: Penguin,2008. Print.

Price, Leah. How to do things with books in Victorian Britain. Princeton, N.J: Princeton U Press, 2012. Print.

On the Physical Presence of Books

6 min read

It is easy to forget the physicality of a modern trade paperback. You throw it in your bag to take to the beach. You put your drink on it when you don’t have a coaster, confident you can wipe the condensation off of its glossy cover. You smush it between other books in your backpack, bending the edges a bit so you can get the bag to zipper because you know that if you press it flat later under the weight of your textbooks, it will resume its shape. You don’t have to be delicate with it, so it is easy to forget that the book has a physical presence as well as a psychological one.

Working with the books in END’s corpus requires a completely different approach, and thus allots your attention to completely different aspects of the experience of each book. When I gently slide a book out of a box or open it carefully, cradling it in my palm like I’m supporting the neck of a newborn, I am hyper aware that this book is an object, that it is held together with glue and leather and thread and that it could easily come apart.

But I am also aware that if a book can come apart, it can be put together. Someone put these books together. The 260 fields in our MarcXML scheme are designated for publisher’s information, and there is really a shocking amount of such information in comparison to today’s paperbacks. These books don’t simply list a publishing house and a copyright year. They are rarely shrouded under the umbrella claim of a publishing company, leaving their origins vaguely traceable but also largely abstract. Our 260 fields are full of names. They reveal the people behind these books and the communities they formed.

In the novels from the 1790s with which we work daily, we discover who the books were printed by, who they were printed for, who engraved the frontispieces, who sold them and often where they sold them. The publication information given by these books makes visible a lot of the care work that is involved in the publishing industry that is hidden labor today. The people listed on these title pages are all guardians of these books in some way, seeing them through some phase of their maturation until they became the books I know today. Novels in this period were often detached from their authors, from their “parents,” but not from the publishers serving in loco parentis as their guardians.

Seeing names appear together again and again only contributes to this idea that these people “raised” these books together, that it takes a village to put together a book just as it does to raise a child. The group that we END cataloguers have fondly nicknamed “The Dublin Boys” consists of P. Wogan, P. Byrne, J. Rice, J. Moore, W. Jones, and J. Jones, occasionally featuring J. Halpen, R. M’allister, and A. Grueber. Each name almost always appears in conjunction with several of the others in that list, and they appear often in the novels we have that were printed in Dublin in the 1790s. The close association creates the sense that these men were all working together somehow, even if in reality they were likely competitors. They competed as far as sales and production went, perhaps, but worked together to popularize and disperse these books. Even if their immediate goal was to make money, they also contributed to the dissemination of the novel in Ireland as a result of that competition between men.

Conceptualizing the way that humans were involved in the production of eighteenth century texts allows us to better conceptualize the book as an item to be owned and held as well as read. Humans, unlike companies, are flesh and blood. There is physical substance there. Books are the same way. Stories can be abstract in the same way that companies are, but books are paper and glue.

When Alice McGrath gave us a preliminary presentation on her research regarding prefaces, I was struck by the fact that in each preface she gave to us as an example, the human body was featured in some way. The preface to Each Sex (1764) admits that the story it precedes bears the mark of a “Female Hand.” The advertisement in the front of The Maiden Aunt (1776) claims that it is “with a heart anxiously trembling” that the authoress submits her work to the “public eye.” The third novel, The Denoument: or, the History of Lady Louisa Wingrove (1781) begins its preface with a saucy antagonism of the reader who might doubt the quality of the work thanks to its by line: “By a Lady!-- what again!-- another pen in petticoats?” In this final example, the human body is not explicitly evoked, but its dressings are. The description of the petticoats conjures the image of a woman wearing them in our minds, but this example replaces that female body with a pen, suggesting that there is something analogous between humans and their writings, and this similarity might be attributed to the twofold nature of our being.

Part of the human experience is our physical presence in our bodies and part of it is a result of synapses firing in our brains to create a less tangible existence. Books are the same way. Part of the experience is a result of our brains finding meaning in the words on a page, but another part of it is a result of having this physical book in our hands, and as such, books can create communities two different ways. One community consists of people who have read the story, who have their own copies or borrowed one from a library or heard it told by a friend. They share a common intellectual experience. The second community, however, is formed by the people who have possessed one specific copy as the physical transfer of ownership connects its readers. Whether or not these people read the book is somewhat irrelevant. They possessed it, and thus they are linked. The physicality of these books, or any books, therefore cannot be ignored or forgotten about, for to do so is to ignore a whole community created by them.

