Skip to content
The Open University
« Arts Research

RED Project

The Reading Experience Database (RED), 1450–1945

RED Letter: The Newsletter of the Reading Experience Database


Edited by Rosalind Crone and Katie Halsey

Very recently, I had an email from someone who expressed great interest in the Reading Experience Database while raising a very important question: how do we record those instances in which a reading experience has occurred as a result of the influence of a third party? The question seems so obvious. As children many of our choices of reading material are influenced or even prescribed by parents or teachers. Later in life, friends certainly loom large, as casual chats often have an impact upon which books we might purchase or avoid, an influence extended in recent years with the proliferation of social book clubs. However, especially when dealing with material from the past, the answer can become quite tricky, not least because we are so dependent upon the memories and descriptions of our historical readers. Curiosity, and the lack of a simple solution to this quandary, set me on a mission to explore some of the evidence so far collected in the database which illuminates this theme.

First and foremost, I was pleased to find that we do have a substantial number of entries in which readers, of all backgrounds, refer to the direct influence of their parents and friends. Thomas Jackson (b.1879), for example, described the competing, but equally welcome, influence of his father and grandmother: while his father presented him with a set of Charles Dickens’s novels, Jackson’s grandmother, who rather sniffed at Dickens, ‘gave me Vanity Fair as an antidote to David Copperfield’. There are also several instances in which particularly ambitious and fiercely intellectual parents exerted strict control over their sons’ literary diet, and although enriching, the texts imposed on these young readers could also prove burdensome and suffocating. The famous Edmund Gosse (b. 1849), only son of zoological writer Philip Gosse, gives a detailed account of the books he was expected to study as a child. When Philip Gosse presented Edmund with a magnificently bound copy of Dean Alford’s edition of the Greek New Testament, he extracted ‘from me a written promise that I would translate and meditate upon a portion of the Greek Text every morning before I started for business. This promise I presently failed to keep, my good intentions being undermined by an invincible ennui.’ Similarly, as Edmund Gosse’s parents were so fond of the works of Andrew John Jukes, a writer on prophecy, at a very early age Edmund was forced to read Jukes aloud to them: ‘I did it glibly, like a machine, but the sight of Juke’s volumes became an abomination to me, and I never formed the outline of a notion what they were about.’

Predictably, the reading experiences of adults so far collected in RED refer much more frequently to the influence of friends in the selection of books and periodicals. Letters, for example, are a particularly rich source. On the one hand, writers suggest titles to their correspondents that they have recently enjoyed reading. In one, dated February 1754, Samuel Richardson recommends a number of books to Lady Bradshaigh: ‘Does your Ladiship [sic] see The Adventurer? I buy it; but have not had time to read but here and there one; But purpose from the Character judicious Friends give of them, to make them part of my Reading Entertainment when I have Leisure.’ And, on the other hand, writers express gratitude to their friends for the books that they promote. A rather satisfying example is a letter of Jane to Cassandra Austen (Aug 1805), in which Jane writes: ‘I am glad you recommended “Gisborne”, for having begun, I am pleased with it, and I had quite determined not to read it.’ But in our brief survey we must not forget the common reader, of whose reading experiences we gain a glimpse through slightly less obvious sources. And here, too, we can note that direct influence of a third party. An interviewee for a Mass Observation Survey in 1942 gave the following answer to interrogations: ‘I am reading now Time is the Spur. No, I don’t know whom it is by. I was recommended to it by a friend. It’s very good.’

Finally, in this context it is worth drawing attention to the entries in RED which demonstrate the impact of institutions, in which texts are prescribed, upon immediate and future reading experiences. Texts which young students were forced to read at school could either encourage or inhibit further literary pursuits. The tantalizing extracts of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s History in his school Reader inspired Thomas Jackson to purchase Macaulay’s essays when he found them at second-hand book stalls in London. For Norman Nicholson (b.1914), however, the ‘mean little school editions’ of The Old Curiosity Shop and The Chimes, ‘were enough to sour a boy against [Dickens’s] novels for the rest of his life’, a situation rescued by an inspiring teacher who read Pickwick Papers to the class. Thomas Catling’s (b.1838) experience was not so positive. As he was forced at school to recite the Psalms over and over again, the text ‘became so uninteresting, not to say repetitive, that all through life I have failed to appreciate properly the beauty of those grand Eastern compositions.’ Recent contributions to the database on reading in the nineteenth-century prison have shown a similar diversity of experiences. In an environment in which censored texts were designed to assist in the reformation of criminals in order to release them back into society, forced and optional reading produced a wide range of reactions from the convicts and remained a sticking point for the authorities.

And after that brief tour of the database, on to RED news. First, we would like to draw your attention to an event RED is co-hosting with the Cambridge Victorian Studies Group, entitled ‘Reading the Past in the Nineteenth Century: A Symposium’. The event will be chaired by William St Clair, and Jonathan Rose will be responding to the papers presented by a number of prominent researchers in the field. Further details are listed below, under ‘Forthcoming Events’ and are available on the RED website. We would like to thank CVSG for their partnership in this exciting event.

