Research about The Journal of a Mission to The Interior of Africa in the Year 1805 by Mungo Park

The character and the story in this book

Mungo Park is the author of the original book. He was born in 1771 and died in 1806 [1]. In history, he was the first traveller from the west who was known to have travelled to the central portion of the Niger River, to explore the west of Africa. The two well-known books published by him were about his journeys to discover the unknowns in the interior of Africa during the late seventeenth century to the early eighteenth century.

<The journal of a mission to the interior of Africa in the year 1805> was written about his second exploration (from the year 1805 to 1806, was sponsored by the Colonial Office of the government) as the 2nd volume, which is considered to be a continuation of his 1st volume book, <Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa> published in 1779 [2]. It was exactly on the date of January 31, 1805 that Mungo Park started his journey [2]. Although his second journey was financially supported by the government and much better prepared compared to his first journey, and especially many people went together with him to support him, this journey turned out to be a tragedy in history, leaving a mystery of Mungo Park’s death to both his family and the fans of his first book.

The content and the publication of this book

This book was published in 1815 by the African Institution (who sponsored his first travel), after Mr. Park’s death [1]. So this book was actually not written by Mungo Park, even though the author is listed as Mungo Park. It is recorded that the content was based on the letters that Mr. Park gave to a Mandingo guide to take back to Gambia for transmission to Britain during his tough expedition [2]. By reading the book, we can see those journals and letters were full of constant dangers and thrill of the age of exploration. Those dangers include: terrible weather, local hostility, tropical diseases and the death of nearly all his people supporting him including his brother-in-law.

It includes 8 black and white illustrations inside of this book. It is said those illustrations was Mr. Park’s drawings and sketches, illustrative of particular descriptions that was passed to Britain [1].

From the letter, we could see the spirit during the time period that Mr. Park began the final stage of his enterprise is well illustrated and expressed through the letters. Here is one of the letters Mr. Park wrote:

I shall, set sail for the east with the fixed resolution to discover the termination of the Niger or perish in the attempt. Though all the Europeans who are with me should die, and though I were myself half dead, I would still persevere; and if I could not succeed in the object of my journey, I would at least die on the Niger.” [1]

To his wife, Mr. Park wrote of his intention not to stop nor land anywhere until he reached the coast, where he expected to arrive at about the end of January 1806 [1].

The assessment of historical achievement of this book

Compared with his first journey, apparently this second journey was assessed with less achievement by modern scholars. In the estimation of Robin Hallett [3] and Professor Adu Boahen [4] that, “it is the first journey, rather than the second, which is important in the history of the European penetration of West Africa.” The reason behind this can be summarized in two aspects. On the one hand, in his first journey, Mungo Park travelled alone from the Gambia to the Niger instead of with many people who could support him along the way, and he was forced to return back when he could not go any further himself; On the other hand, hi second journey was evaluated as the forerunner of an army coming to conqueror another country’s territory [2].

In addition, we can search out lots of information about the readers of Mungo Parker’ writings reading reviews and reactions about his first book, but very little or even no such information of his second book. We can compare these two columns in the following aspects:

1) Authorial portrait included or not

When turning on these two book, we can see the difference. In his 1799 book, we can see an authorial portrait of Mungo Park is included. But it was not included in this second book.

2) Bestseller record

It is said that when <travels in the Interior Districts of Africa> was published in April, it became an instant success, necessitating two more editions of the book after the first sold out within a week, and after that German, French, and American editions by published in 1800 [5]. However, we are not able to find any information about his second book’s selling. From the editions, we notice that his second book only had two editions published, and from the “Advertisement to the second edition” section in the book it said “In consequence of the favourable reception which this publication has experienced, the editor has availed himself of the opportunity afforded by a second edition” [2], so we believe his second book should have sold not bad.

3) Mungo Park’s personal reliability and credibility

Another reason of his book can be sold successful can be result from Mungo Park’s writing style and personal credibility. It is said that at the same time the publication of another adventurous travelling book titled <Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile> with the author James Bruce (a traveller and writer) had been failed. In the readers’ view, this author appeared to contemporaries as boastful and inauthentic [2]. In contrast, Mungo Park overcame the credibility problem by adopting an ordinary man as the persona, and also deleting information that might have seemed exaggerated to contemporary British readers, and keeping to the pattern announced in his preface [2]. In addition, Mungo Park’s travel experience was regarded as credible, which was partially increasing by his personal credentials as the occupation of a surgeon, the sponsorship of African Association, and by an appendix by Major James Rennell [2]. Even now in book publishing, the author’s personal credibility is also an important factor for the selling of his books, which seems to be true all the time.

4) Readers’ reactions

In his book, Mungo Park set a tone of honest description, showing what Africa was really like for those Europeans in that period time that the majority did not get access to, and no information was available to them for that unexplored continent. After his death, big interest in Africa was arisen among the public and the political authority. It is said that “Since then, many had gone to their graves following in Park’s footsteps, fascinated by his tales of deserts, mountains, tribal peoples, and the fabled gold of Timbuktu” [6].

The publisher John Murray was a big one

As an English publisher, John Murray is known for the many authors it has published in its history. Founded in London in 1768 by John Murray I (1737–1793), it was succeeded by his son, John Murray II, who made the publishing house one of the most important and influential in Britain during his time [7]. It was at John Murray II’s time that this second book of Mungo Park was published.

There are two reasons of John Murray II had made his family business success: One reason is by marring with Anne Elliot. Her father was Charles Elliot, who had been a major Edinburgh publisher. As a result of this marriage union, all of Charles Elliot’s papers were ended up in John Murray’s publication Archive [8]. Another reason, also the most important strategy is that he made good friends with many leading writers and kept good relationships with them. For example, he launched the Quarterly Review in 1809 with many leading writers at that period of time. It is said that his home and office addressed at 50 Albemarle Street in Mayfair was the centre of a literary circle, fostered by Murray’s tradition of “Four o’clock friends”, afternoon tea with his writers [7]. I believe this is also true today for the publishers to run successfully, which is to keep good network with as many as possible leading writers. Network is the key!

The preservation and Reproduction of this book

The National Library of Scotland acquired the archive of John Murray Publisher (including all those from the year 1768 to 1920) on condition that the library digitise the materials and make them openly available [7].

For this reason, we can see the ebook version of Mr. Park’s book <The Journal of a Mission to The Interior of Africa in the Year 1805> is free online. The Amazon website described it as this: “This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.” [9]

Several publishers, including Cambridge University Press, BiblioBazaar, and Palala Press have reissued the hardcover and softcover editions of this book in the recent years, by just reproducing it. It describes it as this: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work. As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.” [9]

The possible remediating of this book

The readers of this book are both the public and the scholars. For scholars, I believe it would be good to just reissue it by not changing the original content and design of this book [10]. But for the public, this book can be produced and published in a way with more fun, and I think there should be many opportunities for this type of genre as adventurous travel and romance. It could be written into a novel according to Mr. Park’s narrative; It can be made into a movie based on the stories in the book; Or even a children picture book based on the selective plot in the book.

[1] Wikipedia, Mungo Park,

[2] George Shepperson, Mungo Park and the Scottish contribution to Africa, African Affairs, Vol. 70, No. 280, Jul., 1971, pp. 277-281.

[3] Robin Hallett, The Penetration of Africa to 1815, London, 1965.

[4] A. Adu Boahen, Britain, the Sahara, and the Western Sudan 1788-1861, Oxford, 1964.

[5] Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel writing and transculturation. London, Routledge, 1992.

[6] Tim Fulford & Debbie Lee, Mental travelers: Joseph Banks, Mungo Park, and the romantic imaginations, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Oct 2010.

[7] Wikipedia, John Murray (Publisher),

[8] The Enlightenment and the book: Scottish authors and their publishers in eighteenth-century Britain, Ireland, and America, University of Chicago Press, 2008.

[9] Amazon,

[10] Mungo Park , The life and Life and Travels of Mungo Park: With a Supplementary Chapter Detailing the Results of Recent Discovery in Africa. E-book.
Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo & Co., 1881.

Research on the operation of Aldine Press and its significant innovations in publishing history

Research on the operation of Aldine Press and its significant innovations in publishing history


It’s a great pleasure visiting Special Collections at W.A.C Bennett Library. I encountered the book Vita, & Fabellae Aesopi published by Aldine Press in 1505. The author is Aesop. The trim size of it is 19.2cm X 30.5cm. The book has thick, ragged, and rough inner pages, dark red hardcover, with no characters on it, only a famous mark of dolphin-and-anchor. The emblem of the dolphin and anchor was used to illustrate the proverb festina lente, or “make haste slowly.” [i] This was a motto that Aldus, the founder of Aldine Press, had begun to use as early as 1499, after receiving a Roman coin from Pietro Bembo, which bore the emblem and motto.[ii]


The publisher of this book, Aldine Press is a big name. In the 1996 Festina lente booklet that accompanied SFU’s acquisition of the Wosk-McDonald Collection, Dr Yosef Wosk wrote that the Aldine editions are important for five reasons:

1.they are among the finest examples of bookmaking history, content, and tradition;

2.they feature numerous technical innovations in the art of bookmaking;

3.they are an authentic bridge to an eternal continuum;

4.they will be used by scholars and students of publishing; and

5.they represent a technological universe parallel to our own.[iii]


For this moment, I want to explore the establishment and operation of Aldine Press, and some significant innovations in the publishing industry it has made.


In order to have a deep understanding of Aldine Press, it is of vital importance to retrospect its origin.


