MLA 2020 Session on “Spenser and Digital Humanities”

Organised by the International Spenser Society and SHARP
Thursday 9 January, 3.30pm to 4.45pm, 616 (WSCC)


Joseph Loewenstein and Anupam Basu

The foundational work of the Text Creation Partnership, and the supplementary efforts of colleagues at Washington University and Northwestern, have given early modernists a richly annotated corpus: 60,000 printed books, 1.65 billion words, with each word preserved in original and regularized spelling and tagged by part of speech, and each document searchable not only by word or phrase (with plenty of flexibility for the substitution of part-of-speech placeholders), but also by literary structure, making it possible to profile literary idiosyncrasy at a range of scales.  Having already assessed the (very high) degree to which Spenser’s spelling in print conforms to roiling orthographic norms across his career, we offer a preliminary report on his lexical and syntactic profile, measured against a “small” corpus of verse — extracted from about 1500 texts printed between 1561 and 1600.  Using some simple metrics, we can start to tell you what’s distinctive about Spenser’s lexicon — not just the odd words, but the less odd ones that he uses disproportionately; we can also tell you whose verse practice clusters with his and what the vectors of similarity are.  And we will.  If there’s time, we’ll branch out towards the more difficult problem of how to move from profiling by means of lexical clustering to the more demanding task of syntactic profiling.

Craig Berry
Prosaic Diction: the Words of Spenser’s Prose

We know that, as a secretary, Spenser wrote a great deal of prose. We have his long prose treatise A View of the Present State of Ireland as well as the smaller Brief Note of IrelandAxiochus, and a couple of published letters. The purposes and audiences of these texts and their generic horizons of expectation differ in various ways from each other as well as from those of Spenser’s poetry. This paper will consider specifically how and whether Spenser’s word choices in the prose works differ from or align with the diction of his poetry.

Most Spenserians can readily think of rare or eccentric word choices, especially in the poetry, but this paper takes a different approach in which the cruxes and exceptions will be less important than large-scale trends.  This work starts with lemmatized digital texts (where the lemma is the dictionary head word leveling out all inflection and spelling variation) and applies statistical methods, notably log likelihood ratios and z-scores, to measure difference and similarity between different word collections.  No statistical background will be required to understand that having a look at words far more likely or far less likely to occur in the prose than in the poetry (or vice versa) may illuminate Spenser’s practice in ways that confirm or challenge the intuitions of experienced readers. At least tentative answers will be given to such questions as what words are unique to the prose corpus and what parts of Spenser’s poetic corpus have the greatest (or least) affinity, vocabulary-wise, with the prose.

John R. Ladd
Spenserian Digital Deformance and the Interpretive Power of Playfulness

Digital tools give researchers many ways to disassemble and reassemble literary works. Some of these rearrangements are used for straightforward analytical purposes: representing a corpus as a “bag of words” to allow statistical analyses of vocabulary, for example. However this process of taking literature apart and recombining it in new ways can be creative, even playful. Using Jerome McGann’s concept of deformance—a portmanteau of deform and performance—I will present several projects that reconfigure our understanding of Spenser’s works by presenting his verse to us in digitally-altered ways.

In one project, Spenser’s Color Wheel, I visualize Spenser’s use of different color terms in The Faerie Queene and The Shepheardes Calender, allowing the user to choose the lines that invoke a particular set of colors to construct evocative new poems. In another project, the Twitter bot @endlessmonument, I wrote a script that delivers lines of Spenser’s Epithalamion in accordance with the poem’s famously complex time-scheme: the social media reader then encounters the poem in short, temporally-fixed pieces alongside millions of other tweets. These projects grew out of my work with the Spenser Project, the digital edition of Spenser’s Complete Works. Following McGann, I will reflect on the ways in which these deformance projects help us to think about the alterations and interpretive choices of digital editing.

These deformances are more than creative side projects—by rearranging Spenser’s works in unexpected ways they direct readers’ attention to specific formal elements and authorial choices. I argue that deformance of Spenser’s work is interpretive—in coding them I made interpretive choices about what the reader should see in Spenser’s use of time and of color, and in exploring them readers are invited to spin out new interpretations of their own.

