Saturday, July 19, 2014

UCL: Centre for Editing Lives and Letters: Archaeology of Reading

News from the UCL Centre for Editing Lives and Letters is that they have received a grant from the Mellen Foundation to explore the archaeology of reading through the marginalia or annotations of early printed materials. Through this uncatalogued data we get access to a history of reading.

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries and the Princeton University Library, the project builds upon several decades of humanistic research that has focused upon the printing revolution of the sixteenth century, and the widespread practice by active readers of leaving often dense, interpretive manuscript annotations in the margins, and between the lines, of the books they read. This diverse evidence of annotation provides a considerable range of unique and largely untapped research materials, which reveal that readers—much as users of the internet today—adapted quickly to the technology of print: interacting intimately, dynamically, socially, and even virtually with texts.
The history of reading remains a rich area for research, as scholars seek to better understand these reading habits and strategies, though it has remained a particularly daunting task when conducted in a purely analogue context, particularly with books that literally contain thousands of notes.

Alison Flood in the Guardian notes that the project will start with the works of Gabriel Harvey.

In his copy of Livy's history of Rome, the Elizabethan scholar Gabriel Harvey paused to write a note in the margin about how he read the text in the company of Philip Sidney, and how the two had "scrutinis[ed it] so far as we could from all points of view, applying a political analysis, just before his embassy to the emperor Rudolf II".