Literary Tourism

In her obituary for Dinah Mulock Craik, Margaret Oliphant wrote how pleased the author had been to learn that American tourists were flocking to Tewkesbury, a medieval market town in Gloucestershire, “not so much to see the town and abbey, as to identify the scenery of John Halifax”.*  As postcards commemorating the sites of the novel attest, this literary tourism continued well into the twentieth century.  As late as 1977, Dorothy Eagle pointed tourists to the haunts and homes of the Author of John Halifax in The Oxford Literary Guide to the British Isles.

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Links Round-up: Digital Platforms, Open Access and the Future of Scholarly Publishing

In the last few weeks, I have read some thought-provoking articles/essays/posts on scholarly publishing. My ideas are still percolating but I invite you to check out these links and contribute your thoughts in the comments about some of the questions raised by these writers:

If, as the MLA has repeatedly recommended, we should be moving away from the proto-book model of graduate dissertations, what should we be moving towards?

How do we, as scholars, ensure equitable and open access to our published research?

Has it been your experience, like Aimee Morrison’s (below), that “the more you write, the more you write”? (That is, that writing that doesn’t “count” because it isn’t peer reviewed, for instance, can facilitate increased writing output in the kinds of writing that do “count”? )

How have you successfully integrated blogging (and twitter?) into your research and teaching?

How have you been addressing these various issues of access and digital publishing  in your own publishing practices? Continue reading

Looking at the Origin

Word cloud for On the Origin of Species, 2nd edition

Word Cloud for On the Origin of Species, 2nd edition

I hope visualizations entertain you as much as they do me.  I’ve recently generated two word clouds which denote the word frequency in the second and sixth editions of On the Origin of Species.  As always, they support what we already know (for example, the increased frequency of “Mr” in the sixth edition confirms that there were more men that Darwin could draw on to substantiate his work in 1872 than he had been able to in 1860).  That said, I’m not sure how to interpret the later text’s dwindling use of the word “varieties” relative to “variations,” or the virtual disappearance of the word “believe.”  I suppose visualizations really do make us question the text, rather than providing us with answers.

Word cloud for On the Origin of Species, 6th edition

Word Cloud for On the Origin of Species, 6th edition

Avifauna for the Masses

Three rooks' heads from the Natural History Museum, London. First displayed in 1881.

I recently made at trip (or as one friend put it, “what you’re describing is a pilgrimage, Crompton”) to the Natural History Museum in London. It has all the qualities that I like in a museum: super-fatted gothic architecture, knowledgeable staff, and a sensational bird collection.

Victorian curatorial practices are curious to the contemporary visitor. A bird case from the Museum’s inaugural year, 1881, is tucked into one corner of the bird hall. Rather than displaying the mounted birds whole, the case is full of disembodied heads, wings, feet and feathers – the better, I assume, to teach the viewer about bird anatomy. The accompanying text is excessively didactic. The Latin names of the each joint and tendon season the explanatory prose since, as the 1886 catalog suggested, by “the aid of explanatory labels, the essential characters and the principle modifications of all these Continue reading

Bookbinding (the American Cousin Edition)

Bookbinders from James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) 120If you haven’t seen it yet, let me recommend the video that chronicles the production of John Carrera’s edition of the Merriam-Webster engravings. The Linotype was cast on a machine from the 1930s, but the binding process reminds me of so many images of Victorian binders seated as sewing frames.

Pictorial Webster’s: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

The Work of Handwriting in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

EdisonCropWhile doing research at the British Library last fall, I came across a thoroughly fascinating pamphlet advertising Edison’s Electric Pen, known more properly as “The Edison Electric Pen and Duplicating Press, for the Rapid, Accurate, and Economical Production of all kinds of Writings, Drawings &c.” Continue reading