About the Conference

Since 2009 the Early American Literature and Material Texts Initiative has sponsored research fellowships, public lectures, and annual workshops that connect the study of texts to their material conditions of production, circulation, and reception.

In Spring 2016 the EALMT Initiative, in partnership with the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, convened a three-day interdisciplinary conference to showcase new theoretical, methodological, and historiographical developments in scholarship on the history of the book and its allied material cultures in North America and the Atlantic world before 1850.

Early American Material Texts: A Conference was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Penn’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts.


Wed. May 25, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street

4:30-4:45pm: Welcome and Introduction (Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and James N. Green, Library Company of Philadelphia)

4:45-6:00pm : Keywords 1 : Concepts (Chair: Eric Slauter, University of Chicago)

  1. “Archive,” Lindsay Van Tine (University of Pennsylvania/Swarthmore College)
  2. “Articulate,” Angel-Luke O’Donnell (King’s College London)
  3. “Genre,” Seth Perry (Princeton University)
  4. “Networks,” John Garcia (American Antiquarian Society)
  5. “Thing,” Sonia Hazard (Duke University)

6:00pm: Reception


Thurs. May 26, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, 34th and Walnut Streets

9-10:30am: Panel 1 : Processes and Technologies of Making (Chair: Lucia McMahon, William Patterson University) This panel will discuss pre-circulated papers.

  1. “Nature of Marbled Surfaces in Early America,” Jennifer Chuong (Harvard University)
  2. “Early American Cyphering Books in the Joseph Downs Collection,” Tessa Gadomski (Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts)
  3. “Mrs. Smith’s Quilt: A dialogue on Material Culture, Environmentalism and Nostalgia,” Laura Keim (Stenton) and Bethany Wiggin (University of Pennsylvania)
  4. “How It Was Voted to ‘Cast out of the Alphabet ‘B’ and ‘D’” in Hawaiian Printing,” Elizabeth Pope (American Antiquarian Society)

10:45-12:15pm: Panel 2 : Circulation, Distribution, and Transmission (Chair: Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers University) This panel will discuss pre-circulated papers.

  1. “Matters of Circulation in the Early Black Atlantic: John Marrant’s Narrative (1785-1835),” Joseph Rezek (Boston University)
  2. “Traveling Bookstores of the Early Nineteenth Century,” Christy Pottroff (Fordham University)
  3. “Jonathan Plummer and the Perambulations of Print,” Benjamin Bascom (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
  4. “Lost and Found: Antiquarianism and Historical Reprinting in the Early Republic,” Lindsay DiCuirci (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

12:15-1:30pm: Lunch on your own

1:30-2:45pm: Keywords 2 : Objects (Chair: Martin Brückner, University of Delaware)

  1. “Body,” Sarah Schuetze (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay)
  2. “Book,” Danielle Skeehan (Oberlin College)
  3. “Intermedial,” Mark Mattes (University of Louisville)
  4. “Manuscript,” Andrew Inchiosa (University of Chicago/McNeil Center for Early American Studies)
  5. “Reader,” Katherine Gaudet (University of New Hampshire)

3:00-4:30pm: Panel 3 : Lived Religion and Material Texts (Chair: Matthew Brown, University of Iowa) This panel will discuss pre-circulated papers.

  1. “What the Hymnbook Says: On Reading a Print Artifact as Statement and Event,” Christopher Phillips (Lafayette College)
  2. “Books Buried in the Earth: The Book of Mormon and the Humic Foundations of the National Romance,” Jillian Sayre (Rutgers University, Camden)
  3. “Breaking the Good Book: The Bible as an Immoral Material Text in Nineteenth-Century America,” Jamie Brummitt (Duke University)

4:45-6:15pm: Panel 4 : African American Texts in Print and Manuscript (Chair: Lara Langer Cohen, Swarthmore College) This panel will discuss pre-circulated papers.

  1. “The High Stakes of Authorship in Jefferson’s Notes, Walker’s Appeal, and Apes’s ‘Looking-Glass for the White Man’,” Marcy J. Dinius (DePaul University)
  2. “Where you think they will do the most good”: Disseminating African American Pamphlets and Newspapers in the Antebellum South,” Lori Leavell (University of Central Arkansas)
  3. “On the Not-Yet Material: William J. Wilson’s “Afric-American Picture Gallery,” Britt Rusert (Princeton University)
  4. “George Moses Horton’s ‘Individual Influence’ and Henry Harisse,” Jonathan Senchyne (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

6:15-6:45pm: Remembering Elizabeth Eisenstein (1923-2016)

Eleanor F. Shevlin (West Chester University) and Jerome E. Singerman (University of Pennsylvania Press)


Fri. May 27, Kislak Center Pavilion, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, 6th Floor, University of Pennsylvania

9-10:30am: Panel 5 : Beyond the Book (Chair: John Pollack, University of Pennsylvania) This panel will discuss pre-circulated papers.

  1. “Eighteenth-Century Advertising Ephemera:  Paratexts that Framed Early American Magazines,” Carl Robert Keyes (Assumption College)
  2. “The Work of Art and the Art of Work: Ephemeral Prints by Paul Revere,” Nancy Siegel (Towson University)
  3. “Bank Notes and Queries: Writing on Early Republic Paper Money,” Joshua R. Greenberg (Bridgewater State University)

10:45-12pm: Keywords 3 : Textualities (Chair: Christopher Looby, University of California, Los Angeles)

  1. “Edition,” Alex Mazzaferro (Rutgers University)
  2. “Erasure,” Daniel Diez Couch (University of California, Los Angeles/McNeil Center for Early American Studies)
  3. “Marginalia,” Marcia Nichols (University of Minnesota, Rochester)
  4. “Paratext,” Joshua Ratner (Friends School of Baltimore)
  5. “Subscription,” Steve Smith (Providence College)

12:00-1:45pm: Lunch on your own

*Optional lunchtime activity: A “Keywords” exhibit of books, artifacts, and rare materials in the Henry Charles Lea Library, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, 6th Floor.

1:45-3:30pm: Closing Roundtable. James N. Green, moderator (Library Company of Philadelphia)

  1. Georgia Barnhill (American Antiquarian Society)
  2. Sandra M. Gustafson (University of Notre Dame)
  3. Leon Jackson (University of South Carolina)
  4. Meredith Neuman (Clark University)
  5. Michael B. Winship (University of Texas, Austin)



Image credits:

All images used with permission of the Library Company of Philadelphia http://www.librarycompany.org/

  1. Marginalia to Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Philadelphia, 1776).
  2. Lion’s Mouth Box (ca.1750)
  3. Prints of leaves in Michael Pexenfelder, Apparatus eruditionis tam rerum quam verborum per omnes artes et scientias (Nuremberg, 1670).
  4. A. Lay and J. Webster, publishers. A New Correct Map of the Seat of War in Lower Canada (ca.1814).