As always, there are a number of people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their generous assistance and contributions to the project, in addition, of course, to our large number of volunteers. We would like to thank Shirley Gould-Smith and James Griffin for offering extremely valuable material from their own personal collections. We would also like to thank Shirley Foster for her kind donation of a large number of references on Elizabeth Sewell’s reading, and Robin Lewis for her recent invaluable assistance. If you have not yet become a volunteer, and would like to do so, it is never too late! Please be in touch with Katie, at

Finally, we would like to thank everyone who has shown interest and submitted an abstract for our forthcoming conference, ‘Evidence of Reading, Reading the Evidence’, to be held at the Institute for English Studies in London on 21-23 July this year. We were delighted with the overwhelming enthusiasm with which the call for papers was received. The conference organising committee met recently to consider all the proposals and we are currently in the process of contacting speakers to confirm their participation. A provisional conference programme will be posted on the conference website very shortly. We have now also opened registration for the conference. If you are interested in attending, we recommend that you register as soon as possible as we expect that the conference will be oversubscribed. Details about registration have been posted on the RED website ( and registration forms are available on the IES events webpage ( If you require any further information please don’t hesitate to contact either Rosalind or Katie (details below). We have also appended a copy of our conference poster to this newsletter. We hope you will be able to join us for what looks to be a very exciting conference.


Contact Details:  
Dr Rosalind Crone
Literature Department
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
Dr Katie Halsey
Institute of English Studies
School of Advanced Study
University of London
Malet Street
Email: Email:

Forthcoming Events and Calls for Papers

RED Conference: Evidence of Reading, Reading the Evidence

Follow this link for further details


Reading the Past in the Nineteenth Century: A Symposium
Hosted by The Cambridge Victorian Studies Group and the Reading Experience Database
4 March, 2008 2-5 pm
King's College, Cambridge

Chair: William St. Clair
Respondent: Jonathan Rose


Annika Bautz: 'Scott's Victorian Readers'

Rosemary Mitchell: 'Charlotte M. Yonge: Reading, Writing, and Recycling Historical Fiction in the Nineteenth Century'

Shafquat Towheed: 'Reading History and Nation: Robert Louis Stevenson's Reading of William Forbes-Mitchell's Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny 1857-9 in Samoa'

Michael Ledger-Lomas: 'First-Century Fiction in the Late Nineteenth Century'

Places are limited. To register, please email

Follow this link to download a poster of the event.

Publishing Science: Seminars in Book History and Bibliography
Organised by the Book History Research Group, the Open University, and the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Organiser: Dr Shafquat Towheed , Open University.

The theme for the 2008-2009 seminar series will be Transatlantic Serialisation. If you are interested in giving a paper please contact Dr Shafquat Towheed.

Programme 2006-2007:

11 February 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:00 - 19:30
Jim Mussell (Birkbeck College/ NSE)
'The Roles of Secrecy in Nineteenth-Century Science Publishing'
Jim Mussell is postdoctoral research assistant on the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition. He is the author of 'Science, Time and Space in the Late Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press' (2007) and writes broadly on nineteenth-century science and publishing.

25 February 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester)
'Moa Mania: Richard Owen's functionalist Paleontology and Nineteenth-Century Print Culture'
Gowan Dawson is the author of 'Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability' (2007), and co-author of 'Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: Reading the Magazine of Nature' (2004).

10 March 2008 (Monday)
Venue: Room 273 (ST)
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Angelique Richardson (University of Exeter)
' "Among the earliest acclaimers of The Origin": Hardy and the Scientists'
Angelique Richardson is the author of 'Love and Eugenics in the late Nineteenth-Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman 1890-1914' and the editor of 'Women Who Did: Stories by Men and Women 1890-1914' (2005). She is a member of the advisory committee of Exeter's Centre for Medical History, a Research Associate of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), and a Contributing Editor to 'Critical Quarterly'.

Cross-media cooperation between the publishing, theatrical and film industries: an interdisciplinary colloquium
Saturday 12 April 2008
Institute for English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Today popular authors can work with one company which markets or syndicates all their rights in book publication, film production and merchandising. The origins of this practice lie in the 1920s and 1930s when film companies approached publishing companies to purchase film options on the copyrights of their novels. Some authors benefited from cross media tie-ins and were able to exert considerable control over the marketing and merchandising of their stories. Others chose to leave it to the growing body of professional adapters, screen writers and literary agents.

The aim of this day colloquium is to draw together research from different disciplines to examine the extent of cross-media cooperation between media professionals, agents, and authors and ask how the past has shaped practices of the present day.