Posted in MLA

MLA 2020 SHARP Session: “Databases and Print Culture Studies”

Friday 10 January,10:15 AM-11:30 AM, 303 (WSCC)


Katherine Bode is Professor of literary and textual studies at the Australian National University. Her books include A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History (2018) and Reading by Numbers: Recalibrating the Literary Field (2012).

Anthony Glinoer holds the Canada Research Chair in the history of publishing and literary sociology and is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke (Quebec). His work focusses primarily on the history of publishing (Naissance de l’Éditeur with Pascal Durand in 2005), on the study of representations of the literary life (La bohème. Une figure de l’imaginaire social in 2018) and on groups of authors and artists (L’âge des cénacles with Vincent Laisney in 2013). Anthony Glinoer also leads the Socius project, which has produced re-editions of the classics in literary social theory, re-edited or original bibliographies, and a lexicon of concepts (see the open-access site

Ted Underwood is Professor of Information Sciences and English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of three books. His most recent, Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change (Chicago, 2019) explores a corpus of more than a hundred thousand nineteenth- and twentieth-century works obtained through HathiTrust Digital Library.


Katherine Bode, “Data beyond representation: From computational modelling to performative materiality”

Computational modelling has become the central paradigm for data-rich research in literary and print culture studies (e.g. Bode World, Piper, So, Underwood). Because models are arguments about, rather than descriptions of, literary phenomena, modelling offers a richer, more flexible framework for such research than earlier, positivist approaches (Bode “Equivalence”). But what are the things-in-the-world that we model when we transition from print cultural objects, such books, to mass-digitised (and digitalised) collections? Or, to put the question another way, what connections and/or distinctions are we justified in drawing between an individual text in these collections; other texts, either referred to or on the same platform; the platform itself; the entity that created and/or owns the platform; and the wider digital and non-digital ecosystem?

This challenge is part of what Alan Liu describes as a wider transition from a regime of “rhetoric-representation-interpretation” to one of “communication-information-media.” That shift renders indefinite, even unintelligible, foundational concepts in the emerging field of digital literary and print cultural studies. Data “leaks past the margins of” rhetoric-representation-interpretation, while models are “not exactly like any of the[se] concepts …. Models, uncannily, are all, and none, of the above” (4). With the old regime “hollowed out … from the inside,” and the new one hopelessly abstract, what are we to do? Liu’s solution is to embrace (while remaining wary of) the terminology of the new regime. In asking where our new “texts” begin and/or end – and whether we should think of them as “texts” at all – I outline an alternative case for a performative materialist approach to data-rich research in literary and print cultural studies. Recognising that literary phenomena have always been performatively produced rather than self-evident enables a form of data-rich research that is adequate (but not exclusive) to the changing methods, forms, and materials of literary research.

Works Cited

Bode, Katherine. A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History. Michigan University Press, 2018.

Bode, Katherine. “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading.” Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017): 77–106.

Liu, Alan. Friending the Past: The Sense of History in the Digital Age. Chicago University Press, 2019.

Piper, Andrew. Enumerations: Data and Literary Study. Chicago University Press, 2019.

So, Richard Jean. “All Models Are Wrong.” PMLA 132.3 (2017): 668–73.

Underwood, Ted. Distant Horizons: Digital Evidence and Literary Change. Chicago University Press, 2019.

Anthony Glinoer, “Developing and Using Databases in Book History. The case of the platform.”

This paper aims to present the new internet platform Archives éditoriales ( and the research partnership project of francophone publishers’ archives, which made the platform possible. This project gathers archivists and researchers from various institutions (universities, archives centers, publishers’ associations) and various regions (Belgium, Canada, France, Switzerland) in the francophone world. Our main objectives are to advance and to study archives of the publishing world between 1945 and today. Amongst the tools made available on the platform (a database of more than a thousand interviews with francophone publishers about their publishing activity, digital exhibitions, a blog, etc.), this paper will focus on the database of publishers’ archives, addressing the questions of why, how and when publishing houses tend to donate their archives to public institutions.

Ted Underwood, “Toward a Distant Reading of Reception”

The collections used by distant readers have often emphasized literary production, neglecting questions about circulation and reception that are central to book history (Bode). Book historians have addressed this gap in several ways. Anne DeWitt and Ryan Cordell have used computational methods to trace nineteenth-century literary circulation; Lynne Tatlock et al. have studied gendered reading patterns at the Muncie Public Library in the 1890s, and Peter Boot has created corpora of recent responses to fiction. But work of this kind remains difficult, especially if we seek to study reception across a long century-spanning timeline.

