Current Issue Article Abstracts
Volume 84, Number 1 Spring 2021
Women, Book History, and the Long Eighteenth Century: Taking Stock, Moving Forward
Betty A. Schellenberg, Michelle Levy
THIS SPECIAL ISSUE of the Huntington Library Quarterly aims to present new knowledge about the cultural, historical, and economic significance of female labor in manuscript and print production and circulation throughout the long eighteenth century. The interdisciplinary field of book history has at times been narrowly understood to refer only to print production of the codex form in the era of movable type, along with its supporting technologies and social contexts. In keeping with more recent approaches, we take book history's area of inquiry to encompass textual arti-facts in their broadest material and historical manifestations, and in every aspect of their production, circulation, and reception.
Invisible Women, 1983–2021
Margaret J. M. Ezell
ONE OF THE MANY PLEASURES of attending a symposium1 where there are no concurrent sessions is the natural, ongoing conversations that arise over its course as panelists connect with each other about their topics, about the challenges of their work, and about the strategies for negotiating them. While many of the writers discussed in the "Women in Book History" symposium were already familiar to me—from Elizabeth Montagu, Charlotte Smith, Eliza Haywood, and Frances Burney to Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Wollstonecraft—I also encountered what one speaker termed "a multitude of stars," also called by some "obscure women": women known only to their family circle or their immediate social group. At this symposium, I was the wrap-up speaker in the program; as I listened, I found myself recalling and reflecting on some of my own first encounters some thirty years ago with obscure women writers, evolving methodologies, and our findings back then.
Section 1: Theorizing Women’s Book History as Feminist Practice
Restoring Authority for Women Writers: Name Authority Records as Digital Recovery Scholarship
Personal name authority records in the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF), which feeds directly into the Virtual International Authority File, are valuable for recovering women writers whose texts are electronically circulated yet whose identities as authors and people are often difficult to research. Using The Stainforth Library of Women's Writing as a case study, this essay encourages close collaboration with catalog librarians who are certified by the Name Authority Cooperative Program to create and contribute name authority records to the LCNAF for lesser-known women writers. This methodology can advance feminist recovery scholarship by curating a global women's book history that values women's identities on and beyond the page.
Mary Wollstonecraft's experience as a female staff writer in the publishing workplace was apparently unique in her time. This essay examines debate on the category of the professional woman writer and reconsiders its relevance to Wollstonecraft's authorial career, using correspondence with her publisher, Joseph Johnson, to argue for the applicability of the concept of the precariat. Focusing on precarious income in the literary marketplace enables a new appreciation of Wollstonecraft's feminism at the intersection of gender and class, particularly of the way she foregrounds issues of workplace sexual discrimination and harassment in her final publication, The Wrongs of Woman: Or, Maria (1798).
In "Floating Island at Hawkshead, An Incident in the Schemes of Nature," a poem dated to the late 1820s, Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855) expresses, resists, and embraces ephemerality. She imagines an island breaking off from the shore and eventually vanishing, when it becomes "[b]uried beneath the glittering Lake" where "the lost fragments shall remain, / To fertilize some other ground." Reading this poem as a commentary on the fragmentary nature of both the archive and posthumous literary circulation, especially as it relates to the processes of remediation, this essay uses the poem's media history to account for the biographical construction of Wordsworth as a private, domestic writer.
Response to Section 1
Naming and Narratives of Authorship in Women's Book History
E. J. Clery, Kirstyn Leuner, Kandice Sharren
AUTHORSHIP is a fraught category at the intersection of feminist literary history and women's book history, a node for the often-overlooked dialogue between them. The cross-disciplinary conversation has made women's book history conceptually fertile and methodologically inventive, and it has led to shifts in the narratives and classifications within feminist literary scholarship. Scholars privilege the category of "author" in feminist recovery projects, even while the implied agency of authorship is diluted by methodological emphases on the social production of texts as objects and, increasingly, large textual corpuses gathered into datasets for distant reading. With their focus on authorship, the three essays in this section disclose productive tensions between literary and book histories.
