Thanks to Mark for such a rich and thought-provoking start to the conference. I just wanted to pick up on one of Frank's questions -
- Can participants in the Workshop draw our attention to examples of illustration as significant factors that take us beyond the two-dimensionality of the printed word?
This is something I've been thinking about, off and on, for quite a while. With specific reference to Mark's focus on history, I'd point to Jane Austen's juvenile History of England, illustrated by her sister Cassandra Austen (digitised by the British Library and available here: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/history-of-england-austen-juvenilia#text=Jane%20Auste n's%20'The%20History,prejudiced%2C%20%26%20ignorant%20historian'.&text='The%20History%20of%20England'%20is%20one%20of%20nine%20compositions%20included,three%20volumes%20of%20Austen's%20juvenilia. )
This work, as I'm sure most people know, is Austen's delightful parody of both history as a genre, and (I think) probably more specifically of Goldsmith's History of England (it advertises itself as 'by a partial, prejudice and ignorant historian - NB there will be very few Dates in this History' - rarely was an entire genre damned so briefly and yet so effectively!). It's a really interesting example of someone engaging subversively with with historical narrative, in its own right, but in relation to Frank's point, the illustrations are, I think, worthy of note. The illustrations are thought, by some Austen scholars, to be satirical caricatures of members of the Austen family, which gives them a particular kind of interest. More broadly though, they are quite pointed caricatures of particular historical figures, which leave a reader in no doubt at all about the author's (and illustrator's) position with regards to that figure (take a look at the picture and commentary on Edward IV, and you'll see what I mean!). There's significant explicit interchange between the illustrations and text, but also some quite interesting implicit connections too, I think. Worth a look, if you don't already know the text.
Yes, I think you're absolutely right about Wollstonecraft there Katie - but I also think that we sometimes tend to be too quick to read back our current thinking about what women's roles should be, and project them back onto eighteenth-century readers. I think what the readers' notes I have studied show is that many women readers are willing devotees of that sort of conversation agenda generally promoted by the conduct books. But of course, once readers are - following encouragement from the conduct writers - sat in front of books, they do all sorts of things with them. In the case of the history books I'm talking about, women readers commonly engage in the political ideas carried by books like Hume's History of England, often in a subversive way - and commonly try to disseminate their skewed political readings of histories to male readers in their families. So it's all quite complex, and we end up finding what we would term progressive female behaviours in unlikely places.
I haven't read that book yet, but the two issues you're talking about are fascinating. In the case of the Library Company copy of Kames, the proscribed annotation of library books itself becomes a focus of marginal commentary, with readers (in multiple hands) complaining about library books - jointly owned by the members in this type of library, of course - being vandalised by other library users. These comments then at some point are in turn vandalised to send up the original annotators. It's all very interesting in terms of how this sort of library (and its books) is conceptualised by library users, and all the more so because of the nation-building setting. Also very striking is that the juvenile tenor of some of the marginalia matches so closely the tone of the fantastic student marginalia that Matthew Sangster has written about in the University Library of St Andrews.
@marktowsey (et al.)
Thanks for the excellent keynote and the equally valuable follow-on discussion. I've thought of the role and significance of marginalia as separate and largely divorced from the work of compiling a database built on circulation records. That's probably a function of our project's (WMR's) lack of access to the hard copies of the books involved (and my own biases). Obviously that's different for the projects that all of you have undertaken. With that in mind, what do you think are the best ways to incorporate marginalia and other commentary in library circulation databases? Obviously that's not the issue for RED/READ-IT but it might be for Scottish Borrower Registers, Dissenting Academies, Australian Common Reader, etc. I'm wondering if there are shared lessons about best practices here and opportunities to make such material searchable and quantifiable.
Thanks @jim-connolly! When bidding for funding for our database project on subscription/social libraries, we ultimately decided that trying to do something really innovative with marginalia in the database itself would risk the feasibility of what we were proposing on library holdings and circulation records - we're still planning to search for annotated copies when we eventually are able to visit our partner libraries, and we'll be hoping to use them in our publications, but in terms of the database we're planning simply to place a note in the holdings record to indicate that this copy has annotations. I suspect it's going to take a separate piece of work, with quite a large collaborative input, to link up databases centred on library circulation records/holdings records more systematically with known surviving marginalia - but it would be worth it, given the interpretive gains we make when we set different measures of book distribution, circulation and reception alongside each other.
Thanks. I'd be interested in hearing more about those deliberations at some point--what the technical hurdles were. As RED and READ-IT show us it's more than just marginalia ultimately, but these projects are expensive enough, and complicated enough, as it is. (Jim)
I was struck by the times (two, I think) in which James Smith found a book "entertaining," and by your observation that, "Hume and Robertson go out of their way to write narratives that will appeal to readers - lots of juicy character sketches to enjoy, and lots of sentimental set pieces."
You put the reading of history in the context of a program of self-education; however, I'm curious about the extent that this self-education traffics in pleasure, how the entertainment of history leads to the historical novel, etc. Perhaps this is outside your topic; if so, I do apologize . . .
If Jim will allow me to plug another upcoming conference, 2021 marks the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the birth of Tobias Smollett. Tobias Smollett at 300: The Work of Writing, hosted by the Institute of English Studies in London, is scheduled to take place on 13-14 May 2021. The site can be accessed at https://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/conferences/tobias-smollett-300-work-writing . Registration is free.
Thanks @felsenstein for flagging up the Smollett at 300 conference - just wanted to say this is hosted online by the Institute of English Studies in London, but supported by The Open University's History of Books of Reading (HOBAR) collaboration, and organised by my Open University English colleague, Dr Richard J Jones. Do come to this if you can - it's organised in time zone sensitive ways, so should allow North American participants to join in without too many problems.
Shaf -- I should add that at least one of the papers at the upcoming "Smollett at 300" conference may relate to Mark's keynote. In the session, "Smollett and Scotland", Spartaco Pupo (University of Calabria) is listing his paper as "Smollett, Hume and the Project of a National History Unaffected by Political Bias."
Not at all Steve, it's all interconnected! I would argue that one of the reasons historical novels appeal to readers and make sense is that they present familiar characters and episodes that readers will already know from their historical reading. And while readers will often use the pen portraits Hume, Robertson, Gibbon and many others present of historical characters to learn moral lessons about character, morality and the results of good (and bad) behaviour, when those characters are then fictionalised, the novelist has even more scope to teach the sort of moral lessons s/he wants to teach.
But of course entertainment is of course part of the history-reading craze in the eighteenth century. I focus mainly on the educational side because I wanted to explain the dozens of surviving manuscript copies of these histories (which had previously attracted very little interest because they're, well, copies), but we can also find traces of entertainment in these records of reading - readers sometimes get distracted from collecting worthy character sketches from history to copy down bawdy incidents, romantic stories and tales of daring heroism, while at least one reader compiles his own joke book from the histories that he reads. And whereas teenage girl calls Hume's History a "penance" that her father inflicts on her, another writes in her diary about the unmatched enjoyment she finds in immersing herself in Robertson's History of Scotland.