M Lake BPL Visit

    Working at the Boston Public Library was definitely a unique experience. I had been there only once before, on New Year’s Eve, but did not get a real chance to look around too much because they were close to closing. I did make it to the room outside the rare book study room, though, which I thought was sort of a strange coincidence that I’d end up there again less than two months later. It is a huge building with tons of nooks and crannies, but that is where I’d ended up.
    I’ve always had a thing for old books, but I think some of these were really older than I am used to. I love going to antique stores, and books are one of the things I always find myself drawn to. Books have always been an important part of culture – ever since people started writing things down – and I like the idea that we can hold and work with texts that were read, owned or handled by prominent literary figures of the past. Pencilled-in margin notes are fascinating even if you cannot fully decipher them. They seem to make the book living and breathing with its own opinions and comments. The copy of William Shakespeare’s Much Adoe about Nothing we encountered looked as if it had been owned by George Stevens, one of his eighteenth century editors. I went through every page reviewing the notes that he wrote. Although I could not read probably 85% of these notes because the script was so squished and scratchy, it was still infinitely cool that they existed. When I find interesting books in antique shops I immediately look for marginalia inside because, for me, it brings the past to life.
    These texts are obviously extant, but I still think it’s sort of sad to see the pages deteriorating right before our eyes. The big catalogues were falling apart, loose pages everywhere and little rectangular pieces of page snapped off from the edges so you could not even tell which side belonged at the seam and which belonged on the outer edge. Nothing lasts forever, but I will say I thought the pages of Much Adoe being pasted into a larger book to keep them intact was a genius idea. And when you have to handle the fragile texts with so much care, it really feels like you must really be doing something special. So many mysteries lie within the pages, and I think my antique book-love was gladly revamped.

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Caroline Martell’s BPL Reflection

The Rare Books and Manuscript Office at the Boston Public Library offered a different experience for reading and engaging with old texts. My previous experiences have involved reading digitalized copies of these manuscripts or reprinted modern versions of these texts. However, being able to handle actual manuscripts allowed me to experience things that can only be done in person. Things like the physical size of the book affected my perceptions of what I was reading. Some manuscripts were much smaller than I was used to and made the text feel more intimate. Some manuscripts were part of collections in large books, this made me engage what I know about one text with the other texts it was combined with. The illustrations in the books were easier to observe and analyze in person than on an online file. Also, sometimes digitalized copies miss some information. For instance, Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament had in the text that it was published in 1600, but on the spine of the book it said 1610. This important information was not provided on the Early English Books Online database. Also, many of the manuscripts contained marginalia not visible in online copies. Some of this marginalia can offer important insight, such as dates.

I thought it was exciting to be holding texts possibly held by the authors themselves and to know that so many people have read the same book that I was holding. I really enjoyed seeing some of the marginalia that included notes like “very rare” and rhyme schemes, showing that perhaps someone like me had been analyzing this text and taking notes at some points in the last 400 years. It was amazing to be able to engage so immediately with literature and history which often feels much removed from present day. I understood what many professors have suggested, that studying English is like being a detective. I was excited that the more I looked at a text the more things I discovered in it. This trip was a great experience that offered so many new ways to engage with texts.

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Dan Cormier – BPL Reflection

Our trip to the Boston Public Library was such an eye opening experience for me. Aside from Stonehill’s own library, I hadn’t actually been to a library since high school simply due to the fact that most research materials and articles are stored in digital warehouses and databases. Physically going into Boston, our state’s capital was a fun journey because it brought me back to the days in which people had to travel to ideological centers and places that housed this type of knowledge. This is especially relevant to the age we are studying when print materials were just starting to be generated which made the sharing of these works that much more difficult.

Additionally, just being in the BPL was a great experience in itself. It represents this physical mecca for knowledge and history which society seems to sometimes forget about due to the move towards digital archives. We forget as a people that actual places that house the physical copies of this intellectual production exist in the world and not just in some intangible cyber space.  The Rare Books and Manuscripts room was very interesting to explore because one realizes that it houses books that were handled, read, and touched hundreds of years ago. Prior to the field trip I didn’t necessarily see stark differences between viewing a document in person versus through a digital archive, but after experiencing this field trip I definitely can see huge benefits in this work. For one, my group explored Tamburlaine the Great and found that the EEBO file differed from the physical book in that the BPL book contained a very important piece of marginalia on the title page. “C. Marlowe” was hand written in on the title page. This was a huge discovery for my team in that we began to make so many questions of what this could mean for the printer in his decision not to print the author’s name in the first place, as well as who wrote the name on the page to begin with, etc. This was enlightening for me to discover that actually handling the hard copy of the text can illuminate so much more than a digitally archived version can begin to do.