We would particularly welcome papers on:

  • sources for interdisciplinary study of cross-media practices
  • application of established and innovative methods of analysis to the study of crossmedia adaptation, promotion, and other creative/business practices
  • case studies of tie-ins between film/publishing/theatrical industries from 1900 to present day
  • studies relating early 20th century media practices to the present day
  • experiences of individual authors in pursuing cross-media promotion for their fiction.

Topics may include: adaptation, film/media tie-in editions, rights practices, business histories, role of literary agents, censorship, economics of authorship etc. We intend to publish a selection of the papers in the form of an edited book.

Abstracts of 250 words, accompanied by the contact details and brief biog to be received by 30 January 2008 to:

Professor Alexis Weedon
Cross-media Cooperation Project
University of Bedfordshire

This is an initiative of the Cross-media cooperation in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s AHRC project. Project team consists of Professor Simon Eliot (University of London), Professor Alexis Weedon and Dr Vincent L Barnett (University of Bedfordshire).


Artistry and Industry: Representations of Creative Labour in Literature and the Visual Arts c. 1830-1900
18-20 July 2008
University of Exeter

Keynote Speakers: Tim Barringer (Professor of Art History, University of Yale), Michael Hatt (Professor of Art History, University of Warwick), Talia Schaffer (Associate Professor of English, CUNY).

Plenary Panel: Patrizia di Bello (Lecturer in History and Theory of Photography, Birkbeck College), Richard Salmon (Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature, University of Leeds), Valerie Sanders (Professor of English Literature, University of Hull).

Other participants: Kate Campbell (UEA), Liz Farr (Plymouth University), Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi (Exeter University), Sally-Anne Huxtable (Bristol University), David Jeremiah (Plymouth University), Andrew King (University of Canterbury), Susie Needham (Exeter University), Claire O’Mahony (Oxford University), John Plunkett (Exeter University), and Ana Parejo Vadillo (Exeter University).

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to examine the nature and representation of artistic labour within the nineteenth century’s expanding print and visual culture. Its focus will be on artistic ‘industry’ in a variety of forms including, but not limited to, the nature of artistic work as conceptualised by writers and artists, artistry as a profession, and art as commodity.

Drawing together contributors from Literature, Art History, History, Drama and beyond, Artistry and Industry will also examine the connections and the separations between those artistic milieux regarded as high-culture (painting, sculpture, literature) and those classed as ‘art-industry’ - such as pottery-painting, art needlework or engraving – or even hack-work (such as Grub-Street writing).

We seek insights not only into the production, dissemination and consumption of particular texts or objets d’art, but into the myths and images developing around such figures as The Painter, The Lady Novelist, The Man of the Theatre, The Craftswoman, The Poet, The Illustrator and The Muse.

We invite abstracts (up to 300 words) from across the arts and humanities for 15-20 minute papers. Please submit abstracts, including your name as you would like it to appear, institutional affiliation, and email address by 15 February 2008, to

Themes to consider include:

  • Celebrity/obscurity/notoriety/reputation/respectability
  • Hand-making/mass (re)production/publishing and distribution
  • Interior design/ dress design
  • Designer/Writer/Actor/Musician et al as artist
  • Fine/decorative/domestic arts
  • Advertising/literature/manuals for amateur/creative work
  • Professional/amateur status
  • Aesthetics/commerce
  • Literary/visual representation

Conference organizers: Dr Sunie Fletcher, Dr Kyriaki Hadjiafxendi, Sally-Anne Huxtable, Dr Patricia Zakreski

The Second Annual Making Books, Shaping Readers Conference
Shaping Readers: Selection and Editing
2 - 4 April 2008
University College Cork

Keynote Speaker: Professor Alistair McCleery, Co-Director of SAPPHIRE, Professor of Literature and Culture at Napier University, and co-editor of The Book History Reader.

The conference will explore the editor’s role in shaping the material we read, which in turn shapes our reception of the text. Editions of texts are at the core of all research in the humanities, and our readings of, and responses to, texts are often subtly shaped by editorial decisions and selections. Editorial processes are not objective or neutral, and frequently happen without comment. Papers might focus on, but are not limited to, some of the following:

  • What is an editor?
  • Textual ‘corruption’
  • Authorial intention
  • Editing as interpretation
  • The social text
  • The role of the publisher
  • Textual variants
  • The reader as editor
  • The role of technology
  • Theories of selection and compilation
  • The effect of selection and editing on materiality
  • Anthologies, scholarly editions and canon formation

In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the project, we invite papers from scholars in all disciplines. Selected papers may be included in an edited volume. Accepted abstracts will be published on our website prior to the conference.

