Archive for July, 2010

Karian’s Chapter 4: Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rapsody’

July 30, 2010

Randy Robertson sends the following review of Chapter 4 of Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript:

In his new book, Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, Stephen Karian studies the role that the manuscript medium played in the circulation of Swift’s work, thus caulking a significant gap in eighteenth-century scholarship. The “Print” of the title is an important but secondary consideration for Karian: after the first chapter of Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, which is devoted to Swift’s printed oeuvre, the printed works usually provide a context in which to evaluate the manuscripts. To round out his project, Karian will publish an online digital archive, the Swift Poems Project, which “attempts to inventory and transcribe all texts of all poems by or related to Jonathan Swift through the early nineteenth century” (5), an impressive and valuable undertaking.

In chapter four, “Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody’,” Karian examines some forty-eight lines that the Earl of Orrery inserted into his printed copy of the poem. Karian notes that the extra lines “exist in manuscript form in seven contemporary copies and are always appended to a printed text” (103; cf. 115). He assumes, plausibly, that Swift was the author of these lines (Orrery says as much elsewhere), and he suggests that Orrery provided his authoritative copy of the poem to others for transcription (119-20). These forty-eight lines include pointed criticisms of the king. Here is a sampling:

How well his publick Thrift is shewn?
All coffers full except his own.

Still more daring is a thirty-six line verse paragraph that was supposed to appear after line 414 of the printed poem:

Perhaps you say Augustus shines
Immortal made by Virgil’s Lines,
And Horace brought ye tunefull Choir
To sing his virtues on ye Lyre,
Without reproach of flattery true
Because their Praises were his due
For in those Ages Kings we find,
Were Animals of human kind,
But now go search all Europe round
Among ye savage Monsters crown’d
With Vice polluting every Throne
I mean all Kings except our own,
In vain you make ye strictest View
To find a King all ye Crew,
With whom a Footman out of Place
Would not conceive a high disgrace
A burning Shame, a crying Sin
To take his morning Cup of Gin:
Thus all are destin’d to obey
Some Beast of Burthen or of Prey . . . .

On it goes in similar vein, and one can well understand why the passage was not included in Huggonson’s printed text of 1733; indeed, what Karian calls the “full text of the poem” was not published until 1758 (120).

It is curious that Karian is so tentative in suggesting that the lines were censored rather than merely excluded from early editions of “On Poetry,” referring to the claim at one point as a “hypothesis” (119). Not only is the omitted passage an obvious attack on George II—the line “I mean all Kings except our own” is transparently ironic and would have provided a flimsy bulwark against prosecution—but in a separate transcription of the lines, Orrery tells us that the passage consists of “Verses by Dean Swift, which ought to have been inscribed in the Rhapsody, if it had been safe to print them” (119). In a letter of 1750, eight years before a full edition of the poem was published, Thomas Birch reports the existence of “a Copy of the Rhapsody much more complete than the printed one, but too licentious for publication” (121). That the lines in Orrery’s copy were censored seems beyond dispute.

Sir Walter Scott had surmised in his 1824 edition of Swift’s Works that Swift himself was responsible for suppressing the lines. Karian rightly points out other possibilities: it may be, for instance, that the printer John Huggonson censored the offending lines. Swift’s booksellers had blotted and altered his works in the past—Gulliver’s Travels is perhaps the signal example—and, as Karian notes, Huggonson may have learned of the government’s intention to prosecute the publishers of Swift’s “Epistle to a Lady” before he printed “On Poetry.” Mary Barber had carried both poems with her to London for publication, and, in the event, the attorney general charged that the “Epistle” “intend[ed] to … scandalize and vilify … our Lord the King and his administration of the Government of this Kingdom and also to scandalize and discredit the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Walpole … and also to traduce and vilify the Honourable members of the then House of Commons of this kingdom” (118). Huggonson may have concluded that he needed to prune the poem or risk imprisonment.

So much for censorship; Karian also addresses lines that he argues are later additions to the poem rather than part of Swift’s original manuscript. The lines appear in written form, along with a full transcription of the poem “Epistle to a Lady,” bound into volume two of Faulkner’s 1735 edition of Swift’s Works; Faulkner had printed the “Epistle” but cancelled it owing to its dangerous content. Apparently, the eight-leaf gathering that contained these extra lines of “On Poetry” and the transcript of the “Epistle” was “bound in with the original binding” (126). If, as was usual by this period, the book was bound before sale, the gathering was probably added just before publication, which dates the additional lines in the “Rhapsody” to 1734 or 1735 (126). Swift had finished the original version of the poem, however, in 1733.

