Book History

Race, Print, and Digital Humanities: Pedagogical Approaches

By Amy E. Earhart and Maura Ives

As literary scholars who work with both print and digital materials, and are interested in the production, construction, and materiality of texts, we believe that a book history approach reveals crucial information about the impact of race on what print materials are digitized. As Earhart has documented in “Can Information Be Unfettered? Race and the New Digital Humanities Canon,” there are clear inequities in our digitization of materials that break along the lines of race and gender.

The Practice of Book History: Between and Beyond Disciplines

newbooksIt has been about eight months since I finished my master’s thesis—a book history and critical edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1840 historical novel, Mercedes of Castile. It proved to be marvelous meat for my thesis. In the course of my research, I gained insight into Cooper’s love both for his wife and his new novel: in one of his letters he tells her, “You are my Mercedes”—referring to the idolized heroine and namesake of the novel. I learned about the press wars Cooper was embroiled in, which may have adversely affected sales of the novel; gained insight into the publication practices of Philadelphia publishers Lea & Blanchard by exploring their archives at the Pennsylvania Historical Society; and saw Cooper’s vast popularity reaffirmed by a variety of translations and illustrated editions that swiftly followed the first editions.