To make that easier, a group of scholars centered at the University of Illinois has started to build a database of journalistic responses to English-language fiction, distributed across the timeline from 1840 to 2009. The team includes Kent Chang, Yuerong Hu, Wenyi Shang, Aniruddha Sharma, Shubhangi Singhal, Jessica Witte, and myself. The reviews and review excerpts are drawn mostly from British, American, and Canadian periodicals, and from reference works like the Book Review Digest. We already have 25,000 responses, and expect to have 100,000 by the end of the academic year.

Pairing text from book reviews with the texts of the books described has allowed us to start to ask whether the claims distant readers have advanced about literary works themselves also hold true about larger systems of literary circulation. For instance, distant readers have argued that textual differences between literary works can measure the strength (or weakness) of generic boundaries. If these degrees of textual difference really tell us anything meaningful about literature’s social existence, readers’ responses to the books ought to display the same patterns of difference or similarity. The Illinois book review database has allowed us to demonstrate that this is true. On the basis of this enlarged evidence, we have begun to make a case that genre boundaries generally become clearer between 1870 and 1930.

Works Cited

Bode, Katherine. “The Equivalence of ‘Close’ and ‘Distant’ Reading; or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History.” Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017): 77-106.

Boot, Peter. “A Database of Online Book Responses and the Nature of the Literary Thriller.” Digital Humanities 2017, Montreal.

Cordell, Ryan. “Reprinting, Circulation, and the Network Author in Antebellum Newspapers.” American Literary History 27.3 (2015): 1–29.

DeWitt, Anne. “Advances in the Visualization of Data: The Network of Genre in the Victorian Periodical Press.” Victorian Periodicals Review 48.2 (2015): 161–82.

Tatlock, Lynne, et al. “Crossing Over: Gendered Reading Formations at the Muncie Public Library, 1891-1902.” March 22, 2018, Journal of Cultural Analytics.


Posted in MLA

Editor sought for SHARP’s newsletter, SHARP News

Founded in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) is the leading international organisation for the study of the history of the book, broadly defined. It has around 1000 members from a wide range of disciplinary and institutional backgrounds, including academics and independent scholars, librarians and archivists, publishers and booksellers, and holds regular conferences across the world. In addition, it runs a vibrant email discussion list (SHARP-L), the journal Book History, and Lingua Franca, the journal of book history in translation.

The Executive Council of SHARP is seeking a new editor-in-chief to bring a fresh vision to SHARP News, our open access, online newsletter. This person will work with the EC and the Board of Directors as well as the reviews and exhibitions editors and bibliographers from the beginning of 2020. SHARP will make some support funding available to the incoming editor for the relaunch period.

Applicants should have expertise in the interdisciplinary field of the history of the book, broadly defined, and share SHARP’s commitment to expanding its diversity and international character. The Society is keen to solicit applications from both senior and junior scholars. Experience of editing and online content management is essential. Fluency in English is a requirement; fluency in other languages would be an advantage. The applicant should become a SHARP member in good standing.

Application procedure

Applications will be assessed by an Appointments committee, chaired by Corinna Norrick-Rühl (JGU Mainz, Germany), SHARP’s Director of Publications, and which includes two members of the Society’s Board of Directors (Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University, Canada; Susan Pickford, Sorbonne-Université, France), the Membership Secretary of SHARP (Lisa Maruca, Wayne State University, USA), and Rachel Noorda (Portland State University, USA).

Applications should consist of an application letter naming two references and a curriculum vitae, to be sent by email to Corinna Norrick-Rühl ( or to arrive no later than 5pm (Central European Time) on November 15, 2019.

Informal queries should be directed to Corinna Norrick-Rühl. Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision early in the new year.

SHARP DeLong Book History Book Prize 2020

SHARP annually awards a $1,000 prize to the author of the best book on any aspect of the creation, dissemination, or uses of script or print published in the previous year. Owing to the generosity of the DeLong family in endowing the prize, from 2004 it has been known as the George A. and Jean S. DeLong Book History Book Prize.

Submissions are now open for the 2020 Prize.