Among the lines appended to “On Poetry” is the following couplet on the thresher turned poet Stephen Duck:

And may you ever have the luck
to Rhime almost as well as Duck.

As Karian observes, although Duck was a favorite of Queen Caroline’s, the lines are scarcely seditious, so rather than being censored from Faulkner’s edition, they were probably inserted into the volume after it was printed. Karian examines the other additional lines and concludes, more or less convincingly, that most of them were afterthoughts. He thus sharply distinguishes the forty-eight lines that were part of Swift’s original manuscript from the lines that were added in 1734-1735. He does not prove—to my satisfaction at any rate—that Swift was actually the author of the latter set of lines.

Karian also sets out to resolve a few bibliographical knots in the printing history of “On Poetry.” He raises the twin questions of when and how Faulkner obtained the forty-eight “extra” lines that he printed in his 1762 edition of the Works. Previous scholars have maintained that Faulkner had them in his possession from the early 1730s and simply cancelled them from his 1735 edition, but Karian remarks that “because some variants in Faulkner 1762 can be found in Hyde [1734] but not in Faulkner 1735, Faulkner’s 1762 source does not seem to derive directly from Faulkner 1735. The simplest explanation for this pattern is that Faulkner’s 1735 and 1762 texts derive from a common ancestor, now lost, and that that ancestor derives from Hyde” (123). As for the question of why Faulkner’s 1763 editions of the Works contain the censored version of “On Poetry” while the 1762 edition contains the full version, Karian neatly cuts the Gordian Knot: “Perhaps by the time [Faulkner] came to print volume X of his 1762 18mo edition, he had already printed ‘On Poetry’ in his 1763 editions. Therefore, despite the year on the title page of the volume, the 1762 text of ‘On Poetry’ may be Faulkner’s final printing of the poem” (125).

Karian’s discussion of “Upon Poetry: A Rhapsody” extends the insights of Margaret Ezell, Arthur Marotti, and Harold Love, who have taught us to look closely at the social contexts of manuscript circulation and who have highlighted the ways in which the censorship of manuscripts was far less rigorous than the censorship of print. He adds to their contributions a nice point about the intersection of print and manuscript in Swift’s corpus—especially in his poetry, manuscript supplemented and even completed the printed poems in some instances, at least for a coterie of Swift’s friends and acquaintances.

Although I profited from reading Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, I cannot say that I always took pleasure in reading it. It reads, at times, like a textual introduction to an edition of Swift’s manuscripts. Books on bibliography and book history inevitably wade into technical issues that require patience to untangle. Yet surely a narrative structure of some sort would have enhanced the appeal of Karian’s book.

I hasten to add that Karian is hardly alone in producing occasionally dry scholarly work. Critics and scholars need to get better at telling stories; in the field of book history, Robert Darnton provides a superb model, combining a flair for narrative with scholarly rigor. Of course, one cannot fault Karian for not being Robert Darnton, and one can credit him with having written a well-researched and useful book.

–Randy Robertson (Susquehanna University)


Karian’s Chapter 3: Manuscript circulation after 1714

July 29, 2010

Karian’s Chapter 3: Manuscript circulation after 1714

Let me say at the outset that as an aspiring Swiftian, I’m delighted to have the chance to participate in this already very fruitful discussion.  Chapter 3 of Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript, the companion to the chapter so usefully reviewed by Eleanor, focuses on the period after Swift’s “exile” to Ireland in 1714.  I share Dave’s, Eleanor’s, and Al’s enthusiasm for Karian’s learned, careful, systematic investigation of the origins and transmission of some of Swift’s texts.  Swift comes just late enough that—even in the wake of Harold Love and others—we do not think of him in terms of manuscript circulation.  Karian has made us mindful of the need to attend to the complicated textual history of Swift’s output, and any criticism of particular works or groups of works that does not take into account his analysis is likely to be at best incomplete.

At the end of chapter 3, Karian concludes bluntly that Swift “cannot be identified simply as a print author” (98).  That’s absolutely right.  In this chapter, Karian offers four categories of manuscript circulation, which seem to represent different authorial strategies and intentions.  The four categories of manuscript dissemination are: (1) circulation of a single manuscript (evidently) by Swift (evidently) among a small coterie; (2) manuscript collections to some extent participated in by Swift; (3) intentional manuscript circulation (evidently) by Swift and (evidently) for an audience wider than a coterie but more restricted than the book-buying public; and (4) manuscripts (evidently) circulated beyond Swift’s control. The bulk of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of examples of these four categories; the final section offers a useful, detailed explanation of the “convoluted textual journey” of Swift’s much-cherished History of the Four Last Years of the Queen, which existed in multiple manuscript versions but which did not see print until 13 years after Swift’s death.

