Skip to content

Toggle service links

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Seminars
  3. Travelling Books and Readers in the Long Eighteenth Century

Travelling Books and Readers in the Long Eighteenth Century

Spring 2016 Seminar Series

Organised by The Open University’s Book History Research Group and the Institute of English Studies, University of London

Venue: Senate House, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HU. Tel: 0207 8628675
Time: Mondays, 5.30-7.00pm (dates and room allocations below)

About the series: The eighteenth century witnessed not only a “reading revolution” but a revolution in the mobility of books and their readers. Print trade networks enabled texts to move easily between Europe, the Americas, and beyond. Travelling readers, meanwhile, carried books with them into new locales and obtained or encountered new texts while abroad, sometimes in radically different formats than those they were used to. The result was a period of unprecedented cross-fertilization, in which books acted as the vectors for new ideas and carried them across geographical, linguistic, and political boundaries. This seminar series brings together a variety of papers that illuminate the role of print circulation and the mobility of readers during the long eighteenth century.

Monday 7 March 2016

Prof. Peter Sabor (McGill University) and Dr. Gillian Dow (University of Southampton)

Room G35, Senate House

“Jane Austen alone in the library: The books at Godmersham Park”

This joint paper will attempt to tell the story of a historic library collection, the library at Godmersham Park, Kent, built in 1732. In some ways, this is an entirely typical English country house library ­ put together largely in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with a sense of furnishing a large house with the embellishments requisite for the English upper classes. And in some ways, it¹s entirely untypical, for this is a library collection well-known to, and used by, Jane Austen herself. Godmersham Park, and Chawton House in Hampshire, an Elizabeth manor house with fine Jacobean and later features, are linked by their shared owner ­ Edward Austen, later Knight, Jane Austen¹s third eldest brother. And the remnants of the Godmersham Park Library are on deposit at Chawton House Library today, with further items scattered elsewhere. We will discuss our attempts to locate and identify the Godmersham Park books known to Jane Austen. Our paper is also a tale of several readers: not just Jane Austen and her brother Edward, but many Knight family descendants throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some of whom have left traces, and some who have not.

Monday 11 April 2016

Prof. Isabel Rivers (Queen Mary University of London)

Room 246, Senate House

“North American Connexions”

This paper explores the editing, publishing, and interpreting in England and Scotland of the most widely read works of Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd, the two American writers of the first half of the eighteenth century who had the greatest influence across the Atlantic. They appealed to both Calvinist and Arminian evangelicals, and were the source of considerable disagreement among their British readers, but they were of crucial importance in different ways to the religious and literary heritage of Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, Scottish Presbyterians, and Church of England evangelicals.

Monday 16 May 2016

Prof. Caroline Franklin (Swansea University)

Room 246, Senate House

“The Bluestockings in France: Hester Thrale Piozzi, Elizabeth Montagu, and Helen Maria Williams”

This paper will focus on Hester Thrale Piozzi’s record of visits to France in her travel journals: the first was made in 1775 with Henry Thrale and Dr Johnson, the second in 1784 with her second husband, Gabriele Piozzi. The published version of the latter appeared in Observations and reflections made in the course of a journey through France, Italy, and Germany (1789). Piozzi’s accounts of women in French convents, salons and the street will be compared with those of her friends: Elizabeth Montagu, whose impressions of France in 1776 were expressed in her letters, and Helen Maria Williams, whose best-selling eye-witness account of the outbreak of the French revolution appeared in 1790.  In their construction of authorial personae, were these Bluestockings most concerned with defining Englishness in relation to the cultural otherness of France? Or was their gender identity shared with Frenchwomen more important?

Monday 6 June 2016

Dr. Mark Towsey (University of Liverpool)

Room G35, Senate House

“Reading History on the Move: Enlightenment Historiography and the Management of Empire”

When British men and women travelled to far-flung parts of the British Empire in the long eighteenth century, books by Enlightenment historians like Edward Gibbon, William Robertson and David Hume often featured prominently in their ship-board reading. This paper asks why history was seen as a useful preparation for imperial entanglements, and examines some of the ways in which readers applied historical narratives and concepts to the management of empire.

Monday 13 June 2016

Dr. Richard Jones (The Open University)

Room 243, Senate House

“Continued continuations of Complete Histories: Tobias Smollett and David Hume”

Best known today as a novelist, Tobias Smollett was also known in the eighteenth century as the author of ‘continued Continuations of Complete Histories’. One history that he became known for ‘continuing’ (through no fault of his own) was David Hume’s The History of England (1754-62).  This paper will explore some of the connections between the historical projects of Smollett and Hume – and, in particular, consider what they add to our understanding of Smollett’s literary ambitions.  


Organiser: Dr Edmund G. C. King, Research Associate, The Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (RED)

Book History at the Open University