All submissions must be in English and must have been copyrighted in 2019. (Translations of works originally copyrighted earlier are eligible, but the translations themselves must have been copyrighted in 2019.) Because the purpose of the prize is to honor the work of an individual scholar or of scholars working closely together writing a jointly-authored monograph, collections of essays, reference works, and bibliographies and other collaborative projects are not eligible and will not be considered. If you are unsure whether a title would be eligible, please use the contact details in the next paragraph to check before sending copies.

Submissions must be in the possession of all members of the jury by Monday 13th January 2020. Please submit four print copies of each entry, one to each member of the jury (addresses below). Please send an email to Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, SHARP Director for Awards (, to confirm that you have submitted your title(s).  General queries regarding the prize should be directed to the same email. Please note that copies of books are non-returnable.

Details of past winners and commended titles are available at


Fiona Black
School of Information Management -Dalhousie University
6100 University Avenue, Suite 4010
PO Box 15000, Halifax, Canada, NS B3H 4R2

Michael Hancher
Department of English
207 Lind Hall
207 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

Martyn Lyons,
School of Humanities and Languages,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney NSW 2052,
(via Gate 8 in High Street, Randwick, opposite the racecourse)

Brigitte Ouvry Vial
Faculté des Lettres
Langues, litteratures, linguistique des universités d’Angers et du Mans
Le Mans Université
Avenue Olivier Messiaen, 72085 Le Mans, France

If you require phone numbers for courier delivery, please contact Melanie Ramdarshan Bold (

SHARP 25th Anniversary Research Fellowship

To celebrate a quarter century of SHARP successes, the Board and Executive Council of the Society have established an annual research fellowship.  Designed to enhance SHARP’s global scope as an academic society, the fellowship provides support for research anywhere in the world.  The grants are for up to US$3000 and can be used for travel, accommodation and direct research costs, such as photography. Full details and a link to our online application form are available here.  Applications open in early September and close 1 December each year. Please note that only SHARP members are eligible for this award.

The George A. and Jean S. DeLong Book History Book Prize 2019

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) is delighted to announce the award of the 2019 DeLong Book History Book Prize to Brent Nongbri, Professor, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Norway and Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Australia for his title God’s Library: The Archaeology of the Earliest Christian Manuscripts (Yale
University Press).

In announcing the Prize at SHARP’s annual conference in Amherst, USA, Claire Squires, SHARP’s Director of Publications and Awards commented:

This path-breaking contribution to the field of book history urges us to reconsider beliefs and concepts that have been fundamental in the formation of religious and cultural history while captivating the reader with its exciting, Indiana Jones-esque research story.
Nongbri gives a fascinating, nuanced, and revisionist interpretation of a rich array of ancient manuscripts. In so doing he throws light on the origins of the Christian codex, and warns of the dangers of reading into the past an anachronistic view of the Biblical canon. Exerting his expertise in palaeography and codicology, including attention to stitching and binding techniques, Nongbri highlights the lack of certainty about the provenance, authorship, date, and place of origin of many influential papyrus and parchment manuscripts. The judges praise Nongbri’s amalgam of thorough knowledge about techniques and materiality, his exhaustive archival research, and the analytical sharpness that he brings to bear on this important history. This is a story that involves untrustworthy antiquities dealers, private collectors spreading false information to put their rivals off the scent of discoveries, cave raiders, and the accidental discovery of papyri. God’s Library is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of beliefs, which is, of course,
also a history of books.

Brent Nongbri receives $1,000 as winner of the SHARP DeLong Book History Book Prize.

Commendations were also made to David McKitterick (University of Cambridge) for The Invention of Rare Books: Private Interest and Public Memory, 1600–1840 (Cambridge University Press) and Adam Smyth (University of Oxford) for Material Texts in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press).


SHARP Regional Liaison Reports

SHARP is pleased to announce that its regional liaison annual reports are now available online: please follow the link under the My SHARP section of the website.

These reports date back to 2012, and have been compiled by our regional liaisons. The archive is not entirely complete but it does offer a unique and valuable insight into SHARP-related research and activities from around the world, often gathering regional information together in one place that is not available from other sources.