Karian’s study is a very good illustration of the importance of considering bibliographic origins, textual problems, and circulation when carrying out interpretation.  What this book does, most broadly, is sensitize us both to the often complicated interplay between print and manuscript and to the particular complexities associated with Swift’s canon.  The two reviewers who precede me have raised important questions about the former; I want to speak mostly about the latter.

Chapter 3’s discussion of four kinds of manuscript dissemination depends very heavily upon premises about motive.  Karian’s sketch of the post-1714 output is eminently plausible, and he far from unaware of the difficulties of determining Swift’s intentions, but those difficulties sometimes seem insufficiently stressed.  Given the slipperiness and dishonesty and playfulness of the dean, we can rarely be certain that he did or did not intend a work to be published, and given his occasional bits of political innocence, misjudgments, and indiscretions, we cannot even safely assume that he could not have wanted a particular piece to travel beyond an immediate circle.  Neither can we afford to feel too confident—perhaps especially in the case of Swift, notoriously casual about much of what he produced—that we can fully reconstruct the circumstances of transmission.  Again, Karian is mindful of these problems, but the nature of his discussion might lead unwary readers into assuming that we can know a good deal more than we can.

What excites me most about Karian’s study is that it has major implications for how we talk about Swift’s output and self-definition as an author.  Karian does not really have time or space to pursue all such implications, and some of the questions are insoluble, but they are worth puzzling over.  Karian stresses the point that Swift wrote to particular audiences, a fact that cannot be emphasized enough.  Swift certainly wrote and immediately published many works for various general publics, but he’s highly topical and writes quite a lot of private pieces for various inner circles; those works necessarily need to be treated differently from something like Verses on the Death or The Legion Club—which mostly they haven’t been in the past.

Karian’s discussion made me a good deal more aware of some particular puzzles surrounding the publication of Swift’s works.  The situation often seems yet messier than readers of this book might think.  Let me take two particular examples.  Cadenus and Vanessa, Karian says, was probably “the most embarrassing poem of Swift’s to circulate in manuscript” (91).  That seems right to me.  But after Swift’s refusal in a 1726 letter to Chetwode (quoted by Karian) to print a “correct” version, the poem was in fact published.  And then—earlier chagrin notwithstanding—it appeared in the so-called “last” volume of the Swift-Pope Miscellanies (1727) and then again in the Faulkner Works of 1735.  I can’t imagine that Swift was anything but mortified by the manuscript circulation of Cadenus and Vanessa—but I’m not sure how we should take his letting the poem appear in later, authorized  collections.  Another type of complexity.  Karian’s third category includes touchy Irish political lampoons written for largely punitive reasons against particular enemies.  One such poem is On the Words ‘Brother Protestants and Fellow Christians’, a 1733 attack on Richard Bettesworth (a strong supporter of the petition to repeal the Test Act in Ireland).  That Swift would circulate this satire in manuscript is natural enough—but what are we to make of his decision to let it appear in the 1735 Works?  Maybe he imagined certain works “designed” for an audience more specific than the general public but did not always stick to initial design; maybe the original mode of circulation was incidental rather than deliberate.  The enigmatic dean left many puzzles, and what I would like to suggest is that Karian’s study, among other thing, highlights the problems and questions still remaining.  I for one seriously question whether Swift imagined himself producing a “canon,” comprising discrete periods and falling into categories.  Maybe we would do better to take each piece (topical, occasional, almost always provoked by a very particular event) on its own, realizing that individual items often have their own textual stories.

I confess to being uneasy about the automatic privileging by some scholars of either print or manuscript texts.  In the realm of Rochester, Love was probably right invariably to prefer manuscript, but Swift is distinctly later; he did publish quite a lot (albeit much of it anonymously); and he is a special case.  Even where we know or presume his involvement, manuscript collections remain treacherous ground.  Karian suggests for instance that the two manuscript collections—one done by Stella, one done by Swift and Lady Acheson at Market Hill—reveal “Swift’s ongoing effort to preserve his writings in manuscript volumes,” and that both volumes “demonstrate how the manuscript medium can be effective for preservation and collection, and how in some instances it can embody more permanence than print” (81).  Granting that manuscript versions of the poems—especially those transcribed by Swift—likely reflect authorial preference, can we safely assume that the desire for preservation initiated with Swift?  I also found myself wondering in what way manuscript collections offer more “permanence” than printed collections, and would be glad to have a bit more said about that.