For more information, contact the organisers: Dr Siobhán Collins, Dr Carrie Griffin, Mary O’ Connell and Dr Graham Allen at, or visit:

Early Modern Reading: Books, Communities, Conversations
11-12 April 2008
Newcastle University

Keynote Speakers:
Jason Scott-Warren (Cambridge)
Cathy Shrank (Sheffield)
Daniel Wakelin (Cambridge)

The history of reading has experienced an explosive growth in recent years. Scholars of early modern England have been at the forefront of research in this area, and studies of the reading practices of a number of notable figures, including Gabriel Harvey, John Dee, Ben Jonson, and Sir William Drake, have appeared over the last fifteen years. Historians have gleaned from notebooks and marginalia a model of reading as utilitarian; this values the text primarily as a resource to be mined for information or turns of phrase and applied to the life or writings of the reader or their patron. Such work has offered many important insights, but it has perhaps also narrowed our understanding of the practice of reading and its social and political import. It does not give us a model that is flexible enough to explain the relationship between reading and the development of ‘literary’ form, nor does it recognise the diverse practical, political and social interests which reading may have served.

We invite proposals for conference papers which aim to extend or complicate our understanding of early modern readers and reading practice. This might be understood to include the conversations - or indeed quarrels - which follow particular texts; the act of reading itself as dialogic; readings that ‘go against the grain’; the sense of literary writings as acts of reading; reading as information gathering and the organization of knowledge; and textual exchange as a form of association, or negotiation, between individuals, communities, and cultures.

Specific subjects which contributors might address include (but are not limited to):
• Paratexts and marginalia
• Rhetoric and imitation
• Translation
• Book and manuscript circulation
• Book ownership
• Reading communities
• Dialogue and civil conversation
• Oppositional reading
• Censorship
• Reading and politics
• Reformation and religious controversy
• Education and reading
• Scientific reading
• Information management

For more information contact :
Fred Schurink ( or
Jennifer Richards (

Reception and Diaspora: Readers and Audiences After Empire
3-5 September 2008
University of Stirling, Scotland

Janice Radway has noted that the original use of the term "audience" to describe "face to face" communication is complicated by the act of reading books, which involves "dispersed", "nomadic" readers (Radway 1988). Similarly, in an essay written in critical dialogue with Radway's, Lawrence Grossberg uses the extended metaphor of the road to address "wandering audiences" and "nomadic critics" (Grossberg 1988). Significantly, neither of these critics is thinking about the implications of diaspora for reception study; rather they are using diasporic metaphors to illustrate a theoretical sense of the audience’s elusiveness. What happens when such figurative allusions are taken literally and applied to the actual experiences of diaspora, globalization and postcoloniality?

This conference seeks to extend current debates on the history of reading (e.g. RED: 1450-1945) by inviting discussion on reception, readers and audiences – empirical and metaphorical – after empire. Reception is used in this context to refer to diasporic narratives of arrival, hospitality and integration, and to the critical activity of reading, interpreting and responding to such narratives.

Suggested topics include:
Reading and resistance; reception and translation; contrapuntal reading; empire, globalization, and interpretive communities; reading networks; the internet and new technologies; the postcolonial exotic; literacy and reading; reception as a situated activity; viewers, the gaze, ethnicity; consumption after colonialism; travelling libraries; diasporic readers/./audiences in literature/film; postcolonial history of the book; nationalism and hermeneutics.

Titles and abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent electronically, along with a 50-word biography, by March 31st 2008 to Bethan Benwell (



The Novel and its Borders
8 - 10 July 2008
University of Aberdeen

Organised by The Centre for The Novel

Organisers: Adrienne Janus, Abigail M Smith and Janet Todd

The novel is not only a literary form occupying a particular generic or cultural territory, but also an aesthetic, historical and social phenomenon that represents, constructs, and transgresses borders. The conference on The Novel and its Borders will engage with the novel in all its aspects, material and theoretical, from the 18th to the 21st century.

Plenary speakers: Malcolm Bowie, Jonathan Lamb, Terry Castle

Panel topics will include the following:

  • Genealogies of the novel
  • Histories of the book
  • Memory, History and Narrative time
  • Transatlantic crossings
  • Travel narratives
  • Libraries, Archives, Markets
  • Borders of the mind
  • Territories of the body, novel sexualities
  • The novel and translation
  • The novel and real/imagined communities
  • The novel and old/new media
  • Materialities of the novel
  • Transport of/in the novel
  • The novel and the city
  • The novel and the nation
  • Technology, science and the novel
  • Realism and its borders (The experimental novel)
  • The novel and its critical fields (Theories of the novel)



The International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature and Media will hold its 11th International Conference in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis July 8-11, 2008 (

IGEL Conference: July 8-11, 2008
IGEL Summer Institute: July 5-8, 2008

Deadline papers IGEL Conference: February 8, 2008.

The International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature and Media (German acronym IGEL) is aimed at the advancement of empirical literary research through international and interdisciplinary cooperation ( IGEL was founded in 1987. Biennual meetings of the society have been hosted in Siegen (Germany), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Memphis, Budapest (Hungary), Nakoda (Canada), Utrecht (Netherlands), Toronto (Canada), Pécs (Hungary), Edmonton (Canada) and Munich (Germany).