Conference reflection

3 min read

This DH conference was the first conference I have ever had the chance to attend. I ended up going to three talks in total: Lauren Klein's keystone, an introduction to Scalar, and a talk on temporality.

Lauren Klein's framing of cataloguing and digital humanities as "carework" was not only enlightening, but also relatively reassuring. I sometimes worry about whether or not the data that we are encoding this summer will ever be used and whether our efforts will be important to the later field of research. Her characterization of "carework" as invisible work was something that I identified with and wanted to hear more about. How can invisible work be brought into the light, especially in cases that are difficult to quantify? There are so many social inequities in the recording of history; there is no guarantee that everyone's work is documented. There is no guarantee that credit will be given where credit is due. I only wish that Dr. Klein had elaborated more on what methods or mindsets we can take to bring carework into view. "Not doing or creating, but opening paths for future knowledge" is a beautiful sentiment, but is it a mindset that needs to gradually infiltrate academic circles? I want to know how we can actively, rather than passively, apply it to research.

The introduction to Scalar was an effective workshop! While I cannot make beautiful Scalar presentations yet, I can now definitely make workable Scalar presentations. I think that this is indeed the presentation platform I am going to use in the final stages of my project, since multi-media essay is close to what I am aiming for. The workshop itself was very direct and clear; I also appreciated that time was taken to explain the adminstrative functions of Scalar. Overall, it was a fruitful workshop.

The talk on temporality also gave me a lot of things to consider. The section I was most interested in was the last "fuzzy dates" talk. The concept of "precision of duration" was wild. How can such wildly disparate durations of dates refer to the same state? Of course, like was brought up, losing context is unavoidable in that case. The only quibble I have with this talk is that I seem unable grasp its importance in humanities research. Usually all that is necessary is to have a date (e.g. 1791) that denotes a publication year, or other such dates of genesis or destruction. I think ultimately, this talk seems like a really cool and perhaps introspective, philosophical discussion on how to discuss "when."

Keystone DH Reflection: Historic Houses and Literature as a Physical Space

3 min read

Funnily enough, both conferences that I went to wound up discussing historic house museums. In the morning, I attend the Digital Studies panel, where Chelsea Gunn gave a presentation about archiving born digital materials and the technology on which they were created, discussing the challenges involved in archiving something like Susan Sontag’s personal computer. On the one hand, archivists want to preserve as much of the original experience as possible for users when they interact with the machine via a model or interface, but on the other, modern users have different wants and needs. Gunn noted that often, the models will have authentically slow processing speeds, which both adds to the experience and makes doing whatever research you are trying to do much harder and more time consuming. But part of what researchers or just casual and curious patrons might be interested in involves the machine on which the documents are stored. It is not just about accessing Susan Sontag’s emails, it is about using her computer to do so. That computer is not valuable because it is the only one left in that make and model-- it isn’t. It is valuable because she lived in it and used it.

My afternoon session was about temporality, but of course, when discussing temporality, we also wound up discussing space. Jim McGrath discussed using augmented reality to create a house tour of a historic house that is part of the University of Brown’s campus, explaining the ways that visitors and tourists can interact with objects in the house virtually while also interacting with them physically. The very existence of that house struck a chord with me in relation to my marginalia project, as it is both museum-like, with self-guided tours available on this Neatline program, and also a working office space. It is observed and appreciated but also used. McGrath made a throw away comment at the beginning about how when he first started working in his office in that building, he was afraid to touch anything, with the implication being that now he has gotten used to it and treats it like any other office. Thinking about that in the context of the rare books in Kislak is strange and interesting, for on the one hand, these books can also be used, functioning as both literary history artifacts and pieces of literature (outside of time). But on the other hand, they can’t REALLY be used. They can only be looked at. Presumably, McGrath does at his desk what he would do at any desk. If a pen explodes, it gets ink on it. If he spills a cup of coffee, it might get wet. He uses his desk. He doesn’t just look at it.

But what really struck me about McGrath’s presentation was a series of photos he included at the end, collages made by a student which melded twenty first century photos with black and white photos of the building’s past inhabitants. One in particular depicted a family standing in the parlor taking a wedding photo. It seemed almost ghostly, having them in the middle of the full color photograph, like they have left traces of themselves behind. But it reminded me of the way that I view marginalia. Marginalia, too, is almost ghostly: a physical trace of a person’s existence. When the body is gone, what is left? Some might say ghosts. Others, marginalia.

