For the immediate future, I’ll be concentrating on writing A Handbook for Studying Early Printed Books, 1450–1800, which is under contract with Wiley Blackwell. The book is intended to introduce undergraduate and early graduate students—and everyone else!—to how hand-press books were made and to working with them, whether in your hands or on screen. Those of you who have been relying on Philip Gaskell’s wonderful but dense A New Introduction to Bibliography will find A Handbook a more accessible introduction in the classroom. And those of you who know nothing about early modern bibliography and have no idea why you’d want to teach it will become converts to the joys of the subject.
Along with writing A Handbook, I’ll be developing an open-access website with lots of images of early printed books so that readers without readily available special collections can start to learn what such books look like. I’m a big believer in the value of hands-on learning with early printed books—there’s so much to be learned from that up-close contact. But a lot can be learned with digitized books as well, and pictures of books are a lot better than not having any books to look at! My website will be a resource for those who are studying early books without books to examine, and will help all fans of hand-press books understand how to approach them in a library and on screen.
What happens after my book is done? I’m not yet sure, and that’s part of what makes this move so exciting. I am deeply invested in teaching and in digital tools as they connect to book history. I’d love to continue working with rare books libraries to help them develop programs and initiatives to bring readers into their collections and to spread the wealth of their expertise. Some of my favorite experiences over the last few years have been visits to libraries to help them examine how they can open up their special collections to undergraduates and digital exploration. If I can help you take a look at what you’re doing, let’s talk!
I’ve been at the Folger since 2006 and I’ve done things I’m very proud of: creating and leading undergraduate seminars in book history (check out the syllabus from the last time I taught it), starting and managing the best special collections blog out there (you’re already reading The Collation, right?), and leading the Library through the development and deployment of their lovely new website. The Folger Shakespeare Library is an amazing place. I’m excited to return as a researcher and to move on to the next chapter of my life.
§ A postscript: The photo at the top of the post, and the details above, are of two of the Folger’s copies of Samuel Harsnett’s 1603 A declaration of egregious popish impostures. I wrote about cancel slips for The Collation, and you can find more information about pasted-in corrections there. And guess what? Now that I’m not writing for The Collation anymore, I can return to blogging back here! I’m looking forward to that, too—see you again soon.