The 11th International Conference of the Society will be held in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis July 8-11, 2008. Keynote speakers include Douglas Biber and Roz Picard. Doug Biber ( is internationally known for his computational techniques to analyze the linguistic characteristics of spoken and written genres and registers. Roz Picard ( is the international authority on affective computing.

The IGEL Conference will follow the IGEL Summer Institute, July 5-7. The Program of the Summer Institute is concerned with the cooperation of Humanities and Social Science students in order to develop adequate methods for the empirical investigation of literature and the media.

The IGEL Conference will precede the Society for Text and Discourse workshop (July 11-12) and the 18th Annual Meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse (July 12-15), also held in the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis (


Presentations of the 11th International Conference can be in the form of posters or spoken papers. The deadline for submitting proposals for both presentation formats is February 8, 2008. A Review Committee will review the proposals, and authors will be notified regarding acceptance by the end of March 2008.

Please submit proposals in English to the website that will be made available towards the submission deadline (please see

Papers will be scheduled for 20 minutes, with an additional 5 minutes for questions and discussion. Posters are scheduled for a poster session on the second night of the conference.

Proposals for symposia (sessions with multiple papers on one particular topic) should be discussed with the conference organizers prior to submission and follow the same procedure as proposals for papers ( Their review process is the same as that or full papers.

Examples of topics for papers, posters, symposia and workshops include:

  • Literary reading processes (emotion, cognition, personality, etc.)
  • Computational linguistic and corpus linguistic methods of research on literature and the media (text analysis, corpus studies, hypertext models, etc.)
  • The social role of literature and related media (e.g. film, theatre, Internet, multimedia, virtual reality)
  • Pedagogical and educational aspect of literature and the media
  • The processes of literary/media production, distribution and reception
  • The role of literary and other cultural institutions: past, present and future
  • The empirical study of historical reception and historical readers

Proposals should include the following information:

  1. The title of the presentation
  2. Names and institutional affiliations all authors, including email addresses of all authors
  3. Contact Address for presenting author
  4. Presentation Preference (Poster, Paper or Either)
  5. A 75-word abstract of the presentation for publication in the abstracts booklet.
  6. A summary of the presentation with a title but no author information (max 1000 words, including bibliographic references).


The FedEx Institute of Technology (FIT) is a versatile, high-tech facility. The Institute is home to cutting-edge research teams working in areas such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, geospatial analysis, multimedia arts and nanotechnology. It also serves as a gateway for businesses to collaborate with University of Memphis researchers. In all, the Institute is home to over 150 faculty members, researchers and staff.

The FIT is a state-of-the-art facility with a 190 seat tiered amphitheater boasting the second largest implementation of digital congress units outside the United Nations, and 17 meeting rooms. Large projection screens, web cams, touch panel screens, laptop computers, totally wireless network, SIM cards, poly-vision and video teleconferencing, and interactive white boards are just some of the cutting-edge features of the facility.


A block of hotel rooms has been reserved in The Holiday Inn Hotel at the University of Memphis and the DoubleTree Hotel Memphis. Announcements for reservations will follow.

The Holiday Inn Hotel at the University of Memphis is an all-suite hotel centrally located in the heart of Memphis and easily accessible to downtown, the airport, and shopping. The hotel is adjacent to the University of Memphis. Prices for the reserved block of rooms are $109 per night.

The Doubletree Memphis provides lodging in Memphis near the University of Memphis and Memphis International Airport. It is surrounded by a variety of entertainment, recreation, theater and restaurants. The hotel has a complementary shuttle service to and from the airport. Prices for the reserved block of rooms are $104 per night.

In addition, dormitory rooms (2 persons sharing rooms) have been made available for discount rates in the Richardson Tower dormitory rooms accommodations at the University of Memphis campus. Prices are $35 per night.


For questions or suggestions, please contact The IGEL website will be updated regularly with the latest information on the conference (

Manuscripts and Miscellaneity, c. 1450-1720
An international conference organized by Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online
University of Cambridge, 3-4 July 2008

Speakers to include: Barbara Benedict, Julia Boffey, Victoria Burke, Margaret Connolly, Alexandra Gillespie, Earle Havens, Arthur Marotti,Steven May, Marcy North, Fred Schurink, John Thompson.

Commonplace books, collections, miscellanies; collections of lyric verse,extracts from authors, sacred and profane, topographical, heraldic and legal information, estate and household accounts and recipes. How do we describe or classify manuscripts with such miscellaneous contents? What importance did such objects, frequently used for several different purposes over the course of their lives, have in the manuscript culture of the late medieval and early modern periods? And in what ways can recent critical interests in the material history of the book and of the history of reading practices help us to understand them?