Project write-up

2 min read

This week I have been continuing to work my way through the secondary sources that I already have. Raven's "The book as a commodity" has been incredibly helpful when it comes to placing the novel in the market as a luxury good, as well as elaborating on the advertising techniques used by publishers in order to promote the sale of books to the gentry and middling classes and as an effective analysis of the bookselling industry altogether. The possession of books as not only material wealth but as a sign of status is an interesting point to consider. The first two chapters of Berg's "Luxury and Pleasure in 18th Century Britain" give some concrete information about the income strata that differentiates the gentry and middling classes. Berg also brings up some fascinating points about advertising itself becoming an object of consumption (i.e. the collectible nature of trade cards). I have also called books through Aeon, though I have not had a chance to retrieve them yet and will thus do so next week. I think my next steps are, concretely, to retrieve the books on my list to take pictures of the advertisements that I am interested in and, less concretely, to look for more secondary sources. I don't think that the sources I have now are discussing exactly what I need. I'd like to find more sources that talk about in-book advertisements, ideally. As for presentation, I think I would like to use Scalar as the preferred method. The workshop from the conference was enlightening.

Marginalia and the Pawling Family (MKG: 7/14/17)

6 min read

Levi Pawling was born in 1773, admitted to the bar in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1795 and married in 1804 to Elizabeth Hiester. He was a career lawyer, and though his local government was largely run by Democrats, he also served as a one term senator as a Federalist from March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1819. Pawling wore many hats over the course of his life, from congressman to burgess of Norristown to president of the board of directors of the Bank of Montgomery County to father. Over the course of his marriage to Hiester, Pawling fathered seven children: Elizabeth, Ellen, Rebecca, Mary, Joseph H., James M., and Henry DeWitt. Ellen, born in 1816, married another Pennsylvania lawyer from Norristown, Henry Freedley, in June of 1845, just before her father’s death in September of that year. After Ellen’s own death in 1850, her sister Rebecca, born in 1815, married her widower. The marriage of Rebecca and Henry Freedley was even shorter than that of Ellen and Freedley, however, as Rebecca died in November of 1851, only eight months after her wedding. Though Freedley lived a much longer life, surviving until 1894, he, Rebecca, Ellen, and Levi are all buried in the churchyard of the parish that Levi founded and presided over as church warden, St. Johns Episcopal Church in Norristown, PA. Levi’s other daughter, Mary, born 1819, married yet another Pennsylvania lawyer, Sylvester Norton Rich in 1846. Their marriage lasted much longer than either of her sisters’, continuing until Rich’s death in 1893. Rich and Mary were both buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Philadelphia.

But between that, between all of the marriages and politics and birth and death, Levi Pawling owned an edition of The Works of Laurence Sterne (1791), an eight volume collection of Sterne’s novels, letters, sermons, and various bits and pieces he had written for other publications. Levi signed his name in several of the volumes, with his name first appearing in volume three. The inscription reads: “Levi Pawling’s Oct. 1st 1800.” His daughter Rebecca’s name is in six of the eight volumes, sometimes written more than once. On a half title page at the start of volume one, Rebecca followed a similar inscription pattern to her father, writing: “Rebecca Pawling, January 6th 1836.” Her eventual husband’s name, Henry Freedley appears on the full title page in every volume in the exact same spot, as “Henry Freedley C.E.” is inked in between the words “COMPLETE IN EIGHT VOLUMES” and “CONTAINING.” Mary Pawling’s name appears only once, at the top of page 173 in volume eight, containing Sterne’s sermons. But whether these family members inscribed their names once or a hundred times, the inscriptions allowed them to generate a community of readers. As the lovers in John Donne’s “The Canonization” are immortalized and interred in the poem which acts as their urn, so are the Pawlings contained in these volumes, together and interacting for as long as the books continue to exist. Mary and her husband may have been buried in a different cemetery from the rest of the members of the family whose names are inscribed in this book, but in these pages they reside together, and the inscriptions help to create a narrative out of their relationships. Levi had the book first, obviously, as none of the others were born yet in 1800, the date of the first inscription. After that, perhaps, it passed to Rebecca, who would have been twenty one when she put her own name in the volumes. Or maybe Mary went through them first, reading and marking up the passages that mattered to her, and then passed it onto her sister. From Rebecca, they might have passed to Henry. (Could I construct a chart? A visualization/web of their relationships?)

