Piper 2009

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Piper, Andrew. Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Introduction: Bibliographic Subjects

"Hypothesis: All is Leaf." -- J. W. Goethe

books <--> literature

"Learning how to read books and how to want books did not simply occur through the technological, commercial, or legal conditions that made the growing proliferation of books possible. The making of such bibliographic fantasies was also importantly a product of the very narratives and symbolic operations contained within books as well. It was through romantic literature where individuals came to understand themselves." (4)

"bibliographic surplus" at the turn of the 19th century (5)

  • increasing diversity of books and bibliographic formats circulating
  • increasing homogeneity of geography; books translated across multiple sites (6)

using bibliographic imagination of 19c to understand digital present (7)

"A study of how nineteenth-century individuals became wedded to or possessed by their books can broaden our perspective of the nature of 'new media' cultures and historical experiences of 'media transition. It can offer parallels, but also differences, to our current process of adapting to communicative change." (7)

emphasizing continuities between bookish past and digital present; similarities:

  • the notion of a network
  • the status of the "copy"
  • remediating culture data into new forms
  • creativity as intermedial thinking/making (7-8)

these communicative practices "came into being" during the romantic age (8)

"The digital provides us with a critical lens to see the bibliographic with fresh eyes. But my own work is driven by an alternative desire to show us how the history of books, and romantic books in particular, can help us contextualize our understanding of digital or new media today." (8)

book history helps us recover a sense of "social authorship" (9-10); but literature can also tell us much about the history of the book (10)

"Literature makes books as much as books make literature." (11)
"I am interested in exploring how the symbolic movements in texts, whether of speech, things, or people, functioned as interpretations of the bibliographic environments through which such texts circulated. ... I want to ask how such circulatory energy was deployed to interrogate new conditions of communicating in books." (11)

in literary studies, romantic age gave us opposition between technics and aesthetics, encouraging us to forget the materiality of the book -- in fact, focusing on book as object was seen as a mental disorder during the early 19c; yet book history shows upsurge in production of books during this period (12)

  • book was becoming "naturalized" during the 19c (13)
"The work of romantic writers -- both their books and their fictions -- functioned as a key space where the changes to the material conditions of writing and communication that defined the nineteenth century could be rehearsed, interrogated, and ultimately normalized." (13)

romantic books were negotiating local/global, individual/collective; work seen as individualistic, from a single genius author, yet book increasingly produced collectively (15)

intermediality is core to romantic book (16)


the Weimar edition of Goethe's posthumous papers served as a textual monument mirroring the physical monument of the Goethe and Schille Archive, completed 1896 (19-20)

Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Travels

"landmark of the modern novel," precursor to Joyce's Ulysses (23)

"wild proliferation of genres" and discourses within the novel (23)

book <--> narrative <--> sections <--> objects

"Where Novalis had written down in his notebooks that his task was 'to find a universe in a book,' Goethe's project by contrast relocated this universe across an entire spectrum of printed books and thus redefined the literary work as something material, processual, and spatially dispersed." (24-5)

affirms novelistic tradition and novel's cosmological claims, but adds "mediological dimension" (25); conceives of the book not as a "spiritual fortress" (like the Weimar edition) nor "a totality existing for itself: (Schlegel), but "relational, transformable, and dynamic entities";

  • book and novel were "refigured, in a word, as networks" (25)
"For Goethe, the emerging concern of modern fiction was no longer simply what texts could mean, but how such mobile, evolving, collectively generated webs of writing were to be navigated." (25)

goes through history of publishing advertisements/papers/collections that would make up the Travels; important to see these works as unfolding over time -- we can't retroactively impose unity on the parts that were circulating (26-7)

  • "such practices aimed to reorient the activity of reading itself as far more polyfocal" (27)

Where is the Travels located? (30)

advertisements and excerpts circulated not just as marketing devices, but as a "bibliographic scene against which the Travels would come to understand itself" (30-1)

ambiguous relationship between novel as a whole product and its readers; novel never appeared as "new" work or as a reprinted "classic" (32)

when it was received poorly in 1821, Goethe published another advertisement mentioning those who had praised his novel, and "framed the printed book as containing the capacity for self0correction. It made writing more collective and less singular." (32)

in 1829, Goethe published another advertisement; instead of focusing on the novel's completeness, it emphasized its diffusion, the absences (34)

"Whether it was the novel or the collected edition, Goethe's publishing practices were crucially redefining 'everything' not as a unified codicological identity but instead as a temporally and spatially dispersed process." (35)

