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.
By the Author of...
Our inaugural episodes of each season have thus far begun with beloved canonical authors: Jane Austen in Season One, Frances Burney in Season Two. This season, we’ve turned to an anonymous author—one whose identity is still a mystery. In 1808, The Woman of Colour was published, with its byline simply reading “By the author of "Light and Shade," "The Aunt and the Niece," "Ebersfield Abby", &c.” Those titles link to more titles, which link to more titles, which link to—! In this first episode of Season 3, Kandice dives into this tangled attribution chain, asking, which titles are attached to which? How many times? Who published them? What layers of influence do they reveal?
Featuring audio from a podcast brainstorming session, this episode invites listeners behind-the-scenes and into the delightfully messy reality of research (and podcasting!) to kick off Season 3 of the WPHP Monthly Mercury.
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/108
Season 2 in Review
As we prepare to launch Season 3 of the The WPHP Monthly Mercury later this week, project director Michelle Levy takes a look back at Season 2. Putting it into conversation with Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein's Data Feminism (2020) and Katherine Bode's A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History (2018), Michelle thinks about the work our podcast has engaged in over the last year.
The Queen of the Disciplines (feat. Lisa Shapiro)
Throughout the month of March, the WPHP has been posting Spotlights about women philosophers in print in the WPHP as part of our Women & Philosophy Spotlight Series to celebrate Women’s History Month. Contributors to the series include research assistants Angela Wachowich, Belle Eist, Isabelle Burrows, Tammy T., and project director Michelle Levy, who wrote about the anonymous ‘Sophia, a Person of Quality,’ Margaret Cavendish, Harriet Martineau, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Ann Williams.
Finding women philosophers in the WPHP is not necessarily a straightforward task: we don’t include philosophy as a genre, as research assistant Angela Wachowich, organizer of the Series, discovered during some of her work on early feminist writing last year. Turning to Lisa Shapiro’s New Narratives Bibliography of Works by Women Philosophers of the Past, Angela identified a number of women philosophers who we do, indeed, have in the WPHP—but that she had to use the New Narratives Bibliography to find them illustrates how the WPHP data model does not (and cannot) render visible every genre. It also, however, demonstrates how digital humanities projects from different disciplines can speak to each other.
And that is precisely what we did for this month’s episode: we invited Lisa Shapiro, director of the Extending New Narratives Partnership Project, to chat with us about women philosophers, the difficulty of genre, the narratives in entrenched canons (and the cross-disciplinary urge to name a canon), and the importance of discipline-specific recovery efforts.
Lisa Shapiro is Professor of Philosophy at Simon Fraser University. Her research is focused on accounts of human nature in the 17th century, along two general tracks. She has been interested in the place of the passions in accounts of the relations of human beings to the world around them, and their understanding of that world. She is currently the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC-funded Extending New Narratives Partnership Project, which aims to retrieve philosophical works of women and individuals from other marginalized groups and sustain the presence of these figures in the history of philosophy, and part of that project includes the New Narratives Bibliography of Works by Women Philosophers of the Past.
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/105
Transatlantic Trajectories (feat. Melissa J. Homestead)
In July 2020, project lead Michelle Levy and lead editor Kandice Sharren attended a virtual workshop hosted by Amy Tims at the American Antiquarian Society titled “Searching the AAS Catalog: Keyword & Browse.” This workshop introduced them to the many specific and useful headings of the American Antiquarian Society catalog, including some that we were particularly excited for given that we see them in resources so rarely: “women as authors” and “women as publishers and printers.” In November 2021, the WPHP used these headings to import more than 6000 title records from the American Antiquarian Society. Our thrilling plunge into titles printed in the United States is something we’ve been anticipating, and started preparing for over the last two years: we added a ‘copyright statement’ field, for example, so that we could capture the copyright information located on the verso of the title page of many American titles.
While our team of research assistants works diligently to clean up these imported records and make them available to the public, we have been starting to think about what having this data in the WPHP might tell us about the transatlantic reprinting of women’s writing during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the process, we have had to grapple with new questions about how to best represent American titles within our data model. Thankfully, WPHP contributing scholar Dr. Melissa J. Homestead came to our rescue!
