English 419 Assignments Page


Siân Echard, University of British Columbia

English 419 home page

Assignments weighting:

Books in the world: January 9, February 1, March 6 and 27, and April 5 (5 @ 1% each) = 5%

What's your type? assignment: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Thursday, February 15 = 15%

Judging a book by its cover assignment: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, March 6 = 15%

Parchment, pixels, and print assignment: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, March 27 = 15%

Reading and Research Journal: to be turned in with the Book Blog assignment = 15%

Book Blog assignment: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Friday, April 13 = 35%

Assignments rationale and expectations:

The assignments in this course are intended to equip you with some of the basic tools of book history, as well as to provide hands-on experience of a range of books and text-objects. They are also intended to encourage you to notice, and to think about, the many forms that text takes in our world.

The assignments have been designed to be short, manageable, and to some extent cumulative. Often you will simply be asked to take note of some aspect of book culture, and come ready to talk about it.

There are also three short assignments that focus on different aspects of book design - on type, on cover design, and on the remediation of text in digital forms.

The major assignment is the Book Blog, in which you will be asked to research an item from the UBC Rare Books and Special Collections Library, and to introduce it to a general audience. We will develop the parameters and assessment metrics for this assignment collaboratively, as the term progresses.

I value curiosity, exploration, and engagement (and impeccable writing, of course!). My motto for these assignments, as well as for all the extra material I make available via the online version of the syllabus, comes from a 12th-century Anglo-Latin writer/ storyteller named Walter Map:

“I am your huntsman,” he wrote. “I bring you game; it is for you to make dishes of it.”

Books in the World

In class: January 9, February 1, March 6 and 27, and April 5

These are questions that ask you to notice and think about certain aspects of book culture, and to come to class be prepared to share your thoughts.

This is a participation mark, based on in-class discussion of the questions: I will circulate an attendance sheet on these days, and if you are present (or, if you must be absent, if you have e-mailed me in advance with a question or comment), you will earn a point.

What's Your Type? Assignment

Due date: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Thursday, February 15

This assignment asks you to notice and think about the effects of typography. It has three parts.

1. Find a book - any book at all - that tells you what type is being used (not all books will give you this information, but for those that do, it is often found in the front or back matter; another way to find out about book fonts is to look at the options on an e-reader). Or, have a look at the font list in your word processor, and choose one of the fonts as the basis for your research. Either way, make a note of the type name, and then research it. What can you find out about this type? When was it created? Where does it tend to be used? Write a short paragraph summarizing what you found.

2. Choose a short piece of text - any text and all - and, using a word processor, set that piece of text in 4 different fonts. You might also play with styles (bold, italic)l with size; with justification; and, if your software allows it, with leading (space between and around text). Include the results in your assignment (you might find that converting the resulting pages to PDF will be the best way of preserving your experiment).

3. Write a short (one or two paragraph) reflection on your research and experiment. Does type make a difference? If so, what kind? What can you say about your own reading habits in relation to this experiment?

Some resources that might be of help to you:

The UBC Library has a subscription for online access to the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: you will find many useful articles about all aspects of book history in its volumes. The link takes you to the first volume, but from there you can navigate to other volumes.

Simon Loxely, Type: The Secret History of Letters is available through the library online: you read the whole book online, or download chapters

Simon Garfield, Just My Type: A Book about Fonts is widely available to buy or in public libraries

Planet Typography: a virtual museum of types

Typeculture: a website for digital type that includes a useful reference section

Linotype.com has an extensive alphabetical index of type designers

Judging a Book by its Cover Assignment

Due date: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, March 6

Find a book that is of interest to you - look for something that has been printed more than once. Then find out what its covers have looked like - a good way to do so is to do an image search in a search engine using the title of the book. Things to look for might include different covers for Canadian, American, or British markets; different covers for different imagined audiences; changes in covers over time, for a book published some time ago; or marketing changes related to things like awards, reviews, and so on. If you can, grab images of the covers (an easy way is to use screen capture when you are doing online research; you can also, of course, take photographs in bookstores or libraries). Write a short account of what you have found (a description of the covers and any changes), and a short reflection about what you have found. As in the type assignment, I will be interested in your reflections on how your research might have changed or affected your reading practice (as well as in any other reflections you might have about the impact of cover design). If you can include images in your assignment, please do. If you would like to do so, but are not sure how to manage it, technically, do come to see me, and can help you out.

Parchment, Pixels, and Print Assignment

Due date: to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, March 27

This assignment asks you to consider THREE different remediations of a text - manuscript or print - for digital consumption. Note that you are not necessarily looking at the SAME item in three different forms; you are probably going to be exploring three different digital resources, in order to see how each uses digitization to present books. The books could be any kind of books, from medieval manuscripts, to early printed books, to more recent but out of copyright books, to current books sampled through commercial services like Amazon. You could include an audio book, or an e-book on your tablet or phone, or a specific book app. There are libraries and museums that offer digitized texts for free: these are often photographic digital facsimiles. There are non-profit organizations (like Project Gutenberg) that make e-books available: these are usually plain-text files. Pretty much any interaction between a book and a digital technology is fair game here.

The purpose of the assignment is to explore the ways that books (and other written or printed materials) are currently interacting with digital technologies. whether for scholarly purposes, entertainment, edification, or some combination of the two. The essays in section 5, Remediating, of the course reader, might be helpful to you as you think about your interactions with these tools.

Write a short paragraph about your experience finding and using each of these resources. Were they easy or difficult to use? How could you imagine them being used? Are these tools aimed at scholars, teachers, students, the general public, or some mix? Do you think the designers know who will use these resources, and do you think they have done a good job?