"demarcation of the literary work became increasingly problematic" as Goethe's publishing strategies "transgressed and expanded the work's boundaries" (35)

The paper and the arrow

Piper pursues a close re-reading of a moment in the text -- two symbols that pose interpretive difficulty, a piece of paper and an arrow, 38-43

hypertextuality in Goethe (44)

"What the arrow and the map performed was the problematization of precisely this logic of sameness and difference, and they did so by arguing for the importance of the material processes that surrounded the literary work. They located literary work, and thus the 'work' itself, not in some ideal and crucially immaterial space, but instead in the material event of publication -- the circulation, distribution, and reproduction that shaped its reception. They reoriented the reader's gaze to the mobile artifacts of literary life." (45)

Books and bodies

medicalization of body and anatomical turn during the 19th century (46)

relationship between the book and the body (46)

Vsalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543) shows a turning towards the body; Goethe's drama of the anatomical theater in the Travels reverses this, away from the body and toward the book (46-7)

Wilhelm's professionalization <--> "literary corpus" (47)

in the anatomical theater, "the novel and the book were neither figured as inert corpses (or corpuses) nor as timeless fundaments to secure the walls of the individual or national fortress. Instead, novel and book were refigured as prophetic, radiant, technological compounds." (50)

"post-author, future-oriented, technologized notion of literary work" (52)


collected edition: "one of the most -- if not the most -- durable and effective vehicles for regulating, institutionalizing, and stabilizing the category of literature in an age of too much literature" (54)

  • organized many texts in one space
  • argued for homogeneity of contents (unlike critical edition of miscellany)
  • author as single organizing figure
  • produces "temporal continuity through the reproduction of already extant texts" (54)
"A 'classic' was a work whose identity depended upon a fundamental aspect of reproducibility." (54)

Sanskrit root "sama" -- English "same" -- German "Sammlung" -- fundamental sameness

"The collected edition not only responded to, and in part repaired, the spatial disorganization of the literary and political systems of the nineteenth century, it also addressed the crisis of traditio, the problem of cultural durability in an age of mass-reproduced objects." (55)

different from early modern collected editions by become "part and parcel of literary making" (55)

"what mattered to the collected edition's rise in cultural prominence during the early nineteenth century was precisely the imaginative possibility that something stayed the same and that this sameness was not seen as either illicit or creatively impoverished but juridically and aesthetically legitimate." (56)

taste for repetition and collection (56)

invisible third party mediating the relationship between readers and authors: publishers (56-7)

collected edition:

  • highlighted nascent political aspirations (58)
  • presented image of heroic individuality (author's portrait as frontispiece) (59)
    • author's face -- faciality at heart of capitalism (Deleuze and Guattari) (59)
    • threshold between autobiographization of literature and dehumanization through commodification of the book (59)
  • created genre
    • biographical sketch of author (60)
  • visual uniformity, typographic regularity (61)
    • corresponds with textual integrity (61)

copyright example: Wieland sold copyright of entire collected works to Göschen; Wieland's previous publisher, Weidmann, sued; courts sided with Göschen, since the common good of collecting an author's works overrode publisher's financial gain (63); in becoming part of collected edition, Wieland's work became something new (63)

  • "signaled the way a literary work was crucially understood as a material event as well as an intellectual one" (63)
  • work not separate from but defined by its material location
  • work networked to a larger system of books circulating

novella -- working through "literary novelty", the "newness" of the novella; "Novellistic writing was unheard of, lacked a history, was singular or improbable. It was the literary version fo the news, the genre of geniuses." (65)

yet novella collection was interesed in narrative recycling and reproducibility

-- the novelty of sameness -- (66)

E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Serapion Brothers'

"I am interested in understanding how the poetics of repetition that Freud so acutely identified in Hoffmann's work was not the function of a basic and timeless psychic structure but instead was a technique or addressing the media-technological conditions in which such psychological profiles coudl be generated." (66-7)

not interiorization but forms of expression, sociability, communication

published in 4 volumes over 3 years, almost all previously published material (67); frame echoes Boccaccio's Decameron

Serapion - "patron saint of both the collection and romanticism more generally" because of "his promotion of a temporal and corporeal continuity. His survival and his corporeal intactness represent a resistance to the very problem of diffusion and change that surrounded bibliographic work in the early nineteenth century and that the novella collection as a genre was designed to recuperate. Serapion literally embodies the textual integrity at the heart of collected editions" (70)

