Rare Book School

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2012–2013 RBS-UVA Fellows

The RBS-UVA Fellowship provides undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Virginia with scholarships to attend RBS courses that substantially inform year-long projects (viz., a Distinguished Major’s thesis, an article, a dissertation chapter, an exhibition) that they submit to RBS upon completion. The 2012–13 cohort of RBS-UVA Fellows includes:

Laura All

Recipient of the 2012–13 RBS-UVA Fellowship Project Award

Doctoral candidate, Department of English
The ********* 17--; or, the Expletive Eighteenth-Century (ASECS Presentation)
The Expletive Eighteenth Century: A Prospectus (Dissertation Prospectus)

My dissertation looks at the ways eighteenth-century texts use visual cues such as asterisks and dashes to draw attention to what they can’t or won’t say in print. This practice encompassed much more than just dirty words: it extended to proper names and place names, dates, oaths, and more. My hypothesis is that each of these strains has its own history and functions. This project will strive for comprehensiveness in surveying the field of the expletive, aiming to map the borders of the printable and how they changed over time.

Thus far in my dissertation, I have been working with well-known texts and editions; however, in the future I will almost certainly need to examine such features as watermarks, type specimens, and paper quality—all characteristics I evaluated in my RBS class—in order to accurately place the lesser-known texts I encounter. Such precision will be crucial to a project that aims to find historical precedents for punctuation choices. The Rare Book School class Printed Books to 1800: Description & Analysis, taught by David Whitesell, amply fulfilled my goal of developing knowledge about the inner workings of the print process, specifically how decisions might have been made about punctuation. David taught me that, even beyond the basic standards supplied by specimens and house styles, such mundane issues as type shortages or careless compositors could and did affect the appearance of the final page in observable ways. I must pause before making grand interpretive claims about the inconsistencies in ellipses and dashes in Tristram Shandy, even for an author as involved with the print process as Sterne.

One especially useful benefit of David’s class is that I can now better navigate existing bibliographical descriptions, thus opening up a whole new landscape of scholarly resources to consult. The detailed comparisons we practiced on identical texts in class illuminated the subtlety that such descriptions require. In the absence of a holograph manuscript of Tristram Shandy, for instance, inconspicuous details like the variable placement of a catchword become even more precious.

Joy Merten

Distinguished Major, Department of History
William Short and the Cross-Atlantic Information Economy of the Era of Atlantic Revolution

This paper originated as a project for an American history seminar at the University of Virginia entitled “Worlds of William Short.” It was a class about the life of Thomas Jefferson’s close personal associate and early diplomat William Short. My project focuses on the intellectual culture of Paris in the Age of Atlantic Revolution, and how William Short engaged with that culture through the reading of books and newspapers. I use William Short as an example of a diplomat engaged in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment, whose opinions on the Haitian Revolution were informed by the books he purchased in European capitals by European authors. My Rare Book School course, James N. Green’s History of the Book in America, c.1700–1830, provided me with resources and information that supplemented my study of Parisian intellectual culture. I used Green’s teachings as a basis for my understanding of the information economy of the Haitian Revolution. The class helped me understand the use of bibliographies, databases, and the publishing system of the early American republic.

Rachel Midura

Distinguished Major, Department of History
Ours and the Enemy: Turkish Siege of Vienna and the Early Modern Information Economy

Today we often read and write about the impact of globalization upon our daily life, yet the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw rapid communications development not unlike our modern information age. I approached my distinguished major thesis with the goal of recreating a particularly emblematic narrative—how the city of Vienna gained worldwide renown through early modern print publication.

By taking Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description, I gained valuable hands-on experience with everything from the mechanics of print publication, to the methodology of its modern documentation. My thesis depended upon the use of bibliographies, and I learned to comprehend the wealth of evidence that they provide. When looking at seventeenth-century broadsheets and books, I was better able to understand the process of formatting, compiling, and editing that went into their formation.

The most important impact was upon the narrative of my thesis. The lectures with David Whitesell helped me envision and reconstruct a printing community. I could identify with a cast of printers in Vienna, including my protagonist, Italian-language printer Johann Van Ghelen. I gained some insight into regional book trade and censorship, and understood what trade connections may have led to the development of an early cosmopolitan community in the city. I believe that these early connections proved crucial to Vienna’s social, political, and cultural development, and my time at Rare Book School provided me with the tools to support those conclusions in my thesis.

