Professor Andrew Stauffer discusses Book Traces on CBC Radio
Professor Andrew Stauffer spoke to CBC Radio about Book Traces, his crowd-sourced web project to find drawings, marginalia, photos and anything else in copies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books. The interview airs this week in Canada and is available for streaming online here. Read more about Book Traces below:
Book Traces is a crowd-sourced web project aimed at identifying unique copies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books on library shelves. Its focus is on customizations made by original owners in personal copies, primarily in the form of marginalia and inserts. Sponsored by NINES at the University of Virginia and led by Andrew Stauffer, Book Traces is meant to engage the question of the future of the print record in the wake of wide-scale digitization. The issue is particularly urgent for the materials from the long nineteenth century. In most cases, pre-1800 books have been moved to special collections, and post-1923 materials remain in copyright and thus on the shelves for circulation. But college and university libraries are now increasingly reconfiguring access to public-domain texts via repositories such as Google Books. As a result, we are now anticipating the withdrawal of large portions of nineteenth-century print collections in favor of digital surrogates. However, our legacy print collections in many cases came to university libraries from alumni donors and bear marks of use by their original nineteenth-century owners. These books thus constitute a massive, distributed archive of the history of reading, hidden in plain sight in the circulating collections. Marginalia, inscriptions, photos, original manuscripts, letters, drawings, and many other unique pieces of historical data can be found in individual copies, many of them associated with the history of the institution that collected the books in the first place. These unique attributes cannot be located by any electronic catalog. Each book has to be open and examined. Book Traces aims to be a point of reference in developing a national triage system for preserving the future of the nineteenth-century book.