Karian’s discussion is scrupulous, a painstakingly accurate and mercifully lucid account, one that in its essentials really cannot be argued with.  Swift’s texts circulated in quite different ways, likely for very different reasons, just as they were written in varying circumstances for varying audiences.  One can quibble over particulars, but Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript is a deeply informed book that is clearly going to—or at least should—change the way we talk about Swift.

Karian’s Chapter 2: Manuscript circulation through 1714

July 28, 2010

Eschewing a colon and subtitle so common in the naming of academic works, Karian’s title Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript captures both his book’s subject and its logic. While habit of mind suggests an inverse order in presenting the two forms of media—“manuscript” and “print”—the transposition serves Karian’s purposes well. From the outset the titular ordering subtly disrupts traditional thinking about relationships between manuscript and print. Rather than connoting a stage of production that precedes print, manuscript here participates in an integral, complex relationship with print. As Karian explains, “For Swift, manuscript both competes with and complements print” (46).

The book’s organization enacts its title’s word order by devoting the first chapter to Swift’s print publication and ensuing chapters to his use of manuscript. Chapter two charts the role manuscript circulation played in Swift’s early career as a writer through 1714. Yet, it also supplies the rationale and methodology for such study. Noting that he is the first to undertake a study of Swift’s career-long involvement with manuscript, Karian establishes the need and merits for reconstructing this history. Swift’s career as an author is so intricately intertwined with manuscript that attending to print publication alone yields an inevitably incomplete understanding of his textual production. Besides affording a more comprehensive picture of Swift’s corpus, attending to the manuscript component also offers insights about readers’ responses to his works and his shifting status as an author during the period (44).

As Karian describes his methods for studying manuscripts, the challenges and labor involved suggest cogent reasons for the scholarly neglect of Swift’s manuscript circulation that extend beyond the privileging of print. Problems tied to the loss or destruction of manuscripts, uncertainty about the manuscript’s origins (is the handwritten text derived from manuscript transmission or from a printed text?), inability to identify the producer if the hand is unknown, issues related to dating, and the like underscore the amount of ingenuity and work such a task necessitates. Karian is a scholar up to the task, possessing intimate knowledge of bibliography, Swift, book-history matters, and textual criticism. He is also a careful scholar as illustrated by the pains he takes with presenting and assessing evidence, employing appropriate qualifiers in making claims, and recognizing freely that future discoveries may alter his conjectures and conclusions.

Because he is interested in only manuscript circulation that is independent of print, Karian employs textual collation and other tools to identify and eliminate those manuscripts whose roots are printed texts. His scope is also confined to “the initial stages of manuscript circulation (i.e., stages contemporaneous with the initial reception of a work),” noting that a late manuscript may nonetheless be relevant if its base text is an earlier but now-lost manuscript (47).

Beginning with the early 1690s and ending with the year 1714, chapter two presents several early phases in Swift’s use and views of manuscript production and his authorial development. Swift’s involvement with manuscript circulation dates from the start of his authorial career and coincides with his pursuit of print. Yet within this expanse of roughly two and half decades, only the years 1708 to 1710, a period book-ended by “his emergence as a known author” and the appearance of “his first authoritative collection,” record the circulation of his manuscript work to any large degree (70).

Although Swift partook in coterie manuscript circulation during the 1690s, his main involvement with manuscript circulation “may have been primarily for the service of others” (48). During his time in Lord Berkeley’s household (1699-1701 and intermittent visits through 1709) Swift gravitated toward social verse suited to the easy rapport he enjoyed with the family and their circle—a rapport that the manuscript works often capture. This period cultivated a conversational tone in his compositions that endured over the course of his career; these social verses also displayed his talents at impersonation. In discussing these works Karian offers some perceptive comparisons between the different effects rendered by the original scribal medium and the later printed form (52-53). This same perceptiveness found in his comparisons of the two media and his use of print as evidence carries over into his discussion of readers.