The establishment and operation of the Aldine Press


Aldus arrived at Venice in 1489 or 1490. It took him several years to establish the publisher in downtown area. He hired 20 Greeks from Crete to help proofread and sort out the Greek manuscripts, and write standard font which would be used when craving type moulds. The publisher began to publish books in August 1494 or 1495. Aldus revealed the intense work condition in the preface in Greek Grammar“I can swear to you, since I worked on this annoying publishing business, which has already been more than 6 years till now, I never have had a continuous hour that hasn’t been interrupted to have a rest”A devoting heart is not enough for running a publisher, you need enough capital to cast all kinds of proper movable types, build the factory, purchasing manuscripts, hiring editors and proofreaders, expanding the market. Aldus had to run the company together with other people. It was estimated that Aldus only own 1/10 to  1/4 share of the company. One of his important partner is Andrea Torresani. Before collaborating with Aldus, Andrea Torresani had been a publisher and book seller who had more than 10 years’ experience. In January 1505, Aldus married Andrea Torresani’s daughter, properties in 2 families merged. This kind of alliance based on families was a ubiquitous phenomenon in publishing industry.[iv]


Aldine Press had the characters of early capitalist enterprise. Andrea Torresani was conservative and lacked the knowledge and exploration spirit. So the real authority of the publisher, especially the editing business belonged to Aldus. Andrea Torresani took charge of technology and administrative affairs such as hiring publishing workers and so on. According to Aldus’ intentions, academic pursuit is higher than economic benefit. But a publishing company needs profit to live. As a humanist scholar who has aspiration, he had to learn doing business in order to achieve his aspiration. For Aldus, publishing books was not that free. Because there were other people cooperating the company with him, if he only focused on academic value, and didn’t care about the market, the books won’t make money, then the cooperators would quit, and Aldus cannot sustain alone. There were more than 100 publishers in Venice. Aldine Press is one of them. There were also strong competitors in Milan and Florence. Originally, books were deficient commodities. Due to the spread of advanced printing technology, books suddenly became overproduced. The issue that selling books were difficult than publishing books appeared. As a result, which book to publish, how many copies to publish, where to sell, all these factors needed to be considered carefully. The print run and price couldn’t be decided by Aldus himself. They were usually decided by the team after discussion. [v]Latin was the universal language used in Academic world. Aldus’ publishing policy was to publish books mainly in Greek,assisting by books in Latin, and books in Italian was put at the third position. When Aldus arrived in Venice, Venice had a dominative position in printing of Latin texts, but it fell behind Milan and Florence in the printing of books in Greek. The demand for Greek texts was small. On the other hand, printing books in Greek needed to transform Greek script into type. The capital expense is bigger. As a result, to those established publishers in Venice, publishing books in Greek didn’t make financial sense as a business opportunity. The earliest work published by Aldus was a Greek grammar, which could be dated February 28, 1494. And the next one was a pre-Homeric poem about Here and Leander. What is interesting is in the 2 books, Aldus made efforts to attract potential readers to buy his books. In the first book, he said there would be “much more and better” in the next book. While in the second one, he confessed that, “without a great deal of money I cannot print. ”[vi]


The innovations Aldus brought to the publishing industry


The early publications of Aldine Press all showed important innovations in typography. For Greek, Aldus created 4 fonts. The most famous one is his italic and roman fonts. Beside typographic innovations, in some early works, significant illustrations appeared, combining the visual and the textual. This phenomenon reached to the summit in the Hynerotomachia Poliphili. [vii]


The author of Bound in Venice, Alessandro Marzo Mango said, “Painting has Raphael, sculpture Michelangelo, architecture Brunelleschi, and printing Aldus Manutius.” The impact of Aldus was so great that publishing history could be divided into before him and after him. He made several significant innovations and contributions in publishing history. He was one of the first, also the most eminent scholar printers of the Renaissance; He brought the first Greek and italic fonts to the publishing world; He made new kinds of ink mixtures; He was the pioneer who gave punctuation a revolution by using a semicolon. [viii]The most well-known one is that he was the first one to introduce portable book. Before Aldus, classic literature only could be read in large, heavy, and expensive books. While Aldus wanted to make the classics more accessible. So he began to print thin, clean volumes he called “libeli portatiles,” or portable little books.[ix]


The author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which is a best-selling novel about Manutius, Robin Sloan said that,”He was the first person to print, say, an edition of Aristotle that you could curl up with. To me that is just magical. What could be more fundamental than curling up with a good book And yet here’s this person in this time and place and it was invention.”


Also it is said that Aldus was the father of the modern paperback. That’s because he offered a model which has lasted for 500 years of how printed books should look. Including inventing portable books, the Aldine Press has been contributed to making reading more accessible and personal, which represented a great shift in people’s reading habits. Wait, doesn’t it sound like kindle? It is not exaggerated to say that the Aldine Press is the ancestry of modern portable electronic reading devices like Kindle. Both the portable books published by the Aldine Press and the Kindle have the ability to make literature within reach of the masses. And today, actually, we are at a similar turning point in history. It seems that the physicality of books is fading away. While the movability of texts and scholarship is becoming more and more important, again. This has enabled new chances for interconnection and fluidity of knowledge. To a great extent, it it the apotheosis of Aldus’ vision, where scholarship, public knowledge, design, production , and spread of ideas and texts has never been stronger, never more lively.[x]

[i] Adam G. Hooks, (2016). Anchora.

Retrieved from:

[ii] Brian Richardson. (1994). Print Culture in Renaissance Italy: The Editor and the Vernacular Text, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 16.

[iii] John Maxwell. (2015). Aldus’ Gifts. Aldus@SFU

Retrieved from:

[iv] Guo Lingfeng. (2002). Erasmus and Early Printing Trade. Journal of Inner Mongolia University (Humanities and Social Sciences), 34(3), 60-65

[v] Fangsui Lin. (1998). Outstanding publisher Aldus Manutius and the Aldine Press (1), Publishing Science, 1, 53-57

[vi] Fangsui Lin. (1998). Outstanding publisher Aldus Manutius and the Aldine Press (2), Publishing Science, 1, 53-56

[vii]  Lynne Farrington. (2015). “Though I could lead a quiet and peaceful life, I have chosen one full of toil and trouble”: Aldus Manutius and the printing history of the Hynerptomachia Poliphili, Word & Image, 31(2), 88-101

Retrieved from:

[viii] Marlene Moore (2016), Bio of a book——the Aldine,

Retrieved from:

[ix] Mythili Rao, (2015), The man who made books portable, WNYC News

Retrieved from:

[x] John Maxwell. (2015). Aldus’ Gifts, Aldus@SFU

Retrieved from:

What Should They Know of England?

By the late nineteenth century, England was a largely urbanised country, where most people lived in “towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants” (Ferguson 2004). This was the Technological Revolution: cars were on the cusp of invention; the rail system had been in place since the 1820s, carrying passengers back and forth across the country with relative easily for relatively cheap (Atkeson and Kehoe 2007). Because of this, tourism—without and within the nation—was becoming popular. Tour books saw a boom at this time, including the Bradshaw’s series of books, of which full titles read something like: Bradshaw’s handbook for tourists in Great Britain & Ireland, (in four sections), adapted to the railway system, Each Section Forming a Complete and Distinct Handbook, with maps, plans of towns, & pictorial illustrations (1866).

English Lake Scenery, full of landscape plates by Alexander Francis Lydon, was published in 1880. It is of higher production value—a March 1883 advertisement lists its price at twelve shillings (The Antiquarian Chronicle and Literary Advertiser 1883), much more expensive the sixpence Bradshaw’s books (Encyclopædia Britannica 1911); English Lake Scenery has gilded edges, a silk cover with carved debossing, and full-colour plates inside. The content, too, is markedly different; the 1866 entry for Windermere in the Bradshaw’s book reads, in part:

A telegraph station.
Hotel.—The Windermere Hotel.
Steamers on the lake.

From the Windermere station, the Lake appears in view, with its beautiful islands, and grassy well-wooded fells round its borders. From north to south it is ten miles long, but at the greatest breadth only two, and fed chiefly by two small streams, the Rothay and Brathay at the top, and discharges itself by the Leven into the sea at Morecambe Bay. It preserves nearly the same level in all weathers. The view from the terminus embraces the village of Bowness, with its white houses, close at hand; the rocky mountains of Rydall, Borrow-Langdale, Eskdale, Coniston, and  Troutbeck, [at] its head; while at the bottom, you see [paper torn; unintelligible] and surrounding Islands, the Ferry House, ([unintelligible] opposite side), the beautiful seat of Storr’s Hall, [unintelligible] Rawlinson’s Nab (on this side), and the Cart-land Furness fells. In the immediate neighbourhood of the terminus are Elleray, the seat of the [unintelligible] Professor Wilson, the Editor—“Christopher [North]”—of Blackwood’s Magazine, (“Old Ebony);” [unintelligible] is a charming seat; and Calgarth, which in the last century was the constant residence of the [unintelligible] Dr. Watson, Bishop of Llandaff, author of “Apology for Religion,” and other excellent works.

Meanwhile, the Windermere entry for English Lake Scenery partially reads:

(Head of the Lake.)