The list below gives you some suggestions as to where you might go to find material for this assignment. There are many other possibilities.

Google Books: There are many full digitizations of out-of-copyright books here

Archive.org: The full digitizations of out-of-copyright books here sometimes come from the same sources as Google's, but they come from other sources as well, and the presentation differs from that of Google

Artemis Primary Sources is a cross-database front end for various Gale databases: it currently accesses Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Collections Online, many databases of historical newspapers, as well as databases of documents and books from around the world

Medieval Manuscripts on the Web: This is my own master-list of manuscript digitizations; it includes links to other meta-lists

The Parker Library contains complete digitizations of the manuscripts in the library at Corpus Christi College Cambridge associated with Matthew Parker (1504 - 1575), archbishop of Canterbury. UBC has an institutional subscription, allowing full access. Early in 2018 Parker 2.0 is scheduled to go live, and at that point, the resource will become open access.

Early Printed Books on the Web: This is another of my own lists; this one is not yet as lengthy as is my manuscripts list, but I intend to work on it throughout the course

Early English Books Online (EEBO) is a database of full digital facsimiles (scanned from microfilm) of virtually every book printed in the British Isles from 1473 to 1700; our library has a subscription

Burney Collection Newspapers is the largest collection of 17th and 18th century newspapers and pamphlets, mostly from London; our Library has a subscription to this database

Eighteenth Century Collections Online contains over 200,000 works published in the UK during the 18th century; our Library has a subscription to this database

Nineteenth Century Collections Online is an ongoing digitization project for nineteenth-century materials; our Library has a subscription. Note that many of the Gale databases are going to be migrated to Artemis, but for now, these links should work

Nineteenth Century British Newspapers is what it sounds like; our Library has a subscription

Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals - ditto

Nineteenth Century US Newspapers - ditto

Literary Manuscripts is a collection of Victorian manuscripts from the New York Public Library; our Library has a subscription.

There are many iOS apps that are book-related. Look for products by Touchpress, or the British Library, as well as things like Shakespeare Pro, the Profile/ Inkle reimaging of Frankenstein, or the BiblioBoard William Blake collection, among many others.

Research and Reading Journal

You will soon learn that an essential part of archival research is keeping track of what you do – including documenting frustrations, mistakes, dead ends, and so on. This assignment asks you to keep two kinds of notes.

First, you will see that there are 20 brief readings on our syllabus. The expectation is that everyone will do all the reading, but in addition, I would like to use the journals to make sure that in any given class, some people will have come with a question or observation prompted by the reading. So, for the “Reading” part of the journal, choose any 5 readings you like, and pick out one sentence from that reading that gets you thinking. Note the reading and the sentence, with the date, in your journal. Of course you are free to write more, if you like, and to use this exercise (picking out a key sentence) for more than 5 of the readings. The readings have all been chosen as examples of how it is that book historians go about their work, and so I hope you will find inspiration in them as you decide what your own approach will be.

Second, you will see that you are going to be spending a fair bit of time pursuing your own research in RBSC.The second, and more substantial, part of your journal, will consist of the notes you make as you learn how to use RBSC, and as you narrow in on your topic for the book blog. Your notes can take many forms, from point-form jottings of avenues explored, to lists of search terms, to idea clouds, to notes on a particular object. You can record false starts, eureka moments, dull gruntwork, anything at all... in part the purpose of this log is to encourage you to just keep digging, while keeping good records - two primary requirements of good archival research. You may keep the log in any form that is convenient for you (including on purple lined paper...). You will hand the log in along with the book blog itself – see the directions below.

Book Blog

Due date to be e-mailed to me (sian@mail.ubc.ca) by 11:59 pm on Friday, April 13, 2018

For this assignment, you are to choose an item (it need not be a book) from the collection of UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. You are to research its history - this research might include general research about the object (so, for example, if you were to choose the UBC copy of the 1611 first edition of the King James Bible, you would research the history of the King James Bible, and perhaps of bible printing more broadly), as well as, where possible and appropriate, research related to the specific object (does it belong to a particular cluster or collection of objects in the UBC Library? For example, perhaps the catalogue says your object belongs to the Arkeley Collection: what is the Arkeley Collection?)

You are then to introduce this object to a general audience. Your format is the online blog. UBC provides access to Wordpress blogs here; if you already maintain a blog of your own, you are welcome to use that platform instead. Your presentation of the object should include both text and images.

As you work on this project, keep a research diary. You can record anything you do as you work, not just on this project, but on the course as a whole; for example, if a particular reading, or a particular hands-on day, sparks your interest or suggests avenues for future exploration, you might write that down. You can also record false starts, eureka moments, dull gruntwork, anything at all... in part the purpose of this log is to encourage you to just keep digging, while keeping good records - two primary requirements of good archival research. You may keep the log in any form that is convenient for you (including on purple lined paper...). You will hand the log in along with the book blog itself, and it will be worth 10% of the total mark.

To hand in the assignment, you should e-mail me the link to your wiki contribution or blog. If your research log is in electronic form, then you should e-mail that to me as well. If your notes are in hard copy, then please assemble them, make sure that your name and my name and course number are on the title page, and submit them to me directly; I will arrange to be in my office for most of the day the assignment is due (we will go over all of this as the deadline approaches). If you miss me, you may submit to the English office in the Buchanan Tower. There is a box on the front counter for essay submissions: your log will be collected at the end of the day, date-stamped, and put in my mailbox. Note that the department office closes at 4:30 pm.


There will be a penalty of 2% per day, including weekends, for late work for all assignments, unless there is a valid reason for lateness (such as a documented illness). Normal pressure of work and deadlines is not typically a valid reason.

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