Remarking that the circulation of these verses was probably confined to the Berkeley circle until 1708, Karian plausibly suggests that the interest in Swift’s works generated by publication of the Bickerstaff papers and, particularly, A Tale of a Tub spurred, in turn, the wide circulation of Swift’s unpublished works between 1708 and 1710 (52-59). Among these manuscript works were ones Swift had composed and shared while residing with the Berkeley household. Although Swift no doubt had a large hand in this wider dissemination of his unpublished works, their circulation was not entirely within his control. Karian attributes the waning of Swift’s manuscript circulation after this period to several factors. For one, Swift’s experience with fame and Curll’s subsequent unauthorized printed editions of his works made Swift highly wary of losing control of his unpublished writings, resulting in his exercising a far tighter rein over them. Another factor was the 1711 publication of Swift’s authorized Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; its appearance satisfied the demand for his work that manuscript copies had formerly exclusively filled (67). From 1711 through 1714 Swift was employed writing propaganda for Queen Anne’s ministry. This role resulted in yet another form of ‘publication’: the private distribution of print. By distributing printed works gratis to a select few, the practice merged “the typographic element of print with the coterie climate associated with manuscript” (67). That Karian situates this practice within the context of manuscript and print enhances his discussion and enables him to offer broader points. Not only does the private distribution of print destabilize, as Karian asserts, “the public-private binary so often applied to print and manuscript” (70), but it also illustrates an aspect of the symbiotic relationship between the two media.

While this chapter provoked a number of thoughts and queries, I will pose just a few here and perhaps offer others in later discussions.

  • Swift’s counterfeiting his hand for social raillery (51) and his employing transcriptions for both “politically controversial works” (66) and pranks “because [Swift’s] hand was known” (66-7) seem worthy of pause. As Steve has rightly pointed out, “The typography of print standardizes the special features of a counterfeit hand or manuscript with two hands” (52). Yet I also find it quite interesting that the discussion of Swift’s being more angered by “Curll’s naming him” than by Curll’s “publishing works without Swift’s permission” (65) prefaces a return to discussing counterfeit hands and transcriptions. Perhaps this sequence is coincidental, but the issues of naming and hand seem not unrelated. One might argue that these incidents reveal deeper cultural attitudes about agency, identity, hands, and names as rendered and negotiated by manuscript and print. In terms of manuscript handwriting could act literally to “name” or identify a person. Although manuscript had come to acquire new meanings by Swift’s time, the practices associated with the word manuscriptum in the sense of its original meaning that I noted in commenting on Dave’s post (“documents which derived evidential value from being written by a particular person”) were still in play. The second “witness” called in Algernon Sidney’s 1683 trial was his handwritten draft of his “Discourses upon Government.” This sense of document as witness lingers today as a specific term used in textual criticism. That Swift, in an effort to protect unauthorized connecting of his name to unauthorized publications of his works in print, draws his manuscripts closer to him and becomes far more wary of their circulation, seems a conflation of name and hand.
  • Steve’s examination of Swift in print and manuscript demonstrates the crucial importance of considering not just print but manuscript circulation as well in ways that seem quite different from those presented in Margaret Ezell’s significant study, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print. Yet I was struck not only by the challenges Steve tackled in studying Swift’s manuscript production but also by the relative wealth of material available. As Steve notes, Lindsay has compiled over 500 manuscripts related to Swift, and that’s just one source. Swift’s canonical status today and his celebrity at the time have contributed to the preservation of such a large number of manuscripts, notwithstanding the number that has been lost to us. So I wonder the extent to which such a study could be undertaken for other eighteenth-century authors who exist on the margins of the canon? Perhaps the extreme paucity of manuscript materials I have been unable to uncover for my project is driving my query, for in comparison there seems to be an abundant wealth of materials.
  • I was quite struck by the type of detective work that provided the evidence for many of this chapter’s (indeed the entire work’s) arguments and by the case reconstructions that assembled this evidence. Part of the method employed reflects a willingness to search beyond traditional routes for evidence as well as to assemble sources in fairly fresh ways. While this type of work has always been with us (and indeed seems characteristic of eighteenth-century scholarship as well as bibliography), our digital environment appears to be fostering new areas of evidence-gathering across disciplinary boundaries that is invigorating painstakingly detailed investigations. Perhaps this roaming brought to mind other possible sources of evidence. Though perhaps outside the scope of or not even useful to Karian’s project, I was wondering about the use of paper as evidence in such a study of manuscript circulation. It seems as if investigating this aspect of materiality might result in unusual findings. I was also wondering about economic issues. For example, today one might prefer a photocopy or PDF of a selected portion of a work rather than purchasing an entire work. Would one prefer to write the verses one desired from a friend’s copy of Swift’s work rather than buy his or her own? While the publication of Swift’s Miscellanies did seem to offer one of several plausible explanations for the diminishing circulation of Swift’s manuscript works in 1711, I nonetheless found myself weighing just how strong a manuscript market might remain among some segments of potential purchasers if costs were considered.
  • Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript: Intro and Ch. 1

    July 26, 2010

    When I first heard about Karian’s book, I was  intrigued, because ever since Hugh Kenner’s Stoic Comedians (1963) Swift has been the beneficiary of numerous studies that invoked an Enlightenment-era, democratizing “print culture” as one of the chief motivators behind his satire.  For both Swift and these 20th century critics, “Grub Street” stood for all the democratized (and therefore degraded) knowledge-production, communications, and political behavior that Swift seemed to both loathe and formally imitate in his own writings.