"The Uncanny Guest" / "The Magnetist

reprinting of earlier novella that rewrote an earlier tale; also reused title from Hoffmann's friend (70); "marked by an accumulation of repetitive bibliographic practices" (71)

often overlooked in Hoffman's collection (71)


plot of the returning husband (73); being able to narrate one's own bodily absence to a social group, thereby reintegrating oneself (73-4); much like romantic figure of the double (74):

  • psychologization of 19c literature;
  • exploration of interiority (75)
  • readers see reflection of themselves in books (Freud, uncanny) (75)

instead of focusing on double in terms of self-oriented narcissism, think of it in terms of media ecology:

  • reproducible cultural objects
  • crisis of "the unique" (75)
"perhaps the story of the double did not so much articulate some new psychological reality or a larger program of psychologization at all, but instead represented with striking precision the material reality of a new communications environment." (75)

not invitation to identify with characters in books, but of understanding books themselves as mass-reproduced objects (75)

Hoffmannian magnetism --> "Technik (technologies and techniques) of literary reactivation and recolection that produced such connectivity" (76)


"communicates incommunicability" (77); "not just noise but the figure of noise" (77)

magnetic communication -- "draws attention to the noise, and thus the channel, of any communicative channel" (77)

inability to connect sound to source

reused, relocated; "The dislocatability of language is indeed the very precondition of its relocatability." (78)


Moritz becomes not only magnetist but collector -- "the figure capable of producing sameness out of heterogeneity and heterogeneity -- a novel difference -- out of such sameness" (80-1)

instead of showing the collection as a fixation of meaning, "The Uncanny Guest" "argued for the essential instability of this project ... Collected editions not only seemed to have something interminable about them ... but each collected edition always seemed to produce one another. ... Instead of limiting the flow and overflow of literary material, the publication of collected editions contributed to the very surplus of production they were designed to control." (82)


turn of 19c: growing importance of editors as mediators/middlemen

  • produced "the creative heritage upon which the imagined communities of emerging European nation states were to be based" (85)
  • translated work between languages and cultures (86)
  • made a diversity of genres available -- ballads, chapbooks, epis, myths (86)
  • contributed to the 19th-century "media imaginary" (86); were reformatting oral, musical, etc. texts to print medium
"Teasing out the relations of different communications media to literary production, romantic editors functioned much like early media theorists." (86)

romantic notion of single author; but author-editors just as important in initiating new creative spaces (87)

from first to second have of 19c, editors went from being praised to being problematic

  • "writing as mediation was itself marginalized" (88)
"How did editors produce authors at the turn of the 19c, not simply within the confines of their own editions but in the way such editions made varying notions of authorship culturally available? How did editorial theory and editorial work contribute to a broader understanding of what an author was and what an author did?" (88)

implications for digital transition today --> processing media material, reformatting to fit and construct new ideals (88-9)

Erneuungen to critical editions

Ludwig Tieck, Minnelieder aus dem schwäbischen Zeitalter (1803)

made alterations to his sources: updating words, paraphrasing, imitation (89)

dependent upon theory of translation -- "mutual crossing over ... between languages and time by both reader and writer" (90)

part of long interventionist editorial tradition: Erneuung

  • equates editors with authors (91)
  • "supposed to embody both old and new, that the old was a form of renewal and correcting could induce creating" (91)

Friedrich von der Hagen, Nibelungenlied (1807)

modernization that is "worse than the original and yet not even modern" (qting Wilhelm Grimm, 91)

didn't seem to belong to any time period

"To its many critics, the Erneuung thus involved both the wrong kind and the wrong quantity of change. It brought the reader too far away from any kind of stable textual origins, from either its medieval context in which it was first produced or the early nineteenth-century world in which it was being reproduced." (91)

argument between Hagen and Grimm about best edition of Edda

oldest manuscripts as bearing the authority of an "original" vs. "corrupted variants or incomplete fragments of a lost origin" (92)

fidelity to manuscript means infidelity to original author or work that sprang from his mind (93); engaging with multiple sources results in one best text, and "such engagements with the material legacy of the text were to be dramatized on the printed page" (93)

"The critical edition rested on the paradoxical idea that it was only through the practice of transformation that the editor could recover something thatw as originally there. The more the editor did, in other words, the more he disappeared fro the author's text." (93)

editors moving to the margins, the footnotes, while exerting greater influence on body of text

earlier editions didn't show their work in the margins; "There was a paginal immaculateness to these earlier editions that needed to be discarded, or better, framed, a blank space that needed to be typographically bordered by the work of the editor." (93); critical editions emerged between 1810-1830 to motivate and regulate editorial interventions, even as it cordoned them off in the margins;

