This past week I had the please of attending the course “Understanding the Pre-Digital Book”Â at the 2013 Digital Humanities Summer Institute.
As part of the course, we looked at a variety of material objects from the surviving fragments of medieval manuscripts to Dickens’s part-issue novels (specifically, Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield). Needless to say, this course was a book-lover’s dream.
Questions about materiality and physical labor (and material) required to produce the texts we looked at was a frequent theme. (So frequent that we titled our final course presentation “Dirty Books, Dirty Hands.) It was fitting, therefore, that the penultimate day of the course featured a workshop on printing making run by VSAWC executive members Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge.
This workshop brought the theoretical concepts discussed earlier in the morning, including scoops and ink squash, reinforcing what the class learned about white space, the composition of black and white images (including the need to reverse the image. Happily, unlike Dante Gabriel Rossetti, everyone in this workshop remembered to reverse their images before printing), issues related to texture and composition, the tedious (and occasionally bloody) process of scooping out the lines of a design, and the importance of collaboration.Â As learned over the course of the week, no book is an island.
The style of the finished images ranged from William Morris-like designs to re-interpretations of modern web comics.
All in all it was an excellent workshop, and it made me appreciate the skill of Victorian illustrators. For more pictures from the workshop, check out the course blog (click here).
While everyone is strongly encouraged to peruse all of the posts on the course blog (we looked at some seriously interesting material. This post on a medieval medical manuscript is one of my favorites), there are a few posts that may be of particular interest to Victorianist. One (click here) takes a look at a first edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, providing a descriptive bibliography for the text and opening up a brief debate about what information to include. The other (click here) traces the circulation and binding history of one particular volume of the Cornhill held in Special Collections at the University of Victoria.
Until next time, Caley.