In Episode 9, “Transatlantic Trajectories,” hosts Kate Moffatt and Kandice Sharren introduce listeners to some of the joys and hiccups of the recent American import by way of a lively chat with Dr. Melissa J. Homestead about women’s American and transatlantic publishing. In it, we discuss transatlantic authors Susanna Rowson and Catharine Maria Sedgwick, as well as American copyright and its intricacies during the period, how studying book history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can inform similar research in the twentieth, and the altar of chronology (with a special focus on Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, too!).
Melissa J. Homestead is Professor of English and Program Faculty in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Having worked on authors from Susanna Rowson to Willa Cather, she considers her field to be American women’s writing, authorship, and publishing history of the very long nineteenth century. She is the author of American Women Authors and Literary Property, 1822-1869 (Cambridge University Press 2005) and The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis (Oxford University Press 2021). She is Associate Editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather: A Digital Edition (ongoing), has collaborated on bibliographies of the works of Catharine Maria Sedgwick and E. D. E. N. Southworth, serves as President of the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society, and is a member of the Board of Governors of the National Willa Cather Center. Cather expressed less than complimentary opinions in print about Southworth but, alas, she evidently never heard of Sedgwick.
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/96
Mary Hays, Mapped (feat. Timothy Whelan)
In 1803, Mary Hays published the six-volume work Female Biography, a substantial work of scholarship that relied on more than one hundred sources to write biographies about more than 300 hundred women. But how did Hays, a Dissenting writer of moderate means, access all of those books?
To find out, we invited Dr. Timothy Whelan to talk all things Mary Hays, but especially her literary environs, which included relationships with Dissenting booksellers, connections with the Godwin circle, a number of the biggest and most successful circulating libraries of the time, including the Minerva Press and Hookham’s, and residences across London that were never more than a five-minute walk from a library or a bookshop. And we meander through London itself, where Dr. Whelan tracked more than just where Hays’ likely found her sources for her History: he mapped Hays’ residences, the residences of her large extended family, the booksellers and circulating libraries around her locations, Dissenting booksellers, and the chapels of Dissenters in London—a variety of networks that, as it turns out, are far more interwoven than one could have anticipated without the help of Dr. Whelan’s seven-by-seven foot map.
Dr. Timothy Whelan is a Professor of English at Georgia Southern University. He works in the area of women’s studies and at the intersection of religion and literature in the lives of British and American Nonconformist women writers between 1650 and 1850, with a particular focus on various Romantic writers, both men and women, and their interaction with religious Dissent. He was the general editor for Pickering and Chatto’s eight-volume collection of Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720–1840, and some of his recent publications include an article in Publishing History called, “Mary Lewis and her Family of Printers and Booksellers, 1 Paternoster Row, 1749-1812” and an article in Women’s Writing called “Room[s] of her Own”: Libraries and Residences in the Later Career of Mary Hays, 1814–1828.” To learn more about his work on Mary Hays, you can visit his website https://www.maryhayslifewritingscorrespondence.com, and to learn more about his work on Non-Conformist women, including booksellers, visit his website https://www.nonconformistwomenwriters1650-1850.com/.
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/95
The Business of Gossip
In Episode 7 of Season 2 of The WPHP Monthly Mercury, “The Business of Gossip,” hosts Kate and Kandice follow the highly successful Henry Colburn, leading publisher of fiction in the early nineteenth century, across his three main business addresses in London—and in so doing, explore how the publisher prompted, encouraged, and engaged with gossip.
The subject of much gossip himself, Colburn’s origins are unknown (although rumoured to be noble), his less-savoury business practices are disparaged by his partners (with good reason), and his reputation, even into scholarship until very recently, is extremely poor. Drawing on research from John Sutherland and Veronica Melnyk, this episode explores the timeline of Colburn’s 47-year career and how, exactly, certain narratives about him were established, and have since been corrected.
Featuring such authors as Sydney, Lady Morgan, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Letitia Elizabeth Landon, and such publishers and book trades members as Saunders and Otley, and Richard Bentley, we traipse through the landscape of Colburn’s publishing practice as it moved through London (and, briefly, Windsor), sharing what each new address wrought or signified for the publisher and what such considerations of business and gossip might tell us about the role of gossip in the book trades more generally.
If you're interested in learning more about this topic, we've posted a blog post with links, resources, and suggestions for further reading on the WPHP site: https://womensprinthistoryproject.com/blog/post/93
Intelligent women undermined by compulsive giggling
These women are obviously knowledgeable and intelligent. Their topic is terrifically interesting. However, I can’t tolerate the compulsive giggling—it’s grating. I gave up trying to listen.