Jen Sobol BPL Reflection.

Hi Everyone!! Personally, I thought that the Boston Public Library field trip was actually more exciting than expected.  First, the Copley strand of the Boston Library is beautiful.  The inside is immaculate as soon as you walk in.  Taking the elevator upstairs to the Rare Books Room was even aesthetically pleasing as the architecture and style was so old.  I never really appreciated it until I saw.  In terms of actually working with the old texts, the most interesting thing that I learned was how to retrieve a book that you would need from the vault in the back.  Professor Bennett had mentioned the vault during class time, so when I was registering with the secretary prior to entering the actual work room, I inquired more about it with her.  She said that the vault was a large locked up area that certain books were kept because of the rarity or the amount of usage they have in relation with those who come to visit the BPL.  Imagining how large the vault must be and how many books the Rare Room already contained exemplifies the pride the library takes in preserving original works.  This is very appreciative to an outside viewer.  This might sound ludacris or obvious, but after considering the number of books in the Rare Books room, in addition to the ones in the vault, AND the regular books that would be on display throughout the library, I was quickly astounded as to how many books we have access to now in the world.  Even the rarest of works can be found and read if you wanted.  To me, this was a new great discovery. 

 

One thing that I really like about the assignments given in this class are the conversations historically we can have when looking at these books.  I, myself, excel far greater in English and History than I do in math, partially because of the enjoyment level to me, but also the connections English and History have with one another.  When I was filling in the document analysis, I would look at the publication dates of the books that I was working with and put historical context to the date.  For instance, the George Sandys’ Ovid Translation was published in 1632, a decade after the pilgrims came to America.  This was definitely a time of conservation, so placing that knowledge with the acquired knowledge of the texts that we are working with in this class, it is easy to see how most people were appalled at the writing.  It also showcases how innovative these authors were in incorporating “out of the norm” concepts to their writing because it was something they wanted to write about; never did they follow in the footsteps of authors who would write for the time period.  Authors like Marlowe, Nashe, and Ovid wrote for new discoveries.    Following the appreciation for the writing, one has to appreciate the portraits and illustrations incorporated in the books as well.  Again referencing the Sandys’ translation, Deirdre and I took many photos of the intricate illustrations scattered throughout the literary work.  The detail, precision, and depth of the drawings exceed any other kind of illustration in a novel that I have ever seen.  It also made me wonder how long it took to print something that detailed during this time period.   Overall, this trip to the Boston Public Library was eye opening and differed from any other field trip I had been on. 

BPL Archive Reflection

I found our field trip to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the Boston Public Library to be an amazing experience. When I got my library card and registered with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the BPL before the semester started, I was impressed by both the enormity and the beauty of the building, but the significance of what we were going to study didn’t stick out to me at the time. When we started working with the texts on EEBO in class and I got a better feel for what we were going to be looking at when we got to the library, I started to get more excited for the trip. After completing a few document analyses, I really felt ready to dive into the texts at the archive.
Holding the documents in my hands felt like both holding a piece of history and being a part of it. I got so much more out of being able to physically look through the documents at the archive than I ever did looking through electronic versions of the same texts on EEBO. It was so interesting to see margin notes from previous readers/editors/printers, and trying to decode why certain elements of the documents seemed to be altered or missing altogether. For example, I looked at Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine the Great” on EEBO and at the archive. When looking online at EEBO’s copy of the document, we noticed that there was no attribution to Marlowe anywhere to be found. The online version of the document was very difficult to read, so it was hard for us to come up with an educated guess as to why this was the case. However, when we worked with the original document at the archive, we were able to really dig into the dedication by the printer and discovered that he chose to omit Marlowe’s name from the document as well as alter parts of the play to make it his own and to appeal to a more sophisticated and upper-class part of society. We also noticed that the original document had the name “C. Marlowe” lightly written in pencil on the title page what seemed like a long time after the document was printed. I found it so fascinating to really see the dynamic between printer, author, and the society that was receiving the document, which was something that I never would have picked up on by only looking at the EEBO version of the document. Working in the archive really made me appreciate the fact that so much has been preserved over the years, and the fact that we can still learn new things every day about these documents. Prior to this trip, I definitely took for granted how many resources are out there for us to explore, and how much more value is in physically holding the document rather than using EEBO. I would be really interested to take another trip to the Boston Public Library and spend more time with these documents to see what else there is to learn!

