As a TA for NYU’s British Literature II survey this semester, I’ve been encouraging students to consider printing history and the material qualities of texts in order to understand the complex literary and social satire we’re encountering. Over and over again—in works from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to Swift’s Tale of a Tub, Addison and Steele’s Spectator, and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones—we’re finding that eighteenth-century authors spend inordinate amounts of time discussing their own processes of writing, reading, editing, and printing. I almost always include images and objects in class, but this semester I decided to turn the students into archivists as well. Each week, a few students research the publication history of that weeks reading, choose an interesting archival material, and post an image and description of the material on our class blog. So far, their findings have ranged from Robert Boyle’s 1692 treatise on A General History of the Air to a 1929 review of a new one-volume edition of Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Roxana. Check out the results at the BritPub.

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