    Consequently, Swift, like Sterne, has always seemed to be an author particularly conscious of the ways in which the forms and conventions of print help to shape its meanings for readers, fostering what Kenner, under the influence of Walter Ong, termed his awareness of “book as book.”  Swift’s consciousness of print, as evidenced by his parodies of print conventions like Dedications, Prefaces, and footnotes in works like a Tale of a Tub, helped make him an emblematic figure more generally for the literary implications of print culture from the ’60s and ’70s onward.

    During that time, however, our knowledge of both print culture and its larger social, economic, and cultural contexts has expanded enormously.  Since 1963, for example, historians like Eisenstein, Johns and many others have amassed, synthesized, and debated the significance of a vast amount of information concerning the historical emergence and distinctive features of print culture, while scholars like McKenzie, Ezell, Love, and now McKitterick have contributed their own appreciation for the interrelatedness of manuscript and print production during the early modern period, including the long eighteenth century.

    In his very lucid introduction to Swift in Print and Manuscript, Karian helpfully outlines his  methodological debts to this “second wave” of historical scholarship that stresses the “interactivity and fluidity” of print and manuscript, while noting that this scholarship is influenced by “our contemporary existence as members of an emerging digital culture that is still very much immersed in print” (2). (more…)

    Collaborative Reading of Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript

    July 25, 2010

    Our reading of Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript will begin tomorrow (Monday, July 26). The readers are as follows:

    Dave Mazella (University of Houston) Chapter 1 “Print Publication”

    Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University) Chapter 2 “Manuscript Circulation through 1714″

    Ashley Marshall (Johns Hopkins University) Chapter 3 “Manuscript Circulation after 1714″

    Randy Robertson (Susquehanna University) Chapter 4 “Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody’”

    Al Coppola (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) Chapter 5 “The Texts and Contexts of ‘The Legion Club’”

    David Brewer (Ohio State University) Chapter 6 “The authorial strategies and material texts of ‘Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift’”

    Anna Battigelli (SUNY Plattsburgh) Conclusion

    Response: Stephen Karian (Marquette University)

    Again, we welcome contributions and comments from readers.

    Google Books Award: ESTC Receives Digital Humanities Grant

    July 21, 2010

    Posted on behalf of Brian Geiger, University of California, Riverside.

    Brian reports:

    I’m pleased to announce that Ben Pauley and I have received one of twelve inaugural Google Digital Humanities grants to match pre-1801 items in Google Books to the ESTC. The official announcement was made last week. You can read more about the grant at Inside HigherEd.

    Our plan is to match as much as we can through computer matching, putting urls for Google Books in appropriate ESTC records and providing Google with ESTC ids and metadata. We don’t know for sure, but estimate that there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 ESTC-related items in Google Books. Based on matching that the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) has done of records from electronic library catalogs, we should be able to computer match up to 50% of the Google records. This number could be lower than usual, however, given the truncated nature of much of the Google metadata.

    The remaining 50% or so of the records we hope to put in a version of Ben’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker and make publicly accessible for users to help with the matching. For those of you teaching bibliography or bibliographically-minded courses next year, this could be a wonderful teaching tool, allowing your students to struggle with the complexities of early modern bibliography and learn first-hand its importance for understanding the history of the book.

    We’ll update this blog about our progress with the Google Books metadata and hope to have a version of the Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker ready for use by the end of the fall or early spring.

    An update on Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker

    July 20, 2010

    [Edit: fixed a couple of broken links—my apologies. -bp]

    I wanted to let readers of this blog know about a couple of updates at Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker that I hope will make the site a valuable adjunct for those who look for early modern books at Google Books and the Internet Archive. These changes should also make it easier for users to contribute links to the site.