Section 2: Reading Women as Manuscript Authors and as Editors
"Rummaging, Sorting, Selecting, Preserving or Destroying": Frances Burney d'Arblay as Editor
Frances Burney d'Arblay (1752–1840) published her final novel, The Wanderer, in 1814. For the remainder of her life, she was engaged in three massive editorial projects, only one of which was brought to completion. This essay is concerned primarily with d'Arblay's editing of her own letters, focusing on a ten-year stretch of material: the period from 1802 to 1812 that she spent in France, initially as a visitor and then as a virtual prisoner of Napoleon. I am concerned with aspects of her editing that have been largely ignored: d'Arblay's prioritization of the letters available to her, the headnotes that she provided for them, and her retrospective insertions of additional material.
Eliza Fletcher's Private Authorship
This essay discusses the writing of Eliza Dawson Fletcher (1770–1858), a participant in the literary circles of early nineteenth-century Edinburgh. Though mainly remembered now, if at all, as a hostess and an observer of the scene, Fletcher was also a writer of poetry, verse drama, and autobiographical prose. While she published none of this material, she circulated it both in manuscript and, in one case, in a privately printed volume, among family and friends. Fletcher demonstrates the possibility, even into the early nineteenth century, of building a literary reputation and career at the margins of manuscript and print.
This essay is based on an assembled corpus of anglophone works of fiction not printed during the author's lifetime. Many of these texts have been detached from their moorings of author, recipient, or even geographic origin. Emily C. Friedman discusses what we can and cannot say about manuscript fiction during the age of print—where there is consensus and an existing knowledge base, and where there are still unknowns. She focuses on some reasons why a work might not have entered print, and why an author of fiction might have considered scribal publication or circulation superior to print. She also considers the work that fan studies has done to describe a wider array of circulation methods. While technology changes, many of the challenges remain the same for writers, especially women writers.
Response to Section 2
Authorial Choice and Modes of Circulation
Emily C. Friedman, Pam Perkins, Peter Sabor
ALL THREE OF THESE ESSAYS explore authorial choice—particularly, the choice to withhold part or all of a text from print. Peter Sabor and Pam Perkins examine this issue through specific case studies. Sabor discusses Frances Burney d'Arblay's neglected labor as editor of her own correspondence and that of her father during the final decades of her life. Perkins focuses on Eliza Dawson Fletcher's production of works that circulated among Edinburgh's literary elite but either did not pass into print or were not originally intended for commercial sale and distribution. Emily C. Friedman's essay pulls back from the individual case study to consider the production of manuscript fiction more generally.
Section 3: Reconstructing Women’s Work in the Book Trades and Social Networks
Women's Labor in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century English Literary Economy
This essay explores the careers of two mid-eighteenth-century Englishwomen—Elizabeth Boyd and Eliza Haywood—who wrote commercial literature and sold pamphlets and ephemera in retail shops. It argues that their careers put into question the emphasis that literary scholars have placed on writing as their primary occupation and instead suggest that, as commercial writers, they worked as members of the book trades who could leverage writing alongside other forms of labor to create various profit streams. Studying Boyd and Haywood uncovers gendered structures that influenced the trade positions that women were able to move in and out of easily. Their stories are less about marginality than about the use of gendered identities as tools; gender was one important factor among many that influenced how women moved within and without the midcentury literary economy.
This essay presents case studies of three female booksellers—Ann Lemoine (fl. 1786–1820), Elizabeth Newbery (1745/6–1821), and Martha Gurney (1733–1816)—in an effort to disrupt prevailing narratives about women's waning involvement in the book trades over the long eighteenth century. Each of these women demonstrates astonishing productivity, longevity in the trade, and innovation and diversity in their publications. By uncovering women's durable presence in the book trades, the variety of roles they undertook, the range of books (both in terms of genre and format) they produced and disseminated, and the multiple strategies, both commercial and semicommercial, they devised to circulate publications, we encounter women as innovators in sourcing, compiling, marketing, and distributing their wares.