Emma Schlosser

M.A. candidate, Department of English
Publication and Reception History of Henry Kirke White

In researching the many editions of Henry Kirke White during my semester as a research assistant to Professor David Vander Meulen, I developed an interest in the interdependence of publication and reception histories that constitute an author’s ongoing cultural significance. Kirke White, a scarcely remembered eighteenth-century British poet, was immensely popular throughout the Victorian era, as evidenced by the impressive publication history of his works. I wanted to know more about nineteenth-century print culture and the various factors influencing the production of an author’s textual legacy. 

I applied for Eric Holzenberg’s course The Printed Book in the West since 1800 as a veritable novice to the history of book production, and came away with not only a breadth of knowledge but also a true appreciation for the field. Throughout the week I learned about varying topics such as typography, binding, and machine presses, and discovered the meaning of terms such as chromolithography and linotype—words that had, until then, existed as a completely different language to me. In just five days of immersion in a truly illuminating class, I had absorbed two hundred years of publication history. By the end of the week, each student was able to identify and explain the binding, typesetting, illustrations and approximate year of publication of any book at random. 

I was able to apply what I had learned in Eric’s class to determine the cultural value that Kirke White’s books carried throughout the nineteenth century. I thank RBS for such a wonderful experience and for giving me the opportunity to enrich my appreciation for literature. My interest in literary reception will forever be influenced by my exposure to book production history.

Lingerr Senghor

M.A. candidate, Department of English
Wuthering Heights: Tracking the Bronte Myth in the 1858 and 1931 Editions (Course proposal and Syllabus)

I am an English literature student, so I know what a book is. Right? Not exactly. Taking Printed Books since 1800: Description & Analysis, helped me realize, in an incredibly exciting way, what it means for a book to be … a book. I had never realized how much English is primarily concerned with content studies, not book studies. What goes into the creation of a physical book, from choosing its layout (a major concern in my final project), to its spine, to its material, has a significant impact on our reading of the book. Tom Congalton and Katherine Reagan helped me realize this. Their class opened up a new and dizzying world of possibility in how to study Victorian novels’ reception histories. I found that it was useful and interesting to think about Wuthering Heights as a physical object before considering its myriad of other adaptations, and this is the work that I have submitted to the Rare Book School. I compared two editions of Wuthering Heights, thinking about them in the context of the Bronte mythos.

Elizabeth Voss

Doctoral candidate, Department of French
The Well-Traveled Text: Guillaume de Machaut’s Prise d’Alixandre

Introduction to Western Codicology, the course that I took last summer as an RBS-UVA fellow, gave me invaluable knowledge about medieval manuscripts and the skilled artisans that create them. This rare opportunity to study with Professor Albert Derolez came at a fortuitous moment, just as I was beginning work as a research assistant for the “Machaut in the Book” Mellon project. Although Guillaume de Machaut’s Prise d’Alixandre had been at the center of my doctoral studies at the University of Virginia, I had little knowledge about the late medieval book. This intensive course gave me the methodological framework to pursue the study of Machaut’s manuscripts and interrogate their integrity, particularly Manuscript A (BnF fr. 1584). 

Though this highly decorated manuscript has fueled claims that Machaut closely supervised its production, the approaches to manuscript study that I discovered as Professor Derolez’s student lead me to new ideas about the manuscript's dynamism and what it means for the reader reception. Over the course of the RBS fellowship, I spent countless hours retracing the steps of manuscript creation and how the materiality of the artifact can ask different questions about the Prise. The result of my inquiry is my paper “The Well-Traveled Text: Guillaume de Machaut's Prise d’Alixandre,” which explores Manuscript A’s visual and material textual cues. These cues, the material of the parchment, the visual iconography as well as the graphic quality of the script, recall the foreign setting of the crusade recounted in the Prise while signaling the codex’s own travel.  The intersection of these two itineraries, I suggest, marks a medieval negotiation of the metaphorical relationship between reading and travel—a meaningful connection that I never would have uncovered without my RBS fellowship.