In light, feathery pencil, someone has written “January 1832” on page 144 of volume seven. A similar light and feathery pencil has used the book as a sketch pad, doodling myriad birds and flowers in the margins, and sketching various ladies and gentlemen in many of the blank spaces left at the end of chapters. Someone has even taken the trouble to illustrate a scene from A Sentimental Journey in which a character name Maria sits with a dog in her lap under a tree. In this case, there not enough blank space to accommodate the artist, who instead composed her illustration on a small sheet of paper and attached it to the page with an actual pin, similar to the type of pin used for hemming clothing. All of the margin notes are also in pencil, though there is no telling whether the same hand made them all. It is possible that Levi Pawling, Rebecca Pawling, and Henry Freedley signed their names in ink at the start in order to make bolder and more permanent claims of ownership, while they made margins notes in pencil so as not to overwhelm the text. However, it is also possible that the pencil marks, the words written in the margins, and the sketches that might have been a product of the artistic component of the education of young ladies in the nineteenth century might have all been produced by Mary Pawling, whose name also appears in pencil and in the middle of a text, as if in the midst of reading she suddenly felt the urge to put herself in these pages and test out a signature. The placement of Mary Pawling’s name is more suggestive of usage than ownership.

On these details, I can only speculate, though that speculation itself results in more detail being added to the web of this family’s pattern of association as their names are brought into contact again and again in varying ways and orders. In fact, the speculation greatly expands the web, for now, I can add my own name to the web. Now I have had contact with Levi and Rebecca and Mary and Henry, similar to the way they had contact with each other. The community of readers has expanded, but both includes me and does not include me.

Personal project write-up 7/14

4 min read

The articles that I spent my time reading this week were incredibly relevant to my project and very useful for articulating the argument that I am attempting to make through my remediation project. I began with the introduction to Leah Price’s book, How to Do Things With Books, building on her idea that the ways people interact with books—by reading, handling, and circulating—always overlap. Although many attempt to separate out the text from the book through value judgments, Price argues that the book has a “Janus-faced potential,” because it is bounded to its medium, and yet “credited with the power to free its users” through their interactions with the text (5). As texts move towards the digital, Price insists that the idealization of digital texts as printed texts “flattens the range of uses to which the book was put before digital media came along to compete with it”—the uses of handling and circulating (7). The book object links us not only to the author of the text, but also all of the people who have touched the book before us. This concept is echoed by both Gitelman in Media as Historical Subjects and Marshall McLuhan in The Medium is the Message. Gitelman points out that old media remains meaningful even when new media emerges, offering people an opportunity to encounter the past that created the media representation (5). Quoting, McLuhan, Gitelman agrees that “each new medium represents its predecessors” (4); in The Medium is the Message, McLuhan illustrates how the content of each medium is always another medium, with speech comprising writing and writing comprising print (1).

These ideas really helped me conceptualize my awe of the 18th century novels that we handle every day, which is really what inspired me to pursue this project. So much goes into creating code for each book; and yet so much more has already happened with its creation, design, ownership, and distribution. What I want more than anything is to understand, in an organized and distinct way, the individual processes that have shaped this one book. And yet, that’s impossible: the text, book, object, medium are not only inseparable, but also form relationships that demand a historical perspective and a social understanding to identify. Even after basing my project’s argument on the fact that one cannot examine a book/text/object with clearly separated categories, I could not even sort the potential categories that I wanted to illustrate and then disprove in my remediation. The text is a book that is an object which contains the text, and the medium of the text can be digital or manuscript or print, but the medium of this book (that is an object) is print, although it also contains manuscript and has been digitized (is that an object?) into a text that is not a book but is an object???

Despite my immense headache, the introduction and first chapter of Bonnie Mak’s How the Page Matters totally nailed (with devastating, even terrifying, accuracy) the point that I am trying to get at—that the page itself (isolated from my confusion regarding the book/text/object) embodies its own ideas, through “simultaneous, overlapping, mutually responsive, complementary, contradictory” strategies, not tied exclusively to one platform or mode of production (5). As an interface between designer and reader, anyone who writes, revises, or configures a page leaves “clues about how the pages matters to them and how they wish it to matter to others” (5). The page is evidence about it’s own history, with the meanings formed by readers based upon the materiality of each page. In Mak’s words, the page is “an interface, standing at center of complicated dynamic of intention and reception;” it is the material manifestation of an ongoing conversation through time (21).

With Mak’s conception of the page in mind, I am currently mapping out what each page of my edition of the text will look like. I plan to label each letter in stages of hand, print, and code, with the intention of eventually letting the complexity of the categorization overwhelm the text itself. I hope the process and the development of the material product will call into question the role of readers, designers, and catalogers in influencing the text, as well as how the text itself exists in various, changing forms of media.

