Society for History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing Conference Recap
Serendipitously I was walking between sessions and met Cassie Brand. She was a first timer but also a doctoral student at Drew University and a rare book and manuscript librarian. Clearly she knew a lot more than I did about this field. Cassie had worked in publishing but had been drawn to the scholarly/library world for various reasons. One singular reason was her discovery that librarians and book history scholars are very collaborative and inclusive, and that helped draw her into the field. She commented on the congenial and nonhierarchal atmosphere at this specific conference. Not that other academic conferences aren't congenial, but we both sensed a heightened degree of that reality during this gathering. When a group of scholars are "discovering" and establishing a new academic discipline, then maybe the only way forward is through collaboration across academic and geographic lines.
My long time publishing colleague, Allen Fisher, who was attending as an independent scholar, noted, "This year's conference felt like a changing of the guard. While older scholars remain active, recent PhDs and grad students were present in increasing numbers. The rise in energy was palpable." Those younger scholars were bringing new areas of research and new ideas to this field, and like Cassie, they were welcome in a variety of academic departments.
Although I am not a trained researcher I did notice different methodological approaches and research conventions. It should not have surprised me since the discussion of how the History of the Book research fits into the standard academic curriculum was one of the major reasons I think this field is so creative and interesting. Should it be studied in departments of History? Literature? Sociology? Geography (with GIS, Geographic Information Systems analysis)? Comparative Literature? Library and Information Science? Where? Or all? My sense was that all are appropriate and all will continue to be loci for research. Scholars from all of those departments were in attendance. It did explain why there was such a wide variety and type of presentation.