Project Title:
Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries

Project Description:

This project offers a threefold method to heighten awareness of early printed books at universities in the American Midwest, starting with Northwestern University and radiating outward to other CIC institutions and beyond. The proposal seeks, over the summer and early fall of 2014: 1) to register publicly much of Northwestern’s Special Collections holdings with the internationally-accessible English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC); 2) to provide research opportunities to study numerous copies of rarely-consulted Renaissance language-learning books at other Midwestern universities participating in the Humanities Without Walls Mellon program; and 3) to open up opportunities for inter-institutional collaboration with students, scholars, and librarians at these institutions.

The chart below indicates the current ESTC representation for the 15 Humanities Without Walls consortium institutions, and may provide potential collaborators a picture of where their university stands. Note that the figures represented here reflect only what is listed in the ESTC, and not the actual holdings of a particular library.

HWW 1473-1700.png Institution Codes (ESTC).png

This proposal was awarded first-round seed funding and is currently underway (learn more here). If you study, teach, or work at a university participating in the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, and if you're invested in any combination of book history, library science, bibliography, or Renaissance Studies, don't hesitate to write or tweet.

Organizer Name:
Andrew S. Keener

Organizer's Contact Information:
Twitter: @keenera
Blog: Vade Mecum

Organizer's Departmental and University Affiliation:
Department of English, Northwestern University

The first objective of this project is to update the ESTC with information about the early printed books held by Northwestern’s McCormick Library of Special Collections. As the most extensive bibliographic catalogue for books published in English and in England between 1450 and 1800, the ESTC is invaluable to scholars of literature and book history. Benjamin Pauley, a recent graduate of Northwestern’s doctoral program in English, now works in relation to the ESTC, and has recently indicated to me that the project would like to include Northwestern’s full holdings in its file. (As yet, it only includes 3,407 of 10,104 Northwestern records.) I have initiated conversations about this project with Sigrid Perry and other curators and cataloging staff at Northwestern Libraries, and they have confirmed its feasibility and compiled a list of items to include; the project will not involve scanning, only data entry from pre-existing records. This branch of my proposal for Humanities Without Walls will consist of a succession of data-entry requests to the ESTC, but will also update Northwestern catalog records as necessary. To extend this effort as a pedagogical opportunity, I seek to hire a team of four undergraduates, on a work-study basis if possible, to divide up the work and submit file-update requests, flagging records in need of correction. This portion of the project would not only offer these undergraduates valuable knowledge about book history, library cataloging, and the ESTC, but would provide Renaissance scholars around the world an invaluable service in putting much of Northwestern’s Special Collections holdings “on the map.” Other Midwestern institutions have already taken up this task (the University of Chicago, Duke University, and Yale University, for instance), and it will benefit Northwestern to join them.
In keeping with the goals of my current research, the project will also have a special interest in bilingual dictionaries and grammar books published in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These multilingual books, I argue in my research, shaped and were shaped by cultures of literary translation in Renaissance Europe, and stand as an underexamined basis for transnational approaches to the early modern era. During the summer of 2013, I began preliminary work on this project at Northwestern University, the Newberry Library, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois, where I took measurements and carefully studied each leaf of these Renaissance language-learning books, tabulating my findings for later use in an MS Excel spreadsheet. As I continued my research, I found that other Special Collections libraries – at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Iowa, and the University of Notre Dame, to name only three – also held copies of the artifacts I was investigating. Because my project is so invested in the material dimensions of these books – their measurements, their bindings, their provenance, and any early handwriting they may contain – it is necessary for me to examine as many copies as I can. And because these books are held in American, Midwestern libraries visited infrequently by scholars of the Renaissance, their particularities have likely gone unnoticed. At the 15 institutions participating in Humanities Without Walls, I have counted thus far 59 items of interest held in Special Collections libraries accessible to me with only a few hours’ drive. As I continue searching WorldCat over the next few months, the number will undoubtedly grow. Funding for this portion of the project will include auto rentals, lodging, and meal allowances for five archival visits of five days apiece.
Finally, Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries also promises opportunities to consult and collaborate with bibliographically-invested scholars and Special Collections librarians with whom I have already been in dialogue (whether in person, by email, or over Twitter). Adam Hooks and Colleen Theisen at the University of Iowa are very familiar with their collection’s items for research and teaching purposes, and will have useful recommendations for this project in its entirety (both the ESTC portion and my dissertation-focused project). At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Joshua Calhoun can provide me with an introduction to the collection of early printed books, and discussions with book history graduate students Cathy DeRose and Brandee Easter will hopefully lead to other, future opportunities for inter-institutional collaboration related to the subject. Altogether, this project is designed to point up and benefit from collaborative efforts with librarians, undergraduates, and scholars at numerous institutions in the Midwest.