BPL Archive Reflection

I found our field trip to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the Boston Public Library to be an amazing experience. When I got my library card and registered with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the BPL before the semester started, I was impressed by both the enormity and the beauty of the building, but the significance of what we were going to study didn’t stick out to me at the time. When we started working with the texts on EEBO in class and I got a better feel for what we were going to be looking at when we got to the library, I started to get more excited for the trip. After completing a few document analyses, I really felt ready to dive into the texts at the archive.
Holding the documents in my hands felt like both holding a piece of history and being a part of it. I got so much more out of being able to physically look through the documents at the archive than I ever did looking through electronic versions of the same texts on EEBO. It was so interesting to see margin notes from previous readers/editors/printers, and trying to decode why certain elements of the documents seemed to be altered or missing altogether. For example, I looked at Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine the Great” on EEBO and at the archive. When looking online at EEBO’s copy of the document, we noticed that there was no attribution to Marlowe anywhere to be found. The online version of the document was very difficult to read, so it was hard for us to come up with an educated guess as to why this was the case. However, when we worked with the original document at the archive, we were able to really dig into the dedication by the printer and discovered that he chose to omit Marlowe’s name from the document as well as alter parts of the play to make it his own and to appeal to a more sophisticated and upper-class part of society. We also noticed that the original document had the name “C. Marlowe” lightly written in pencil on the title page what seemed like a long time after the document was printed. I found it so fascinating to really see the dynamic between printer, author, and the society that was receiving the document, which was something that I never would have picked up on by only looking at the EEBO version of the document. Working in the archive really made me appreciate the fact that so much has been preserved over the years, and the fact that we can still learn new things every day about these documents. Prior to this trip, I definitely took for granted how many resources are out there for us to explore, and how much more value is in physically holding the document rather than using EEBO. I would be really interested to take another trip to the Boston Public Library and spend more time with these documents to see what else there is to learn!

BPL Archive Reflection

I found our field trip to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the Boston Public Library to be an amazing experience. When I got my library card and registered with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department at the BPL before the semester started, I was impressed by both the enormity and the beauty of the building, but the significance of what we were going to study didn’t stick out to me at the time. When we started working with the texts on EEBO in class and I got a better feel for what we were going to be looking at when we got to the library, I started to get more excited for the trip. After completing a few document analyses, I really felt ready to dive into the texts at the archive.
Holding the documents in my hands felt like both holding a piece of history and being a part of it. I got so much more out of being able to physically look through the documents at the archive than I ever did looking through electronic versions of the same texts on EEBO. It was so interesting to see margin notes from previous readers/editors/printers, and trying to decode why certain elements of the documents seemed to be altered or missing altogether. For example, I looked at Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine the Great” on EEBO and at the archive. When looking online at EEBO’s copy of the document, we noticed that there was no attribution to Marlowe anywhere to be found. The online version of the document was very difficult to read, so it was hard for us to come up with an educated guess as to why this was the case. However, when we worked with the original document at the archive, we were able to really dig into the dedication by the printer and discovered that he chose to omit Marlowe’s name from the document as well as alter parts of the play to make it his own and to appeal to a more sophisticated and upper-class part of society. We also noticed that the original document had the name “C. Marlowe” lightly written in pencil on the title page what seemed like a long time after the document was printed. I found it so fascinating to really see the dynamic between printer, author, and the society that was receiving the document, which was something that I never would have picked up on by only looking at the EEBO version of the document. Working in the archive really made me appreciate the fact that so much has been preserved over the years, and the fact that we can still learn new things every day about these documents. Prior to this trip, I definitely took for granted how many resources are out there for us to explore, and how much more value is in physically holding the document rather than using EEBO. I would be really interested to take another trip to the Boston Public Library and spend more time with these documents to see what else there is to learn!

