LIT 341 / BKS 341 / (ENG 341): Archeology of Text:

Archival Research Methods and “the Book” in the Internet, Print, and Manuscript Eras

                     Manuscript leaf from a Book of Hours    A printer working a wooden hand press    1st Google server (Takuya Oikawa, Flickr "Computer History Museum")        

Fall 2019 (TuTh 1:30-3:20) Athenaeum Room 435 (Special Collections and Archives, 4th floor)

Instructor: Arnie Sanders,  Emeritus Professor of English, holding office hours at the Athenaeum, Library, 4th Floor, Special Collections  [Preferred prounoun use convention: he/him/his.] (Last edited: 11/20/2019 4:32PM)

Office Hours, Fall 2019,  afternoons when the course meets, and by appointment (just call or email at least 24 hours in advance)

Site News: 11/20/19--I have added two digital images to the Canvas "Independent Research Project" discussion to help Beck, Chaz and Naomi, and also to show you how you can use that discussion board to share working copies of evidence and your papers and the final project report if you are working collaboratively.  Even if you are working alone, posting the evidence there will give you access to it from anywhere as long as you have Internet service, and you can more readily direct my eyes to it if you have questions about it.

To see an example of a master paleographer using a blog posting to achieve this same end, see Peter Kidd's Medieval Manuscripts Provenance, "Weekly notes and observations":

Remember that our Walters trip van will pick up up on 12/3 (Tues) at 1:30 at the "Spanish Steps" of Dorsey College Center, the side facing the big parking lot.  Also, our "final experience" is now scheduled for Thursday 12/12 from Noon to 2PM in ATH 435.  I updated the conference sign-up page for Paper 3 and IRP topics. Click here for the conference schedule to discuss Paper 3 and/or IRP topics.

        Because your independent research projects might make use of either the Goucher Library's "Special Collections" or its "Archives," you might wish to consult this short Web page describing the differences between "collections" and "archives" as they affect the researcher. 

         It's possisble that you might want to specialize in working with parchment texts.  To teach yourself more about parchment, look at Clarkson's sources, handle carefully lots of examples of parchment from various regions and eras, and read "Materials and Techniques of Manuscript Production," Medieval Manuscript Manuel (Central European University, Belgrade).  An even better narrative explanation of parchment's invention and history is now available from Longreads in the form of "Hidebound: The Grisly Invention of Parchment," a chapter from Keith Huston's The Book (N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2016).  Keep in mind that when parchment became Europe's standard material for book production, books' two main purposes were legal and theological, and both functions were expected to last for hundreds, and even thousands of years.  Hence, parchment books. How long will digital books last?  Hint: if you hold your breath long enough, a fair number of them are already winking out of existence or becoming unreliable and difficult to read.

Independent Research Project Materials from  Special Collections at Goucher College--the"libraries within the Library"  Final Research Projects--Fall 2013.    Click here for examples of projects pursued by the Fall 2011 class.    Online Exhibits of Past and Present Research Projects

         If you are interested in English/BKS 341, please consider registering for the Book Studies Minor.  Other courses in the minor will allow you to follow your interests in many of the basic elements of bibliographic investigation we explore in 341, such as American readers' use of books from the revolution to the digital age, the art of the book, book binding, Goucher's Burke-Austen Collection, and the many other great rare book libraries of the Baltimore-Washington area.

Internship and Fellowship Opportunities for Qualified English 341 GraduatesThe World-Famous "Medieval Helpdesk" video  Miscellaneous Summer Projects  French 257: Introduction to Research Using Rare Books and Archival Materials Thomas Murray Collection online at the University of British Columbia Library: Bookplate images to help you determine provenance.

 “There is no ignorance more shameful than to admit as true that which one does not understand: and there is no advantage so great as that of being set free from error.” Xenophon, quoting Socrates, translated by F.J. Furnivall, a great and influential editor, shortly before his death on 2 July 1910.

 Our motto: tolerate mystery as a precondition to discovery.


        This interdisciplinary Literature course introduces students to archival research techniques using Goucher’s Rare Book Collection and online digital archives, including cached web history like the Internet Archive. Working backward in time, from the present to the Medieval period, the course will survey the ways people have stored, retrieved, and used written/visual information, from digital media to early printed pamphlets or books to manuscripts. Students who have completed the course will be equipped to do additional archival research in Goucher's archives for 200- and 300-level courses, and to work as “archival assistants” in the Special Collections division of the Goucher Library.  This training also enables students to conduct research in authors' manuscript drafts of literary works, to pursue primary source research in many Humanities disciplines, and to apply their previous training in biology and chemistry to the forensic analysis of documents.  Students with Literature 341 experience, and who have suitable proposals and letters of introduction from Goucher's librarians and a faculty member in the field, usually can get access to rare books and manuscripts in archives and special collections around the world.  Students who successfully complete the course are strong candidates for Peirce Center Fellowships which pay stipends to support research in Special Collections during any semester, in January, or during the summer.  Previous years' students have won competitive internships.

Learning Outcomes (vulgo dicta, "LOs"):

1)  Basic Scholarly Knowledge and Practices:  All students will know and follow the rules for working in rare book libraries and archives, including routine preliminary hand-washing, and the mandatory use of pencils rather than pens, low-wattage investigative lighting, millimeter rules, book cradles and snakes, and other basic analytical tools.  They will become familiar with the conventions of rare book librarianship and the conservation principles upon which those practices are based.  They will be safe and welcome guest scholars in rare book collections, and will be, themselves, worthy guardians of rare books and manuscripts for future generations.

