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The Worlds of Mathew Carey- Part 2

The much-anticipated second half of the transatlantic conference ‘Ireland, America and the Worlds of Mathew Carey’ is now over.  The second part of this conference, held in Trinity College Dublin on 17-19 November filled in many of the gaps left by the first three days of papers in Philadelphia, while continuing many of the conversations begun on the other side of the Atlantic.

Like the Philadelphia conference, full versions of the papers from Dublin have been made available online on a private wiki.  (Contact Johanna Archbold at TCD for access.)  Meanwhile the papers from Philadelphia will be maintained online by the McNeil Center for the foreseeable future.  So anyone unable to attend, one or both parts of the conference, should still be able to view the papers.

The Dublin conference began with an excellent keynote lecture by Richard B. Sher of the New Jersey Institute of Technology titled ‘Piracy of Patriotic Publishing? Conflicting visions of the reprint trade in late eighteenth-century Britain, Ireland, and America’.  Sher described the ‘baggage’ Mathew Carey brought with him from Dublin to Philadelphia.  In this instance it was the Irish tradition of patriotic and heroic reprinting which he had learned from the members of the Dublin book trades.  Here Sher echoed what was an important theme throughout both halves of the conference – the importance of Carey’s early life in Dublin to his later American career.

Sher’s talk, along with the first panel of papers on Friday morning gave the Dublin conference more of a book history focus.  Papers by Molly O’Hagan Hardy, Carl Keyes, and myself (Sarah Crider Arndt) discussed aspects of Carey’s printing publishing business in the US.  Here the question of Carey’s position on race was again raised by Hardy’s paper.  Later James Kelly spoke on Carey’s Dublin paper the Volunteer’s Journal, and Andrew Fagal spoke on the reception of Carey’s Navel History by members of Congress and the Republican party.  This focus on Carey’s printing and publishing career addressed a slight gap in the Philadelphia program, although it is important to note that Carey’s role as a publisher of American literature was not covered by any of the papers at either half of the Conference.  It is interesting to note that one of the big questions which came out of the Philadelphia conference was whether Carey was an innovator or simply an aggregator.  While many of the papers on political economy came down on the side of aggregator, both Carl Keyes and myself noted that Carey was often quite innovative in terms of his printing and publishing business, taking advantage of new markets, advertising strategies, and business models.

One area where the Dublin conference addressed a noticeable gap in the Philadelphia program, was in terms of the other members of Carey’s family.  A highlight from Friday’s program was the panel titled ‘House of Carey’ which included a paper by James N. Green on Mathew Carey’s relationship to Benjamin Franklin, and papers by Niall Gillespie on William Paulet Carey and Anne Markey on John Carey.  Together these papers painted a picture of a very prickly collection of brothers, often at odds with each other and the world around them.  One very noticeable absence was the mention of any female member of the Carey family.  Only Karen Kauffman’s paper on Carey’s philanthropic activities among the working poor, given in Philadelphia, significantly addressed Carey’s relationship to anyone of the female persuasion.  Although Padhraig Higgins, in his closing talk in Dublin did discuss the way in which Carey was effected by the very gendered political climate in Dublin.

Political economy continued to be an important topic of discussion in Dublin.  Eoin Magennis did an excellent job of describing Carey’s Irish milieu and the range of opinions regarding free trade which Carey absorbed in Dublin.  Daniel Peart meanwhile demonstrated how Carey later acted on these views in his campaign to influence the US tariff policy.  Finally, a paper submitted by Marc-William Palen, who was unfortunately unable to present the material himself, outlined Frederik List’s influence on the political economic theories of Henry Charles Carey.

In the last panel session on Saturday, Michael Brown gave a very interesting paper placing Carey within a world he described as the ‘Green Atlantic’.  As part of this world Carey was steeped in the eighteenth century culture of social enlightenment.  His paper, offered up several new lenses for gaining insight into Carey’s identity.

Several other papers asked the question of how singular a figure was Mathew Carey, by putting his life in contrast to other Irish radicals.  While these papers were a bit mixed, they did help to place Carey within the context of the ‘Green Atlantic’ as described by Brown, and within a broader wave of Irish emigrants.

