Skip to main content

University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2016

Session 3: Printmaking and Arabic texts

3 min read

There were two presentations during this session. The first was by Matthew Lincoln, a PhD candidate from U of Maryland. The scope of his project spans 1500-1750 and he seeks to form connections between the designers, engravers, and publishers of the plethora of Dutch prints held by the British Museum. Often these prints are signed and dated and this gives Matthew and enormous amount of data to work with. He showed us subgraphs that presented a 10 year rolling window of connections between nodes (artists) and edges (prints). The two big questions he is trying to answer are: 1) Did Dutch printmaking become more or less centralized during the Golden Age? and 2) Did rising Dutch prosperity instead support more distributed network?

Next he showed us random graph generation that relates to these questions: the first graph was an Erdos-Renyi graph with edges added at random, and the second was Scale-Free with edges follow power-law distribution (few nodes have most edges and demonstrates a rich gets richer scenario). The goal of artists was to seek out the most successful people to work with: “printmakers needed expert collaborators”. The ending point Matthew made was that visualizations are great, but medium to large datasets deserve metrics-- "they need simulation, not just speculation."

The second and last presenter we heard from was Maxim Romanov, a post-doc working with a plethora of digitalized Arabic texts. Some questions he is trying to answer are: What is the volume of Islamic written legacy? How much has been digitized/published/survived/written? Maxim works with digitized libraries, and the data to extract from these libraries includes names, places, dates, book titles. He explained that one can parse these records computationally.. e.g only 10 different ways to say “he composed something”, and Maxim supplemented this with an example of library record in Arabic.

Maxim's graphs showed trends from thousands of texts. Things to look at are geographical identities about authors, their networks, and their social/religious identities. He explained that most books are in Arabic, but also Persian and Ottoman-Turkish, and the importance of religious affiliations that are pulled from the information in the records. The major specializations in the topics of these writings are Hadith, Languages, Legal, and the Quaran. The most consistent and often written about of these during the span of 662-1882 (range of his graph) was Legal-- writers never stopped creating legal literature. The last point Maxim presented on was geography-related. There are connections between authors in different geographical locations-- Andalus, to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran: on the graph the size of nodes and thickness of edges determine strength and connection, and these sizes and thicknesses change over time (centuries).

Both presenters use R-- Matthew uses it for statistical data analysis and Maxim uses it for map visualization. Maxim also uses Python. It was great to find out what tools they use after having seen the presentation of their data and questions.

Epigraphs upon epigraphs

2 min read

Throughout this summer of cataloguing, I have found that certain aspects of a novel will be part of the usual string of data fields in the xml records I compile. There will most certainly be a title page data field, I will embellish the publishing information, usually add at least one paratext data field, add an author claim and authorizations of real persons connected with the novel, and last but not least create the enhanced title data field. For the current novel I am cataloguing, there is an abundance of title page data fields not because there are multiples volumes to a single work, such as when I catalogued "Hymen's praeludia, or, love's masterpiece, intitled Cleopatra.", but because I am working with a single volume that is a compilation of multiple short works. This novel is called " Miscellaneous works of William Wagstaffe.". Not only am I creating unique title page data fields and creating 500 notes about the various short works, but I get the chance to look up the different epigraphs that are on these title pages. They are all in Latin and mostly by different ancient authors, and I am enjoying the chance to look up their sources and learn a bit of Latin while using Google Translate.

Visualization tools

1 min read

This morning I started to play around with visualization now that I have started to collect my data into spreadsheets. I googled to find some tools, and found a website that gives great options for developers and ones for non-developers. Maybe with my small bit of knowledge of R I could try to tackle one of the ones for developers! But, this morning I played around with RAW (one of the options for non-developers) and met a good bit of success! I am pasting the link to the website with the various visualization tools below:

The Flourish

1 min read

Early on in the ninth volume of Tristram , on page 17, is a wonderful illustration-- a literal flourish. The page includes an exchange between Tristram’s Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim. The top of the page includes the text:

“Nothing, Trim---said my uncle Toby, musing--- Whilst a man is free--cried the Corporal, giving a flourish with his stick thus--”

and this is followed by an illustration of a squiggly line, meant to visually represent the movement of the Corporal’s baton. It is striking, even amongst the various typographical and narrative oddities of this novel. Illustration invites interpretation, and such is discussed in Christina Ionescu’s “Book Illustration in the Long Eighteenth Century”. She cites Christopher Fanning in his reading of Sterne’s message and purpose: “We may look to the physical text as a means of communication. It is the body of the text itself that is self-eloquent” (433). Working as END cataloguers we are most familiar with illustrations that serve as frontispieces. However, Sterne’s novel opens our eyes to alternate ways of adorning and expanding the text, and this flourish stands as an iconic example, and supports Fanning’s determination.

"The Life and Curious Adventures of Peter Williamson"

3 min read

I stumbled upon the full text of this novel while searching for a similar title that may in fact be the text this excerpt is a part of, but I can't confirm for sure. I thought you all might enjoy this part because it is about Philadelphia :)


