On Haylesian Materiality

In an article on her own updated approach to “materiality” that appeared at Digital Humanities Quarterly a few years ago, Johanna Drucker, observes the following about the concept’s varying usage: The history of approaches to materiality is long and complex, with basic discussions of matter and form, substance and essence, traceable to earliest antiquity in many strains of philosophy in the west and the east, and these wait in the wings to be called back onstage in any longer discussion of the topic. I’ve been digging through some of the…

Vacant Victorian Margins (Amicable Annotation, Part 10)

[Feature image: Marginal marking in pencil in Byron’s “Parsinia,” Harvard’s Dickinson Family Collection.] After a long hiatus, I return to the Amicable Annotation miniseries… It starts here. Nowadays Andrew Lang is remembered primarily as a collector of folk and fairy tales. His contemporaries in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods also knew Lang as a lover of and hunter after old books. (The Dictionary of National Biography once dubbed him “the greatest bookman of his age.”) In wry essays on contemporary book culture published in the periodical press in the eighties…

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species

[Feature image: Marginal illumination of an ursine scribe from the Bohun Psalter and Hours] Last year, a member of the first edition of the Technotexts seminar, Suzanna Hersey, encouraged me to read Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie, and she was especially keen to see what I’d make of the collection’s opening story, “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species.” I have now used it as the final reading (more on this in a moment) of Technotexts 2.0. It’s actually a bit of a stretch to call “Bookmaking Habits” a “story,” though: it’s…

From (M)App to Print (Part 1)

[Featured image: Screenshot of the Amazon UK rendering of the Faber & Faber codex version.] In an earlier post on The Silent History, I discussed the “remediation” of a digital work into print. We are now accustomed to thinking that the traffic always flows in the opposite direction–that the Internet is quickly hoovering up the entirety of our print (and chirographic for that matter) inheritance. Thus, we can easily overlook the opposite scenario: when the “born digital” is “reborn print.”  (I have in mind here digitalia that’s born on software…

William Trevor and the (Modernist) Work of Revision

[Image: Manuscript of William Trevor’s “In Love with Ariadne,” available on the Paris Review website here.] In her wonderful The Work of Revision, Hannah Sullivan tracks the ways that Modernist writers–Henry James, Pound, Eliot, Woolf, Auden–changed their works, arguing in turn that revision should be counted among the chief Modernist virtues. (If you, dear reader, aren’t familiar with the book, I’d urge you read my friend Alan’s insightful review for the now, alas, defunct Books and Culture.) Sullivan ably maps the new ecology of inscription technologies emerging as the twentieth century…

From Screen to Page

Reading Matthew Kirschenbaum’s superb Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing recently reminded me of a curious element of bpNichol’s First Screening, one the canonical early works of electronic literature (see Jim Andrews’s website for an emulated version and commentary). First Screening is now often treated–and transmitted–as a batch of twelve kinetic poems (originally programmed in Apple BASIC). In fact, Nichol published it as a little book in an edition of 100 copies, the first imprint of the “Underwhich Software Series.” Readers reached the floppy disk only after gazing…

A Viewing

In the spring, the library staff at my institution made its usual solicitation for end-of-year purchases, particularly wants of the pricier variety. I approached our departmental liaison with an unusual request: artists’ books. As suggested in some earlier posts (particularly the unfinished “Reading Labs” thread), I have been thinking quite a bit about artists’ books in recent years, and I’ve been looking for ways to introduce them in my teaching. The very-easy-to-refuse offer that I made to the library staff was for the establishment of a small collection of artists’…

Amicable Annotation, Part 7 (Notes on Jackson’s Marginalia)

[Feature image: Selection from George Crabbe’s The Library (1781); also quoted in Jackson’s Marginalia. Crabbe continues: “Our nicer palates lighter labours seek, / Cloy’d with a Folio-number once a week.” In other words, we’ve got too many books on hand to handle them with our “patient Fathers’” sort of care.] I concluded Part 4 of this miniseries by reflecting on a few striking phrases that H. J. Jackson invents to describe annotatively-enhanced books in her 2001 study Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books (note that publication date: we’ll come back to…

Amicable Annotation, Part 6 (Men and Women)

[Lady Bradshaigh and Samuel Richardson converse in the margins of Clarissa. Full text at the Princeton University Digital Library.] Part 1 of the “amicable annotation” miniseries is here. Or you might begin at the midpoint, Part 5. Enjoy Part 6. In the summer of 1748, the novelist Samuel Richardson received a letter from one “Belfour,” who wrote to prevent a “fatal catastrophe.” “I am pressed, Sir,” the letter begins, “by a multitude of your admirers, to plead in [sic] behalf of your amiable Clarissa.” Yes, the target of Belfour’s intervention…

Amicable Annotation, Part 5 (The Century of Friendship)

[A book that got a whole lot of use in the 18th c. More details at the MCRS Rare Books Blog.] Nota bene, dear reader: in the next few posts of this miniseries, our ground shifts to the eighteenth century. This post does not address annotation directly until some remarks at the end that attempt to lay out what’s ahead. My hope is that this post will convey something of the new atmosphere in which “friendship by the book” occurs in this time period. Happy reading. Part 1 is here.…