TDS Alumnus Receives Bibliographical Society of America’s Award

Textual Studies Alumnus, Andreas P. Bassett, received the Bibliographical Society of America’s 2024 Katherine F. Pantzer New Scholar Award. This award comes with an invitation to give a talk at their 2024 annual meeting and submit a publication to their journal Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. Bassett is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, where he studies early modern literature and book history. His research interests include Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and the early modern London book trade. Andreas is the creator of the digital humanities resource, Marlowe in Sheets, which was featured as a digital exhibit at the 2023 Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting. In January 2024, Andreas will complete a short-term fellowship at the Huntington Library as a W.M. Keck Foundation Fellow.

Bassett’s paper, entitled “The Typographical Evolution of Printed Play and Sermon Titles in the Early English Book Trade, 1590–1640,” examines the verbiage and typographical layout of playbook and sermon titles printed in sixteenth and seventeenth century London. Through long-term analyses of title design features, including naming convention, word count, line count, capitalization, italics, and line breaks, he reveals the various general trends of typographical simplification and information streamlining in the printed titles of these two genres. Such title-page evolutions might indicate the presence of what Bassett terms the “Proot effect,” that is, the general tendency for hand-press era printed titles (and title-page paratexts more broadly) to adopt optimized typographical permutations over time. Thus, the paper proposes that aspects of Goran Proot’s documented  development of title-page paradigms in the early modern Southern Netherlands, as outlined in his PBSA article “Converging Design Paradigms” (2014), may have been concurrent across the North Sea in the early English book trade.


Nikita Willeford Kastrinos on Researching Dracula and Yellowback Novels at Emory University

Nikita Willeford Kastrinos is a PhD candidate in the Department of English who earned her Graduate Certificate in Textual and Digital Studies in spring 2022. Her research focuses on the intersection of literary form and material format in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novel. In her own words she describes her experience conducting research at Emory University in Summer 2023.

Last spring, I was awarded a research grant from the Textual Studies Program for summer 2023 and traveled to the Rose Library at Emory University to conduct research for my dissertation chapter, “The Yellowback and the ecoGothic: Mediations of the Nonhuman in Dracula.” Using the library’s John Moore Bram Stoker collection and its Chester W. Topp collection of Victorian yellowbacks and paperbacks, I examined first and early editions Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a host of other nineteenth century yellowback and paperback fiction.

Caption: Bram Stoker’s Dracula and yellowback novels from Emory University’s Rose Library.

“Yellowback” is a term used characterize a particular type of cheap fiction that had become popular during the second half of the nineteenth century in Britain. Sold at railway stalls and named for its characteristically bright paper-covered boards—often specifically yellow in color—the yellowback garnered a reputation as a container for sensational, lowbrow, fiction. But, in fact, all sorts of novels were published and even republished in this format.

Caption: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, republished in The Select Library of Fiction by Ward, Lock, and Co.

Marked by their distinctive physical contrast to what were, customarily, cloth-covered books, the yellowback’s use of colored paper-covered boards represents a seminal moment in the history of the book in Britain. Emblematizing the kind of technological advancements which led to the proliferation of cheap reading material, the yellowback holds a special place in the development of printed culture in the nineteenth century.

Caption: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, published by Chatto & Windus, and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, published by Spencer Blackett.

Dracula, published in 1897, evokes these yellowback novels. Though covered in cloth, the famously yellow color of its binding materials and the red lettering of its cover design suggest connections with the yellowback that bring into view its generic resemblance and the advertising potential of its association. These kind of copycat yellowbacks appeared as early as 1857 according to Michael Sadleir in his work, Collecting “Yellowbacks” (Victorian Railway Fiction). Often, these copycats were bound in cloth, but “the cloth was yellow, was highly glazed,” and featured “lettering and decoration in black and red—the whole most carefully contrived to look as much like a yellow back as possible.”1

Caption: Dracula by Bram Stoker, published by Archibald Constable and Co. and the first paperback edition of Dracula from The Electric Press.

Yellowbacks developed in synchronicity during the mid-nineteenth century with the prevalence of railway travel and railway bookstalls, their bright and pictorial covers designed to attract customers. Focusing on the graphic and material associations between their embodiments and Dracula’s own physicality, my chapter considers the way in which Dracula’s first publications—recalling these yellowback “railway” novels—speak to its implication in Britain’s rapidly growing coal economy at the tail end of the nineteenth century, and thinks about the way in which Stoker’s novel mediates this environmental past, bringing it into our present. During the course of my visit to Emory, I examined Dracula’s first and early editions, covered in its famous yellow cloth, and was able to compare their appearance to a host of yellowback fiction, including some very notable titles like Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White and The Moonstone, as well as Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret and Aurora Floyd. These volumes embody the characteristic yellowback design with their highly glazed yellow paper and their hallmark artistic style, including the red outlining of their front covers and the stark appearance of their titles in relief.

