Last fall, I had the privilege of attending the GW-Folger Seminar, and it was a truly amazing opportunity. In order to encourage other students to take advantage of this unique course, I’d like to share my experiences.
The early modern book history course is an interdisciplinary study incorporating history and literature, and it will enhance your appreciation for books as they exist today. By thinking of books as objects by examining their form, text, and researching the printers and past owners, we can tell a fuller story about the text’s significance and how print history has developed. Dr. Werner, our instructor, also invited numerous guest lecturers to talk about their fields of expertise, which rounded out individual readings and projects.
Last fall, I was taking a Chaucer course at GW, so I chose to work directly with the Folger Library’s 1498 Wynken de Word copy, one of the earliest printed editions of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As undergraduates, we were able to access books that were more than 500 years old as well as invaluable research aids compiled by the Folger librarians. My research complemented my reading of The Canterbury Tales and led me to more fully understand just how important Chaucer was as a national figure to his contemporaries. His manuscripts were collected posthumously, and when printing presses arrived in England, The Canterbury Tales was one of the first books ever to be printed in English.
This spring we will continue a colloquium in order to discuss ongoing research and other book history topics. The Folger Library in itself is a beautiful Washington, DC treasure, and I am glad for any reason to be invited back.