    For several months, between about November, 2009 and March, 2010, visitors to the site wouldn’t have seen a whole lot happening. During that period, rather than adding new links to the site, I was re-tooling the site’s data model in order to make things more flexible and robust—essentially, I was recreating all of the site’s content along new lines. This was not fun, but I think the results are worth it. (more…)

    18thConnect Update

    July 19, 2010

    18thConnect’s new web site is up and running and should generate interesting discussion.  To view it, click here or go to

    The site contains an introductory six-minute video by Laura Mandell that briefly maps out plans to offer peer review of digital scholarship and provide the equivalent of a “table of contents” to the best electronic resources in the field.  According to Laura, the human record needs to be machine readable in order to be preserved.  The video also  demonstrates how the platform works and what will and will not be accessible.   Readers whose libraries subscribe to ECCO, will be able to access ECCO through 18thConnect.  Readers whose libraries do not subscribe to ECCO will be directed to a given text’s record within ESTC so that they can identify the location of a text.

    According to its own self-description, 18thConnect hopes to “gather together a community of scholars that shapes the world of digital resources,” adding that its main concerns include

    • Access via plain-text searching for all scholars to open access and proprietary and digital archives including EEBO and ECCO even if their institutions are unable to afford those resources;
    • Peer-review of the growing number of digital resources and archives for which 18thConnect offers an online finding aid;
    • Reflection on Best Practices with scholars who are negotiating new modes of publication and scholarly production.

    It is great that we finally have an eighteenth-century counterpart to NINES, which nineteenth-century scholars seem to be using productively.  I am curious, however, about how a platform like 18thConnect will be used, either in scholarship or in teaching.  When I hear Laura talk about “crowd-sourced data correction” or data-mining projects, I want to hear more about how such tasks will function and in what cases they will be used.  And how will accuracy be guarded?  I also wonder whether there are plans to include EEBO–so that 18thConnect can provide resources for the entirety of the long eighteenth century.  But for now I would be very interested in hearing how scholars plan on using this promising new platform.

    Publishing, Reviewing, and Digital Culture

    July 5, 2010

    In a recent post we examined and debated the potential effects that the Net is having on reading, thinking, and forms of literacy. Shifting from the cognitive effects of digital culture, this post will explore material aspects of electronic transformations. The discussion will consider the effects that digital culture is exercising on certain facets of the publishing industry—particularly reviewing and book promotion/publicity. A follow-up post later this week will explore what the release of Google editions portends for publishers, readers, and the state of e-books.

    Book Expo America, the foremost trade event for the North American book industry, offers an annual window on developments and trends in publishing. Although focusing on book culture at large, the publishing industry’s bent toward conservatism in certain aspects of its practices has parallels with a similar tendency in academia. Such parallels are worth keeping in mind as we consider the discussion that ensued at the following BEA 2010 panel.

    The 2010 BEA panel, The Next Decade in Book Culture: Effects of E-Book Reading Devices, offered insights about the business of books that extend beyond the subject matter intimated by the panel’s title. While not signaled by the title, the panel’s key focus was on reviewing, not surprising given that the National Book Circle sponsored the session. Participating on the panel were Carolyn Kellogg (book blogger, The Los Angeles Times), Denise Oswald (editorial director, Soft Skull Press), Nicholas Latimer (director of publicity, Knopf) and Ed Nawotka (founder and editor-in-chief,, and Kate Travers (marketing and media consultant).

    The opening question by moderator John Reed (books editor, Brooklyn Rail) asked about the general mood at this year’s event and the response was telling:

    there’s a lot less angst out there today than there has been in several years … and that’s very encouraging. … People…are starting come to terms with the digital question and find answers that fit their own publishing models…the whole idea that publishing will fall into a digital sinkhole…has not come to pass and they are recognizing that rather than a sinkhole, it offers a portal.

    This move from publishers’ conceiving digital culture as a sinkhole to portal is promising and should encourage initiatives in efforts to connect books and readers. That such changes are still in the developmental stages were evident, however, from the ensuing discussion about reviewing. Although economically highly desirable, PDF galleys have not yet caught on among critics. One reason offered was the need for better technology that would cut down on the time involved in downloading, and others noted issues related to reading files on one’s phone and other devices and the inability to manipulate the screen and e-texts in the same ways that reviewers manipulate the page and print formats. A general sense emerged that resistance would fade as advances were made coincided with the recognition of the convenience that PDFs galleys were already providing in certain situation. Economics are often necessitating small presses to rely on electronic galleys,, and reviewers are often willing to accept this format. While none felt that PDF galleys presented any new security concerns, all understandably rejected the usefulness of email blasts to deliver unsolicited copies.

