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SHARP2015: Generation and Regeneration of Books

SHARP2015: Generation and Regeneration of Books

This year's Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing's conference was held in Montreal, Canada between the 7th and 10th of July. The theme was the Generation and Regeneration of Books and this was my first major conference!

I was presenting a traditional 20-minute paper on “A large and well assorted library”: Childhood Reading Practices in Edinburgh Schools in the wake of the Scottish Enlightenment. This paper was based on an aspect of my Masters research which looked at the changing curricula in Edinburgh schools (the Royal High School, Donaldson's Hospital George Heriot's Hospital and charity schools, George Watson's Hospital and the Merchant Maiden Schools) across the long eighteenth century, focusing particularly on the Scottish Enlightenment. I also looked at the increasing importance of the school library in these schools and how this enabled pupils to access a wider range of reading material, particularly the contemporary knowledge of the Scottish Enlightenment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the other papers on my panel which focused on the collections at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec which deal with dyslexia and the role of the library in forming a children's literature canon in Canada.

A highlight of the conference was the the introduction of lightning-papers. This allowed PhD students to present for 10 minutes, with 3 powerpoint slides, on an aspect of their research. It was great to hear such a wide variety of different topics and the dynamic format was refreshing after a few days of 20-minute papers. I hope this is something that is carried forward into next year's conference as I would be really keen to give this a go. I think the brevity of the papers would really help to crystalise a particular aspect of my overall argument.

However, the definite high point of the conference was Robert Darnton's keynote lecture. His paper aimed to answer the question: what did the French read on the eve of the Revolution? Using data he had gathered on booksellers in eighteenth-century France, Darnton provided a fascinating insight into the French booktrade at this turbulent time. This data has been collated at A Literary Tour De France. This will definitely be a resource I'll be delving into as it provides a fascinating insight into eighteenth-century print culture.

SHARP was a great first conference for me - the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. (I also loved Montreal!) I'm already eagerly anticipating next year's conference in Paris.

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