This city would have been a capital fit for an empire had it been built and inhabited according to the pro- prietor's plan. Considering its late foundation, it is a large city, and most commodiously situated between the Delaware and Schuylkill, two navigable rivers. The former being two miles broad, and navigable 300 miles for small vessels. It extends in length two miles from the one river to the other. There are eight long streets two miles in length, all straight and spacious. The houses are stately, very numerous (being near 3000), and still increasing, and all carried on regularly accord- ing to the first plan. It has two fronts to the water, one on the east side facing the Schuylkill, and that on the west facing the Delaware. The Schuylkill being navigable 800 miles above the falls, the eastern part is most populous, where the warehouses (some three stories high), and wharfs are numerous and convenient All the houses have large orchards and gardens belonging to them. The merchants that reside here are numerous and wealthy, many of them keeping their coaches, &c. In the centre of the city there is a space of ten acres, whereon are built the state-house, market-house, and school-house. The former is built of brick, and has a prison under it. The streets have their names from the several sorts of timber common in Pennsylvania ; as Mulberry Street, Saffafras Street, Chestnut Street, Beech Street, and Cedar Street. The oldest church is Christ Church, and has a numerous congregation ; but the major part of the inhabitants, being at first Quakers, still continue so, who have several meeting-houses, and may not improperly be called the church, as by law established, being the originals. The quay is beautiful, and 200 feet square, to which a ship of 200 tons may lay her broadside. Near the town, and on the spot which separates it from the Schuylkill, where that river falls into the Delaware, is found black earth of a great depth, and covered with vegetation ; and which, it is evident, has been recently left by the water; It has all the character of land perfectly new, and as yet scarcely raised from the bed of the river. This land is used for meadows, and is in great estimation. It is acknowledged, however, to be extremely unhealthy. Be- tween that and Wilmington, the quality of the stone is quartzose ; ocher is also to be found in an imperfect state. As the advantages this city may boast of has rendered it one of the best trading towns out of the British empire, so in all probability it will increase in commerce and riches, if not prevented by party, faction, and religious feuds, which of late years have made it suffer considerably. The assemblies and courts of judicature are held here, as in all capitals. The French have no city like in all America."

"Go Ask Alice"

1 min read

Link to the article I mentioned during this morning's meeting!

Maybe we should make a book group to read Alice in Wonderland? But of course there are so many novels we should do...

Women readers~!

1 min read

This article was published in the New Yorker in 2012, but still is relevant to our research today and our growing relationship with 18th century literature.

See link below:

Old Bailey: Witness Testimony

2 min read

The Proceedings- The Value of the Proceedings as a Historical Source: Witness Testimony

"Over the course of the eighteenth century the level of detail provided of the typical trial increased considerably. A key development was the switch from publishing third-person summaries of witness testimony to first-person accounts which began in the 1710s. Even in the 1780s, however, as John Langbein has written, the Proceedings "were still omitting most of what was said at most of the trials they reported". At the very least, in an attempt to save space, minor details and repetitions, perceived as unimportant, were frequently left out of recorded testimony. In addition, evidence produced under cross examination was often integrated into the original testimony to make it appear as a single statement. This omitted testimony, however, could include valuable information. When William Bury was tried for bigamy in 1742, several letters read out in court were not fully reproduced in the Proceedings. These letters had been sent to Sarah Proctor, the woman Bury allegedly married while his first wife was still living. A separate pamphlet reported the content of the letters more fully. This provided further incriminating evidence against Bury, including his professions of undying love for Proctor and evidence of his desire that his marriage to her should remain a secret. In general, however, witness testimony is the most fully reported element of the trials published in the Proceedings. Publishers sought to make the trials readable and entertaining by presenting testimony unencumbered by legal and procedural details. As discussed below, however, the testimony of defence witnesses was often less well reported than that of those testifying for the prosecution."

It is interesting to see how big of a change can be made by changing something so simple as narrative form. I am also interested in the fact that there was a evident difference between defense and prosecution testimony.

This week's plan for my personal project

1 min read

This week I want to continue to keep working through the footnotes album on Flickr and pulling out geographical data, which is a key element of my project. I have requested Anthony Grafton's book "The Footnote: A Curious History" from Borrow Direct and that should arrive at Van Pelt either today or tomorrow hopefully. If it arrives today I would like to devote an hour on both Tuesday and Wednesday for reading through and expanding my knowledge on footnotes.

Referential and fictional locations in footnotes

2 min read

In examining footnotes in 18th century novels, I found the presence of not only historical, literary, and object-based information, but a plethora of geographical information, both referential and fictional. I am interested in the differences between how footnotes in novels use referential and fictional locations, how the presence of locations in footnotes interact with the presence of locations on title pages, and how geography shapes the structure of footnotes and the meaning of referential information in fictional texts. My first steps in tackling this project will be to look at secondary sources about footnotes in order to gain more context on footnotes. This will also be beneficial for my assigned project, for which I will be transcribing the bulk of footnotes in the novels catalogued thus far. After this I will look through the footnotes album on Flickr and collect titles that have footnotes with geographical information. I will also determine a list of titles with geographical footnotes and determine the presence of locations on their title pages. After gathering this data I can start to compare and organize it into categories (fictional, referential, etc.) and start to analyze and put together pieces of data to hopefully form a bigger picture and answer to the question: “What can locations in footnotes reveal to us about what the novel is trying to communicate?”

I've been working to solidify the idea for my personal project. While cataloguing "Vaughan's Voyages" (1760) last week I was struck by the geographical footnotes, among other things. I wanted to try to incorporate geography and mapping into my personal project, if possible, so this ended up being a great jumping off point for me in developing my project idea and starting to think about research questions. What is the significance of referential vs. fictional geographical locations in footnotes? What is the relationship between locations in footnotes and locations on title pages, if they coexist? How does this related to locations within the text? What can we say about novels with respect to their incorporation of international/national/provincial locations? I still need to do some more planning and brainstorming to refine these research questions and create others. My project idea is still a work in progress, but I feel good having decided on a topic! In planning my project I have since become our group's "footnote person" and I will eagerly take on this role. My assigned project will be transcribing the vast number of footnotes we have compiled in our flickr footnote album. My wrists and I are excited to start typing!

The Reign of George VI

1 min read

Kat- this book from 1763 has a somewhat long preface. check it out :)

*updated link!