The New York Times recently gave a shout-out to "The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe," a new digital humanities research initiative to explore historical reading practices through the lens of manuscript annotations preserved in early printed books. The Johns Hopkins University's Sheridan Libraries and its partners, the University College London's Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) and the Princeton University Library, have been awarded a $488,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement the project.
A short feature in the popular Arts Beat blog quotes Earle Havens, the curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Sheridan Libraries who is one of three principal investigators on the international project. Havens told The Times that though the idea of studying notes in the margins of old books has been gathering momentum, "the lack of cataloging and other technical issues have made it difficult for researchers to move beyond a piecemeal approach to the subject."
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"Your university's library could hold William Shakespeare's annotated copy of the Bible, but if the person tasked to catalogue the book from the original object does not read the Elizabethan secretary hand, you would never know it was there," he said by email. "We hope that our project will also help advance accessibility to this vast archive of original manuscript source materials from the Renaissance that is almost entirely inaccessible."