How charming and how varied are the lovely scenes of the vale of Windermere! Nature here displays herself in manifold undulations of outline, and in rich profusion of light and shade. Wooded hills and jutting peaks, delightful groves and pleasant little nooks, everywhere beguile the lover of the picturesque; while here and there some yet sublime prospect speaks with still mightier force to that “inward sense” where the springs of poesy lie hid. Rightly to interpret such a vision, the mind must be able to adapt itself to Nature’s ever varying mood. It was in such a spirit that Wordsworth gazed upon these lovely scenes, and made them in every sense his home. Here is one of his happy descriptions, in rich poetic prose:—

“In the vale of Winandermere [sic],” he says, “if the spectator looks for gentle and lovely scenes, his eye is turned towards the south; if for the grand, towards the north. When the sun is setting in summer, far to the north-west, it is seen by the spectator, from the shores or breast of Winandermere [sic], resting among the summits of the loftiest mountains, some of which will perhaps be half or wholly hidden by clouds or by the blaze of light which the orb diffuses around it; and the surface of the lake will reflect before the eye the correspondent colours through every variety of beauty, and through all degrees of splendour.”

The two books treat their prose notably differently; while English Lake Scenery—using a more archaic form of the place name, Winandermere—quotes everyone’s favourite Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, to illustrate the beauty of Windermere, Bradshaw’s simply says it outright. English Lake Scenery lovingly describes aspects of the landscape that could, theoretically, be applied to any place—“Wooded hills and jutting peaks” could refer to the area around Vancouver, or certain parts of New Zealand, or Spain, or Nepal—not just Windermere; while Bradshaw’s offers specific points that the reader might find beautiful: “The view from the terminus embraces the village of Bowness…”

At the same time, Bradshaw’s lists where to stay and what kind of tourist activities there might be: The Windermere Hotel and the steamers on the lake. Meanwhile, English Lake Scenery offers no possible accommodations.

It is not clear who wrote the majority of the content for either Bradshaw’s or English Lake Scenery—apart, of course, from those sections quoting Wordsworth, Beattie, Gray, and more. Notably, none of these quoted sections cite more than the author’s last name, not even mentioning the source of the quotation, suggesting that the reader ought to be familiar with the works of these poets. There is an implication, then, of who would be reading English Lake Scenery: someone who would have been at least somewhat knowledgeable about the British Romantic and Victorian poets, so likely someone who had some money and time to spend reading.

Alexander Francis Lydon is credited with the art from English Lake Scenery; additionally, he contributed his art to such books as Poultry (1873), Fulton’s Book of Pigeons (1895), and a reprint of The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe which was published in 1865 (“Alexander Francis Lydon: Artist” 2011). The art that appears in English Lake Scenery is fully coloured, a set of lovingly detailed landscapes of the Lake District. Bradshaw’s, meanwhile, contains illustrations, but they are black-and-white maps. Here, too, is a striking difference: the Bradshaw’s book contains concrete, functional purpose, while English Lake Scenery does not.

This, of course, does not take into account the price of the book itself: according to today’s inflation, twelve shillings in 1883 is equivalent to £66.60 (CAD$109.07 as of February 22, 2017) today, and sixpence is the equivalent of about 46 pence (CAD$0.75; Morley n.d.). To compare a Bradshaw’s guide to English Lake Scenery seems like comparing a pocket-sized bottle opener available from a liquor store for $3 to one that cost $1000, weighs 400 pounds, and actually is a piece of art that will not open any bottles: one has a function outside of its form, while the other’s form far outweighs its function.

When I picked up English Lake Scenery, I believed that I would find it to be a tourist book; but upon further examination, I believe it to be an artifact book, sold either in the Lake District as a souvenir, or sold outside of the Lake District as a relic. Between is price, its production, and how not-useful—I hesitate to say useless, as I do not think that any art is useless—its content is, I believe that the book would have been enjoyed by people who perhaps had visited—or wanted to visit, or were visiting—the Lake District, or perhaps by people who lived there and collected memorabilia for and about their home. The price of the book suggests that the buyers would have had the money to visit, but that the book was largely for enjoyment while elsewhere, rather than a useful guide to bring on a trip. English Lake Scenery is, I think, rather like a coffee table book about a place, while Bradshaw’s was the Rand McNally map to be bought in a gas station.




“The Antiquarian Chronicle and Literary Adviser.” Issue 1, March 1883.

“Alexander Francis Lydon: Artist,” Look and Learn. Last modified July 19, 2011,

Atkeson, Andrew and Patrick J. Kehoe. “Modeling the Transition to a New Economy: Lessons from Two Technological Revolutions.” The American Economic Review 97, no. 1 (2007): 64-88.

“Bradshaw’s handbook for tourists in Great Britain & Ireland, (in four sections).” 1866.

“Bradshaw, George,” Encyclopædia Britannica 1911. Accessed February 22, 2017.,_George.

English Lake Scenery. London: John Walker and Company, 1880.

Ferguson, Niall. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Morley, Stephen. “Historical UK inflation.” Accessed February 22, 2017.

Title from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The English Flag.”

Research on a “Luxury” Artist’s Book of Poetry: The Luniara

In 2001, The Luniara, a book full of hand drawings and lines of poem, was published in New York. The book is not well known in scholarship or among readers of poetry, but is a unique art object crated by bissett bill, a well-known Canadian concrete poet and artist. It offers a challenge in an ambiguous position between poetry and art with small edition run to engage readership. This paper would analyze some interesting facts around the artist himself and the integration of text and art in poetry in brief, while more focus would be put on the specific genre of the artists’ book by analyzing the typical example of The Luniara. To figure out how are artists’ books being published and how are they reaching audience, the research paper would also take deep analysis on the rare book model which is commonly applied in artists’ book publishing, the reasons and the challenges related.

bissett bill: when art and poetry meet

It’s hard to image to do research on an artist’s book without discussing the artist. bissett bill is a famous Canadian poet, artist and musician who is famous for his unconventional orthography and incorporating visual elements in his poetry, and he was the first recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for contribution to BC literature (ABC Bookworld, 2010).

In late 1950, a trend of concrete poetry emerged around the world independently and poets started to consider to use visual techniques as part of the poetry rather than as supporting elements to contents (David, 2008).  As one of the poets leading the wave of concrete poem in Canada during the late 1950s (David, 2008), bissett firstly did his visual poetry in 1962 by breaking the traditional spelling rules, such as his use of lower case spelling in all this writing (The Vancouver Sun, 1987). He argued why poetry had “to be/locked in th structure of 17th c/chair art forms”. As he said, “alphabet originally came from drawings. With the invention of the printing press, they’ve become standardized, but sometimes I can still see the pictures.”(The Vancouver Sun, 1987)

As a poet, artist and musician himself, the book of The Luniara is exactly a beautiful joint creation by the three different roles of bissett as it is an art and poetry book with a sound track at the back recorded by himself. With words and lines are “flowing” freely through the entire book, The Lunaira has all letters printed by IngeBruggemann’s handwritten font, then hand painted and signed by the artist, which made each copy unique in the world. Creating a real link between linguistic work and visual art, bissett bill saw the integration between writing and painting as an “re-invention of magic moment” (The News, 2005). For Granary Books, a small publisher who has engaged to explore and investigate visual and verbal relation from works done by artists for nearly three decades, The Lunaira is an typical book that perfectly matches their publishing mission, which makes the acquisition reasonable.

Brief history of artists’ book

82 unnumbered stick pages, a delicate yellow clamshell box, handmade drawings and limited edition, which all together make The Luniara fit specifically with the niche genre as an artist’s book. But what exactly is artists’ book? A book about art? A book made by an artist?

The definition of artists’ book, as an important piece for object collection, display and selling, is surprisingly explicit and subjective even in academic field (Herlocker, 2012). Lucy Lippard in 1985 made a statement that is close to a definition on it as, “…artists’ books are not books about art or on artists, but books as art” (Lyons, 1985). Even there was no specific criteria for defining a genre for artists’ book in this argument, it exclusively defines what it is not.

While large numbers of academics and professionals have contributed to the conversation to make a proper definition on the genre, I would not present an argument for that, but overall, an artist’s book is a book in a book format (James Hardy Library) and “refuses to behave like a normal book” (Rosemary, 2009). They come in all different formats, sizes, shapes, and are made from different materials, such as handmade paper, wood, stone. For The Luniara, it is already special from its materiality: the beautiful binding with cloth-cover and thick paper with handmade paintings, which present The Luniara more likely as a collective artwork from bissett rather than a normal poem book.

As one artistic format, the artists’ book is a creative experimentation with readership in the boundary of art word and publishing world, which has grown since late 1960s when artists began to seek for an alternative way from traditionally art galleries and museums system and presented their artwork in an interactive, portable and easily shared way (McDermott & Erin, 2013). Soon in the middle of 1970, the number of specialized bookstores for artists’ books and zings grew up to support distribution network (White, 2012).

But for high production value of limited edition books, using third party bookstores might be problematic due to the challenges for storage since most of them have special shapes and size, and extremely high costs. So many artists’ book publishers decide to arrange the supply chain by themselves. For Granary Books, they also choose to sell their limited editions directly from the press since most limited publications are collected by conversant institutions, such as SFU library, or people from art world who know well about art books’ selling channels.

Rare edition model and special collection

Unlike traditional trade book, artists’ book usually has much higher production costs and limited print run within their specialized niche market mainly combined with artwork collectors, librarians, museum and galleries, academics (McDermott & Erin, 2013), who have the intention and budget to buy “luxury” titles. For libraries specifically, artists’ books were the top new collecting area in special collection due to their uniqueness and rarely circulate (Myers, 2014 ). Although there are artists’ books being cheaply produced as photocopies in commercial trade, The Lunaria is definitely not the case.

bissett’s unique drawing and beautiful design make the production cost for The Lunaria so inestimable that the $3,500 list price is not unreasonable. As most expensive artists’ books do, the circulation model applied in The Lunaria is the rare book model by limiting its editions in 42 with 12 copies for commerce and 30 for sale. Even customers can still purchase the book on Granary Books’ own website, its major targeted buyers are not normal readers in trade market.

