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Jonathan Senchyne (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Slavery and the History of the Book in America”

Thursday, March 1, 2018 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM

In association with the Department of English and the Faculty of Information

In The History of Printing In America (1812), Isaiah Thomas briefly records the life of Primus Fowle, an African American who was enslaved by Daniel Fowle in Boston and Portsmouth.  Thomas writes, “This negro was named Primus. He was an African. I well remember him; he worked at press with or without an assistant; he continued to do press work until prevented by age. He went to Portsmouth with his master, and there died, being more than ninety years of age; about fifty of which he was a pressman.” Though he “did press work,” the broadsides, newspapers, and other sheets that came off his press were marked “Daniel Fowle, Printer” or “Printed by Daniel Fowle,” never formally crediting Primus Fowle. What are the logics of both print and slavery that occlude a figure like Primus Fowle? What would it mean to account for enslaved printers within our vast archives of early American print? Senchyne argues for the importance of reading typography, accidents, breakages, and other non-alphabetic marks in recovering the presence of enslaved printers like Primus Fowle.

Jonathan Senchyne is an assistant professor of book history and print culture in the Information School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is also the director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. He has a Ph.D. in English from Cornell. He is currently completing a book on the meaning-making dimensions of paper in early and nineteenth-century American literature entitled Intimate Paper and the Materiality of American Literature, under contract with the University of Massachusetts Press’s series on Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book. With Brigitte Fielder, he is coeditor of Infrastructures of African American Print (University of Wisconsin Press). Senchyne’s essays have appeared or are forthcoming in PMLABook HistoryTechnology and CultureStudies in RomanticismEarly African American Print CultureDebates in the Digital Humanities 2016, and elsewhere. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, and the New York Public Library. With Martin Foys, Senchyne is co-PI on grants from CLIR and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation to develop and implement DM: Digital Maxima, an open source platform for creating architectures of linked, annotated, and searchable data among digital surrogates of archival texts and media.


Thursday, March 1, 2018
4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
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Toronto Centre for the Book

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