Caption: Dracula by Bram Stoker and a selection of yellowback novels from the Rose Library at Emory University including Aurora Floyd and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in its publisher’s series reprinting by Ward, Lock and Co. Selections show an example of the advertising material included in yellowback publications, which was instrumental in keeping the cost of these books low. It also depicts yellowback binding practices, which often incorporated scrap paper.

I’m incredibly grateful to the Textual Studies Program for their generous support of this research, the results of which will be presented as an initial draft of my chapter at the upcoming North American Victorian Studies Association Conference this November.

  1. Michael Sadleir, Collecting “Yellowbacks” (Victorian Railway Fiction) (London: Constable, 1938),142. This title is one of a host of reference books on the subject that forms part of the Rose Library’s collection of bibliographic materials on yellowbacks. ↩︎

Cataloguing Rare Books in the Archdiocese of Seattle

Kenzie Brown and Eric Flores, who earned their Graduate Certificates in Textual and Digital Studies in spring 2023, worked on cataloging the Rare Books Collection in the Archdiocese of Seattle from January 2023 to May 2023 as part of their capstone project for their Master’s of Library and Information Science degree and the TDS capstone. The Seattle Archdiocese Archives holds a collection of about 300 rare books from as early as the 16th century. Prior to their project, these materials were unorganized and therefore inaccessible.

Kenzie and Eric’s first step when beginning this project was to physically organize the books. They initially tried to begin cataloging immediately, but quickly realized it was important to take inventory and prioritize their workflow. This involved them getting familiar with each book, documenting it briefly in a preliminary inventory sheet, and assigning a rarity ranking based on a number of criteria.

Liturgical Texts
Liturgical Texts

They then organized the books based on their ranking, putting the most important books at the top of the shelves to ensure they completed full records of these materials. Luckily, they were able to complete all 290 books in the collection.

Pocket Sized Books
Pocket Sized Books

The books are currently stored in a much more organized manner in the Archives basement for easier access and use. Then, Kenzie and Eric began cataloging the books. They primarily relied on the DCRM(b) standards, and devoted a lot time to understanding descriptive cataloging and making decisions based on the needs of their collection. They used an Access Database to store the created data. Part of this database included a form with standard DCRM(b) fields, including the expected ones such as author, title, and date, but also provenance, local notes specific to each volume, and illustrations. The goal was to be as descriptive as possible for potential researchers.

Seminary Texts

Kenzie’s and Eric’s process cataloging included pulling each book, creating descriptive metadata, taking pictures, and saving it to the database. During this process, Kenzie and Eric frequently met with each other to standardize the records and ensure continuity.

Interestingly, they found that taking the pictures and storing them in the database were the most time-consuming part of the process. At one point, they had to hold production due to limited storage space.

The cataloging process overall demanded a lot of time and attention, and resulted in a detailed account of the collection. As a form of community outreach and to display their knowledge of the collection, they also created a webpage hosted on the Archdiocese website.

“To Be Used and Enjoyed”: Unveiling the Seattle Archdiocese Archives; Featuring Kenzie Brown and Eric Flores

Digital Humanities this Summer!

Faculty and Graduate Students affiliated with the UW Textual Studies Program developed exciting projects in Digital Humanities, as Digital Humanities Summer Fellows, at the Simpson Center for the Humanities!

Digitized newspaper view on the Gallica site

Hannah Frydman (French & Italian Studies) was awarded a Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship to work on her project Between the Digital Sheets: Research and Teaching Methods for Working with Digitized Classified Ads. This project takes Frydman’s digital research methods in her monograph in progress, Between the Sheets: Classified Advertising, Sexuality, and the Moral Threat to Press Freedom in France, as a jumping off point for elaborating a historical methodology for working and teaching with digitized newspapers, whose abundance can be daunting for those new to digital research. In particular, the project (through an article and a pedagogical website) will communicate the potential of digitized classifieds as a source of otherwise inaccessible information useful for historical writing across many topics, and will explain how information can be extracted from them.

Gabrielle Benabdallah (TDS Graduate Certificate, 2017) and Nathanael Elias Mengist (Human Centered Design and Engineering) were awarded a Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship to work on their project Alchemical Operations. Alchemical Operations is a multimodal website that contextualizes, comments, and disseminates work on the historical and cultural relationship between technology and alchemy. Specifically, it gathers resources and offers extended annotations on original translations of the text “The Birth of Technology,” written by French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989). The website will make available excerpts of this text to an English reading audience for the first time and be a pedagogical resource on the alchemical legacy of science and technology.

Melanie Walsh

Melanie Walsh (Information School) was awarded a Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship to work on her book, When Postwar American Fiction Went Viral: Protest, Profit, and Popular Readers in the 21st Century. In the book, Walsh traces how postwar literary texts by authors like James Baldwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Sandra Cisneros, and Chris Kraus were recirculated and reimagined by various internet communities and political movements, such as Black Lives Matter and the Librotraficante Movement. By drawing on social media data, interviews, archival materials, and literary analysis, she shows how these internet users collaboratively reinterpreted and redefined postwar American literary history—often exploiting, even while being exploited by, billion-dollar internet corporations.