Happy browsing,

Simon Frost, Director of Transnational Affairs

Crisis or Enlightenment? Developments in the Book Trade, 1650-1750. St Andrews Book Conference, 20-22 June 2019

It has never been questioned that the European Enlightenment was made by books. The intellectual movement which swept across Europe and the Atlantic world from the end of the seventeenth century was fostered, expressed and realised by a sophisticated international market for books. Complex ventures such as Bayle’s Dictionnaire and the ever-expanding number of periodicals indicate that authors and intellectuals were keenly aware of print as a powerful tool. Yet did the book trade reciprocate this enthusiasm? How far did the book market embrace the Enlightenment, and how important were the great intellectual currents of the day to the everyday business of books?

The relationship between the nascent Enlightenment and the organisation of the book trade stands central to this conference. It will seek to expose general developments in European and Atlantic book trade practices from c. 1650-1750, coinciding roughly with the “Early Enlightenment”, in order to refine our understanding of the interplay between intellectual currents and the market for print.

The provisional programme is available here.

Registration is now open here

For further information please contact the organisers, Arthur der Weduwen ( and Ann-Marie Hansen (

The conference has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of the USTC, the School of History of the University of St Andrews and the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing.


Big Magazines

A new series of videos has been uploaded to SHARP’s YouTube channel, SHARP Cloud. Click here to watch videos of lectures from the conference ‘Mediating American Modernist Literature: The Case of/for Big Magazines, 1880-1960’, which was held at Aix-Marseille Université on 4-5 October 2018.

MLA 2019 SHARP Panel: “New Perspectives in Book History”

Panel 484, 12 – 1:15 p.m. Sat. 5 Jan., Hyatt Regency Roosevelt I, Chicago, Illinois

Description: Panelists explore new perspectives that are altering the way we do book history, such as global perspectives and digital humanities, ephemeral book objects in twentieth-century book history, MercadoLibre, and the promise of 3-D technologies for book history.


Nora Benedict, Princeton U

Sheila Liming, U of North Dakota

Alison Fraser, U at Buffalo, State U of New York

Kevin O’Sullivan, Texas A&M U, College Station

Amy Chen, U of Iowa

Respondent & Presider

Erin Ann Smith, U of Texas, Dallas


Nora Benedict, “Mercadolibre and the Democratization of Books: A Critical Reading of New Material Affordances and Digital Book History”

The image of the “scholar-collector” is a constant in book history. In fact, many of the best bibliographers and book historians have unearthed crucial findings due to their ability to amass impressive collections of their own, from which they have gleaned novel findings. In our digital era, this reality is even more apparent, especially within the context of Latin America, whose rich history of book production and circulation in the twentieth century remains, for the most part, understudied. That said, the growth of online marketplaces, most notably MercadoLibre, which has virtually no competitive pressure from similar sites such as eBay or Amazon, is revolutionizing the way scholars research and engage with their materials. From never-before-seen publishers’ catalogues and type specimens books, to entire runs of rare paperback editions from the early part of the twentieth-century, MercadoLibre provides access to print materials that, more often than not, exist outside of the scope of most library catalogues – both national and international.

In this paper, I will provide an overview of my current digital project on Victoria Ocampo’s Editorial Sur, a twentieth-century Argentine publishing firm, and the ways in which my work is fundamentally shaped by not only the print materials that this firm produced, but also their (digital) availability on MercadoLibre. In other words, at the heart of my project is a concern for curating collections – along with detailed metadata about their physical features – that exist in both a physical space, and a digital, freely available space, and, in the process, giving voice to often neglected literary traditions and marginalized global publishing histories. Inherent in this dualism of MercadoLibre, and other online marketplaces, is the question of what we consider an archive in the digital era of book history, and how we ethically determine best practices for approaching and using these resources.

Sheila Liming, “The Reprint as Review: NYRB Classics Editions and the Business of Canonical Renovation”

In his influential essay “The Shaping of a Canon, U.S. Fiction 1960-1975” (1987), Richard Ohmann arrives at a stunning conclusion: nearly one fourth of all the books reviewed over a period of fifteen years by the New York Review of Books were published by the same firm, Random House. Ohmann then proceeds to show how the business of reviewing during this era shaped understandings of taste and “value” with regards to new works of literary fiction.

In the early 2000s, the New York Review of Books launched its “NYRB Classics” series, seeking to introduce reprint editions of “lost” literary classics to the contemporary literary marketplace. Where it had previously made its mark as an intellectual powerhouse through book reviewing, the NYRB now engaged in a process of re-reviewing, which involved using increasingly cheap printing technology in order to renovate the previously sacred space of the English language literary canon. In doing so, the NYRB Classics series also began to exert pressure on readers’ notions of the term “classic” which, far from a Kermodian insistence on “perpetuity” and “transcendence,” began to appear associated with neglect, disregard, or abandonment.

