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Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Lecture

Annual lecture series featuring authorities on bibliography, the history of the book, and medieval and early modern history and culture.

Alan B. Farmer, "Lost Books: The Dark Matter of the Early Modern English Book Trade"

Scholars of the book trade in early modern England and Europe have long known that some printed works no longer survive in even a single copy, but they have often been at a loss in determining just how many printed works may now be lost, leading one incunabulist recently to describe lost books as “the dark matter of the Gutenberg Galaxy.” In this talk, Alan B. Farmer, Associate Professor at Ohio State University, will build on recent quantitative advances in estimating the numbers of lost books to consider how lost books might reshape our view of the early modern English book trade and, more broadly, the cultural history of England from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century. Taking account of lost books, Farmer will argue, opens up new ways of understanding the economics of printing and selling books in early modern London, the shifting popularity of different kinds of works with publishers and readers, and what readers ended up doing with those books they owned.

Alan B. Farmer is an Associate Professor English at Ohio State University. He is the co-creator, with Zachary Lesser, of DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks, and has published widely on book history, Shakespeare, and early modern drama. He is currently working on two projects: a study of lost books in the early modern English book trade and another on the popularity of playbooks in Renaissance England.

Liza Blake, "How a 17th-century Woman Writer Can Revitalize the History of the Book"

Liza Blake, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, will tell the story of the polymath Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623–1673), and her work to craft a reputation by carefully managing the distribution of her writing. In an era when many women refused to put their writing into print, Cavendish not only insisted on print as the best medium for her drama, philosophy, poetry, and science fiction, but also was meticulously involved in her books' creation and customization, both during and after the printing process. In addition to sharing her findings about the many ways Cavendish worked to make each book its own unique object—including custom bindings, annotations with "glitter pen," frontispieces, and materials included only in copies going to distinguished recipients—Blake will argue that focusing on Cavendish and her books has the potential to reorient the fields of early modern book history and textual bibliography.

Sarah Neville, "Commodifying Botany in Early Modern England"

Over the course of the sixteenth century, herbals grew from compact, unadorned volumes to giant, lavishly illustrated ones, and their contents shifted from reprints of anonymous medieval works to commissioned authorial tomes. To explain the broader context in which English botanical science developed, Assistant Professor of English at The Ohio State University Sarah Neville reveals the sophisticated and nuanced calculus performed by members of the London book trade who invested capital to manufacture these popular printed books. By exploring ways English publishers directed the history of botanical science as it developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Neville shows how publishers navigated the financial risk that herbal publication increasingly required of them, and ultimately, how the early commercial practices of English printers shaped both popular reading habits and the development of scholarly and botanical authority.

Jane Raisch, “Original Copies: The Facsimile Before Photography”

Called “the nightmare of book collectors” by John Carter and Nicolas Barker, facsimiles do not hold a particularly revered position in bibliography and book history. The opposite of the venerated “original,” facsimiles are seen as a compromise at best and downright deception at worst. And, yet, people have long been driven to make reliable copies of old documents.

Raisch’s lecture delves into the pre-history of today’s digital reproductions, looking in particular at the creative technical strategies that 16th- through 18th-century scholars and printers devised to reproduce the visual qualities of inscriptions and manuscripts. It asks how and why early print copied material objects that came before—and, in the process, rethinks and expands our understanding of what facsimile can mean today.

Jane Raisch, Ph.D., is Lecturer in the Department of English at The University of York in the United Kingdom.

"Collated and Perfect"

Learn about the changing standards that collectors—and institutions—have used to describe and evaluate early printed books, revealing why these books take the often surprising forms they do today.

Panelists include Megan Heffernan, assistant professor of English at DePaul University, Kathryn James, curator of Early Modern and Osborn Collections at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Aaron T. Pratt, the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center.

Sarah Werner, "Early Digital Facsimiles"

Increasingly, libraries provide access to their special collections beyond the physical walls of reading rooms in the form of photographic facsimiles hosted online. There are clear benefits to this kind of expanded access, but digitization can never be perfectly neutral: photographs and scans can only ever serve as partial representations of physical objects, and decisions have to be made about what gets digitized in the first place. In her lecture, "Early Digital Facsimiles," Sarah Werner discusses the rise of digitization and its impact on the study of early modern books. Werner, who previously served as Digital Media Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library, is the author of Studying Early Printed Books, 1450–1800: A Practical Guide.

Eric White, “From Mainz to Austin: Carl H. Pforzheimer's Gutenberg Bible”

Eric White, Curator of Rare Books at Princeton University, discusses the Ransom Center’s Gutenberg Bible, focusing on recent scholarship and new discoveries related to its early provenance. The Center’s Gutenberg Bible is on permanent display.

Program Sponsor
Funding generously provided by
the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation.

Programs & Symposia Exhibitions


Aaron T. Pratt
Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator
of Early Books and Manuscripts