To-Do 7/10/17

1 min read

-take notes on secondary sources to compile organized outline for background

-request more books on my list

-take pictures of books' ads

-take another look at full END dataset for anything noteworthy that may not be coded according to current regulated keywords

-look into html coding for wordpress for how to embed images as heading and side banners

-how does Scalar and Omeka work?? see tutorials on Slack and otherwise

MKG's To Do List (7/10/17)

1 min read

-Sort through END's data about marginalia and figure out which books to call up so I can look at them in person

-Do I want to sort the marginalia into "types"? Like, inscriptions, lots of writing, a little bit, full sentences, fragments, drawings, etc.? (Think about this)

-Watch Totem Pole documentary (https://www.nfb.ca/film/totem_the_return_of_the_gpsgolox_pole/) and look into museum ethics

-Finish Jackson reading and look at Sherman

-Secondary Sources from the Slack

-Look into online annotation services? Should I use hypothesis.io?

-How to present? Should I use Scalar? Or Omeka? What is the difference? What form will this take? Which platform is best for lots of text? Is there a way you can annotate pictures?

Final Proposal

4 min read

The 18th century saw the rise of the novel and with it, the rise of a new market. Novel readership was often determined by social class and the financial means of a family; literacy itself already was a relatively reliable litmus test for one’s value as a participant in consumer culture. If someone was well off enough to afford novels, it was likely that they would be well off enough to buy other consumer products as well. The content of the publisher advertisements included in the back matter of 18th century novels led me to question whether publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices. What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism?

The goal of my project is to study how novels and being a novel reader in the 18th century play into the consumer culture of the time. Although it would be interesting to see if the place of the novel as a material object holds true internationally, I will be limiting the scope of my research to Britain as most published works are centered there geographically pre-1800s. Because I am interested in the novel reader’s relationship with consumer culture, I am specifically looking at publisher advertisements that hawk products other than additional novels and texts. Due to constraints within the END dataset, it will not be possible to draw wide-ranging conclusions about the data. For this reason, I will be using case studies to highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer.

There are several stages that I will be implementing in order to complete this project. The first is to pull all the advertisement related data from the END database to create a tabular dataset. I will be specifically looking at category 656 (“Publishers’ advertisements”), field $a for “Miscellaneous” advertisements. However, since that controlled term has only been implemented recently, I will also be looking at field $x for the transcriptions or descriptions of the advertisement content. Category 989, field $7 would also provide some information about the objects represented in these novels.

The second stage is to build a foundation of secondary sources to draw upon when I am studying the advertisements. I will be mainly considering The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption and The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain for my construction of a profile of the average 18th century consumer and for the types of items consumers spend their money on. Raven’s The Book as a Commodity, Blackwell’s The Secret Life of Things, and Brown’s thing theory will help me formulate an argument of how people think about the novel as an object and how consumer space is negotiated around it. These two prongs will combine to articulate what being a consumer of the novel means for general consumerism. Additionally, it might be helpful to look into the bookshop as a space of commerce. Many of the objects advertised in the advertisements I have looked at so far could have been easily sold in a bookshop alongside the books. This frame would be another method to contextualize the consumer culture that surrounds novels, as both objects and facilitators of additional commerce.

The third is to start requesting books to look at their advertisements firsthand. The books called will be from the second, consolidated spreadsheet. I will be taking pictures and notes on the content. I think I may also note the content of the novel itself and the publisher or bookseller. Afterward, I will present this information in either Scalar or Omeka; the ideal presentation is an intuitive and visual representation of the information. I also want to consider if analogies both conceptual and visual can be drawn to Google AdSense ads from my study of 18th century advertisements; both involve targeted marketing of consumers’ wants and needs tailored to a specific environment—the website and the bookshop, respectively. It would be interesting to see if the type of marketing strategies and advertisement prediction algorithms prevalent in Google AdSense could have been similarly used by booksellers and publishers in order to best anticipate what novel consumers want or need.

Project Proposal III: MKG

5 min read

Reading is sometimes conceptualized as an act of consumption. Writers produce, and readers consume. However, reading is its own form of production in some ways. The text is inanimate until a reader brings it to life in his or her mind, and from the text, the reader is often creating new ideas and answering new questions, set off by something in the work. The difference, then, between reading and writing is that writing leaves a physical trace-- writing produces an object that can be touched. The matter produced by reading is thought, which, for most of us in our daily lives, we cannot display.

Marginalia gets around the problem of these invisible results. Marginalia is a physical representation of the reader’s participation in the production of the work at hand, whether it includes brackets around a section of text the reader felt was important, notes in the margin recording a reaction to the text, or something completely unrelated like a shopping list written inside the cover. These marks serve as proof that this book was owned and used. We often conceptualize writing as a path to immortality, as authors seem to transcend their own times and live now in our present just as they did in the past, but that sort of immortality is accessible to readers as well through their marginalia. A physical trace of the reader carries forward in time, creating a sort of endless community of readers. An eighteenth century reader, a nineteenth century reader, and a twentieth century reader might all live in the pages of one of the books in END’s corpus. But the twenty first century reader has been denied access to that community due to the nature of rare books libraries.

