Ileana Baird, ed. Data Visualization in Enlightenment Literature and Culture.

Over ten finely documented and illustrated chapters, Ileana Baird and her twelve contributing writers offer scholars of the long eighteenth century (1660-c1800) a timely high-tech methodology:  graphical conveyance of information. Baird’s new book, Data Visualization in Enlightenment Literature and Culture (2022), demonstrates the utility of content imaging. Baird and her writers have constructed datasets of research on selected topics in visually accessible designs: graphs, tables, figures, tabulations, charts, clustering, topic modeling, network graphs, data mapping,

Frances E. Dolan. Digging the Past: How and Why to Imagine Seventeenth Century Agriculture.

The goal of Digging the Past  is stated early with the question, “Is it possible to approach the seventeenth century, in its failed proposals and successful ventures, as a resource for imagining future agriculture in fruitful ways?” Frances E. Dolan seeks to answer this question by offering “a fine grained case study that proposes to enrich our understanding of the value of the past. (page seven) The method consists of examining the letters, diaries, notebooks, botanicals, pamphlets, as well as plays, poems and ‘how to’ guides. Among the topics subsequently covered are histories of food and work, literary criticism of the pastoral, histories of elite and vernacular science, of reading and writing practices and so on. This leads to an examination of agricultural topics such as composting and soil amendment, local food, natural wine and hedgerows. Along the way, we also encounter such varied topics from Shakespeare to cannibalism.  An extensive and well documented bibliography testifies to the wide-ranging scholarship that supports this book. 

Reid Byers. The Private Library: The History of the Architecture and Furnishing of the Domestic Bookroom. Terence Dooley and Christopher Ridgway (editors). Country House Collections: Their Lives and Afterlives.

In 1883, Jules Richard wrote that once a bibliophile has a collection of more than a thousand volumes, the room where they are kept quickly becomes a shrine – ‘devient vite un temple’. Reid Byers cites this observation (p. 4), and it reflects the central theme of his long and interesting book. He opens with a discussion of the simple rooms that held the clay tablets of Sumer and Babylon, and describes the book-boxes in which the Egyptians and the early Greeks put their papyrus scrolls. The rooms in which these chests were kept define what Byers calls ‘type one’ libraries.  Private collections seem to have existed by at least 1500 BCE in Egypt, and were relatively common among scholars by the time of the great philosophers of the Greek ‘Golden Age’.

Kim Wilkins, Beth Driscoll, and Lisa Fletcher. Genre Worlds: Popular Fiction and Twenty-First-Century Book Culture.

In 2017, I reviewed Jeremy Rosen’s exploration of genre and late 20th/21st century publishing in Minor Characters Have Their Day for SHARP News. So it seems only fitting that 5 years later I have the opportunity to review Genre Worlds: Popular Fiction and Twenty-First-Century Book Culture by Kim Wilkins, Beth Driscoll, and Lisa Fletcher. Genre Worlds is a more expansive examination of genre in popular fiction than the work of Rosen and many others, and provides an important framework for the study of genre fiction. Genre Worlds follows an organizational structure that addresses the theory of genre worlds, relationship to the publishing industry, transnational and transmedia genre worlds, community and creativity, genre sociality (online and in-person), the texts themselves, concluding with genre worlds and change.

James W. Watts and Yohan Yoo (eds.). Books as Bodies and as Sacred Beings.

The volume, edited by James W. Watts and Yohan Hoo, is a thought-provoking addition to our discipline as it expands the study on sacred texts by looking at them attaining the status of bodies, as well as body practices that merge with the materiality and immateriality of texts. Watts is a professor of religion who has focused on the rituals that surround scriptures. Many of the chapters are grounded on the three dimensions of sacred texts proposed by Watts himself: semantic, expressive or performative, and iconic. The first one refers to textual interpretation; the second to how a text gets materialized through the body by being read, memorized, sung or acted; while the last one refers to the material form and visual appearance of a text.