In addressing these questions, this conference will bring together literary scholars and cultural historians, codicologists and historians of the book. It will foster discussion of manuscript miscellanies written or compiled between the mid-fifteenth and early-eighteenth centuries: their contents, their material forms, how they were written and read, the ways in which their contents were arranged and disposed (within single books or across sequences of books), who owned them and how they used them, and the places that they might have had in the schoolroom or university, home or library.

It will also question the very concept of miscellaneity, in relation to other kinds of compilation and collection, and to other methods of book-classification - is miscellaneity a helpful critical, methodological or bibliographical term? And how do we view the miscellany differently in this age of digital facsimiles and hypertext?

We have limited space for further papers at the conference, and would like to invite proposals in the following or related areas, though by no means restricted to them:

  • Concepts of miscellaneity (as collection, variety, multiplicity)
  • The categorizing / classification of miscellaneous manuscripts (within libraries or criticism)
  • Manuscript and printed miscellanies and their relation
  • Commonplace books
  • Poetic miscellanies
  • Household miscellanies (and the miscellany in the home)
  • Religious miscellanies
  • The ownership and circulation of miscellanies
  • Female writers and miscellanies
  • Education (miscellanies in the school, university, educational theory)
  • The materiality of the miscellaneous manuscript (layout or arrangement of books, their material structures and construction)
  • Contemporary editing or printing of miscellanies
  • The manuscript miscellany in the digital age

Please send proposals, or enquiries, to Dr Christopher Burlinson, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge ( by 31 January 2008.

We hope to be able to arrange accommodation in Cambridge for our speakers and attendees, but cannot guarantee the availability of accommodation to those who register for the conference after 31 January 2008. In order to register for the conference, please contact Dr Christopher Burlinson ( as soon as possible.


The Culture of Print in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM)
The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America
Madison, Wisconsin
September 12-13, 2008

The conference will include papers focusing on the dynamic intersection of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM) and print culture. Papers might address ways in which STEM-its histories and materials, its theories and practices, its economics, and its practitioners-affects or is affected by print culture. These approaches might include: innovations in the production and circulation of print; patterns of authorship and reading; publication, and dissemination of knowledge in the history of STEM. Alternatively, taking the various theories and methodologies that have grown out of half-a-century of historical and social studies of STEM, papers could investigate the social construction of STEM knowledge through print; technologies of experimentation and inscription as a print culture of the laboratory; and the social networks of readership in the production of scientific consensus or conflict. Though our emphasis is on the United States scene, we welcome submissions from other areas of the globe as well.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Jim Secord, of Cambridge University, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, and author of many publications, including the award-winning Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

As with previous conferences, we anticipate producing a volume of papers from the conference for publication in a volume in the Center's series, "Print Culture History in Modern America," published by the University of Wisconsin Press. A list of books the Center has produced, available on the Center's website (, offers a guide to prospective authors.

For information, contact:
Christine Pawley, Director,
Center for the History of Print Culture
4234 Helen C. White Hall,
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706
phone: 608 263-2945/608 263-2900
fax: (608) 263-4849

Co-sponsors: School of Library and Information Studies, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, the departments of the History of Science, the History of Medicine and Bioethics, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.


Dante in the 19th Century: Reception, Canonicity, Popularization
A two-day conference at King's Manor, University of York
15-16 July, 2008

The nineteenth  century saw the rehabilitation of Dante as a Romantic and national poet, his recognition by Ruskin as ‘the central man of all the world’, the Comedy’s emergence as an educational best-seller, and the poet’s establishment as the subject of a critical industry. His reception (particularly in English-speaking cultures) over this period, from Romanticism to Modernism, has itself been the subject of a number of important studies.

This conference seeks to extend the scope of research on this subject in a number of ways, and papers on any aspect of Dante’s world-wide reception from c. 1780 to c. 1914 will be considered. The forms in which his work is circulated and popularized at this time will be a particular concern, as will his appropriation by various forms of nationalism. Although Dante’s presence in the work of the period’s major literary figures will be recognized, papers on the visual and performing arts and other kinds of cultural appropriation will be especially welcome.

The plenary speaker will be Professor Michael Caesar, editor of Dante: the Critical Heritage. There will be 6  other sessions over the two days, with space for approximately 18 papers of 20 mins each.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Prof Nick Havely ( and from the conference website at:


Readers, Writers, Salonnieres: Female Networks in Europe, 1700-1900
Chawton House Library, Hampshire, 22-23 May 2008

Keynote speakers: Professor Dena Goodman, University of Michigan and Professor Helen Chambers, University of St Andrews.

An interdisciplinary two-day conference to be held at Chawton House Library, Hampshire, 22nd and 23rd May 2008. See for information about the location. The event is jointly organised by the University of Southampton English Department, the University of Warwick French Department and the University of Wales Swansea German Department.

