Finding women in the printing shop

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day that celebrates not only the achievements of Ada Lovelace—the 19th-century mathematician and computing pioneer—but the achievements of all women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths. It’s a chance not only to encourage women to enter STEM fields, but to acknowledge the sometimes forgotten of women’s past achievements in these fields. For a few years now, those of us interested in the hand-press period have used Ada Lovelace Day as an opportunity to celebrate early women printers. ((See my 2011 post on early modern women printers, Nick Poyntz’s post on Jane Coe, and Joseph Adelman’s recent post on “Telling the Story of Women Printers.”)) This year, I thought I’d describe an exercise I’ve done with students that not only introduces them to some basic book trade research techniques but surprises them with the appearance of women in those records.

So how do you find symbols in signature marks?

Co-written by Sarah Werner and Erin Blake Sarah: In my last post, I showed some examples of books that use symbols in signature marks. But how did I find these books and how might you find more examples? It’s one thing to search for books printed in the year 1542, since “publication year” is a standard search box and “1542” is written in standard typography. But you can’t really type “¶” into a search box and get useful results. (Okay, you might be able to type “¶” into your search box but you’ll get something like what Hamnet spits out: “The system could not interpret your search statement.”) I got started on this path I saw this tweet from the digitization folks at University of Oklahoma: 

book dealers’ descriptions and catalog records

Mike Widener (Rare Book Librarian at Yale Law Library) wrote a great post about his practice of adding dealers’ descriptions to catalog records of rare books; Jeremy Dibbell included it in his link roundup; John Overholt tweeted about it; and then the conversation began. I’ve storyfied it and embedded it below (you can also go straight to Storify to see it). I wanted to capture the conversation, but we all also wanted to hear a wider range of responses and have a longer conversation about the value and potential pitfalls of this practice. It’ll end up on the EXLIBRIS-L listserv as well, so I’ll include a link to all that when it happens (thanks, John!) but in the meantime, read and comment: [<a href=”” target=”_blank”>View the story “adding book dealers’ descriptions to catalog records” on Storify</a>]

Research aids: understanding catalog records

A number of posts and comments in The Collation have discussed the wonderful work that Folger catalogers do. But sometimes we all need assistance to fully grasp what information is being conveyed in those detailed Hamnet records. As I mentioned in a footnote in my last post, I find the RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names File a very useful resource in working with early book imprints, since the Latin form of place names given in imprints is sometimes so very different from the names by which I know of those places. So in this post I thought I would share some of the other resources that I use when trying to understand library records and book history. There’s an abundance of information out there that I draw on in doing research and in teaching, much too much to be all included here. For this post I decided to focus primarily on information that might…

The books on our shelf

Headers on blogs are sometimes just pretty pictures, just as sometimes books sitting on a shelf are just books sitting there. In this case, however, the books sitting on the shelf in our header image are not only pretty, but revealing! The picture that is the basis for The Collation‘s header was taken by Erica Abbey, one of the Folger’s photographers, in our Deck C rare materials vault on September 11, 2009.