ENGLISH 341 / Book Studies 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 2017 (TuTh 1:30-3:20) Athenaeum Room 435 (Special Collections and Archives, 4th floor)

Instructor: Arnie Sanders,  Emeritus Professor of English, VM 141 (x6515) and Library Special Collections (Last edited: 12/12/2017 15:00)

Office Hours, Fall 2017,  afternoons when the course meets, and by appointment (just call or email at least 24 hours in advance)

Site News: 12/12/17--On Wednesday (12/13), we will meet in 435 to share preliminary results of our independent research and to help each other solve problems, find sources, and generally be helpful (for students, a source of extra credit!).  Nobody has contacted me to ask for a specific time to present, so I have set up the schedue in alphabetical order.  (Note that some students with health problems were unable to finish the semester, so they will not be presenting tomorrow.  If you know them, they might appreciate a message of support and encouragement toward recovery.)  Be prepared to do your presentations efficiently, in no more than five or six minutes.  Use visual aids like slide-shows and online images to quickly deliver evidence for our shared inspection.  A preliminary "Works Cited" (either projected or handed out in print) will ensure that we know what sources you already have discovered and which we also might be able to use.

        After Wednesday's class, I still have some open conference slots.  Click here for the schedule and, as usual, email me if you want conferences times, giving alternates to avoid a faster email taking your first choice.

        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 English 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 packaged 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 Modern Languages, Hispanic Studies, History and Art History, and to apply their previous training in biology and chemistry to the forensic analysis of documents.  Students with English 241 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.

Student Learning Outcomes (vulgo dicta, "SLOs"):

1)  Students will understand how digital text files are coded, stored, and how they may relate to manuscript or print versions of the text as a digital "edition."  Students 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 ongoing element of the Archeology of Text.  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 commercial negligence or malfeasance.  They will be able to describe and analyze Web site structures, text displays including images (still and full-motion), and other attributes of digital texts.  Superior students will be able to create their own Web sites and digital editions of well-edited texts.

2)  Students will be able to handle safely and describe accurately the structure of any modern or pre-modern printed book, including format, paper, typography, mise-en-page, and bindings.  Superior students will be able to write near-perfect diplomatic transcriptions of early modern editions, with explanatory notes and appropriate bibliographic references.  All students will be able to read, and to write, standard bibliographic descriptions following the Bowers-Gaskell rules.  All students will be able to write rudimentary copy-specific notes that might be used in MARC entries for their own or the Library's rare book collection.  Superior students will be able to write "desbib" for complex edition-copies, including those which do not fit the standard WorldCat or ESTC descriptions of their editions.  All students will be able to use the Haebler "M" series table of incunabular founts, 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.  Superior students will be able to use standard watermark collections to estimate the era and (sometimes) country of origin of a given book's paper stock.  All students will be able to describe standard pre-modern bindings in terms of parchment or other binding materials, sewing patterns, backing bands, clasps, and other artifacts.  They will be able to use tables of modern publishers' bindings to identify them on copies of post-1800 editions.  They will be able to use the ESTC, WorldCat, and the Karlsruhe University online catalogues to assist in identification of the edition of a given copy of any pre-1800 book.  They will have some experience of the use of ABEBooks.com, Alibris, and other online booksellers to estimate the rarity and relative worth of a given copy of a printed book.  Superior students will become proficient comparative analysts of one or more authors' bibliographic output, and will be able to demonstrate the comparative worth of comparable edition-copies of a given work based on copy-specific points of description known to scholars in standard bibliographic references for the work.

3)  Students will be able to work safely with fragile paper and parchment manuscripts, and will understand the basic scholarly vocabulary used to describe MSS.  They will be able to read, 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 hands.  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.  All students will be able to use the O.E.D., Thoyts, and other standard resources to interpret medieval and early modern documents.  Superior students will be able to produce near-perfect diplomatic transcriptions, with explanatory notes, of modern, early modern, and medieval manuscripts.

4)  Students will know and follow the rules for working in rare book libraries and archives, including hand-washing, and the use of pencils, low-wattage investigative lighting, millimeter rules, book cradles and snakes, and other basic analytical tools.  Students will become familiar with the conventions of rare book librarianship and the conservation principles upon which those conventions 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.

5)  English majors will use the skills and knowledge mastered in this course to meet these more general departmental SLOs:

Your interpretations [of English 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 www.goucher.edu/documents/General/AcademicHonorCode.pdf."  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 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 will be sent to the Honor Board without hesitation.  Students also are increasingly content to cite sources long after their prose has begun to borrow ideas from those sources.  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.  I want to know how well you can think, not how well your sources can think, which is a matter of historical record for anyone who reads them.  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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