For reasons that are seemingly obvious, rare books libraries do not allow their patrons to go around marking up the books in their collections. Eighteenth century marginalia is valuable to them, but anything added now might be considered vandalism. The libraries preserve these books, but in preserving them, do not allow them to be really read. The books can be looked at, examined, and studied, but not read in the way that they were once read. There appears to be no way around this. If the books are to be preserved, it seems we must be shut off from the community of readers. But why must the books be preserved? Our urge to preserve comes from a sense of the historical value of the books. From the perspective of a historian, they ought to be frozen in time, preserved exactly as they are in order to allow us to see, relatively unobscured, what the original readers were like. But in a purely literary sense, this might be an incorrect approach. Assuming these books are meant to persist is a big assumption. Perhaps books are meant to be used and used and used until they disintegrate into nothingness. We cannot possibly hold onto everything, after all. Perhaps books are like that couch that exists in many a mother’s parlor room-- no one is ever allowed to sit on it, making you wonder why she bought it at all. Perhaps there is more value in building the community of readers and allowing it to grow to include modern readers than in perfectly preserving the past. History is all a matter of representation anyway. What we know about the past may be no less fictional than what we know about Narnia. Why prioritize history over literature?

In this project, I would like to both explore the value of marginalia from both a literary and a historical perspective through an engagement with H.J. Jackson’s arguments in his book Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books, and experiment with different ways for readers to interact with eighteenth century texts. I would like to produce five physical copies of the 1791 novella The History of Laura and the Handsome Hermit and send them out to modern readers with instructions for them to mark up the text, take it with them on their daily travels, and generally live with it… I would also like to produce an electronic copy and have five readers annotate that with a tool such as hypothesis.io, and have five people (probably the END team, if they are willing) read the original in the Reading Room at Kislak and make our notes on separate sheets of paper, marginalia detached from the text. Using these examples of marginalia as case studies, and referring to the END corpus and its records of marginalia present in the books in our collection, I would like to examine and consider the various methods of producing marginalia and the what is lost and gained in each of them, while also considering why some marginalia is treated as a valuable addition to the book and other marginalia is viewed essentially as graffiti.

Final project proposal

3 min read

How are changing methods of producing, consuming, and interpreting novels reflected in the novel’s existence as a fictional text, a book, and an object? What do books, as material objects, communicate to their readers, and how exactly is this communication achieved? The process of collecting rich, detailed data for the END project—as well as the process of learning how to work with this data—has made evident the exciting analytical possibilities that exist for studying books, for tracing the changes and commonalities within an increasingly larger and more comprehensive corpus of works. However, I am also curious about what new meanings that these individual novels take on in this process. If the novels in the END database first began their lives when they were printed, are they necessarily reborn when they are scanned and digitized? What potential for entertainment and education from the 18th century is carried forward into the present, and what opportunities for scholarship manifest in the horizon, especially in the realm of the digital?

I would like to pursue these questions first through historical research, and then through the creative experimentation of remediating a text. I plan to draw from the theoretical and conceptual frameworks set forth in Leah Price’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (for example, the relationships between reader and author; between successive and simultaneous readers; between unity and division; commonality and distinction; etc.) as well as texts in media studies regarding history and remediation, such as Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation: Understanding New Media and Gitelman’s discussion of media as historical objects. I hope to interweave a growing understanding of current media and material scholarship with research into literary and book history, especially regarding the emergence of the novel and 18th century print culture; in this aspect, I also plan to look into Catherine Gallagher on the rise of fictionality.

Following my interest in the future lives of the books in the Early Novels Database, I hope to present my research on book history and text materiality by creating a dramatically different (but meticulously designed) new version of one of the novels—my current top candidate is Love-letters between a certain late nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson, due to its epistolary form and its short length. I am interested in epistolary novels because of how their form and fiction depend on their location in time and space. Accordingly, for the creative component of my project, I plan to create a scrapbook-like edition of Love-letters that maps and categorizes the text and paratext of the story, the text, the book copy, and the book object through both real and fictional time and space. My hope is that the decisions made in this creative process will not only mirror the value judgments we make daily as cataloguers, but will also illuminate the subjectivity of those judgments and the immense, irreducible complexity of the relationships between reader, object, truth, and fiction. By closely examining a primary source while also considering its materiality in design and its historical context moving into the present, I hope to be able to explore not only specific social and technological moments, but also larger questions of meaning in literary and cultural understanding.