During the final wrap-up session Dan Richter of the McNeil Center acknowledged that as a result of these conference we now know much more about the man Mathew Carey, but he posed the question of what these conferences can tell us about the worlds of Mathew Carey?  David Dickson responded by pointing out that Carey can serve as an early precursor to later politically active Irish-Catholic immigrants.  Carey’s life also highlights the importance of personal networks to individuals within the Atlantic world.  Studying Carey’s experience may open new questions on the Irish diaspora.  Michael Brown added that this conference has shown how Mathew Carey, like many other radicals of his day, read America as the model of how Ireland should be.  While these are both good answers, they display an understandable bias towards issues of concern in Irish history.  It would be very interesting indeed if this question could have been posed to the audience of the Philadelphia conference as well.  What different answers and concerns might have been highlighted there?

Overall, both halves of the ‘Worlds of Mathew Carey’ conference have proven to be very exciting.  They have brought scholars together from across the Atlantic and across disciplinary lines, and they have gone some way towards integrating the many faces of Mathew Carey.  Further scholarship stemming from this conference should prove to be useful to both Carey scholars and to those interested in the wider Atlantic world of his time.

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The Worlds of Mathew Carey- Part 1

The first half of the transatlantic conference ‘Ireland, America and the Worlds of Mathew Carey’ took place this past weekend in Philadelphia.  This was an exciting opening, for what promises to be a truly unique collection of papers dealing with the life and times of Mathew Carey.  Since the full papers are (temporarily) available online on the Philadelphia conference website, I don’t plan on providing a full blow-by-blow account of the first three days.  Instead I would just like to focus on a few key questions which were raised in Philadelphia, and which hopefully will receive some further attention in Dublin.

James Green of the Library Company, and one of the acknowledged experts on Mathew Carey, started things off on Thursday night.  Green explained why there has not yet been a definitive biography written on Carey.  This is partly a result of the lack of private papers, despite the huge amount of correspondence which has survived.  However it is also the result of the contradictory and complex nature of Carey himself.  In Green’s words, Carey represents too many things to too many people.  He was an immigrant, printer, publishers, patriot, political economist, and philanthropist.  He was also a paradox – a man of competition and cooperation.

Over the following two days many speakers introduced us to new and different ‘Mathew Careys’.  However one of the key concepts which kept appearing was the debt which Carey owed to his early days in Ireland, and the continuity with which he maintained his beliefs for the rest of his life.  Cathy Matson’s paper titled “Mathew Carey’s Learning Experience: Commerce, Manufacturing, and the Panic of 1819” made both of these points as did Michael Carter’s paper “Mathew Carey: The Mind of an Enlightenment Catholic.”

At the same time as these concepts kept re-appearing over the weekend, so too did several questions.  One of these, raised very early on by Maurice Bric and Andrew Shankman, dealt with Carey’s stance on race.  Was Mathew Carey a racist, or simply a man of his age?  A second question asked whether Mathew Carey was an innovator or an aggregator?  Martin Burke summarized this debate nicely in his concluding remarks by stating that Carey was perhaps an aggregator who made novel interventions in various debates.

Burke’s concluding remarks, (and probably his opening remarks in a few weeks in Dublin) emphasized the relevance of Mathew Carey to so many areas of study.  These include, but are not limited to, Political Economy, History of the Book, Eighteenth Century Ireland, Irish American History, and Catholic Historiography.

It will be interesting to see where the second half of the conference, at Trinity College Dublin 17-19 November, takes these debates.  A sizable group of individuals, including myself, will attend both parts of the conference, adding to the transatlantic nature of the event, and hopefully allowing for greater continuity between the sessions.  For anyone who is planning on attending the Dublin event further details of the program and information on registration can be found on the Dublin conference website.  If you are unable to attend the second part, the papers should be available online in the next few weeks, or you can contact the organizers for access.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of this review in a few weeks time.

 

 

 

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Books as History: A Review

In the last few months David Pearson has come out with a revised edition of his 2008 book Books as history: the importance of books beyond their texts.  This book, published by Oak Knoll Press and the British Library discusses the ways in which books, as objects, beyond the text they carry, should be studied as historical  artifacts.

Book Cover

In the book, Pearson explains the evolution of books as objects.  He traces developments in paper technology, binding, illustration, and printing to show how each of these processes contributed to the final product.  Particular emphasis is put on the uniqueness of individual books before the advent of mass production.  This is used as one of the primary reasons for the preservation of ‘old books’ rather than the adoption of digital surrogates which simply re-create the text.

One of the reasons for this new revised edition, is to address many of the developments in digital books and surrogates which have rapidly expanded over the last few years.  The first chapter of this book discusses new technology like the Amazon Kindle.  Though this chapter is freshly revised, and recently published its perspective on the ever quickening pace of technological innovation seems dated already.  (Highlighting one of the problems with printed books).  Pearson believes that the time when books will no longer be the primary means of transmitting ideas is in the forseeable future (if not already here), and that in light of that we need to reconsider our relationship to books and libraries.  In these chapters, Pearson is at his most successful, provoking thought and encouraging mindfulness in our interactions with books.

