Dr Daisy Hay: Dinner with Joseph Johnson

Thursday 8th Feb: 5-6pm, Edith Morley G10, Whiteknights campus

Joseph Johnson, Bookseller.

Daisy Hay is the author of Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives and Mr and Mrs Disraeli: A Strange Romance. In this talk she will outline the shape of her current project, a book provisionally entitled Dinner with Joseph Johnson. Joseph Johnson published many of the writers we associate with the early Romantic period, and every week at his dinner table he brought them together, welding them into a shifting community with overlapping passions and preoccupations. In the late eighteenth century the makers of books were the makers of dreams, producing groups who between them created new kinds of literature, new conceptions of creativity, and new national narratives. Dinner with Joseph Johnson will position Johnson at the centre of a group biography whose cast will include Anna Barbauld, Sarah Trimmer, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, William Cowper, Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Henry Fuseli, Theophilus Lindsey, William Blake, Thomas Paine, Charlotte Smith and Maria Edgeworth, among others. In her paper Daisy will sketch out some of the creative and technical challenges inherent in shaping a narrative out of this cast list, discuss matters of biographical process, and share some early thoughts about the way in which Johnson’s dealings with his authors reveal the dynamics of the circle he created.

Dr Daisy Hay
Senior Lecturer, English Literature and Archival Studies
University of Exeter
01392 722452



Dr Hazel Wilkinson (JRF, Cambridge) ‘The Digital Life of Decorated Books’

Please join us for the next Archives & Texts seminar: Thursday 1st December, 1-2 in Humss G25, where Dr Hazel Wilkinson (JRF, Cambridge and visiting fellow at the Bodleian) will be introducing the newly launched Fleuron https://fleuron.lib.cam.ac.uk/

“The Digital Life of Decorated Books”

Throughout the hand press period the pages of printed books and ephemera were far more elaborately decorated than their modern counterparts. Printers’ ornaments were a staple of the printing house until they fell out of fashion in the late eighteenth century. Hand cut and cast blocks were used alongside ornamental type to decorate title pages, headings, blank spaces, and initial letters. Printers’ ornaments ranged from small, geometric shapes to large and elaborate depictions of landscapes, dramatised scenes, objects, and mythical and exotic creatures. In both literary criticism and art history, printers’ ornaments have fallen through the gap between the categories of “illustration” and “text”. Almost never reproduced in critical editions, their important mediation of the reader’s experience of the text has been all but forgotten, and a treasure trove of miniature works of art and graphic design has been neglected.


In this talk, Hazel Wilkinson will introduce a new online resource called Fleuron, a database of more than 15 million eighteenth-century printers’ ornaments. The talk will include a demonstration of Fleuron, and an explanation of the methodology behind its creation, followed by a discussion of the multi-disciplinary research questions we will be able to ask with Fleuron. The aim of the talk is to show that mass digitisation—often seen as the enemy of print—is creating new ways of creatively re-connecting with the material features of historical books.

Dr Hazel Wilkinson, Junior Research Fellow, Cambridge cxdwgfxwgaav8z7

Professor Alexis Weedon and Professor Bob Owens (University of Bedfordshire), ‘Researching the Publishing History of The Pilgrim’s Progress’, Monday 27th January, 5pm


John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the best-selling books of all time. First published in 1678, with a Second Part in 1684, it has appeared in over 1,500 editions. It has been adapted into many other media forms, and it has been translated into over 200 languages. This remarkable publishing and cultural phenomenon has never been adequately studied. This paper discusses our plan for a research project to record, analyse and make available bibliographical details of all known editions, translations and adaptations of this work, together with its reception history. The paper will outline some of the methodological issues we face in such a large-scale project in Publishing History.

Humss 127

Refreshments provided. All welcome!

‘Messy Modernism: Looking for Woolf, Eliot, Joyce and others in Publishers’ Archives’ by Dr Lise Jaillant, University of British Columbia, Wednesday 8th May


Abstract: As literary scholars, what kind of archival documents do we consider “valuable” and worthy of scholarly inquiry?
Traditionally, many scholars of modernism have favoured the literary
manuscripts and letters of writers preserved in well-catalogued collections, while
publisher’s archives have been neglected. In particular, the archives
of commercial publishers have received little attention. Yet, in the
late 1920s and early 1930s, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot and James
Joyce were no longer coterie writers published only by small
presses and little magazines. They were courted by large-scale,
commercial publishers and started appearing in cheap series of reprints.
Drawing on research in the archives of Oxford University Press and
Chatto & Windus, I will argue for the need to engage in extensive work
in often-messy publisher’s archives to further our understanding
of modernism and the market.

Lise Jaillant has recently defended her PhD on the Modern Library series at
the University of British Columbia. This talk is based on her new project on
European publisher’s series, supported by a Mellon fellowship at the
Institute of Historical Research (University of London). Jaillant has articles published or forthcoming in James Joyce Quarterly, Book History, Studies in the Novel and Clio:
A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History.

5pm, Humss 188

All welcome – please come along!