The WPHP Monthly Mercury is the podcast of The Women's Print History Project, a digital bibliographical database that recovers and discovers women’s print history for the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries (womensprinthistoryproject.com). Inspired by the titles of periodicals of the period, the WPHP Monthly Mercury dives into the gritty and gorgeous details of investigating women’s work as authors and labourers in the book trades.
The Ecology of Databases
Why hasn’t the third edition of Hannah More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife been digitized? Why doesn’t GoogleBooks group the different volumes of multi-volume works together in a single catalogue record? And, what do authors and pandas have in common? We bemoan the limitations of our various sources on a monthly basis, but this month we’re digging into why they exist in the first place—especially why digitization can be so uneven.
In Episode 6 of Season 2 of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, “The Ecology of Databases,” co-hosts Kate Moffatt and Kandice Sharren are joined by Lawrence Evalyn to learn more about the issue of uneven digitization. In addition to giving us the hard numbers about which titles appear in the ESTC, ECCO, The Text Creation Partnership, and HathiTrust, Lawrence puts forward his "charismatic megafauna" theory of authorship, shares moon prophecies and invitations to meetings about waterway management, and details the searching strategies he used during the WPHP Summer Readathon.
Lawrence Evalyn is currently a "pre-doc postdoc," both a Ph.D Candidate and a Teaching Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of Toronto, where he is affiliated with the Digital Humanities Network and the Data Sciences Institute. His dissertation, "Database Representations of English literature, 1789-99," measures and historicizes uneven digitization in four resources to examine how digital infrastructure shapes eighteenth-century studies, especially the study of women's writing. His collaborative digital humanities publications include "One Loveheart At A Time," an article on emoji in Digital Humanities Quarterly. He holds a Masters in English from the University of Victoria, where his M.A. essay, supervised by Robert Miles, looked for large-scale trends in late eighteenth century Gothic novels.
If you're interested in learning more about what we discussed in this episode, you can find resources and suggestions for further reading here: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/91
The Witching Hour
In last October's episode, “Of Monks and Mountains!!!” Kate and Kandice each read a gothic novel found in the WPHP, and it was so much fun that we simply had to do it again. For Season 2, Episode 5, “The Witching Hour”, we read books about witches — almost every book that mentions witches in the title in the WPHP, in fact! (There are only five.)
But within that small sample, we found a full spectrum of representations of witches and witchcraft, from the fantastical (and silly) woodland witches in Alethea Lewis’s The Nuns of the Desert (1805), to Joanna Baillie’s spine-tingling play, Witchcraft (1836), which is set against the backdrop of the Scottish witch hunt—and everything in between.
Join us for the fifth episode of Season 2, “The Witching Hour,” to learn more about why we only found five titles, what those titles told us about the role of witchcraft in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural imagination, and (most importantly) which title we awarded the coveted label of “bonkers.” But be warned—recording this episode gave Kate nightmares.
If you're interested in learning more about what we discussed in this episode, you can find resources and suggestions for further reading here: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/89
Cheap Thrills (Pay Lemoine's Bills)
In 1794, Ann Lemoine’s husband, Henry, who was an author and publisher, went to debtor’s prison—this led to their separation, and the following year, Ann Lemoine began her own publishing business in White Rose Court in London. Between 1795 and the early 1820s, it is estimated that Ann Lemoine published, printed, and sold more than 400 titles, and explored new and inventive ways of packaging and reselling the cheap print she was known for publishing: chapbooks.
In this episode, hosts Kate and Kandice are joined by WPHP Research Assistant Sara Penn, who undertook entering the many titles Lemoine produced into the database and has become our resident Lemoine expert. We share some of Sara’s conversation with Dr. Roy Bearden-White, explore the history of the chapbook — including the difficulties of defining the term itself — and the significance of cheap print, the challenges of including it in the database, and chat about the labour involved in working with female publishers, printers, or booksellers, or forms of print that are lacking in bibliographical sources.
You can find more resources and information about this episode, including a bibliography and suggestions for further reading, on the WPHP site: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/88
A Brief Journey through Women's Travel Writing in the Summer of 2021
Throughout the month of August, we’ve been sharing Spotlights on the WPHP site as part of the “Around the World with Six Women” Spotlight Series on travel writing. In this month’s episode, hosts Kate Moffatt and Kandice Sharren are joined by the authors of the Spotlight Series, who share what they have learned during their vicarious journeys through France, Italy, Germany, India, Chile, Rome, China, the Red Sea, and the Scottish Highlands. Along the route we touch on the stakes of travel writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in terms of British imperialism and colonial forces, and how considering these stakes can help us contextualize the genre. Our conversation also prompted us to consider the stakes of our own travel, now that the world is opening up and travel is once again becoming a possibility.
You can find more resources and information about this episode, including a bibliography and suggestions for further reading, on the WPHP site: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/84
Collected, Catalogued, Counted
In 2016, Dr. Kirstyn Leuner shared data from her project, The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing, with the WPHP — in particular, the Virtual International Authority Files she and her team had attached to their person records. This month, she joins us to chat all things Stainforth, databases, and cataloguing, including the kinds of data her team has been working with and collecting, the project decisions that have had to be made along the way, the hidden and not-so-hidden gems the Stainforth catalogue contains, and the many commonalities our projects share in their efforts to recover women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Stainforth on!
You can find more resources and information about this episode, including a bibliography and suggestions for further reading, on the WPHP site: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/80
Oh! Those Fashionable Burney Novels!
Welcome back! In the first episode of Season 2 of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, hosts Kate Moffatt and Kandice Sharren delve into the publication history of Frances Burney’s first two (and most popular) novels, Evelina (1778) and Cecilia (1782). Although both were regularly reprinted well into the nineteenth century, we recently realised that the WPHP was missing the post-1800 editions of these works (although it did already hold all of the editions of her two far less popular novels, Camilla (1796) and The Wanderer (1814) — thank goodness!). In this episode, we explore why these titles were missing and our subsequent task: creating an as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it bibliography of Frances Burney’s novels up to 1836.
As always, you can find more resources and information about this episode, including a bibliography and suggestions for further reading, on the WPHP site: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/76
Podcast offering a unique perspective
Valuable podcast. Love Kandace!
I love this show!
The perfect mix of academic and accessible. Highly recommend to anyone interested in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature.
Great podcast for the public
Valuable content and easy to follow. A fantastic resource for those who enjoy learning about books produced by women!