Welcome to the website for the University of Pennsylvania's Workshop in the History of Material Texts! Here you can find announcements about upcoming events as well as a searchable database of seminars we have held since the fall of 1996. (Information about speakers and talks from the initial years of the Workshop has unfortunately been lost. If you have such information, please contact us.)
We will meet in person on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library, and we will also live-stream all events. For updates and Zoom links, please sign up for our listserv.
Recordings of previous talks are available on our YouTube channel.
On Monday, April 18th at 5:15 PM, we will be welcoming Andrew Stauffer (University of Virginia) and Amanda Licastro (Penn Libraries) for a workshop entitled “Book Traces: Library History and the Marks of Collaborative Reading.” Andrew and Amanda write:
We will introduce the Book Traces project (http://booktraces.org), which supports the discovery, cataloguing, and preservation of pre-1923 library books that bear traces of the past: inscriptions, annotations, insertions, and other modifications made by historical readers. Focused on “medium-rare” circulating collections on academic and research library shelves, Book Traces has proven the prevalence of unique manuscript material in nineteenth-century printed books. Readers’ interventions demonstrate a wide range of variability across apparent “copies” of the same book: these historical traces make visible the meaningful variability and continued vitality of library print collections.
Uniquely-modified and marked books reveal the types of interaction that characterized the American reading experience in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. In Book Traces books, we find strikeouts, emendations, additions, and augmentations that alter the volume at hand. Ultimately, common readers’ interventions in their books illuminate the social constitution of texts and the ongoing evolution of books and their contents across time. Our goals now are to find these unique copies in the library stacks, edit their catalog records to make them discoverable, and to preserve them for future research. At the same time, Book Traces offers opportunities for student engagement and hands-on pedagogy involving book history, the nature of library print collections, and the past, present, and future of annotation.
Andrew Stauffer is Professor of English at the University of Virginia, where he specializes in Romantic and Victorian poetry and book history. He is the author most recently of Book Traces: Nineteenth-Century Readers and the Future of the Library (2021), published in the Penn Material Texts series, and co-author (with the Multigraph Collective) of Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation (Chicago, 2018). He has taught for the Rare Book School and is the President of the Byron Society of America.
Dr. Amanda Licastro (she/her) is the Emerging and Digital Literacy Designer at the University of Pennsylvania, the pedagogical director of the Book Traces project, and serves on the editorial collective of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Her research explores the intersection of technology and writing, including book history, dystopian literature, and digital humanities. Her collection, Composition and Big Data, co-edited with Ben Miller, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in September 2021.
The Stallybrass Prize in the History of Material Texts will be awarded annually to the two best essays by students in any school at Penn—one by an undergraduate, one by a graduate student—on any aspect of how texts take material form and circulate in the world. Our field covers texts of all kinds, from printed books, manuscripts, scrolls, and tablets, to e-readers, websites, hard disks, and server farms; from illuminations, woodcuts, and engravings, to GIFs and TIFFs; from title pages, flyleaf advertisements, and dealer catalogues, to listservs and email signatures. We are interested in printing and publishing histories, authorship, reception, piracy, censorship, and all themes related to the networks through which these texts circulate.
The Prize honors Peter Stallybrass, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor Emeritus of English, who founded Penn's Workshop in the History of Material Texts in 1993. The seminar has been meeting every Monday evening since then, at 5:15 in the Kislak Center, Van Pelt Library. It has been one of the most influential institutions in the field and has led to numerous similar workshops around the world.
Like the Workshop itself, we encourage work that brings together the technical, material, and cultural aspects of texts. Essays will be judged by the directors of the Workshop and members of its Advisory Board, listed on the About page.
Congratulations to our Spring 2022 winners!
Winner: Katherine Hann, "An Analysis of the History of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels"
Honorable Mention: Quinn Gruber, “Crestomazia dei poeti italiani del Cinquecento: un manoscritto ignoto ed enigmatico”
Matthew G. Aiello, "Trauma, Aurality, and the Wounded Orrmulum Manuscript (c. 1170)"