I shot an arrow in the air. She fell to earth in Berkeley Square

January 2, 2014 § Leave a comment


I want to talk today about how early print complicates any trajectory from manuscript to digital, focusing on some common mistaken assumptions that are made about early print. The first assumption we make is that print replaced manuscript, that once the printing press was invented, writing by hand withered away. But print is not the opposite of manuscript. Indeed, we might understand print as having spurred on an increase in handwriting…

Our notion of what is important, of the difference between print and manuscript, of what readers do with texts, has been shaped by the assumptions and practices of collectors and curators in the nineteenth century. The questions that I asked about whether we consider a specific work print or manuscript are not questions without important implications for researchers. In most libraries, print and manuscript are cataloged separately, often with different curators in charge and with different policies and grants in place. Early modern readers might not have differentiated between print and manuscript, but nineteenth-century caretakers of those books did, and often remade them according to their notions of what was appropriate, assumptions that continue to govern how we treat and encounter early books.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Saoirse Wall

Ghoulish, but not now, no, I have the man’s voice still, the shake in it that was not there before, the sippings, the pauses, long sighs, I remember so clearly, have played it enough times, his voice, or the last vestiges of it, it’s not that clear, a new slur, too, but his voice, his voice I still have, yes, and what he said, what he was

February 1, 2013 § Leave a comment


Remember when my students broke Shakespeare? If you recall, during a class session in special collections, my students broke off the front board of the binding of our most important Shakespeare book, a copy of the Second Folio (1632), a moment which I reveled in, since it allowed me to teach a few valuable lessons about the Shakespeare folio — which is commonly called the most important book ever in the history of the English language ever and even the most important book ever in the whole entire history of the world ever. (Except maybe the bible; and I’m not exaggerating as much as you might think). That moment of minor vandalism took the folio down a few notches, at least for my students, for a few reasons: 1) it’s not even a copy of the First Folio, it’s “just” a Second Folio; 2) part of the preliminary matter, including the title-page, are later facsimiles inserted to make up a complete copy; and 3) it showed, with great immediacy, that a folio — any Shakespeare folio, and by extension any important symbol of literary or cultural value — is a material object made up of many different physical elements, a fact which calls into question not only its status as a literary icon, but as an actual bounded and complete book. That is, it asks two central questions: what is (our idea of) Shakespeare? And what, exactly, is a book?  read more

ART: miximoto

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