Obscure Women, Obscure Networks, and Women's Book History
Andrew O. Winckles
This essay explores how acts of forgetting in literary and book history take place by suggesting that obscurity is not merely the opposite of being recovered but is instead a powerful and multivalent force that operates in various and complex ways, often inflected by gender. Because obscurity is difficult to trace and define, Andrew Winckles argues in this essay, personal, familiar, and religious networks are an important nexus for studying it. He traces the intertwined lives of Sally Wesley and Marianne Francis as an exercise in discovering some of the conditions of obscurity and more broadly theorizing what it means for women in book history.
Response to Section 3:
Beyond Authorship: Reconstructing Women's Literary Labor
Michelle Levy, Kate Ozment, Andrew O. Winckles
OUR THREE ESSAYS OFFER ATTENTION to women's literary labor outside of authorship, although authorship is the field of activity that, to date, has attracted the most interest and prompted recovery work by literary scholars. The essays present case studies to describe the nature and range of women's activities and agency—in particular, their instrumentality in making, sharing, selling, and distributing books, both in manuscript and print, as well as their participation, through their varied activities, in social, economic, intellectual, and religious networks. The study of women writers has made our own contribution to women's textual history fundamentally possible; it is only through the efforts of authorship-focused women's literary recovery that we are able to understand how the theoretical framework of woman writer imperfectly captures the labor of these subjects. In shifting from an approach focused on women's literary studies to one focused on women's book history, we uncover the values that have shaped our historical understanding of these subjects and their work, and we draw new conclusions.
Section 4: Learning to Count: Women Compiling, Collecting, and Owning Books
My Lady's Books: Devising a Tool Kit for Quantitative Research; or, What Is a Book and How Do We Count It?
This essay outlines the methodological challenges posed by quantitative analysis of women's book ownership in the early modern period, asking, how do we systematize the defiantly unsystematic? The sources from which we glean evidence of women's relationships with books are eclectic and idiosyncratic. This essay analyzes the function and context of such sources—booklists and catalogs, household inventories, wills and probate inventories, donation registers, ownership inscriptions, and bookplates—in order to identify the ways in which they may skew what we count. Arguing that a combination of methodological transparency with awareness of these potential pitfalls arms us to engage with comparative numbers, the essay concludes by assessing current ideas about the relative size and content of women's book collections. Ultimately, while such incomplete evidence attests to significant levels of book acquisition by women, the gaps that remain show that our current figures underestimate the full extent of their book ownership.
The long eighteenth century is characterized as a watershed moment for women's increased engagement as both readers and writers. Key to understanding that engagement is the phenomenon of the personal library collection. Studying the development of women's personal libraries unearths hidden legacies of reading and reception that revise and extend existing histories. This essay explores the collecting practices and libraries of an aristocratic mother and daughter: Frances Seymour, the Countess of Hertford, later Duchess of Somerset (1699–1754); and Elizabeth Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland (1716–1776). Using six manuscript library catalogs from the Northumberland Archives as a case study, it illuminates trends and issues in the study of libraries, book collecting, and book ownership in the period. These lists have the potential to shed light on the broader question of cultural contributions by eighteenth-century women collectors to the circulation of ideas and the fashioning of taste.
Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Verse Miscellanies and the Print–Manuscript Interface
Betty A. Schellenberg
This essay argues for an expansion of the work of book history at the interface between the magazine and the personal verse miscellany. The manuscript verse miscellany was a widely practiced genre in the eighteenth century but has remained largely invisible to scholars. The genre forms an archive of interest for, among other things, how it adapts to, and exploits, the newly developed eighteenth-century print form of the periodical, especially the magazine. Existing at the intersection of new print forms and established strategies of literary production and networking through manuscript exchange, the verse miscellany reveals how readers, many of them women, "hacked" printed poetry that offered private, transferable affect that they could then repurpose to their own ends. One product of this dynamic exchange is a countercanon of manuscript-based poetry that varies significantly from the established print canon.
