Digital Approaches to Understanding the Recusant Printing Network

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This project illustrates how the use of data-driven visualizations of sixteenth and seventeenth-century title page imprint information can illuminate aspects of the recusant printer network in the era of high-recusancy, c.1558-1640. This period represents the era of the Recusancy Acts which made non-conforming- that is non-Protestant- practice of faith illegal. Recusant literature, therefore, represents the body of literature designed to maintain the faith (through both materials for hidden priests and or personal devotion) of the Catholic communities in England to actively work to subvert the message of the Protestant Church). This project is largely one of experimental remediation with the goal of investigating whether new insight into an established field can be gained by collating, analyzing, and graphically displaying like information —in this case Recusant literature— that is distinct from traditional forms of scholarship. I argue that by removing the impediments of shelf-bound and geographically separated volumes and by quantifying elements of their creation, the network and nature of recusant literature is made more immediate by illustrating trends and anomalies at the same level of access and visibility and thereby potentially opening new avenues of research. Additionally, the aim is to combine methodological approaches of traditional book history — in this case merging bibliographic studies with quantitative history— and also utilizing new methods of corpus mining and data visualization to help make the obscure known. While much has been written about recusancy, there are still new stories to be told by investigating new forms of evidence made available through newer methods of humanities scholarship. New methods can potentially lead to new evidence to help settle old historiographical debates.


Presentation at the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, College Park, MD