Since this text focuses on the appearance and physical aspects of books, it should be no surprise that it is beautiful in and of itself.  Perhaps resembling a coffee table book more than your average academic tome, it sports glossy images on nearly every page.  These visual examples are perhaps the most valuable part of the book.  Because of these images, Pearson’s work would make an excellent introductory textbook for bibliographical studies or the history of the book.  For institutions that lack rare books collections, or historical libraries, Pearson’s book provides and excellent opportunity to view the physical characteristics of the objects he discusses.  This is further enhanced by a concise list of further reading and a visual case study at the end of the book.

I have two slight criticisms to offer.  The first, which has been noted before, would be that the images in the book are often separated from the text in which they are discussed making for awkward flipping between pages.  The second, is that the book has a very heavily English bias.  While this is understandable given the author’s position as the Director of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery at the City of London, this may make it less-relateable to readers who are not familiar with English history and literature.

Overall, this book is well worth a read for anyone interested in book history.  The relatively inexpensive price, at less than twenty pounds, makes it a worthy investment as an introduction to the bibliographic arts for students or enthusiasts.

 

 

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Books between Europe and the Americas- A review

This week, I was very excited to receive my copy of a new collection of essays on transatlantic print.  It is always a good surprise to receive a package in the mail, but particularly when you have been waiting nearly 12 months for a book.  The book is titled Books between Europe and the Americas Connections and Communities, 1620-1860 and is edited by Leslie Howsam, the president of SHARP, and James Raven, author of many books on print culture in both England and America.

The books is a collection of essays dealing with the exchange of books and print between Europe and the Americas which came out of a 2004 conference titled ‘Connected by Books’.  I first heard of it last year at the (excellent) 2010 Perils of Print Culture conference held in Dublin.  There I met James Raven, who mentioned the volume in reference to Michael O’Connor, one of  the contributors.  Unfortunately the
volume wasn’t published until May of this year, and wasn’t available on Amazon until June, causing my painful wait.

One of the strengths of this volume is its scope.  Often, as the editors note, the study of the book trades is limited by national or linguistic boundaries, with little conversation taking place between scholars working on these various projects.  Many scholars of the English Atlantic world are ignorant of the processes and networks which moved print between Central and South America and Europe.  This volume very consciously gathered contributors not only from Canada, the United States and the UK, but also from Mexico and Brazil, working in a
variety of colonial and linguistic milieus.Although the book is still somewhat biased towards Anglo-American print exchanges it does a good job of offering alternative perspectives even within that category.

One of the essays which I found particularly interesting dealt with the consumption of novels in Brazil.  The author, Sandra Guardini T. Vasconcelos emphasized the importance of French translations of British novels to the making of the Brazilian novel.  There the impact of British authors, on the reading of nineteenth century Brazilians has been hidden.  Both the French translations of these works, and the circuitous networks by which they reached Brazil served to alter and  disguise the British origins of the texts.  This essay reveals the political and economic reasons behind this development, as well as some of the ways in which Brazilian readers and authors  responded to these works.

One enjoyable part of this work was the way in which the various essays spoke to each other.  By  highlighting similar patterns in different countries, or by offering sites for comparison the essays begin to point out ways in which transatlantic and transnational can inform even the most specific studies.  I found it interesting to note the level of awareness contributed to various colonial book purchasers across the  essays.  While Francois Melacon’s essay on print in Canada under the Ancien Regime, noted that colonial buyers had to rely on French agents to select their books because of their ignorance of the French publishing scene, James Raven’s essay on Latin and Greek texts points out that at least some American buyers believed themselves to be very well-informed.  How much did the level of  information between these buyers vary, and was it a function of time, personal  connections, or individual personality?  Since evidence for transatlantic book shipments is often fragmentary at best, these types of comparisons can help connect the anecdotal nature of sources.

To finish off, I would recommend that anyone interested in print culture, in any part of the Atlantic world, have a glance through this volume.  Even if the essays don’t touch on your area of interest, it is likely that they will offer you a new perspective to bring back to your work, or simply expand your knowledge about the types of transactions which were taking place between Europe and the Americas.

The full reference to the volume is:

Leslie Howsam and James Raven (eds), Books between Europe and the Americas: Connections and Communities, 1620-1860 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 317 pp. £55.00

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