2)  Digital Text: Students will understand how digital text files are coded, stored, and displayed, and how they may relate to manuscript or print versions of the text as a digital "edition."  They will understand how text files are retreived from the Internet, with special emphasis on text-base construction and maintenence, search engine use, and awareness of the Internet's history as an element of human culture that competes with prior print and manuscript cultures for our textual attention.  They will be aware of and able to compensate for (in most cases) the inevitable degradation and loss of digital texts due to causes such as "link rot," version incompatibility, hardware and software obsolescence, Darknet criminal activity, and ordinary negligence or malfeasance.  They will be able to describe and analyze the effectiveness of Web site structures, text displays including images (still and full-motion), and other attributes of digital texts.  They will demonstrate this knowledge in class discussion and written work composed in coherent acadmic prose using sufficient secondary sources of demonstrably reliable quality, and they will document the use of those sources in MLA, APA, or University of Chicago format. Better students will be able to investigate and to explain how digital text attributes are affecting human cognition, communication, and/or social organization.  Superior students will be able to suggest remedies for digital text's negative effects and/or they will be able to suggest new ways of taking advantage of digital text's positive advantages over print and manuscript text.

3)  Print Text: Students will be able to handle safely and describe accurately the basic structure of a modern or pre-modern printed book, including format, paper, typography, page layout, and binding type.  All students will be able to use the Haebler "M" series table of incunabular type founts to identify the printers of incunables (pre-1501 print books), and to use standard typographic terms to describe type founts used to print any book.  They will be able to detect, measure, and describe the dimensions, chain-lines, and watermarks in laid paper, and will distinguish laid from wove paper, using that to estimate the production era of any loose sheet of printed text.  All students will be able to read standard bibliographic descriptions following the rules established by Fredson Bowers and Philip Gaskell.  All students will be able to describe books in terms of their authors, publishers, city of publication, date, pagination, and height, data that might be used in MARC entries for their own or the Library's rare book collection.  All students will be able to describe standard pre-modern bindings including parchment or other binding materials, backing bands, clasps, and other binding technology.  They will be able to use tables of modern publishers' bindings to identify them on copies of post-1800 editions.  Better students will be able to use that bibliographic evidence to describe and analyze printed books as evidence of print-book culture, using online resources such as OCLC/WorldCat, the English Short Title Catalog, and the Karlsruhe University Library's catalog of university and state libraries. Better students will be able to use forensic paper evidence to analyze the printer's marketing strategy as reflected in the relative quality of the book's construction.  Better students will have some experience of the use of, Alibris, and other online booksellers to estimate the rarity and relative worth of a given copy of a printed book.  Superior students will be able to write "desbib" for complex edition-copies, including binding signatures and edition-specific variants for standard editions, and for those which do not fit the standard WorldCat or ESTC descriptions.  Superior students will be able to use standard watermark collections to estimate the era and (sometimes) country of origin of a hand-press book's paper stock.  Superior students will become proficient comparative analysts of one or more authors' print output, and will be able to demonstrate the comparative worth of edition-copies of a given work based on points of description known to book collectors and scholars in standard bibliographic references for the work.

4)  Manuscript Text:  Students will be able to work safely with fragile paper and parchment manuscripts, and will understand the scholarly vocabulary used to describe MSS.  They will be able to decipher at the character and word level, and to date by era, some representative Continental and English manuscript hands from the Carolignian through the Victorian periods.  They will be able to create at least rudimentary alphabets in Carolignian uncial, Gothic, and Gothic Bastarda scripts.  All students will be able to use the O.E.D., Emma Thoyts, and other standard resources to attempt to transcribe and interpret medieval and early modern documents.  Better students will be able to read fluently in at least one pre-modern script.  Better students will be able to use this knowledge to analyze the cultural context in which a given manuscript was produced (e.g., what it was intended to do, by whom and for whom, and what kind of scribe made it).  Superior students will be able to produce near-perfect diplomatic transcriptions, with explanatory notes, of modern, early modern, and medieval manuscripts, and can conduct research in manuscript collections to support studies in other disciplines such as art, history, sociology, literature, philosophy, etc.  Some superior students will be able to create their own manuscripts using calligraphic hands appropriate to the texts and audiences for which the MSS are intended.  

5)  Textual Literary Interpretation for Literature majors:  Students will use the skills and knowledge mastered in this course to meet these more general departmental LOs:

Your interpretations [of literature] will also be informed by your knowledge and understanding of:

 "Academic Honor Code: Reference to the academic honor code is required of all course syllabi as a reminder to students.  Suggested wording includes: Reminder: All students are bound by the standards of the Academic Honor Code, found at"  I distinguish between accidental forms of plagiarism, in which the author obviously intended to cite sources but cited them at the wrong place, from pure carelessness (no citations, even if sources are listed at the back), and from outright theft of intellectual property intentionally passed off as one's own.  The first type of cases usually are opportunities to teach and learn.  The second type are more troubling and may go to the Honor Board if they happen late in the semester, after we have discussed source use and its importance to your readers.  The last type (intentional theft or other deception) will be sent to the Honor Board without hesitation.  Fortunately, students who complete this course will realize how easily astute textual scholars can detect lazy or deceptive source use (i.e., types two and three).  Unfortunately, students also are increasingly content to cite sources long after their prose has begun to borrow ideas from those sources (i.e., type one).  That is technically plagiarism, too, but it has become so common that I must spend gallons of ink and hundreds of keystrokes un-teaching it.  Never make me guess whose ideas I'm reading.  Cite sources when you first depend on them.  Good secondary source research is a basic and important scholarly tool, and I will commend it when I see it, but I am most interested to know how well you can think, not just how well your sources can think, which is a matter of historical record for anyone who reads them.  As you compose your sentences, let there be a bright line of fire between ideas that are originally yours and those of other writers to which you refer.

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