Using a rare book model in artists’ book can definitely distinguish the precious genre from normal commercial titles and target customers more specifically. The fragile and valuable books acquired by institutions like libraries would normally go to special collections and be protected from damage (Daniel, 2000). However, in this case, librarians become the gatekeepers to select books for special collections but not intermediary between academic researchers. For example, I would not have a chance to access The Lunaria if SFU librarians did not select the book for the special collection, but instead, I had possible missed another precious artist’s book for an even more valuable research.

Moreover, the control access would lead to a result that most precious artists’ books are housed in special collections that would often be accessed by librarians or art work collectors only, which definitely decreases the readership for those titles because first, people have less chance to discover them; second, physical access might not always be possible (Herlocker, 2012).

When physical access is not available for limited edition, online browsing through institutions’ (libraries and archives) website become the essential way, which, however, arises the copyright issues related to artists’ book since representing one image from an artist’s book could be arguable as showcasing the entirety of the book (Purcell, 2015). Moreover, displaying multiple pages of an art work could affect the original market (Purcell, 2015), which might be the reason why even on Granary’s catalogue, there is only one page of the book cover of The Lunaira, while no image at all shows up on SFU’s special collection online.

* * * * *

It’s understandable for artists’ book like The Lunaira going by rare book model to differentiate themselves from normal trade books since they are special for their identity, their value and their cost.  But the model used for artists’ book is problematic and have significant impact on readers’ engagement on books within non-browsing, non-circulating, advance-request collection (Athanasiu, 2015). According to Andrew Steeves, the co-founder of Gaspereau Press, the rare book libraries should not be a place to observe only or where people rarely come to preserve, but a place of discovery tools from the past or contemporary (Andrew, 2014). As John H.Overholt argued, special collection should convey the message as “Please touch. This is here for you. You are special enough for special collections” (Overholt, 2013). It might not be practical, but he pointed out the importance for libraries to create a context of “belonging” to rare books and the purpose of book collections (Athanasiu, 2015).

I don’t know whether bissett has the intention to see his creation shelved in house as a precious art object, or he prefers The Lunaira to be an accessible object to audience, but it’s necessary for publishers and librarians take time to understand the nature of artists’ books and the initial purposes from artists to create an art book.


Ann K.D. Myers and William Andrew Myers. “Opening Artists’ Books to the User: An Example with Potential Approaches,” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage 15, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 56–67.

Athanasiu, Eva. “Belonging: Artists’ Books and Readers in the Library.”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 34, no. 2 (September 2015): 330–38.

Steeves, Andrew. Smoke proofs: essays on literary publishing, printing and typography. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Gaspereau Press, 2014.

“bill bissett next in poetry series.” (April 20, 2005). The News. Retrieved from

“bill bissett: poet, artist and wide-eyed optimist.” (May 09, 1987). The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

“BISSETT, bill (1939- ).” Retrieved from ABC Bookworld,

David, Jack. “Visual Poetry in Canada: Birney, Bissett, and Bp.” Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne 2, no. 2 (May 22, 2008). Retrieved from

Daniel Traister. “Is There a Future for Special Collections? And Should There Be? : A Polemical Essay.” RBM 1, no. 1 (2000): 54–76.

Farman, Nola. “Artists’ Books: Managing the Unmanageable.”Library Management 29, no. 4/5 (May 30, 2008): 319–26.

Herlocker, Annie. “Shelving Methods and Questions of Storage and Access in Artists’ Book Collections.”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 31, no. 1 (May 2012): 67–76.

Lyons, Joan.Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook. 4th ed. Rochester, NY: Distributed by G.M. Smith, Peregrine Smith Books, 1985.

McDermott, Ian and Erin C. Dunigan. “Art Book Publishing: Past, Present, Future.”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 32, no. 2 (September 2013): 239–52.

Overholt, John H. “Five Theses on the Future of Special Collections.” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage 14, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 19,

“Publishing / how to acquire our books.” Granary Books. Retrieved from

Purcell, Alexandra. “Artists’ Books, Digital Exhibitions, and the Copyright Issues That Surround Them.”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 34, no. 2 (September 2015): 321–29.

Rosemary, Furtak. “Text/Messages: Artist Books at the Walker Art Center.” YouTube video, 2:49, posted by“Chuckumentary” (January 9, 2009),

White, Tony. “From Democratic Multiple to Artist Publishing:”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 31, no. 1 (May 2012): 45–56.

Strizever, Michelle. “Artists’ Books DC: Developing Access, Promoting Research, and Facilitating Browsing.”Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 34, no. 1 (March 2015): 89–100.


The Curious Case of the First Edition of Lyrical Ballads

1798 was a busy, important year for literature. That year, roughly 3,400 titles were produced by Britain alone. Of those, 206 were classified as poetry.1 In midsummer, Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, credited with starting the British Romanticism movement, was anonymously published by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge through Joseph Cottle, a bookseller in Bristol. While the work initially garnered mixed reviews, it went on to become one of poetry’s most studied collections,* but—curiously—not until its second edition two years later. While Lyrical Ballads is an important and radical2 piece of poetry for the time, it is the story of its publication, copyright, and materiality that will be addressed here. For the purposes of this paper, a first edition preserved by the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Special Collections Library—one of a few hundred known remnants of the original 500-copy run3—will be analyzed. This paper will also make use of the extensive research on the physicality of the edition that has already been conducted by the SFU Department of English in 2016 as part of a Lyrical Ballads remediation project.4


Lyrical Ballads has a curious publishing history, and SFU’s copy is no exception. Joseph Cottle, who obtained the copyright from Wordsworth and Coleridge after encouraging them to work together, was a poet himself, and his bookstore was considered a meeting place for the radical and “hard-up” young poets in the area.5 Cottle was seen as a liberal man, and though he was only a publisher for a scant seven years (1791–1798),6 his presence in publishing gave the world some of Coleridge, Southey, Lamb, Robinson, and Wordsworth’s more influential works.7 Unfortunately, the extensive costs of running a publishing house outside of London, his young age (21), his lack of knowledge about the publishing industry, his generosity in producing books exactly as the authors wished him to, and the radical works that he chose to publish eventually bankrupted him. After a tepid reception of Lyrical Ballads from critics in Britain (who saw the Advertisement at the beginning a direct snub of their sensibilities8) while Wordsworth and Coleridge were in Germany and unable to market the collection, he sold the remaining stock of the first run to John & Arthur Arch,9 another bookseller based in London—without receiving permission from either author. Cottle wrote of the sale:

“As a curious literary fact, I might mention, that the sale of the first edition of the “Lyrical Ballads”, was so slow, and the severity of most of the Reviews so great, that its progress to oblivion seemed ordained to be as rapid as it was certain. I had given thirty guineas [five shillings10] for the copy-right, as detailed in the preceding letters; but the heavy sale induced me to part with the largest proportion of the impression of Five hundred, at a loss, to Mr. Arch, a London bookseller. After this transaction had occurred, I received a letter from Mr. Wordsworth, written the day before he set sail for the Continent, requesting me to make over my interest in the “Lyrical Ballads” to Mr. Johnson, of St. Paul’s Church-yard. This I could not have done, had I been so disposed, as the engagement had been made with Mr. Arch.”

The sale of this stock produced some curious effects on the physical book. To start, one poem (“Lewti”) was removed, replaced with “Nightingale” by Wordsworth, likely to preserve the two poets’ anonymity, as “Lewti” had already been published under Coleridge’s name once before.11 Since “Nightingale” was two pages longer than the poem removed, it threw off the page numbering for every page after it (from page 70 on). In addition, the original title page was replaced, to show the name of the new publisher. This change of publisher meant that there were two variations of the first edition: copies showing Cottle as the clear publisher, and copies with the disrupted page numbers—SFU’s copy being the latter of the two. It is worth noting that Robert W. Daniel, in Modern Language Review, offers a different take from Cottle on the story of the book’s publication: “The two dates are so very near together, in fact, that it seems likely that the latter preceded the former: that Cottle sold the Lyrical Ballads to Arch before he had published them at all. To begin with, Cottle, who had professed himself anxious ‘to usher into the world, by becoming the publisher of the first volumes of three such Poets, as Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth… [sic]’, had not proclaimed himself the publisher at all; but, unasked, had ceded that honour to Longman. The imprint on the earliest title-page reads, ‘Bristol: Printed by Biggs and Cottle, For T. N. Longman, Paternoster-row, London, 1798’. Longman had apparently bought the whole second edition of Southey’s Joan of Arc, and Cottle doubtless hoped he would do the same thing for the Lyrical Ballads. Longman, however, had repented of these methods, and wished to publish no more books of which he did not own the clear copyright. Hence the sale to Arch.” Daniel also suggests that the sale may have come out of a suggestion to Cottle by Southey, who intended retribution on Coleridge for negative reviews of his own work, and did not want to hurt Cottle’s business, which had been kind enough to publish him. If Daniel’s argument is true, it may also explain why Coleridge altogether removed the Bristol arc of his writing career from his autobiography—a slight Cottle seemed compelled to correct in his own.12

