Short takes . . . .

1.  The Guardian has a nice review of Vic Gattrell’s City of Laughter.  Has anyone used this for their courses? (Courtesy of

2.  Greg at Slawkenbergius gives us a nice reading of Addison’s “peregrinating shilling,” with a nifty reference to Deleuzian flows of commerce at the end.

3.  Sharon at EMN directs us to Anthony Grafton’s latest essay at the New Yorker, including a very useful accompanying group of links.  I was particularly taken by the long-term interest in the retrieval of information, through note-taking systems like this one:

Fast, reliable methods of search and retrieval are sometimes identified as the hallmark of our information age; “Search is everything” has become a proverb. But scholars have had to deal with too much information for millennia, and in periods when information resources were multiplying especially fast they devised ingenious ways to control the floods. The Renaissance, during which the number of new texts threatened to become overwhelming, was the great age of systematic note-taking. Manuals such as Jeremias Drexel’s “Goldmine”—the frontispiece of which showed a scholar taking notes opposite miners digging for literal gold—taught students how to condense and arrange the contents of literature by headings. Scholars well grounded in this regime, like Isaac Casaubon, spun tough, efficient webs of notes around the texts of their books and in their notebooks—hundreds of Casaubon’s books survive—and used them to retrieve information about everything from the religion of Greek tragedy to Jewish burial practices. Jacques Cujas, a sixteenth-century legal scholar, astonished visitors to his study when he showed them the rotating barber’s chair and movable bookstand that enabled him to keep many open books in view at the same time. Thomas Harrison, a seventeenth-century English inventor, devised a cabinet that he called the Ark of Studies: readers could synopsize and excerpt books and then arrange their notes by subject on a series of labelled metal hooks, somewhat in the manner of a card index. The German philosopher Leibniz obtained one of Harrison’s cabinets and used it in his research.

It was also interesting to me how difficult it has been for entrepeneurs to find a proper business model for their digitization efforts, which have resulted in the scattered, incomplete, and/or abandoned projects that have built up ever since microfilm projects were started in the 1940s, even when there were plentiful library dollars to buy such collections.  The unevenness of these collections means that libraries and scholars will need to devote resources to cataloguing and retrieval among multiple, large-scale digital collections.

4.  The Tenured Radical has a very nice post up about giving good conference papers.  I try to do most of these things already.  But Carrie will tell you that I do wave my arms around too much. That’s why I prefer blogging.




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