BPL Trip Reflection–Katie Stiles

Visiting the archive at the Boston Public Library was like nothing I had ever seen before. I have never been exposed to books that old, frail, or valuable before. That being said, seeing the books on the table and knowing they were hundreds of years old and belonged to authors, editors, and others from the 1600s seemed to add an extra layer of caution to the process that was not at all captured in doing digital document analyses.
Having to walk all the way through the long corridors of the library and up the grand stair cases to get to the rare books room was a dramatic lead up to begin our day at BPL. By the time we all made it to the actual archive, we could see the books laid out and set up on book wedges ready for our curiosity to flip through their tired pages. That’s what I found to be most surprising from this trip—the feel of the pages was heavy and thick, but delicate and brittle at the same time. The thick leather covers looked indestructible by also like a piece of wet cardboard ready to bend or break at any minute.
Prior to the trip to the BPL, we had all only looked at documents on a computer screen and were able to successfully and completely get all of the information we needed in order to perform an accurate document analysis; similarly, we were all able to do this at the library seeing the books in person. What really makes the process different is actually touching the books. When flipping the pages you can feel the history in each piece of paper as you move it—something impossible to do when clicking the “next” button on EEBO.
I also found it interesting to see the pamphlet bound into the book. That type of manufacturing is not something that can be appreciated when using an online database. When looking at that book with the inserted pamphlet pages, you can almost imagine the man taking each leaf of the pamphlet and pasting it into the book pages.
Those types of findings are what made this experience memorable. The unique binding of books, the marginalia, the notes, the way the book felt and looked. Each of these books had a personality that was enhanced by its yellowed pages, frail texture, and overall look. That personality was not captured at all when we examined the cover pages on the online archive. However, I am not sure how much the personality of the book really did play into what information we needed to get out of them. Yes, I think that for other projects that do a more holistic analysis of the book, including the look and feel of the book, this in-person archive would be of much more value. But for us, and our purposes at the moment, I think the same information was captured in our document analyses, regardless of whether we saw the book in person or online.
The library added the extra layer, though. True, seeing the documents in person wasn’t necessarily captured in our document analyses, but I think being exposed to what these books are actually like was a valuable experience that made me appreciate what I see online more. Now I know the general texture and appearance of what I see on my computer screen. And if I am ever able to use that knowledge in the future—I think it will be an excellent addition to whatever project I am working on.
Lastly, I think that this trip has provided a lot ideas for updating our document analysis worksheet. Including a section on the look or condition of the book may help to finish the story behind the document. This may better capture the true feeling of each book, which would add a new dimension to the document analysis that we are currently working with.

Deirdra Chapman BPL Reflection

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The most interesting thing I learned during the first BPL trip on 2/10 was how truly delicate these texts are and how intricate all the details are on them. It is incredible to think that I got to touch and read and feel several rare books that are hundreds of years old. I was taken back by how much history was in the literature back then, and how the two subjects seemed to go hand in hand. When we were first instructed to register with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department over winter break, I had absolutely no idea that I was in for a truly amazing and culturally enriching experience. I was intimidated by the dark and quiet room I had entered, I felt like it was some sort of super-secret room that performed covert operations. I have lived outside of Boston my entire life, and had never been to the BPL, so this trip was overdue in my book. I am only a freshman, so still early on in my English career. However, the discovery of the Rare Books Room has given me a place that I can refer back to as I continue to advance deeper into my English studies. I know it is going to be a great resource for me over the next several years, and then later on in life once I become an English teacher. Where else, in close proximity, can you go to a repository for an array of the most rare books, manuscripts, and other historical artifacts? This department does a wonderful job preserving and creating access to these rare collections, and allows the scholarly community to thrive off of them.

I thought EEBO and those other digital archives were incredible when we were first shown them. I had no idea some of these texts even existed, but the fact that we could view them digitally was awesome. Now after the BPL visit, I can say nothing is more amazing than actually dealing with the rare books and pamphlets in situ. I had the privilege of analyzing Tamburlaine the Greate, a text that was unknown to me before this visit. Sure, the book smelled musty and putrid, but that musty smell was the scent of hundreds of years of history; in a way the airless odor you smell when you open one of these old books takes you back to the historical moment when it was first created. I really loved the black type font displayed in Tamburlaine because I though it looked eloquent and vivid at the same time. I liked being able to actually view what a typical quarto looked like. I can use Tamburlaine as a reference now when I analyze different rare texts. The most interesting part of analyzing the cover pages in Tamburlaine was that there was no attribution to Marlowe, even though everyone in 1605 would have known this was one of his pieces. Professor Bennett then explained to us how the printer might have been trying to sell the story off as his own. Seeing this text of Tamburlaine has made me more curious, so I would like to dig deeper and see if I can discover other versions of this book and see how they differ in appearance. There was a bit of written marginalia on the inside cover page that read “C. Marlowe.” We do not know who wrote this, why they wrote it, or when they wrote it. Part of the fun in dealing with these types of rarities is the air of mystery that accompanies them. We cannot know every specific detail about their individual characteristics, unless someone was actually there in 1605 when it was printed, so it is fun to try to come up with a rationale for why things are they way they are. The thing that fascinates me the most is that not one of these texts looks the exact same.