    Among the most interesting remarks were those addressing the changing nature of reviews. A query about the fate of the long review today spurred several reflections. Noting the tendency toward shorter reviewers, one panelist remarked that many don’t have the patience today for reading lengthy reviews online. This trend to the shorter review, given the lack of constraints on length that the Web offers, is somewhat ironic. Other panelists rightly noted that if we consider the comments that frequently accompany online reviews, then the long review is very much alive albeit transformed. Such collaboratively produced reviews both signal and participate in the more conversational bent our culture has taken. Moreover, just as the digital world is affording new opportunities for authors and, in turn, for the production of works that harness the capabilities of the electronic medium, so too is this environment presenting potentially exciting yet still untapped opportunities for transforming the review. As an example, one panelist mentioned the review work of Ward Sutton for Barnes & Noble online. The collaborative readings found on The Long Eighteenth Century and this blog arguably offer reviews adapted to take advantage of the online environment. By offering review discussions of that unfold at the chapter level of a given title, with each chapter being reviewed by a different scholar, and by featuring additional commentary by other scholars and often the author, too, these collaborative readings are reinventing the review in fruitful ways. At the onset of the discussion, one panelist mentioned the review essays that The New York Review of Books has embraced as a case of the persistence of the long review. Adapting this review form for the online world also seems to invite some intriguing possibilities for reinventing the review. For example, it might be interesting to take the chapter model and adapt it to reviewing the introductions and conclusions of multiple titles—if not hosting a successive series of collaborative readings that taken collectively add up to a review of current work in a given area. The latter possibility, however, would seem to require a sufficient number of willing participants.

    The panel also raised a number of other interesting topics ranging from the growing presence of non-professional reviewers to questions about images and other forms of multimedia in e-books. The participants appeared to be in agreement that aspects of traditional bookmaking—attention to paper, type, and even deckle-edges—would still have a place in publishing. And several noted that in considering book production, each title should receive individual attention in terms of whether it and its projected audience made it more or less suited for issuing in print, e-format, or both. In discussing how books are advertised, one participant noted that the challenges affecting placement as our culture shifts from one that “browses” to one in which users “target” their media. Given Nick Carr’s comments about the Web’s encouragement of endless browsing, the choice of language here was striking.

    As the panel noted, the publishing industry and book culture are very much in flux today. The relative slowness with which the publishing industry has responded to the digital developments has its own manifestations in the scholarly world. An October 1988 article, “The Electronic Journal” written by Daniel Eisenberg and appearing in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing is telling in its predictions and concerns. Advocating the benefits of electronic publication (including CD-Rom databases of say all the full texts of books in Wing), Eisenberg discusses what the shift to this publication will entail. Interestingly, while he suggests that such a shift will cause little disruption to the academic reward system of tenure, promotion, and the like, the acceptance of electronic projects, articles, and books seems to be far slower than he foretells. Yet, his remarks that “the most serious problem concerning electronic publication is less obvious: the absence from the system of those who cannot afford to participate in it” (55) were prophetic. The lack of access to commercial databases is no longer an obscure problem, yet it still remains arguably the most serious. As for the reward system, its continued heavy investment in print hinders many from becoming more involved in harnessing the capabilities of digital culture to adapt and create new forms of scholarship.

    Collaborative Review Announcement: Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript to be reviewed July 25, 2010

    July 2, 2010

    Mark your calendars!  We are in the process of inviting scholars to take part in a collaborative review of Stephen Karian’s Jonathan Swift in Print and Manuscript (Cambridge, 2010).  One scholar will post about one of Steve’s chapters every day or so, beginning July 25.  Comments to the posts are encouraged.

    Much as I love printed books, the internet seems to provide the better forum for book reviews.  Net reviews are timely, and they allow for dialogue in a way that print cannot.  Ever since a panel discussion on book reviews chaired by Jim May at MWASECS in 2005, I have been thinking that we should properly review books on the Net.  Dave Mazella led the way on the Long Eighteenth with his “collaborative readings.”  Dave also suggested that we review Steve’s book on emob.  So here we are.

    The scholars participating in the review so far are listed below.

    • Dave Mazella (University of Houston) Chapter 1 “Print Publication”
    • Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University) Chapter 2 “Manuscript Circulation through 1714”
    • Ashley Marshall (Johns Hopkins University) Chapter 3 “Manuscript Circulation after 1714”
    • Randy Robertson (Susquehanna University) Chapter 4 “Censorship and Revision in ‘On Poetry: A Rhapsody'”
    • Al Coppola (John Jay College of Criminal Justice) Chapter 5 “The Texts and Contexts of ‘The Legion Club'”
    • David Brewer (Ohio State University) Chapter 6 “The authorial strategies and material texts of ‘Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift'”
    • Eleanor Shevlin (West Chester University) Conclusion

    Again, we welcome contributions from readers.