Whatever the case, of the former edition, there seems to have only been a limited run of about twenty-five copies, many of which were sent to Cottle’s friends, before the book was sold to J. & A. Arch.13 When Wordsworth returned to Britain later that year, he was surprised and dismayed to learn of the sale, and demanded his remaining royalty and an explanation from Cottle.14 In an attempt to mollify the poet, Cottle instead handed over the copyright of the book to Wordsworth.15 It was then that Coleridge and Wordsworth—though mainly Wordsworth—began reshaping the collection for better reception. The Advertisement was removed and replaced with a much longer Preface, Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” was moved further back and its spelling modernized (the first of seventeen revisions to the poem over Coleridge’s lifetime16), and a whole new volume of poems by Wordsworth were included. It was at this point that Lyrical Ballads publicly stated one of the author’s names, and the public began to look at the work again, largely thanks to Coleridge’s own marketing of the title.17 Surprisingly, T. N. Longman, who backed out of acting as distributer for the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, happily scooped up the 1800 edition after buying Cottle’s dying business.18


As mentioned before, the copyright for Lyrical Ballads was fluid at the time of its first publication. While Cottle had the copyright to print, and retained the copyright despite selling the remainder of the first edition to J. & A. Arch, when Cottle first went to T. N. Longman to sell his business, Longman found the copyright for the collection so worthless that he left it in Cottle’s hands. Wordsworth, after receiving the copyright for the collection, fought hard to keep it. When Longman offered to distribute the 1800 edition, “…they arrived at an agreement (that Coleridge helped negotiate) wherein they would be paid £80 for two further editions, with the added stipulation that Longman’s ‘right of copy in this work ceases’ once these sold out. The rights of authorship became a recurrent theme in Wordsworth’s thoughts. How canny he was in claiming the reversion of his copyright with respect to Lyrical Ballads is evident in a comment he made in a letter to his brother as negotiations were proceeding with Longman: ‘The first edition of the Lyrical Ballads is sold off and another is called for by the Booksellers, for the right of printing 2 editions … I am offered by Longman £80. I think I shall accept the offer as if the books sell quickly I shall soon have the right of going to market with them again when their merit will be known.’”19 Wordsworth remained a staunch supporter of perpetual copyright for the rest of his life, believing that an author’s work should always remain valid and with the heirs of the estate.

The Bound Object

At 210 pages, Lyrical Ballads is long for books made in 1798 (only 28 books exceeded 200 pages that year20). Additionally, its length was considerable for a book published outside of London. Alison Roach, a Masters student that worked on lyricalballads@SFU, noted that its paper, which was likely pressed in the town of Flaxley, some forty miles from Bristol, contains little trace of chain lines despite being rag paper, suggesting that the quality of its production was quite high.21 This would make sense with Wordsworth and Coleridge demanding the design and typography of the book so specifically (going so far as to tell Cottle that there could only be sixteen lines of text on any one page22).

The paper was collated from sixteen gatherings, fifteen of which bare printer’s marks in the range of B–O. As Alex Grammatikos explains, it was typical at the time for the first gathering (A) to not be labeled, as it was easy to recognize front matter as needing to go first.23 Some of the pages carry the watermark LLOYD1789, which provided clues as to the paper’s origin in Flaxley.

SFU’s edition of Lyrical Ballads has also been rebound. As the inscription on the leather cover points to a man likely born many decades after the initial publication of the book (Bound for George Rutland Newcastle-on-Tyne), it can be inferred that the leather casing is quite a bit younger than the paper it is wrapped around. Interestingly, the spine of the book displays “Coleridge” instead of “Wordsworth,” despite it being well known by then that Wordsworth was the primary author. It is unclear whether the decision to categorize the book under Coleridge’s name was because of the difference in the two poet’s fame and success at the time, or if it was simply because in this edition, Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” was the first poem.

In addition, it has been suggested by the researchers at lyricalballads@SFU that the removal of specific pages relating to the Publisher’s Catalogue in the back might have been George Rutland’s attempt to falsely date the volume, having been worried about ephemera and wanting to have a “richly decorated vintage item.”24 A ghostly imprint of the catalogue, however, impressed itself upon the page preceding it, which likely wouldn’t have been missed by anyone leafing through the book. I instead suggest that Rutland was simply seeking to make the book appeal more to his clientele, as the embossed “1798” on the spine is technically correct and there would be no reason for subterfuge.

∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴

NOTE: As a general note, the initial reason I picked up this object for research (that being that William Morris had designed it) turns out to be false. Most simply, Morris was not actually alive at the time of this book’s printing, and therefore could not have had any effect on its publication!

[*] Over a dozen books providing insight on the work exist at SFU alone. –Ariel

[†] Cottle would spend most of the rest of his life paying back the debt to his creditors, not under legal obligation, but moral. –Ariel

[1] Andrew Lincoln (1999) What was published in 1798?, European Romantic Review, 10:1-4, 137-151, DOI: 10.1080/10509589908570072

[2] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Michael Gamer, and Dahlia Porter. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800. Ontario: Broadview, 2008.

[3] Daniel, Robert W. “The Publication of the “Lyrical Ballads”” The Modern Language Review 33, no. 3 (1938): 406-10. DOI:10.2307/3715409.

[4] “An Edition of the 1798 London Edition,” lyricalballads@SFU, accessed February 14, 2017, 2008,

[5] Romanticism, Volume 15 Issue 2, Page 203-205, ISSN 1354-991x Available Online Dec 2009

[6] The Cottle Collection of Autograph Papers. (1865). The Reader, 1863-1867, 5(116), 314-315.

[7] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Michael Gamer, and Dahlia Porter. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800. Ontario: Broadview, 2008.

[8] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor. Coleridge, and Fiona Stafford. Lyrical Ballads: 1798 and 1802. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

[9] Daniel, Robert W. “The Publication of the “Lyrical Ballads”” The Modern Language Review 33, no. 3 (1938): 406-10. DOI:10.2307/3715409.

[10] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor. Coleridge, and Fiona Stafford. Lyrical Ballads: 1798 and 1802. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Pratt, Lynda. “The ‘Sad Habits’ of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Unpublished Letters from Joseph Cottle to Robert Southey, 1813-1817.” The Review of English Studies, New Series, 55, no. 218 (2004): 75-90.

[13] Romanticism, Volume 15 Issue 2, Page 203-205, ISSN 1354-991x Available Online Dec 2009

[14] Butler, James A. “Wordsworth, Cottle, and the “Lyrical Ballads”: Five Letters, 1797-1800.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 75, no. 1/2 (1976): 139-53.

[15] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Michael Gamer, and Dahlia Porter. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800. Ontario: Broadview, 2008.

[16] Stillinger, Jack. 1994. Coleridge and Textual Instability : The Multiple Versions of the Major Poems. Cary, US: Oxford University Press (US). Accessed February 15, 2017. ProQuest ebrary.

[17] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor. Coleridge, and Fiona Stafford. Lyrical Ballads: 1798 and 1802. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

[18] Feather, John. “The Commerce of Letters: The Study of the Eighteenth-Century Book Trade.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 17, no. 4 (1984): 405-24. DOI:10.2307/2738128.

[19] Ronald Tetreault. “Publishers, “Pirates,” and the Formation of Regency Authorship.” ESC: English Studies in Canada 38, no. 2 (2012): 29-48. (accessed February 15, 2017).

[20] Andrew Lincoln (1999) What was published in 1798?, European Romantic Review, 10:1-4, 137-151, DOI: 10.1080/10509589908570072

[21] “Paper,” lyricalballads@SFU, accessed February 14, 2017 ,

[22] Wordsworth, William, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Michael Gamer, and Dahlia Porter. Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800. Ontario: Broadview, 2008.

[23] “Collation,” lyricalballads@SFU, accessed February 14, 2017,

[24] “Publisher’s Catalogue,” lyricalballads@SFU, accessed February 14, 2017,

ANARCHY IN CANADA: Posting Punk and DIY Rebels in Canada

“Anarchy in Canada: Canada Day Punk Concert” is a punk poster for the concert taking place in Stanley Park in 1978. This event was one of the first big moments in the punk movement in Canada, and it was a reaction to many things that were happening in the 1970s (Beadle). This poster is DIY, meaning it is created through images that have been cut out of other published materials which have been glued together and usually with some hand-written aspect. The style was popularized by the punk music as a deconstruction of norms and as a cheap and easy way to get information out into the world. DIY is created by people, not professionals, and is one of the many ways punk destabilized the traditions of the time. “Anarchy in Canada” captures this style perfectly while providing a lot of insight into a movement that was becoming more popular. DIY posters, which were extremely prevalent during the punk movement, demonstrate a rejection of norms and are an act of resistance through how they are made and what they are capturing.

This Canada Day punk concert occurred in Stanley Park on July 1st, featured performances from the artists promoted on the poster, and was attended by several hundred people (Beadle). The event was organized by Brent Taylor, Ken Lester and David Spaner who were responsible for organizing many political-themed punk concert and events, like the Mayday Anarchist Carnival which occurred a week earlier (H2004.38.12 – Poster).  The concert was free and organized by local anarchists from the Anarchist Party of Canada which was known for hitting famous people with pies (Antliff 74). These two movements are linked in Vancouver, although they are from two different generations because of the music scene in B.C. (Martin 9). DOA, the Negatives, and Subhumans are some of the first bands in the Vancouver punk movement which emerged around 1977 and 1978 (Timeline). Like most punk bands, they burned out far too early and very few met with wide success, but the impression they left at the time was noteworthy in Vancouver. The punk movement here was in keeping with most major cities as the definitive sub-culture. The Anarchy in Canada poster has many words “scratched-in” that capture much of the punk attitude of the time. The most interesting of which are the quotes in the top right corner, quoting M. Bokunin from 1876 to Johnny Rotten in 1976 and ending with J. Shithead (the lead singer of DOA) most likely from the year of the poster. The quotes are about destroying as a creative urge, which is not only in keeping with punk but also DIY where objects are repurposed through their deconstruction to create something new.