"dramatized a space of vertical reading of multiple variants that overlay one another in complex ways. Fluid reading was juxtaposed here with thick reading." (94)

desire to confront reader with duality of original text and editorial insertions

"Through an attention to the numerous and various records of the ltierary text -- through an attention, in other words, to the historical exigencies that underlay the text -- the editor's ultimate goal was to locate the original work and thus bypass history." (95)

critical edition differentiates tasks of authoring and editing -- separated spatially on the page; beginning to construct strict boundaries between authors and editors (95)

  • editor is "reconstructing the routes of transmission and the acts of transformation" on his text (96);
  • author is "overwhelmingly defined by originality in both senses of the word" (96)

simultaneous presentation on the page allowed for Lachmann's ideal of "immaculate reception" (96-7)

Walter Scott, the ballad

practice of collecting local oral cultures, ballads, in late 18c; international, transnational

ballad became "essential generic role in the development of romantic poetry" (98)

  • fascination with original and originary
  • attention to intermediality (99)

much attention on ballad recently, but its bookishness has been overlooked (99)

ballad imagined as non-bookish genre; but "ballad revival was always intensely mediated through the bibliographic practices of collection and correction" (99)

Susan Stewart, ballad as distressed genre -- "that which has been made old" (99); yet, as a genre, ballads signified not only time itself "but the dual problems of literary ownership and textual stability" (99)

Walter Scott: not just concerned with national or cultural borders, but textual border -- "the boundaries within and between books" (100)

  • for Scott, novel took shape "in its negotiation with the bibliographic format of the edition and its investment in marginalizing the mediating practices of the editor" (101)

example of Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border

  • typographical exclusivity of the edition; omitted musical notation (103)
  • tension between singularity and collectivity (103)
  • tension between book and title (104)
  • tension between proprietary and the commons, enacted in margins (104)

close reading of "The Sang of the Outlaw Murray" (105-7)

example of Tales of My Landlord (109-113)

example, close reading of The Heart of Mid-Lothian (113-119)


nineteenth-century miscellany

  • "served a crucial ordering function in an age of too much writing" (121)
  • not organized around author, but reader, who could "create the linkages between such cultural strata" as the diverse texts present in a miscellany (122)
    • etymologically, reading as an act of gathering, plucking (122)
  • mapped onto seasonal transitions; transition from cyclicality to seriality marking 19c and mass media more generally (123)
  • "gift book": emerged just as books were becoming more defined by their status as commodities
    • domesticating book; appealed to expanding female readership
    • "In replacing a system of anonymous circulation with a more intimate system of exchange between friends and family, the gift book was a means of compensating for, but also propelling, the new commercial proliferation of books" (123)
  • celebrated the mixed nature of writing
"the book format of the romantic miscellany functioned as a particularly acut space in which the mutual relationship of sharing and owning (a common right and a copyright) to writing) could be rehearsed during the first half of the 19c How was one to share writing with someone else, to have it in common without losing it completely? With so much written material moving about with ever greater ease, how was one to reliably negotiate the complex contours between the mine, the yours, and the ours?" (125)

exposing the richness of the tradition of sharing, we can see contemporary digital practices not as aberrant, but in a "long and legitimate history" (126)

sharing / owning --> tangled together

residual manuscript handwriting in miscellanies == commonality, not individuality; handwriting circulated widely in 19c, perhaps more than print; can we then still speak of "print culture"?

"poetics of miscellaneity" --> "motivated the shareability of writing" (128)

inscription: white spaces and blanks inviting handwritten inscription; unlike border insulating the critical edition, white space in the miscellany "was an invitation to croww the boundaries between reader and author and produce the presence of multiple hands on the page" (129)

  • establishes matrilineal network of reading (132)
  • disappearance of "vertical dedications" (authors to patrons) alongside rise of horizontal dedications between readers; instead of acknowledgment of debt, horizontal inscriptions transferred debt from one reader to another

bringing the body into the book; endowed private inscription with a certain publicness

marking not just shareability of books, but of ideas within them, turning author's ideas into one's own property; initiation to more writing in books, which has quasi-authorial role/status (133)

