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’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. ☛ ☞
“What’s the use of an exhibition catalog,” Alice might well have said to herself, “if it doesn’t have beautiful pictures and brilliant essays?” This catalog of the McLoughlin Brothers’ more than sixty years of publishing children’s books, games, and toys surely would have delighted little Alice. The first third of the book consists of three well-written informative essays and the last two thirds make up the illustrated exhibition catalog itself. The items were drawn primarily from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society with help from private collectors Linda F. and Julian L. Lapides, Richard Cheek, and the George M. Fox Collection at the San Francisco Public Library. ☛ ☞
Every publisher deserves a historian like Carol Porter Grossman. This absorbing book recounts the remarkable story of the Limited Editions Club (LEC) and its offshoots, as well as that of the Club’s indefatigable and imaginative founder, George Macy, and those who kept the LEC going after his untimely death in 1956. Drawing on extensive archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Columbia University, the Newberry Library, and the Grolier Club, as well as private archives and several important oral histories, Grossman is able to reconstruct in great and fascinating detail the eight decades of fine book production by the LEC.
It’s surprising that one of the most important children’s books of the twentieth century has only recently started receiving the critical attention it deserves. Sara L. Schwebel’s excellent Complete Readers Edition offers a significant contribution to a growing body of book histories about classic children’s literature texts and their impacts on generations of readers. Used by countless American K-12 schools and public libraries from the 1960s onward, O’Dell’s historical fiction robinsonade about the real-life Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, Juana Maria, has been seen as a critical multicultural, feminist young adult text despite some very real concerns about historical accuracy, vanishing Indian tropes, and racism. ☛ ☞