The poster was originally donated to the Vancouver Museum (and I assume also made) by David Lester, who is currently a graphic designer. He became interesting in the punk movement in 1976, and worked with many radical publications and publishers throughout the 70s and 80s. His brother was also a manager for DOA intermittently from 1979 into the 80s (H2004.38.12 – Poster). There are very few details of why the images were selected or why Lester decided to make the poster, but much of what exists on the poster is already very telling. The corners are covered in tape, so we know it was displayed, and not given out as a flyer which I assumed it would be because of its size (8.5’x5.5’). It was made to be put around town, and was made a small size so more could be printed, which is common in DIY. This is also why it was in black and white as well. It was more important to put your message out, and make it cheaply, than for it to look traditionally appealing. The images are not particularly high quality or well-placed (often layered on top of each other) images, which is in keeping with the DIY style. The poster is still eye-catching with its bold and dark figures, who I assume are recognizable to people in tune with the punk movement.

To discuss punk music and DIY, it is important to discuss what the state of Canada was at the time of their emergence. In the 1970s, it was very clear that the world was more globalized than ever before. It was common to get news updates from around the world rather than just your city, or even country. The Vietnam War was everywhere, and although Canada did not participate, all around the world people were skeptical of the USA’s involvement. Much of the population, especially the counter-culture, was more than just skeptical but angry about the US controlling matters outside their borders and drafting people for a pointless war.

In Canada, there was a rising nationalism and need to distinguish itself as a country separate from the United States and Britain. After WWII, Canada had established itself, but still did not have a clear national identity. In the 1970s there were many internal conflicts in Canada which influenced a developing nationalism and people striving to find a Canadian identity. The Prime Minister at the time was Pierre Trudeau, who is thought to be one of the people who defined Canadian culture as it is understood now, such as through the Constitution Act (1982). He also was in charge during the October Crisis which was an event that severally divided Canadians and pushed those to identify what being Canadian meant to them. Whatever this was, it definitely was not the FLQ and their politics.  The internal disarray of the country lead to many trying to define themselves, as the country pushed to define itself internationally.  A year after the Canada Day concert, the Conservative party won the election in Canada. This also occurred in the United States and Britain.  The rise of this government contributed to the rise of punk (Lowndes 93). The punk movement is in complete contrast to the rising nationalism of the time. As “Anarchy in Canada?”  states, “Nationalism is a desease [sic] spread by governments.”

The depressed economy and political upheavals of the 1970s have often been cited as factors in the growth of punk. Punk was unlike any of the genres that came before it because it was so extremely accessible (Lowndes 91). Punk is the “archenemies of good taste and public decency” and “a fight against the social, political, economic, and cultural practices of the status quo” (Kristiansen 2-3). Punk grew as a way to define oneself away from the norm and to express discontent with what was happening in the world. DIY as a style emerged alongside the punk and is in keeping with what punk represents considering as a musical form, it was essentially DIY. In the 1970s, many artists were moving to major cities and could barely afford rent, let alone supplies to create work. These artists came together to use share spaces and often were creating in contrast to those before them and others in the industry. The spaces they worked in were pure anarchy, and so their work would be same (Lowndes 71). Not only was DIY a cheap form of art, but it was the taking apart of a whole. Artists were taking what was surrounding them in the world and deconstructing photographs or words to form something new. The barebones aesthetic of DIY was a rejection of the art that came before it and rejected traditional modes of production.

Since punk was largely shunned by mainstream media outlets, the DIY print culture that was growing, it became the perfect space for people who loved punk music to show their appreciation (91). In support of the punk movement, there was a “tidal of self-publishing” of small press books and fanzines. The cut and paste appearance of DIY became popularized in these fanzines as a “pragmatic approach to material and composition” as many who wanted to publish were not necessarily artists, just people who were fans of the music.  There was a desire for complete control built out of a fear of government intervention (92). Punk music was known for creating DIY labels to record music themselves and avoid record label involvement so they could have complete freedom in what they created (O’Connor). This was the same in the fanzines that supported punk music. To have complete autonomy in the things you created was the ultimate form of resistance against the oppressive governments.

The poster “Anarchy in Canada?” brings to light the emergence of punk culture in Canada and also captures the growing punk DIY aesthetic that was unlike anything before it. To create something outside of the “system” was what made their work so unique. Canada in the 1970s was a divided nation and one trying to find its place in the global context. Punk was a reaction to the growing nationalism and a rejection of an expectation to be “Canadian.” DIY also gave punks the freedom to speak about their distaste of the government, politics, the upper class, and anything that fell into the mainstream. The DIY style is one that is not sophisticated, but accessible for all, which is its true purpose.


Works Cited

Antliff, Allan. Only a Beginning: An Anarchist Anthology. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004.

Beadle, Scott. “Punks and Politicos.” Bloodied but Unbowed, 24 Feb. 2017,

“H2004.38.12 – Poster, “Anarchy in Canada” Canada Day Punk Concert, c. 1978-1985.” Museum of Vancouver, 24 Feb. 2017,

Kristiansen, Lars J., et al. Screaming for Change: Articulating a Unifying Philosophy of Punk Rock. Lexington Books, 2010.

Lowndes, Sarah. The DIY Movement in Art, Music and Publishing: Subjugated Knowledges. Routledge, 2016.

Martin, Eryk. “The Blurred Boundaries of Anarchism and Punk in Vancouver, 1970-1983.” Labour/Le Travail, Issue 75, Spring 2015, pg. 9-41.

O’Connor, Alan. Punk Record Labels and the Struggle for Autonomy: The Emergence of DIY. Lexington Books, 2008.

“Timeline.” Bloodied but Unbowed, 24 Feb. 2017,



Research Project: MAKARA

PUB 801: Research Project
MAKARA Magazine

Makara magazine was produced from 1975 to 1978 by the Pacific Women’s Graphic Arts Cooperative in co-operation with Press Gang Publishers, a feminist press in Vancouver. It largely functioned as a general interest magazine which sought to explore alternatives to the dominant avenues of journalism and focused on conceivable social change. Makara’s tagline was “The Canadian Magazine by Women for People” and encompassed a variety of topics, from philosophy to fiction to articles to interviews to a children’s section. A majority of the production was carried out by ten women who formed the co-operative behind Makara, with printing and four-color layouts done by Press Gang.

Circulation and Audience

Part of Makara’s mandate was a strong focus on mothers and children. Mary Schendlinger, one of the main contributors of the magazine and member of Press Gang, describes having met her fellow founders through a daycare center in East Vancouver. This inevitably framed what much of the content would look like, shaping the readership as middle-class, well educated women. She describes the context in which Makara operated:

“At Makara and Press Gang, the playground was—well, the playground, and people’s homes, and women’s coffeehouses, and benefit dances, and other places where women and children hung out. Not just because the children needed looking after, but because we were figuring out how to raise our kids in the world we wanted to make.”[1]

The specific audience of Makara can be described quite accurately due to regular reader surveys they took. In Volume two, Issue one, the magazine features a summary of a questionnaire from August/September 1977. In it, the typical reader of Makara is described as “a 20- to 30- year-old woman living in an urban area of B.C. with children, and working outside her home in education, the arts, or the trades. She is a much-educated person, and her total household income is over $15,000 a year. She drives a car and spends her extra money on books and craft supplies.”[2]

In terms of Makara’s circulation, it is useful to look at comparable periodicals since accurate circulation numbers are unavailable. Ulrich’s Global Serials Directory lists the following numbers for some better-known feminist periodicals: Broadside, 2500; Fireweed, 1400; Kinesis, 1500; Room of One’s Own (now Room), 1000. Also, in her 1982 report, Feminist Print Media, Eleanor Wachtel states that “most Canadian feminist periodicals circulate fewer than 2000 copies”[3]

Women-in-print Movement

Feminist periodicals and women’s presses gained a lot of traction during what is now largely classified as the “Second Wave” period within feminist history. This emphasis of women’s liberation through print was birthed within a political consciousness that mainstream presses were not neutral in their withholding of women’s writing. Anne McDermind, a London-based book agent, says that “women should be in control from beginning to end”[4], mirroring the sentiment that emerged out of the Second Wave movement. Feminists at the time argued that the most effective way of promoting women’s voices was to own the actual means of production in order to form independent presses supportive of women’s writing. Even authors began taking to the idea, as exemplified by Lilian Mohin (author of One Foot on the Mountain, 1979).[5] She chooses not to publish with commercial publishers because she is aware of her challenging writing and doesn’t wish to enhance the reputations of establishment publishers.