Project outline

2 min read

  1. Question: How are changing methods of producing, consuming, and interpreting novels reflected in the novel’s existence as a fictional text, a book, and an object?

  2. Tentative argument: The novel’s form and fiction is intertwined with its increasingly complex history. As newer, digital methods of approaching texts emerge, the same texts continue to be rewritten in different ways.

  3. A book - currently tentatively “Love-letters between a certain late nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson : discovering the true history of the rise and surprising grandeur of that celebrated beau.”

  4. Book and literary history, combined with making

  5. Materiality of books; paratexts; media studies—Gerard Genette – Paratexts: thresholds of interpretation (full text); Catherine Gallagher - Rise of Fictionality ;Janine Barchas – Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth Century Novel; Leah Price – How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain; Bolter and Grusin - Remediation: Understanding New Media

  6. I’m hoping that my project will both respond to and complicate questions such as: Why do we collect END data, and what is it actually about—the book, the text, or the copy of the book? Where does the line blur between fiction, the book, and the object? Can literary understanding be removed from history? How do we change books by holding, distributing, and reading them, versus leaving them on shelves?

outline

2 min read

• Question

o What does consumption of novels imply for general consumerism?

• Tentative Argument (based on initial observations)

o Buying novel implies baseline personal wealth, determining one’s consumer profile

o Aka what else can you buy if you can afford novels

• Object of study and scope

o Publisher advertisements from novels published in 18th century that advertise objects that are not other novels

• Method

o Close reading of ads from category 656 and of category 989 field $7

• Theoretical framework

o I’ll be looking into Weatherill’s Consumer Behavior and Material Culture in Britain for my construction of a profile of the average 18th century consumer and also for what consumers would usually buy. Park’s The Self and It: Novel Objects, Blackwell’s The Secret Life of Things, and Brown’s thing theory will help me formulate an argument of how people think about the novel as an object and how consumer space is negotiated around it. These two prongs will combine to articulate what being a consumer of the novel means for general consumerism. Additionally, it might be helpful to look into the bookshop as a space of commerce.

• Stakes

o How can this kind of advertising develop into the modern data-mined ads of today (from companies like Google)? The negotiation of novel as text and as object

(Very Rough) Project Outline

2 min read

Question: Does our preservation of these books (and our subsequent granting of immortality to those early readers/marginalia writers) necessarily exclude the possibility for us to join that immortal community of readers? If we preserve them, we can’t really read them. If we read them, we can’t really preserve them… How might we join that immortal community? What is the life span of a book? Are we supposed to preserve it?

Tentative Argument: Compiling marginalia might allow us to join that community-- abstracting marginalia from the page… But does that rob the marginalia of some of its meaning? Its placement is important, I think. And over time, we might accumulate too much marginalia to read. Different people’s marginalia will obscure each other’s writing until it just all looks like smudges on the side of the page. But marginalia has meaning for THAT COPY. It says something about the specific object in which it was found. Marginalia is not necessarily about the text, but it about the book. You can’t pin something into a webpage. BUT you can annotate with a link outwards to something else...

Object of Study/Scope: Marginalia recorded in END metadata, marginalia collected by me-- The History of Laura and the Handsome Hermit… Can I find a copy with marginalia?

Method: Book history/materiality of texts, literary history, literary theory, close reading of marginalia? Is that possible?

Theoretical Framework: Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by H.J. Jackson, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England by William Sherman

Stakes: The operational practices of special collections/rare books libraries, the lifespan of books

Proposal Rough Draft

4 min read

Although free internet archive initiatives like Google Books and Project Gutenberg have made thousands of classic texts available online for free, actually sitting down to read one of these online editions is an oftentimes excruciating experience. They prioritize accessibility over readability, either through uploading works in plaintext format without accounting for the differences between physical and digital reading or through merely hosting scans of a physical edition online as a surrogate for a physical reading experience. Rather than seek out the definitive edition of a work the most popular archive services host “zombified” versions, stitching together preexisting digital editions to bring to life a text potentially riddled with errors and inconsistencies. If internet archive initiatives endeavor to make knowledge accessible to anyone with access to the internet, then they proliferate knowledge that is inherently lesser than paid alternatives.

For my personal project I am interested in grappling not only with issues that arise from formatting digital texts online, but also with problems inherent to digital and internet archiving. Though digital texts do not suffer the wear and tear of physical ones, we might consider them equally as fragile because of the rapidity at which technology and the internet changes. Just as anything data on a floppy disk is almost unusable today because they are no longer the standard for digital storage, so too may changes in website formatting, the obsolescence of certain programming languages, and fluctuations in the price of server maintenance render “future-proof” online texts quickly inaccessible. Keeping these issues in mind, I intend to produce a variety of digital editions of all or part of The Royal Adventurers, or, The Conflict of Love, an 18th century novel in the University of Pennsylvania Library’s Collection that is not freely available online. The goal of some or all of these digital editions will be to present the text in a manner that provides a pleasurable reading experience, and/or preserves the text in a digital format that will be less-inclined towards obsolescence.