The conference is one in a series being held in conjunction with the Netherlands Research Organisation (NWO) Project "New Approaches to European Women's Writing" which is based at the University of Utrecht and is directed by Dr Suzan van Dijk. Please see for more details.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw an explosion of interest in Europe in foreign languages and literatures, and recent research has begun to explore the part played by women in cross-cultural interchange. This conference seeks to examine the trans-national links between literary women in Europe in the period 1700-1900. To what extent were women writers from different countries aware of each other and each other's work? We invite papers which look at women who read or were inspired by the work of women abroad, as well as papers exploring actual links (for example, through correspondence, visits or contact in the salons) between women writers of different nationalities.

Selected papers will be published in a special issue of the journal Women's Writing.

For further information, contact the conference administrator Sandy White:

Published Words, Public Pages – SHARP Copenhagen: a Nordic conference of International Print Culture
The Danish Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, Denmark
10–12 September 2008

Confirmed keynote speakers:
William St Clair, Hans Walter Gabler, Isabel Hofmeyr

Published Words, Public Pages aims to gather together current research into print culture – book history, textual studies, sociology of literature, library studies, literature and media studies – undertaken in the Nordic and Baltic Sea regions and elsewhere. What is shared among and across disciplines when the historical and contemporary transmission of knowledge is considered in material terms? How can we understand the inter and intra-national circulation of knowledge, involving fiction, non-fiction and scientific writing, its material production, and distribution via libraries, commercial markets and non-commercial channels? How have the efforts of printers, editors, graphic designers, programmers, entrepreneurs, publishers, distributors and of course writers affected production, reception and significance? How are ideas of a public – a literary or general public, an author's, or the public sphere – linked to the histories of people who write, make or read books, and how are they coupled to ideas of gender, to regional or metropolitan identities, or to colonial and post-colonial experience?

Emphasis is placed not only on inter and intra-national transmission but on self-reflection about methods and disciplinary boundaries. Is book history a discipline with methods of its own that can contribute to other disciplines? Or is it an inter or cross-disciplinary meeting point? Can rethinking these disciplinary questions lead us to an improved understanding of specific cultural, political, economic and geographic features that shape materials in print culture? Small languages, large markets – an apt description of the Nordic situation – addresses the export of small-language works to international markets. Conversely, small markets import large-language works (often outweighing domestic material).

To reiterate, the conference has an international and interdisciplinary aim. Strategies deployed by international readerships, booktrades and scholars for responding to questions posed by the conference will help illuminate the situation of the Nordic and Baltic Sea regions through comparative example.

Topics that the conference might wish to explore include:
  • Translation and culture. Small languages, large markets. The export and import of texts
  • Constructing publics, from the codex to the screen. Contributions might engage with relations between material transmission and publics, reader markets, law, censorship and copyright, and the construction of a public sphere, via ‘public pages’.
  • Imagined communities – émigré communities, regional groups, national readerships within and beyond the national border, their books, and the libraries and institutions that have and continue to cater for them.
  • Economies of the scholarly edition – the historical, material, institutional, publishing and market conditions for today’s critical editions.
  • Histories of reading – literacies, ‘Leselust’, religious reading, and the reading experience.
  • The Nordic model – the State and the book, in contemporary, historical and international perspectives.
  • Nordic antiquities – runes, sagas, Nordic signs, northern romanticism, its application, reception and transmission.
  • Transmitting the Nordic canon – Ibsen, Hamsun, Blixen, Brandes, Strindberg, Andersen in world markets. Anniversaries, reputations and business.

For further details please visit

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing
SHARP 2008 Conference: Teaching and Text

Oxford Brookes University, UK
24-28 June 2008

Our conference theme, Teaching and Text, reflects the historical and contemporary position of Oxford as a seat of learning and a centre of academic and professional publishing. It will be developed through an opening plenary lecture by Professor Juliet Gardiner, author of Wartime Britain 1939-1945, and by a panel on the History of Oxford University Press led by Professor Simon Eliot, Chair in the History of the Book at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London.

In line with previous SHARP conferences, we welcome abstracts on all aspects of book history and print culture, but invite especially proposals for individual papers or themed panels that aim to explore topics linked to ‘Teaching and Text,’ such as:

  • Links between education and publishing
  • Authorship, publishing and reception of educational materials
  • Education and training for careers in publishing
  • Business practice in educational and academic publishing
  • Digital materiality and the virtual canon
  • Books in universities and libraries
  • Cultural policy and the teaching of national literatures

Graduate Students:
There will be pre-conference activities for graduate students. Further information will be available in due course.

Travel Grants:
SHARP is able to provide a limited number of travel grants to graduate students and independent scholars. If you wish to be considered for such a grant, please state this when submitting your proposal in the appropriate box.

Follow this link for further information.