In this presentation, I survey the inroads that the NYRB Classics series has made into reshaping the western literary canon. I style that discussion as a kind of update to Ohmann’s findings, which were published more than thirty years ago. In particular, I focus on how the NYRB Classics series has sought to de-westernize the western canon by shining a light on forgotten portions of the world literary marketplace. This situation differs sharply from the one described by Ohmann in his 1987 article and, in my research, I use quantitative methods (including data visualization) to show how the NYRB is, today, actually revising a canon that it helped establish thirty years previously, during the first “wave” of what are now known as the “canon wars.”

Alison Frasier, “Homemade Books:  Ephemeral Book Objects in Twentieth-Century Book History”

This paper argues that twentieth-century book historians should consider ephemeral, homemade objects like scrapbooks, clippings files, and photo-albums, a feminist redetermination of what we consider to be valuable in the study of book history.  More acutely than any other type of writing, scrapbooks and clippings call into question what we traditionally understand to be the labor of making and insist on refocusing our attention to process when we consider the product (or book).  The “homemade” quality of the ephemeral objects analyzed in this paper positions them outside of the traditional publication marketplace and its attendant critics, locating them inside private, domestic spaces of production.  This removal from the literary marketplace allows their makers to create outside of the bounds of a male-dominated publication community, making and circulating works around the dominant publishing economies and exclusive historical narratives, as they claim taste-making roles (like editors and publishers) for themselves.  My paper focuses on the homemade object making of twentieth-century female poets—women who were deeply familiar with publishing and eager to explore its alternatives.  These poets make objects that have process specially coded in them, and I contend that this process of labor and language is tied up with the invisible labor of women.  While the field of book history has embraced the idea of the “book-as-object,” and has productively examined pre-twentieth-century ephemeral print publications, there is a need to examine these issues in light of twentieth-century concerns, as well as their relevance to digital books and their multimodal and user-centered platforms.

Kevin O’Sullivan, “The Bibliographical Press Anew: Leveraging 3D Technologies in Book History Pedagogy”

 In the past decade, the allied technologies of 3D scanning, 3D printing, and 3D modelling have been integral to advances in fields as diverse as biomedical research, aerospace engineering, and zoology. While these tools have only recently gained a prominent foothold in the humanities, the results here have been no less exciting. Given its concern for aspects of material culture, the interdisciplinary field of book history stands to especially benefit from this new trend. Embracing the open access ethos promoted by both the digital humanities and maker communities, the application of these technologies within our field promises to be a global democratizing force, which will change the way future scholars research and teach book history. In this new wave of digitization, libraries and museums have begun to make robust 3D data of their collections materials widely available to scholars through open repositories. As an extension, working facsimiles of once-expensive resources integral to the instruction of historical printing can now be 3D printed for a fraction of the cost. This paper will begin with a survey of these and similar efforts to extend research and instruction possibilities within book history through the application of 3D technologies. It will then turn to a consideration of the important ramifications which this new accessibility to 3D data will have for broadening the scope of who is able to participate in such research and instruction, and how they are able to do so.

Amy Hildreth Chen, “Playing around with book history: Codex Conquest and Mark”

Students learn more when they play—while the value of play often is emphasized only for those early in their education, play has a role in higher education as well. To teach book history across time and space, I developed two card games: Codex Conquest ( and Mark (under development:

Codex Conquest allows students to recognize the most important books of Western civilization by their nation, century, genre, and current monetary value. Along the way, students learn European history and the scenarios that influence the shape of institutional collections. Mark introduces students to the hallmarks of early modern visual culture by allowing them to play a variety of games with a single deck of cards comprised of printer’s marks (devices). As open educational resources (OERs), both games can be downloaded for free from their respective websites and used as is or changed to suit an instructor’s objectives. As supplemental curricula, both games can be played in a single class period.

These games are a new direction in digital humanities. Book history digital humanities often considers the value and qualities of digital editions and facsimiles or focuses attention on annotation or other approaches to scholarly editing. However, this talk offers something new: it proposes book history digital humanities should expand to consider the possibilities offered by game design.

Posted in MLA