What united women at the time was a firm belief that books could be revolutionary, that language could remake the world, and that writing mattered in a profound way. In 1975, women of the Milan Women’s Bookstore wrote, “We want to bring together, in the same place, the creative expression of some women with the will to liberate all women.”[6] Especially trade fiction became a means for transforming women’s politics. Reading was essential in early conceptions of second-wave feminism, intertwined with consciousness-raising circles that intended to draw attention to women’s own lives and experiences. Lise Hogeland (author of Feminism And Its Fictions, 1998) argues that consciousness-raising novels were “the most important forms for feminist writers in the 1970s”.[7] According to Trysh Travis (author of The Women in Print Movement, 2008) the surge in women’s presses was “an attempt by a group of allied practitioners to create an alternative communications circuit – a women-centered network of readers and writers, editors, printers, publishers, distributors, and retailers through which ideas, objects and practices flowed in a continuous and dynamic loop.”[8]

Women’s presses weren’t intended to exist as isolated institutions but facilitate a dialogue of knowledge and production amongst a larger network of women. It was thought that this couldn’t prevail within the already existing structures of communication. The overarching theme amongst the dominant majority of bookwomen was to facilitate a communications network free from patriarchal and capitalist control. Between March 1968, and August 1973, over 560 new publications produced by feminists appeared in the United States, each one serving as a pillar for the movement.[9] Elaine Showalter (renowned literary critic) argues that the work of feminist criticism “is to construct a female framework for the analysis of women’s literature, to develop new models based on the study of female experience, rather than to adapt male models and theories.”[10] She explains further that the term Gynocriticism “begins at the point when we free ourselves from the linear absolutes of male literary history, stop trying to fit women between the lines of the male tradition, and focus instead on the newly visible world of female culture.”[11] In 1976, Harriet Ellebnerger and Catherine Nicholson published the first issue of Sinister Wisdom, within which they write that “corporate America controls establishment publishing because control of communications ensures control of politics and industry. Corporate presses exist primarily to kill revolution.”[12] The perhaps most radical contribution of feminist bookwomen was the aim of changing the way readers understood feminist literature so that reading became relational; a call to accountability that required action. There emerged a complex practice of enacting a feminist ethics of dialogue, speaking with each other rather than for each other and, throughout, to revise this knowledge through collective meetings, transnational gatherings and the strategical distribution of women’s writing.

Makara: a possible revival?

Makara wasn’t the only Canadian magazine to emerge during the women-in-print movement. There were several others, such as Room of One’s Own, Fireweed, Kinesis, Branching Out, Herizons, Prairie Woman, and more. Mary Schendlinger describes working on a women-run magazine as follows:

“The literary and political sensibilities were conjoined for us, in life and in our magazine, Makara. There we learned to write, edit, design, produce, set type, woo subscribers and all the rest. And how to work in a group of smart, courageous women who were still learning to appreciate our own smartness and courage. I cannot imagine a better foundation for the writing and publishing life, or for adult life in general.”[13]

Makara stopped publishing because it was not self-supporting. Sales and advertising revenues did not cover printing costs or salaries. Schendlinger also acknowledges the possible failures of Makara’s business model. The magazine only managed to survive a print life of 13 issues, which Schendlinger attributes to “endless financial worries” and “trying to pay [their] suppliers on time, at [their] own expense.”[14]

Out of a dozen or so Canadian feminist magazines, only one still remains under a slightly altered name: Room magazine. Their media kit today advertises their print run as 1,700 copies per issue, as well as regular subscribers around the 1,150 number. Circulation seems not to have increased or changed since the blooming feminist print media moment of the 1970s. Room sells full-page and half-page advertisements. They also receive government support through the BC Arts Council, the Canada Arts Council and individual donors. Recently they launched a feminist literary festival, the first of its kind in Vancouver, called Growing Room.

The revival of Makara would necessitate a strategic business model, able to sustain its contributors and suppliers. A mix of government support, revenue from advertisement, and events or festivals could make up a more viable structure for Makara to thrive once again. Focusing on the general interest avenue would still set Makara apart from Room. Expanding into the West-Coast American market as well as the Canadian East Coast could help increase and sustain the magazine. Topics such as unaffordability, access to child care, gentrification and the effects on poverty class and racialized women are relevant across province and nation state borders. The renewal of Makara would come at a time during which feminist print culture seems to be on the rise again, with the increasing desire to move away from online discourse into a more print-heavy medium.



[1] Jerome, Gillian, and Chelsea Novak. “An Interview with Mary Schendlinger.” CWILA Canadian Women In The Literary Arts. July 3, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.

[2] “With a little help from our friends.” Makara, December 1977, 26

[3] Jordan, Tessa. “Branching out: second-wave feminist periodicals and the archive of Canadian women’s writing.” English Studies in Canada 36, no. 2-3 (June 01, 2010): 63.

[4] Eagleton, Mary, and Emma Parker. The History of British Women’s Writing, 1970-Present: Volume Ten. Springer, 2016.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cicogna, Patricia, and Teresa De Lauretis. Sexual difference a theory of social-symbolic practice. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University, 1990.

[7] Hogeland, Lisa Maria. Feminism and its fictions: the consciousness-raising novel and the women’s liberation movement. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

[8] Travis, Trysh. “The Women in Print Movement: History and Implications.” Project Muse 11 ( 2008). Accessed February 23, 2017.

[9] Adams, Kathryn. “Paper Lesbians: Alternative Publishing and the Politics of Lesbian Representation in the United States, 1950–1990.” Diss. U of Texas at Austin. 1994.

[10] Showalter, Elaine. The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, and Theory. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

[11] Harker, Jaime, and Cecilia Konchar Farr. This Book Is An Action: Feminist Print Culture And Activist Aesthetics. Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2016. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 28 Nov. 2016.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Jerome, Gillian, and Chelsea Novak. “An Interview with Mary Schendlinger.” CWILA Canadian Women In The Literary Arts. July 3, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.

[14] Ibid.

project proposal



The Object I Selected


Title:  Vita, & Fabellae Aesopi

Author: Aesop

Trim size: 19.2cm X 30.5cm

Date of Publication: 1505

“Aesop(620 – 564 BCE) was an Ancient Greek fabulist or story teller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as Aesop’s Fables. Although, his existence remains unclear and no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a storytelling tradition that continues to this day. Many of the tales are characterized by animals and inanimate objects that speak, solve problems, and generally have human characteristics.”


Why I Selected This Object


The publisher of this book, Aldine Press is a big name. In the 1996 Festina lente booklet that accompanied SFU’s acquisition of the Wosk-McDonald Collection, Dr. Yosef Wosk wrote that the Aldine editions are important for five reasons:

1.they are among the finest examples of bookmaking history, content, and tradition;

2.they feature numerous technical innovations in the art of bookmaking;

3.they are an authentic bridge to an eternal continuum;

4.they will be used by scholars and students of publishing; and

5.they represent a technological universe parallel to our own.

Obviously, it’s a publisher that have great contribution and impact on publishing history. There are many aspects I can dive in and do research about. And there are adequate resources for me to refer to.

Following is  the introduction of Aldine Press from Wikipedia

“Aldine Press was the printing office started by Aldus Manutius in 1494 in Venice, from which were issued the celebrated Aldine editions of the classics (Latin and Greek masterpieces plus a few more modern works). The first book that was dated and printed under his name appeared in 1495.”

“The Aldine Press is famous in the history of typography, among other things, for the introduction of italics. The press was the first to issue printed books in the small octavo size, similar to that of a modern paperback, and like that intended for portability and ease of reading. According to Curt Buhler, the press issued 132 books during twenty years of activity under Aldus. The press was continued after Aldus’s death in 1515 by his wife and her father until his son Paolo (1512–1574) took over. His grandson Aldo then ran the firm until his death in 1597. Today, antique books printed by the Aldine Press in Venice are referred to as Aldines.”

“The press enjoyed a monopoly of works printed in Greek in the Republic of Venice, effectively giving it copyright protection. Protection outside the Republic was more problematic. The firm maintained an agency in Paris, but its commercial success was affected by many pirated editions, produced in Lyons and elsewhere.”


Research Questions:


There are hand-made grids and illustrations in the book. So every copy of it is different and unique. But what’s the purpose? Why not print them on every copy? Are they made by readers or for readers? Also, I wonder why it was published in Greek. Was there anyone reading Greek in 16th century Italy? One of Aldus’ most celebrated innovations is the portable pocket-book. As the first publisher to start to create books in a small size that are easy to carry, how did he come up with this idea? Did this work out immediately at that time? I plan to search on the internet. It’s interesting, as John Maxwell said, “Today, we approach the same point with digital media and networks. While most of us still sometimes use the Internet while chained to a desk and wired to the wall, we now increasingly take the Internet – the world of ideas – with us wherever we go” The e-books on mobile terminals like iPhones or iPads are now undoubtedly the most movable form for books. But is there anything we can do to make physical books even more movable?

In addition, why Dr. Yosef Wosk wrote that Aldine editions” feature numerous technical innovations in the art of bookmaking”? What other technical innovations did Aldine Press come up with? Were they also as successful as the idea of the portable book?


Remediating, Reimagining, or Recirculating


I would like to add the title, author, brief introduction to the content of this book on the cover and back cover. It is too confusing that a book doesn’t have any character on its front and back cover.

Also, I want to make the book more movable. Either make it into an e-book or make it a more movable physical book.


*The following is a list of online resources available for the Life of Aesop online:




  • Aesop’s Fables, with his life in English, French and Latin, with illustrations by Francis Barlow (1687). PDF from Michigan State University Libraries.
  • Vita Aesopi edited by Anton Westermann. Greek. PDF from Google Books.
  • Aesopi Phrygis vita et fabellae (1518). Facing text, Greek and Latin. Various formats at Internet Archive.
  • Vita, & Fabellae Aesopi cum interpretatione latina (1505). Various formats at Internet Archive.


Other Materials


The Nonesuch Dickens: The Appeal of the Collector’s Item

Limited edition collector’s items have been and always will be something that makes people put away their hesitation and pull out their pocketbooks. David Paroissien writes that “the desire to collect must be genetically coded, so deeply does the impetus run in the human species,” (2006). There is something intrinsically compulsive about collecting sets of items which is only further appealing when the stamp “limited edition” is a main selling point. In 1937/38, the Nonesuch Press produced 877 sets of Charles Dickens’s novels. The reason for this finite number was because each set came with one of the original engraved steel plates used for producing the illustrations. This meant that not only were collectors receiving a set of beautiful books that were based on Dickens’s original typesetting, but were receiving an authentic piece of the history of these books. This idea of a collector’s item being not only of a finite amount but being an important part of publishing history makes the perceived value of this set increase substantially. By looking at this special Dickens collection alongside the rhetoric surrounding it, one can see how presses appealed to the collectors in the public in order to not only sell the valuable sets, but create something that would stand the test of time as being one of the most important collections of this author’s work.