Response to Section 4
Rethinking and Re-viewing Data
Melanie Bigold, Marie-Louise Coolahan, Betty A. Schellenberg
THE THREE PROJECTS WE DESCRIBE HERE seek to expand the ways in which we understand women's relationships with texts by theorizing and applying robust methodologies to the study of early modern women's book ownership, eighteenthcentury women's libraries, and women's compilation of manuscript verse miscellanies. This work challenges assumptions and biases in book history—in particular, the perceived absence of evidence in terms of both the texts themselves and the textual and intellectual labor involved in their production. One of the most exciting aspects of women's book history is the variety and scope of "new" source materials hiding in plain sight in libraries and archives around the world.
Section 5: Practicing an Inclusive Women’s Book History
Pressed and Stitched: Empirical Bibliography and the Gendering of Books and Book History
A growing body of empirical bibliography and critical making aims at re-creating historical practice and interrogating book history through firsthand material means. None of this work has questioned the role or place of gender in the book trades by investigating either how women labored physically or how they were treated in a male-dominated workplace. How does the immediate physical experience of the embodiment of art shift when the person working the press, casting the type, or binding the books is female? This essay draws on experiences in re-creating historical practices to reflect on how gendered work intersects with gendered book history.
This essay considers Charlotte Brooke in Ireland, Anne Grant in Scotland, and Felicia Hemans in Wales, analyzing the various ways in which they promoted their nations' oral culture during what is now called the Romantic era. Examining these women and their intermedial work can help us build a fuller picture of women's contributions to book history throughout the British Isles, as well as better appreciate the role of orality, including voice and song, within a book history tradition frequently oriented toward print and manuscript. The essay also discusses these women writers' subsequent disappearance from their respective national canons, as projects to legitimize the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh nations have focused overwhelmingly on the printed productions of male creative writers.
Critical Pedagogy and Feminist Scholarship in the Archives
Rachael Scarborough King
This essay discusses a collaborative research project undertaken with students from Howard University through the UC-HBCU Initiative, examining the Ballitore Collection in the University of California, Santa Barbara Library's Special Research Collections. Centered on the writings of Irish Quaker Mary Leadbeater, the collection connects to questions of female authorship, abolition, and colonialism, and it highlights how the voices of women and enslaved people are often excluded from archives. Rachael Scarborough King argues that introducing diverse students to the traditionally white fields of book history and eighteenth-century studies produces new insights into questions around the historical study of race, gender, and religion.
Response to Section 5
Minding the Gap(s)
Cait Coker, Leith Davis, Rachael Scarborough King
THIS CLUSTER OF ESSAYS explores women's labor in printing houses; women as composers and collectors of oral culture and national song on the peripheries of the British Isles; and a project to introduce a diverse group of students to a little-known eighteenth-century archive by a little-known eighteenth-century woman. Although the essays address very different subjects, they share common concerns: what has been left out of book historical narratives thus far, and how the perspective of women's book history can reframe those narratives.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Michelle Levy, Betty A. Schellenberg
MARGARET J. M. EZELL BEGINS THIS COLLECTION by recalling the state of women's invisibility in literary studies nearly four decades ago, when multiple strategies of denial, declassification, and diminution had the effect of, if not outright suppression, then "render[ing] the [women and other marginalized writers] and their work invisible." She recollects this history in order to underscore the continuing problem of women's invisibility, even as the literary canon has been enlarged, and the field of inquiry has broadened beyond women's textual history. Ezell notes that the early outcomes of archival recovery in the 1980s and 1990s were the result of acts of defiance, as feminist scholars questioned inherited narratives about whether and what women wrote, and about the significance of that writing; they sought out women's writing even when they were told that there was nothing to be found, and they insisted on the value of what they found even when they were told that there was none.