In an only partially successful attempt to escape England’s weather, Katy, Sophie and I spent a week in April enjoying what should have been sunny California. This was for an interdisciplinary workshop that has spun off from the successful Things seminar series. Like the Cambridge events, the workshop was on ‘Material Cultures of the Long Eighteenth-Century’ and linked UK academics with the University of California’s ‘Material Cultures of Knowledge’ research group. The meeting took place at the lovely Huntington Library, which has wonderful gardens as well as fine library and arts collections, particularly of eighteenth-century material. I’m already looking forward to going back there in January for a conference we’re organising – more details in due course.
It was a rewarding week, although intellectually challenging, as we tried to grapple with the approaches and discourses of a number of different disciplines and covered a wide range of topics including authorship and re-authorship, authenticity, labour, production, collecting and control – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the topics we discussed was the selling and binding of books in the eighteenth century. Peter Stallybrass of the University of Pennsylvania pointed out that many books would have been bought already bound from booksellers, not unbound as I’d previously assumed, although this did not apply equally to all types of book.
I was interested in this because it’s something I’ve come across while looking at books published by the Board of Longitude. For many of these mathematical works, it’s clear that while the copies we mostly see today are leather-bound, you could buy them with a simple blue paper covering. Among the Museum’s Nautical Almanacs, for instance, one volume with a coarse cloth cover and original blue wrapper stands out.
This also ties up with a letter from Nevil Maskelyne that I posted about previously, which talks about stitching the first edition in blue paper. Clearly, the practice continued.
Incidentally, there will be a second conference and workshop in Cambridge at the end of September – details to follow for that too – and ‘Things’ has secured funding to continue for another year from the autumn. We look forward to another interesting programme.
* Copy this password:
* Type or paste password here:
11,357 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress