Andrew Stauffer on the Future of the Print Record

Each of the panelists on our roundtable will present a few opening remarks before we turn to discussion. I’ve asked them each for a teaser, which I’ll post over the next several days. Next up, Andrew Stauffer, Director of NINES and associate professor of English at the University of Virginia.

What is the future of the nineteenth-century? In the wake of Google Books and the wide-scale digitization of library materials, printed books from this era are at particular risk. Most pre-1800 imprints have been moved to special collections, and most books printed after 1923 remain in copyright in the US (and thus on the shelves for circulation). But, as more people turn to digital surrogates instead of library copies, we face the downsizing of our historic print collections. What’s more, a large number of these volumes have been uniquely modified by their original owners: perhaps 10% of our national circulating collections of pre-1923 books contain annotations and other historical evidence of use (with books relevant to literary studies showing particularly heavy levels of marking). The Book Traces project is a crowd-sourced attempt to discover these unique copies in the stacks, and to help make the case more generally for bibliodiversity in our research collections. Book Traces will also gather evidence for the copy-based analysis of the history of reading and book-use in the long nineteenth century. Now is the moment for humanities faculty and librarians to work together to develop systems for discovering, cataloguing, and preserving the historical evidence in our collective circulating collections.

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