This class is giving me a whole new sense of appreciation for these older texts, pieces I never got the opportunity to study in high school. Going to the BPL was the perfect way to get a hands-on experience for all the class discussions we have about the origins of printing and the tedious work it required. Now having been accustomed to the Rare Books Department, I can definitely see myself going back there quite often for both scholarly advances and personal endeavors. 

BPL Trip – Alyssa Hayes

At first I was not as excited about taking a trip to the Boston Public Library. In my mind I did not see the huge deal behind the trip; I live about ten miles from the city and had been to the library countless times. However, once we made the trip into the city and up into the Rare Books room my mind was changed completely. It was definitely a one of a kind experience, one that I was not expecting at all.
It was really interesting seeing books that were so old and worn but yet still so in tact. I think in a sense, studying and examining one book in detail made me really feel like I connected with the book and also with the author which was a new feeling to me. I mean I have felt connected and interested in books before, as everyone has, but this was definitely a new and exciting thing. Knowing that some of the books were even the authors own copies was just mind blowing. I think it really helped me become more interested and appreciative of old literature and its connection into our modern world today.
Personally, I examined Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Greate. The interesting thing about this quarto was that the printer decided not to give credit to Marlowe; instead he almost seemed to take credit for the work himself. To me, this was so amazing to see, it was like seeing a huge part of history first hand. In that time period, issues came up of printers and editors copyrighting work that was not their own. When this play was printed Marlowe had already passed so if the printer did in fact take credit for his work, really there would be nothing that anyone could do to prove him wrong. That play was one that really showed the issues in that era of printing and printers stealing the works of authors.
Also, I noticed some written marginalia in a lot of the books, and that was really cool to see. The little notes could have been written in by the author, editor, printer, or even just a common reader for personal enjoyment. They could have been written in while at their time in the BPL or hundreds of years ago. But still, not knowing who or when the notes were written in gave the books a mysterious under tone.
Overall, I really enjoyed the trip to the BPL, I thought it was a great time and really educating. It definitely increased my interest in what we are doing in the class and the books we are examining. I also think it really helped me understand how books were first printed and how much work actually went into the printing process. Now a days I think we really take this process for granted and do not understand how much it actually took to print a book way back when. The trip really gave me an appreciation for this process and even for the class as a whole.

 

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Marlowe’s Tamburlaine

Ric Jones tries to take all the credit. (Half-serious)

The new world of posting

Hi everyone –

Moving forward, we’ll make new posts here.

Reflection on BPL Visit- Liza Duchesneau

I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of the field trip to the rare books archives at BPL—especially since the books are viewable online. I didn’t think that it would make that much of an impact, honestly. After the trip, though, I can happily say that I was pleasantly surprised. Caroline and I were looking at Nashe’s A Pleasant Comedie: Summer’s Last Will and Testament, which was published in 1600 (!!!). When we started noticing really faint marginalia and trying to decode the publishing/binding date discrepancies, it made the research of the book so much more intimate than just looking at it on the screen of a computer. It wasn’t until I looked at Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, though, that I got really excited.

Last semester, when I was abroad in Scotland, I got the opportunity to take a trip down to London. I went to Stratford-upon-Avon and I got to walk through the town Shakespeare and his family lived and the house in which he grew up. While there, I got this huge surge of English-major-excitement, where I felt a direct connection to a poet whose work I admire to the utmost degree. Looking at the Much Ado in the BPL gave me a similar feeling—it was one of the original pamphlets circulating of the play. That just blows my mind. Not only that, but it belonged to George Steevens, an editor during Alexander Pope’s time, who edited the play using that copy.

I definitely was not expecting so much history to be wrapped up in just the physicalities of the books there. Not only that, but I was not expecting to be so excited about it! I wish we could have stayed a little longer and had the chance to take out other books from the vault. My favorite Shakespeare play is Twelfth Night and I would have loved to see what kind of history we could dig up behind a copy of that play kept there. All in all it was a very worthwhile experience and I think it’s really valuable to delve into a book’s pages physically, and then use internet sources as supplementary devices.

Kathryn Joy Document Analysis

Document Analysis (http://tinylink.net/jwbl9) – Kathryn Joy