The Nonesuch Press

The Nonesuch Press was founded in 1922 in London by poet Francis Meynell, his wife, Vera, and author David Garnett (Gorman 2012). Meynell wanted the press to be different than others at the time, and had ideas that a 20th century press could be one that used “mechanical means…to serve fine ends…[using] the machine in printing…[as] a controllable tool.” An interesting feature of this press is that the physical production was done at commercial printing houses. Meynell wanted his press to be unlike other private fine presses of the time that each designed their own typefaces and hand printed their own books. An article in the New York Times wrote that “no other experience has so well demonstrated the control of modern methods of production for the making of books of quality,” (Adler 1937). He wanted the mechanics of the press to come together with craftsmanship to create beautiful texts that people wanted to purchase. Whereas the typical English press “adopted a definite form for all its products and adhered to it,” the Nonesuch Press sought out to treat each item as its own (Adler 1937).

The first text Nonesuch Press published was The Love Poems of John Donne in 1922.  In its first year, operating out of the cellar of a bookshop in London, the Nonesuch Press published eleven titles in addition to the Donne and were primarily out-of-print or little known books (Gorman 2012). It is important to note that the majority of the books published were limited edition. This idea of a limited quantity adds to Meynell’s focus on fine design. Over the course of the press, they published over 140 books in this beautiful and mechanical style, and were responsible for the printing of the Nonesuch Dickens set.

The Nonesuch Dickens

In 1937, the press decided to produce a definitive collection of Charles Dickens’s work by printing beautifully designed and bound sets that featured the author’s original typesetting.  The major part of the appeal of the set was that each complete set that was purchased came with one of the original engraved steel plates used for the illustrations in the first editions of Dickens’s novels. The Nonesuch Press purchased the plates from Dickens’s original publisher, Chapman and Hall and they were authenticated and packaged for this purpose. This was an appealing feature because not only were these plates engraved by some of the most talented illustrators at the time, but they were the images that Dickens himself had approved (Gorman 2012). In an article in Dickens Quarterly, David Paroissien expresses the key point about re-releasing material that already exists: “take a well-tested brand-name, refurbish it in ways appealing to potential buyers and an author of Dickens’s stature will continue to generate money that will sparkle in the sunshine rather than rust in the dark,” (2006, 50). The Nonesuch Press published this series in the manner of their previous books: beautiful binding and design, a set one would want to proudly display on a shelf.

It was not just in Europe that the Nonesuch Dickens sets were sold, but the U.S. too. An edition of the New York Times from October 19, 1938 published a brief story on the release of the plates to the American subscribers of the Dickens collection (“Dickens Plates Awarded…”). This cross-Atlantic popularity shows that collectibles are sought after by many, and particularly that Dickens was recognized around the world. What’s fascinating is that of the 877 sets available, more than a quarter were sold to Americans. While part of the appeal was having one of the original engraved plates, another aspect was having a beautifully bound and designed collection of good novels to sit upon one’s shelf. An aspect of collecting has always been about showing off what one has, particularly if it is a rare or unique object.

Not everyone supported the selling of the original engraved plates. One of the original founders of the press criticized their release said that the addition of the plates would “give a permanent cachet of vulgarity to the edition,” (Gorman 2012, 5). While one can certainly see where he is coming from, given that the plates had previously been “zealously guarded” by Dickens’s original publisher, one can also see the other side. What use are the plates sitting in boxes in the publisher’s basement? By dispersing them, the press made them a part of the public and encouraged people to purchase the set. While one could argue that maybe the plates went from sitting in a box to sitting on a shelf, the very nature of the object would have certainly inspired the purchaser to show it off to friends or family, and if that inspired those people to go and seek out Dicken’s books to read, then isn’t that the opposite of vulgar? It is this element of collecting that is incredibly fascinating to the average person. While some may be critical of certain types of collecting, it cannot be denied that these unique and rare objects plant a seed in the mind of the viewer that may encourage them to expand their own understanding of the item.

Book Collectors

The Nonesuch Press had a specific goal in mind when they decided to release the original steel plates with each set of books purchased: they wanted to ensure this would be the definitive Dickens collection. Not only are there a limited quantity, there is no possibility that such a set could ever be released again with the original illustrations made from the original steel plates. Though the press and its owners were familiar with limited edition runs, this one stood out. The rhetoric used in the New York Times article regarding the plates sold in America sums up the presentation of this set very well; it is framed as though these plates weren’t purchased but “awarded,” and “presented…to subscribers of the newest edition of Dicken’s work,” (1938). Not only does this heighten the value of the sets themselves, but allows the buyers to believe that they are indeed a part of a special club and are being rewarded for their stewardship. The psychology behind the collector’s mind is fascinating and has a long history that has come right into the 21st century.

Collector’s items have existed in history as long as there have been different economic classes and people wanted to show which they were in. Book collecting is in itself quite different from art or other types of collecting. It is a hobby that dates back to the Renaissance where the elite class amassed collections of illuminated manuscripts to show off their wealth and wisdom (“Famous Book Collectors”). Today, the most difficult and therefore most sought after book to collect is first editions of older, well-known or popular books. The magazine Fine Books and Collections holds regular auctions and posts about how well some of the books sell for. In 2008, a first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma that was given to the model for Miss Taylor, the governess in the model, by Austen herself sold for $354,205 at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale (McKay n.d.). Some publishers sought to make book collecting accessible to the less affluent class by creating Limited Editions Clubs. Subscriptions to these clubs were a way for the lower class to “build a library as much for show as for content,” (Paroissien 2006, 51).  Making items such as these accessible allowed for greater sales as now it was not only a small group of people that were able to purchase such fine objects. While of course one cannot ignore this capitalist notion, it is not a bad thing that literature became more accessible to the lower classes, and particular collectible literature.

It may be surprising to some that even books written in the past century can fetch hefty sums at auction. The first Harry Potter book, The Philosopher’s Stone, is one of the most valuable contemporary books that is sought after. A typo in the first printing – of which there are only 500 – heightens the price. In November 2016, one of these extremely rare copies sold for an astounding £43,750 ($71,370) at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale and after a bidding war was purchased by a London-based business man (“Harry Potter…”). While some select contemporary books such as the Harry Potter anomaly exist within collector culture,

it’s not easy to be a collector of contemporary fine editions these days. You can’t just walk into a bookstore on the book’s release date and be guaranteed a first printing (Devers n.d.).

This does not mean that today’s books are not worth collecting. In fact, it might mean the opposite. In a piece for World Literature Today, Allen Ahearn says that

we think that the current period will be looked back on in ten years or so as the Golden Age when supply pushed the prices of collectible books down and smart buyers took advantage of this to build good collections (2008).

Just as collector’s are seeking out books from the past century to add to their collections, in a time the first edition books of today will be sought after, particularly if they have the author’s signature or other special features.

Tomorrow’s Collections

 As long as there are a finite number of valuable items in the world, there will be people who want to get their hands on them. The Nonesuch Press wanted to create a definitive collection of Dickens’s work and did so by ensuring that there could never be a set printed using the original illustrations. They also wanted the set to be accessible to more than the affluent upper class (Paroissien 52). While facsimiles of this collection can still be purchased, the plates from the set are only found in rare books sections of libraries or private collections. The identity of the collector is many and varied, and today is less about affluence than it is about loving old objects and having a passion for the history that their pages represent. With fun stories about hidden finds in old antique shops inspiring amateur collectors to go and dig through boxes in their grandparents’ basements, book collecting is something anyone can get into (Marks 2015).

What is important to think about when discussing collector’s items is the idea that monetary value and sentimental value are two equally important factors. While part of the appeal of the Nonesuch Dickens set was absolutely the limited edition status of the collection, a bigger part was owning a piece of Dickens’s publishing history. It is this blend of passion for history and desire to be part of an intimate club that drives people to collect old (and new) artifacts.


Adler, Elmer. “A Landmark in Printing History.” New York Times (New York, NY), January 31, 1937. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Ahearn, Allen. “The Current Outlook: The Book Collector’s Golden Age?” World Literature Today 82, no. 5 (2008): 35-36. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Devers, A.N. “Brooklyn’s First Editions Club.” Fine Books and Collections. Accessed February 22, 2017.

“Dickens Plates Awarded: Subscribers to New Edition Draw Them Here at Tea.” New York Times (New York, NY), Oct. 19, 1938. Accessed February 22, 2017.

“Famous Book Collectors.” AbeBooks. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Gorman, Michael. “The Nonesuch Dickens: A Set of Books at the Intersection of Art and Commerce.” Caxtonian 20, no. 10 (2012): 1-5. Accessed February 22, 2017.

“Harry Potter Conjures World Record Price at Bonhams Book Sale.” Bonhams. Last modified November 9, 2016. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Marks, Ben. “Where the Wild Books Are.” Collector’s Weekly. Last modified December 17, 2015.

McKay, Ian. “Sold @ Auction.” Fine Books and Collections, December 2010. Accessed February 22, 2017.

Paroissien, David. “The Nonesuch Dickens Redux: A Tale of Contemporary Publishing.” Dickens Quarterly 23, no. 1 (2006): 50-52. Accessed February 22, 2017.

“The Nonesuch Press and the Private Library.” Last modified August 10, 2010.