There are a few steps that I will need to take before I begin production of my digital texts. First, I will need to OCR The Royal Adventurers and correct any errors that remain in the resulting fulltext (fortunately, the UPenn Library has already scanned the novel, so I will not have to go through with that step in the OCR process). Next, I need to read at least some of the original novel in person in the Kislak Center’s Rare Book Reading Room so that I encounter the text as it was originally intended. I will need to completely read the novel (though not necessarily once in the digital and once in the physical) to understand whether I should a digital edition of all or some of the novel. Fortunately, The Royal Adventurers is already divided into a series of short chapters, a natural fit for the sometimes bite-sized nature of digital consumption.

Currently, I am considering producing about five digital editions of The Royal Adventurers, although this number may expand or shrink depending on how quickly I am able to complete certain editions. Of these five editions, three will embody the main ideas I am exploring in this project. The first is a copy of The Royal Adventurers produced in Scalar, which is a web tool that allows you to create readable website and online presentations with a host of customization options. In this edition, I will experiment with formatting the text to provide the most pain-free digital reading experience possible. The second is an edition of the novel produced in a comparatively “stable” format, such as .txt or MarkUp XML (is this the right name of the format? I can't remember). While this edition will probably be unpleasant to read, it aims to preserve The Royal Adventurers in a digital format that will remain relevant and accessible in a few years’ time. For the third edition, I plan to remediate The Royal Adventurers in an interactive fiction platform, such as Twine. I am interested in seeing if I can recapitulate a linear story in an inherently linear medium, and also interested in presenting an 18th century novel—originally a “low culture” medium—in the currently “low culture” medium of interactive fiction. The remaining two editions are not set in stone, but I plan on using Jekyll for one of them.

Draft Proposal

3 min read

The 18th century saw the rise of the novel and with it, the rise of a new market. Novel readership was often determined by social class and the financial means of a family; literacy itself already was a relatively reliable litmus test for one’s value as a participant in consumer culture. If someone was well off enough to afford novels, it was likely that they would be well off enough to buy other consumer products as well. The content of the publisher advertisements included in the back matter of 18th century novels led me to question whether publishers transpose their assumptions about the audience into their advertising choices. What does being a consumer of novels mean for general consumerism?

The goal of my project is to study how novels and being a novel reader in the 18th century play into the consumer culture of the time. Although it would be interesting to see if the place of the novel as a material object holds true internationally, I will be limiting the scope of my research to Britain as most published works are centered there geographically pre-1800s. Because I am interested in the novel reader’s relationship with consumer culture, I am specifically looking at publisher advertisements that hawk products other than additional novels and texts. Due to constraints within the END dataset, it will not be possible to draw wide-ranging conclusions about the data. For this reason, I will be using case studies to highlight the nuances within these advertising choices that are most salient to the questions am I trying to answer.

There are several stages that I will be implementing in order to complete this project. The first is to pull all the advertisement related data from the END database to create a spreadsheet in Excel. I will be specifically looking at category 656 (“Publishers’ advertisements”), field $a for “Miscellaneous” advertisements. However, since that controlled term has only been implemented recently, I will also be looking at field $x for the transcriptions or descriptions of the advertisement content. This information will be copied to another spreadsheet to consolidate it all in one place. Category 989, field $7 would also provide some information about the theoretical objects in these novels.

The second stage is to build a foundation of secondary sources to draw upon when I am studying the advertisements. For consumer culture and commodity in the 18th century, I will be reading Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth Century Britain (Maxine Berg), Consuming Subjects: British Women and Consumer Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Elizabeth Kowalski-Wallace), and Consumer Behavior and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760 (Lorna Weatherill). I think I will also be reading The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption. For the novel as a consumer object, I will be reading The Self and It: Novel Objects in Eighteenth-Century England (Julie Park), The Secret Life of Things (Mark Blackwell), as well as looking into Bill Brown’s thing theory.

The third is to start requesting books to look at their advertisements firsthand. The books called will be from the second, consolidated spreadsheet. I will be taking pictures and notes on the content. I think I may also note the content of the novel itself and the publisher or bookseller. Afterward, I will present this information in either Scalar or Omeka; the ideal presentation is an intuitive and visual representation of the information.