Simone Murray, The Digital Literary Sphere

Simone Murray’s The Digital Literary Sphere has a set of ambitious and interrelated objectives. The book proposes to understand digital writing as the product of an industry that is also becoming digital, touching on the ways that the digital sphere creates its own conceptualizations of authorship, marketing, book reviewing and reading. The Digital Literary Sphere additionally features a rationale for thinking of “the digital’s significance for literary culture” (1) via some of the methods and concerns of book history, media studies, and a specific aspect of electronic literary studies. Along the way, Murray considers, and for the most part discards, other ways of understanding digital writing, including literary studies more generally, the Digital Humanities, cultural studies, approaches making use of Bourdieu’s conception of the literary field, and literary sociology. ☛ ☞

Frans A. Janssen, ed., The Earliest Dutch Imposition Manual: A Facsimile of the Manuscript “Overslag-Boek”

“Until well into the 19th century typographical craftsmanship was passed down from generation to generation in the workshops where printing was practised, in the printing houses,” argued Frans A. Janssen in his monumental 1982 edition of David Wardenaar’s Beschrijving der Boekdrukkunst (1801), the oldest Dutch printer’s manual. Apprentice typographers learned the trade on the job; instruction manuals were wasted on them. That such books were made all the same is owing to “the relative small number of the most educated and ambitious master printers and overseers” (Janssen, ed. Wardenaar, 11). One such man was Joannes Josephus Balthazar Vanderstraelen from Antwerp who, in 1784–5, wrote an instruction manual explaining how to place type for different formats into the forme in the correct manner. In 2006 the Grolier Club managed to acquire the manuscript containing Vanderstraelen’s “Overslag-Boek.” Eugene S. Flamm, president of the Club from 2010–14 and author of the foreword to this facsimile, is understandably proud of the acquisition and of the present edition by Janssen – the expert par excellence in the field of typesetting and printing in the Low Countries. ☛ ☞

Mark Purcell, The Country House Library

Following work at the Bodleian Library, Mark Purcell became responsible for libraries in the care of the British National Trust, and he is now in the research-collections department at Cambridge University. With this background, and with his own scholarly focus on private and country-house libraries, he was eminently qualified to write this fine book. It has more than 225 illustrations, many of them in color. ☛ ☞

Christopher N. Phillips, The Hymnal: A Reading History

Phillips divides the book into three sites of social reading: the church, the school, and the home, primarily in English society of the 18th and 19th Century. The church was a place of social identity where hymns were sung. James Martineau, a British Unitarian compiler and hymnist, recorded in his hymn book the dates that hymns were sung. In schools, the hymn book was a way of teaching reading to children. The hymn, “When I Can Read My Title Clear” was one of the most popular family hymns that helped children to read (106). The home was the place of the “private hymnbook” (185). A title such as Hymns for Mothers and Children traveled from one family to another because of its large size and many illustrations. Today, we would probably call this a coffee table book. Phillips points out that his chapters may be read separately or chronologically to give a sense of history. ☛ ☞

Lucy Peltz, Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840

Nearly every rare book library has at least one extra-illustrated book; many archives hold hundreds of them. Yet the polarizing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century practice of extra-illustration has rarely been studied in its own right. Instead it is generally mentioned only briefly as part of larger arguments about marginalia, book use, and private libraries. Lucy Peltz’s extravagantly illustrated and extraordinarily well-researched Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840 offers a strikingly new approach as it both defines extra-illustration against similar “bibliographic activities” (5) and traces the rise and fall of what might be called its golden age. ☛ ☞