Book History Colloquium: “Traces in the Stacks: 19th-Century Book Use and the Future of Library Collections”

Tues., October 28th @ 6:00 PM

Andrew Stauffer, Associate Professor of English and Director of NINES, University of Virginia

The Book Traces Project engages the question of the future of the print record in the wake of wide-scale digitization. College and university libraries increasingly reconfigure access to nineteenth-century texts through public-domain versions via repositories such as Google Books on the assumption that copies of any given nineteenth-century edition are identical. The Book Traces Project argues otherwise, focusing attention on the customizations made by original owners in personal copies of books to be found in the open stacks of university libraries, and showing that these books constitute a massive, distributed archive of the history of reading. Marginalia, inscriptions, photos, original manuscripts, letters, drawings, and many other unique pieces of historical data can be found in individual copies, many of them associated with the history of the institution that collected the books.


On October 8th, the Columbia University Libraries sponsored a Book Traces-related “treasure hunt” in the Butler Stacks. This talk will review the findings from that day, discussing compelling examples that were discovered by Columbia students and faculty.

Andrew Stauffer is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Virginia, and Director of NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship). He specializes in 19th-century British literature and the Digital Humanities. Stauffer launched the Book Traces project in 2014, following two years of sending students into the general stacks of the University of Virginia libraries to discover unique copies of nineteenth-century editions of Romantic and Victorian poetry. He has published articles on various Romantic and Victorian writers, including Byron, Dickens, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His book Anger, Revolution, and Romanticism was published by Cambridge University Press in 2005, and he is currently working on a book entitled, “Postcard from the Volcano: The Troubled Archive of Nineteenth-Century Literature.”

The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Questions? Email Karla Nielsen.

All sessions take place 6pm in 523 Butler Library, Columbia Morningside Campus, unless otherwise noted.

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