resources: digitized early printed books

Sometimes I give talks about the challenges and opportunities for digitizing early printed books. I prefer to do this by looking at lots of different examples, including lots of different reproductions of different copies of the same book or different reproductions of the same copy of a single book. I keep a periodically updated list of these things to draw from when I’m teaching, and I thought some of you might like to draw on it as well. It’s a page of links rather than notes on my thoughts on the subject, but in some cases, they’re books I’ve written about before and I link to those pieces.

In any case, I hope you find my digitization examples useful, and in turn, I’d love to hear from you if you have other fruitful examples that will help us think about the subject. It’s always incredibly fun for me to talk with folks about this stuff, so if you’d like a live demonstration, I do take requests! § continue reading

my syllabus is a quarto

As some of you know, I am the queen of folding exercises. It’s the only way to understand early modern book formats, and I like puttering around coming up with better ways to demonstrate this to my students and even to my blog readers (see here and, most recently, here). Because it’s that time of year when I get my syllabus in order and because, thanks to my week at Rare Book School’s Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description, I have format on my brain, it suddenly dawned on me that instead of just handing out my one-sheet syllabus (the bulk of my syllabus is online), I could hand it out as a folding exercise!

And so, after much fiddling with Word (which really isn’t the right tool for this sort of thing), I have at long last produced my syllabus in quarto format!

I’m pretty crazily excited about this. § continue reading


link catchup

Hi all—I’ve been so busy writing elsewhere that I haven’t kept up here. *sorry* But some links to some of that book history goodness in case you missed out:

At The Collation I wrote a whole lot of posts, but there are two recent ones that are exactly the sort of thing I would have written about here if I wasn’t trying to shore up content over there. The first is “Learning from mistakes,” about how much I love finding printer’s errors in early books and what we can learn from their mistakes. Check out the comments, please, to help me understand what’s going on in the 1641 pamphlet that I end the post with and why Wing drives me nuts! The second post, just up a few hours ago, is “Correcting mistakes,” and it picks up from the previous post to consider how early modern printers tried to fix their errors and how readers didn’t always heed their corrections. § continue reading

DIY newsbook

No, I don’t mean it’s time to write your own news sheet newsbook. It’s time to fold your ownnewsbook! Why would you want to do this? Well, for one thing, it’s a handy way to understand and demonstrate to others the general principle of early modern format: multiple pages are printed onto a single sheet in the correct order so that when folded, they appear sequentially. It’s like magic! Or, um, folding.

Above is a numbered example of the same newsbook that I used as an image in my last post. The red numbers are page numbers: folded in the right way, you’d get an 8-page booklet in the order indicated. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the actual news sheet doesn’t have page numbers. Instead, there are signatures: at the bottom of the first page is a tiny, blotted “L”; at the bottom of the 5th page is a tiny “L3” (the “L2” has been cut off at some point when the page was trimmed). § continue reading

building a syallabus for early modern book history

I’ve spent a good portion of my summer thinking about how to revise my syllabus for the early modern book history seminar I teach. This fall will be the sixth time I’ve taught this course, and while it’s been working well, it’s also time to shake it up a bit. Too much familiarity with the material doesn’t breed contempt, but it can lead to a complacency. I’ve been browsing in the stacks, reading new finds, and thinking about what I want students to learn and how best to achieve that.

There are some key factors that shape how I approach teaching this course. First, it’s a multi-disciplinary course, drawing students from different majors, primarily English and History, but also French, Art History, Theology, and Music. Because it’s important that all these students feel welcome in and learn from this course, it cannot be too oriented toward any single subject. On the other hand, it is a course at the Folger Shakespeare Library and one that draws on the strengths of the Library’s collections; that means that the focus of the course is explicitly early modern, concentrating on the last fifteenth century through the end of the seventeenth. § continue reading

owning your words

In a Chronicle of Higher Education column, Jennifer Sinor writes about having one of her course syllabi used by a colleague at a different institution, posing the question “Is it plagiarism when a colleague borrows your syllabus and then uses it in its entirety for his own course?” It’s an interesting question. When do you own your words and when are they up for grabs by everyone else? Sinor’s experience suggests to her that although she feels she owns her syllabus, and its appropriation by someone else was plagiarism, the others she talks to are less certain. Her department chair’s response, interestingly, is that she doesn’t own her syllabus: the university does.

As Sinor’s column goes on to discuss, the question of what aspects of a professor’s output are property of their employer and what are their own intellectual property are not entirely straightforward these days. But I’d like to focus not on the specifics of syllabi but on the recognition that we have different types of relationships to the words we use and the writings we create. § continue reading