financial ledgers, diaries, calendars -- all had spaces for writing in books

"Typographical spaces like the accounting tables or diary sheets encouraged readers to learn to narrate their own lives -- to recount and thus account for their actions -- but such tabular autobiographical spaces were taking place not in blank books but in books with other writing in them. There was a transactional logic to writing that was encoded in the "in" and the "out" of those accounting tables. Indeed, the table to calculate credit and debit was the logical visual extension of the dedication page itself that established a fundamental bibliographic debt between readers. In framing readers' writing according to the logic of bookkeeping, then, writing was not framed as an act of keeping books, of possession, but as a way of mapping lines of exchange." (134-5)

not like early modern commonplace books, but inscribed the individual into a book already composed -- not blank page of the commonplace, but printed page of the miscellany (137)

privileging of empty space within the printed form of the book (138)

bibliographic hollows <--> romantic "hollows"; example of E. A. Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum", A. F. E. Langbein's "The Misunderstanding", Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

reading of Washington Irving's "An Unwritten Drama of Lord Byron"

  • writing about something not yet written; emphasis on unwritten, unfinished (143)
  • title "make[s] an opening" (144)

reading of Poe, Hawthorne, and Mrs. Chamberlain's "Jottings from an Old Journal" (148 ff.)


Elisabeth Kulmann -- spoke many languages, wrote her poems simultaneously in three languages: German, Italian, Russian; no language emerges as her "mother" tongue -- named her book after Greek poet Corinna, but Corinna had no extant poems for Kulmann to read during her lifetime

  • poetry then begins with an absence -- genealogical absence, linguistic absence


  • served "as a crucial, and even necessary, accompaniment to literary innovation in the years around 1800" (154);
  • were cheap and easy to reproduce, no international copyright protecting them;
  • consolidated collective identities of audiences;
  • helped to standardize European cultures --
  • but also estrange, drawing reader's attention elsewhere

translation marked as women' writing, women's work; professionalization of women's writing transpired through engagement with mercantilist practice of translation

"It is in the liminal space of translation where we can see these writers wroking through the problems of 'going public', of negotiating the ambiguous and shifing specificity of the public's boundaries at the turn of the 19c" (157)
  • public<-->publicness
  • both public and private mode of communication

example of Sophie Mereau


late 18c begins the explosion of illustrated books; visual experience in books begins to change; yet romantic literature is general thought of as iconoclastic and anti-pictorial (187)

Piper wants "to understand how the texts within and around these [illsutrated] books were engaging with this increasingly visual bibliographic experience," and also "how illustrations in books were themselves addressing through the use of new graphic practices the intermedial origins of visual art, the way the romantic image and the modes of envisioning that it promoted were crucially indebted to the medium of the printed book" (187)

The romantic "line"

romantic interest in the line, which "straddle[s] visual and scriptural representations" -- graphics being legible in both writing and image (189)

  • resisting line as either distinction or linearity/teleology
  • "way of exploring the possibility of textual and visual simultaneity" (189)

Goethe: used spirals in a grid to capture plant growth

Bernhard Siegert argues "that such graphic abstractions would become a defining feature of a new scientific visual paradigm that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century" (204) -- representing oscillating phenomenon like growth, sound, heat, electricity as visual abstractions

wavy line of the romantic book ended by the straight vanishing point lines of the late 19c trains

"the intermedial interactions between text and image in the book propel us to search out the otherwise invisible intermedial interactions that take place beyond the boundaries of the book with other media. It is there, i nthis entanglement, where the book's identity -- and the remnants of its vanishing -- are to be found" (233)

Next to the Book

"by reconceptualizing the history of the book not as a narrative of rise and fall but precisely as a series of social, historical, and technological negotiations, we can begin to see in a more critical light the negotiations that are underway today in revaluing our relationship to the book." (236)

instead of "nextness" of media studies (Michael Joyce) we need a "next to," or "translational humanism" (236)

in 19c, "during this crucial period of media change, nextness was as much about the "next to" as it was about what came next. Understanding the future of the book depends upon a better understanding of the history of interactions between residual and new communications technologies" (239)

"Translational Humanism"

not humanist as lonely archivist, but as "translatologist, as a scholar of those fields of negotiability that individuals like Gitelman and Bolter have identified in their work on the history of new media." (239)

"Instead of either separating or effacing the communicative difference bw media, the humanist as translatologist studies the losses, breaks, ruptures, discoveries, additions, negotiations, and doublings that occur in moving from one medium to another. In this vision of the humanist, the study of literature is reconceived as a linguistic performance across multiple media channels, requiring something akin to Alan Liu's notion of a new 'transliteracy'" (239)

importance of history to the study of media

not "after"; but studying "persistent recurrence of media differentiation and interaction over time" (240)

human not as something made and inert, but as a translation, a process (241)