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture, 1550-1700
11-12 April 2008
University of Plymouth

This conference explores the significance of the materiality of manuscript and printed texts in the early modern period. By comprehensively focussing on the material aspects of texts (both in terms of their physicality and the materiality of social practices) as a new and valuable way of reading and decoding meaning, it aims to provide a thorough reassessment of the intrinsic natures of and developing relationships between cultures of manuscript and print from the late sixteenth century through to 1600. Avowedly interdisciplinary, a central purpose of the conference is to foster vigorous dialogues between print and manuscript studies, critical bibliography and history of the book, palaeography and diplomatics, and social and cultural history. It is intended that papers will examine a broad range of texts, both canonical and non-traditional, print and manuscript, and will treat the following key areas:

  • The material, practices and processes of textual composition and production; manuscripts, drafting and editions
  • The technologies and tools of writing
  • Interpreting the uses of paper, quills, ink, desks, presses
  • The significance of space and the design of texts; the layout of the manuscript and printed page; script and white space; type and typography; paratextual apparatus
  • The space of textual production; the social context and location of writing
  • The social signs, codes and cues inscribed within texts
  • The distribution and dissemination of texts
  • Environments of reading and reception
  • Marginalia and practices of reading
  • The material text as object or thing

Key Speakers include:

  • Professor Maureen Bell (University of Birmingham)
  • Professor Cedric Brown (University of Reading)
  • Dr Christopher Burlinson (Emmanuel College, Cambridge)
  • Professor Victoria Burke (University of Ottawa, Canada)
  • Dr James Daybell (University of Plymouth)
  • Dr Jonathan Gibson (Royal Holloway)
  • Dr Peter Hinds (University of Plymouth)
  • Professor Mark Knights (Warwick University)
  • Professor Arthur F. Marotti (Wayne State University, USA)
  • Professor Steven N. Zwicker (Washington University, St. Louis)

For further details please email:, or

Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) 40th Annual Conference: Characters of the Press
4-5 July 2008
Roehampton University, London

'Character' was the term commonly used of the Victorian press for what today we might call the 'brand personality' of a periodical - its distinctive features as a commodity in the marketplace. But how was this 'character' created? Some periodicals identified themselves as people (one thinks of Mr Punch, or the less voluble human figures on many a masthead) or with people (Howitt's Journal, Reynolds's Miscellany, Blackwood's, or perhaps a reliable stable of authors, or a named editor). Many sought to improve the character of readers by offering heroes or heroines for emulation. Some preferred a recurrent set of textual practices - format, layout, size, range of departments. Some characters were generated through the targeting of specific audiences such as grocers or suffragettes, radical workers or young imperialists. Others were prompted by the occasions on which they expected to be encountered - for reading en famille on Sundays, over weekday breakfast or while commuting. And then there is the vital question of how the press in general (or sections of it) were characterised by those within and outside it: what metaphors were mobilised and why?

This conference, then, offers a wide and varied route into the exciting and still only partially explored territory of Victorian periodicals. For more information, contact Andrew King at

Roehampton University is located in south-west London, 45 minutes by public transport from central London. Campus-based accommodation is available for the conference. For more on the London location, see:


Robert Burns in Global Culture
22-23 January 2009
Royal Society of Edinburgh

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is organising a major one-day conference on 'Robert Burns and Global Culture' in 2009. The conference will reflect on issues such as the global reputation of Burns, the translation and reception of Burns in world literatures, the influence of Burns on the image of Scotland abroad, and the continuing celebration of Burns in global culture in statues, music and Burns Supper events. As Scotland's National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh has decided to host this conference on Scotland's national bard as one of a series of global events to commemorate Burns on the 250th anniversary of his birth, in Glasgow, Prague, Beijing, South Carolina and elsewhere. There will be contributions from leading Burns scholars from around the world, and there will be plenty of scheduled time for discussion as well as a session on the latest research on Burns. Neal Ascherson will open the conference, and there will be a Burns Supper with internationally known speakers, including Clark McGinn (see Sheena Wellington and Kirsteen McCue will perform at a musical lunch In the middle of the day. A number of additional activities are planned to complement the main conference.

For further information, including registration forms, please contact the Royal Society of Edinburgh Events Department:

'Adapting Byron'
4-5 December 2008
The Byron Centre, University of Manchester

Few figures have captured the creative imagination to the extent of Lord Byron. Almost every age, nation and art-form has responded to his life and works. The purpose of this conference is to examine adaptations of Byron over the past two centuries, as a means to interrogate his changing reception and to consider how he and his works have been reconceived on being brought into contact with new, non-literary contexts and media. Special attention will be paid to musical and theatrical treatments of Byron's works, life and personae. The conference will include two lunchtime musical recitals on Byron-related themes.
Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to by 15 March 2008. The Programme Committee will consist of members of the University of Manchester's Byron Centre. Abstracts will be selected by 1 April 2008.

from: William Hone, ‘The Yearbook’, 1832
© The Open University   +44 (0)845 300 60 90   Email us