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Exploring Transatlantic Print Culture through Digital Databases

Marie Léger-St-Jean, Katie McGettigan

Pages 159 - 181


This essay examines how building ‘boutique’ digital relational databases can help scholars investigate the transatlantic reprinting of American literature in the nineteenth century. Relational databases allow researchers to organize data about books in ways that resist the categories of author and first edition that have traditionally structured literary and bibliographic inquiry. They instead encourage greater attention to the groupings in which texts were circulated, consumed, and understood in their moments of production and reproduction. After outlining the reprinting of American literature in nineteenth-century Britain, we suggest how the databases’ relational structure enables researchers to navigate the networks of books, authors, and publishers into which a reprint could situate a work. Two projects that have employed databases differently to investigate transatlantic reprinting—Katie McGettigan and Paul Raphael Rooney’s “Nineteenth-Century Publishers’ Series in the British Library” and Marie Léger-St-Jean’s ‚Price One Penny‘—demonstrate both the possibilities and limitations of databases in print culture research. Overall, we argue that transforming print artifacts into digital database records is a form of remediation that echoes characteristics of a transatlantic culture of reprinting, facilitates new perspectives on nineteenth-century print culture, and relies upon real-world networks between scholars, archivists, and collectors.


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