Amy Hildreth Chen. Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market.

If you are tired of taking acquisition adventures from librarian and bookseller memoirs as proof of the larger trends at play within the literary archives market, this is the book for you. Chen’s pithy study takes us through the views of each stakeholder connected to a typical American literary archival collection, from creator to end user, mainly through both quantitative and qualitative examples using her meticulous dataset of those authors included in the seventh edition of The Norton Anthology of American Literature (hereafter NAAL). 

Heather G. Cole and R.W.G. Vail. Theodore Roosevelt: A Descriptive Bibliography.

Heather G. Cole is the Head of Special Collections Instruction and Curator of Literary and Popular Culture Collections at Brown University’s John Hay Library; from 2012 to 2017 she was the Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard University. She has continued the work done by R.W.G. (Robert William Glenroie) Vail. He was the Librarian at the museum created by the Roosevelt Memorial Association, after Roosevelt’s death, on the site of his childhood home on 20th Street Manhattan (today the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site). Vail had first started putting together as many documents on Roosevelt as possible. Later, he decided to begin writing a bibliography of all of Roosevelt’s works. During the 1920s, he wrote to publishers, collaborators and booksellers to find out as much as he could on these works. He could not complete and publish the bibliography, he started working for the New York Public Library in 1937. His work was “recovered” by Heather Cole and brought back to life; what she managed to do was to make all the work previously done, plus new information and research, available to readers and researchers.

Howell, Thomas. Soldiers of the Pen: The Writers’ War Board in World War II.

Thomas Howell’s study of the Writers’ War Board (WWB) joins the likes of Janice Radway’s A Feeling for Books on the Book-of-The-Month Club (1997) and the more recent work of Eric Bennett on American writing workshops (2015) and Sarah Brouillette in UNESCO and the Fate of the Literary (2019) in presenting the reader with a sustained study of an institution and its history, ideology, and material effects. Howell makes use of archival materials from the Library of Congress, Boston College, and elsewhere to recreate this history…

Jonathan Senchyne. The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature

As the paper codex is becoming increasingly supplemented, if not yet entirely replaced, by digitally mediated textuality, Jonathan Senchyne redirects our attention to the specific sense of materiality that writers and readers experienced as characteristic of literary communication until the late nineteenth century. Rather than focusing on print or publication history as such, however, his monograph The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature sheds light on something that even book historians have often tended to pass over in silence: the reliance of print on paper, the inconspicuous matter on which letters become visible. Over the past fifteen years, several studies have begun to tackle the subject of paper from a range of different perspectives, among them Kevin McLaughlin’s Paperwork: Fiction and Mass Mediacy in the Paper Age (2005), Lisa Gitelman’s Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents (2014), or Maryanne Dever’s Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page (2019). What makes Senchyne’s contribution both distinctive and important is his literary-historical approach to reading paper in relation to the nature of its production.

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. ☛ ☞