A miscellany: wandering woodcuts, Greifswald glosses, digital Defoes and Thompson tributes

Brodie Waddell

Several things have come to my attention over the last few weeks that deserve wider attention. Although I don’t have time to provide much commentary, I think our readers will find some of them of interest.

The first concerns the wonderfully rough images that so frequently appear in our posts: broadside ballad woodcuts. The Bodleian Library recently announced the launch of an image-matching tool that will allow researchers to easily search for the many versions of a specific image across the library’s whole collection of ballad sheets. Eleanor Shevlin discusses the new tool in more detail over at EMOB. In light of Mark’s posts on early modern representations of working people, it would be fascinating to know how particular ‘occupational’ images are reused and recycled in different contexts and perhaps given quite different meanings.

The second is Beat Kümin’s historical travelogue, Greifswald Glosses, exploring the largely autonomous parish communities in early modern Northern Germany. As a professor at Warwick, Beat is well-known to us here at the Monster and his blog offers a remarkable (and remarkably well-informed) look at the towns, churches, landscapes and even graffiti of this part of the former Holy Roman Empire. I think my personal favourite was the fourteenth-century gargoyle/collection-box at St Jacobi in Göttingen, but you may prefer the ruminations on low-ranked local football teams or the semi-fortified round churches of Bornholm.

The third is an amusing ‘pop history’ article in The Atlantic on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year (1722). It’s a well-researched piece, based on an interview with the Defoe scholar Katherine Ellison and incorporating plenty of (anachronistic) pictures, but what makes it interesting to me it that it is written by the magazine’s tech writer. The short version of his argument is basically that Defoe was an early modern blogger and, unlike some of today’s bloggers, he approached the wealth of information provided by that era’s new technology (e.g. newspapers) with a critical eye. I’m not sure I’m actually convinced, but it’s great to see another side of early modern history (beyond Henry VIII, Shakespeare and Oliver Cromwell) receiving some thoughtful discussion in such a high profile outlet.

Finally, Katrina Navickas has a post at History and Today on E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963). There are, as she notes, a great many tributes and events happening this year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its publication. However, what I enjoyed was hearing a little about her relationship with the materiality of the book itself, in all its tattered, dog-eared glory. I think I probably find myself reaching for Thompson’s Customs in Common (1991) more often than MEWC, yet I’m still strangely comforted to have a decent edition of the latter nearby. In her words, ‘despite my “digital humanism”, I still need those yellowed and annotated pages of the Penguin paperback to really get to the heart of Thompson’s writing’.

Shorter notices

Our very own Laura Sangha has set up a twitter feed for her students of ‘Religion, Society and Culture in Tudor England’: Tudorists rejoice! Grad students in and around London interested in early modern history really ought take a look at the talks hosted by the Birkbeck Early Modern society (and their tweets too). And lastly I belatedly wanted to thank the Birkbeck History PhD bloggers for reblogging one of our posts and recommend that all BBK doctoral students check them out.

[Update (07/02/13): Co-blogger Jonathan Willis is also tweeting (@CREMS_Bham) for Birmingham’s Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies.]

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4 thoughts on “A miscellany: wandering woodcuts, Greifswald glosses, digital Defoes and Thompson tributes

  1. Great stuff Brodie: the Bodleian ballads image matching tool seems pregnant with all sorts of possibilities. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to use this sort of technology to search across all early modern printed works, tracking particular iconographies across genres, decades, and even national borders! Not one to pass up on the chance for some free publicity, Birmingham’s Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies also has its own twitter feed, which I’m currently managing: @CREMS_Bham. It’s currently a home for all sorts: comments on papers, information about conferences, miscellaneous images and generally all things early modern!

    • Yes, I hadn’t thought of that, but there is no reason why the image search couldn’t be extended much further than just ballads. That would be quite a powerful tool!

      Thanks for the reminder about the CREMS tweets. I’ve added a quick update to the post.

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