Surprisingly, I think I have only recently understood the full power of the bookshop. As a literature graduate and book lover it is perhaps no shock that bookshops are among my favourite places to spend time (and usually a small fortune!). I have loved many a bookshop, often in a quiet, personal way. Perhaps now more than ever, in a fast-paced and frequently impersonal society of online shopping, the almost sacred quality that bookshops can possess is particularly striking. What they offer, for me at least, is a haven of knowledge and creativity, going beyond that of a retail exploit. There is increasing academic interest in the role of the modernist bookshop at present, as shown by Huw Osborne's recent edited collection and Andrew Thacker's article in Modernist Cultures (11.3, 2016).
Beginning in that annus mirabilis of modern literature, 1922, and petering out in 1950, the letters between novelist E. M. Forster and the Hogarth Press provide a fascinating and extended glimpse of the relationship between one of England’s best novelists and his publishing agents. This trove of letters features discussions about the technical particulars of paper color and type, of distribution and copyright, but they also hint at personal details of the correspondents, most notably between Leonard Woolf and Forster, or “Morgan” as he’s addressed. Although most of the letters sent during this 28-year period focus on publishing and distribution, small details about the relationship between the two men peek through the negotiations and discussions about Forster’s book Pharos and Pharillon, published by Hogarth Press in May 1923. Both aspects of this collection are fascinating for scholars and students of modern publishing and literature.
At MAPP, we invest a lot of intense, purposeful, and rewarding group effort thinking about how literary theory and digital methodology interact in the context of shifting disciplinary pressures within modernist studies and academic humanities in general. We are always asking ourselves how archival theory and digital praxis reinforce one another, while remaining attentive to and engaging the productive tension between theory and praxis in the actual making of MAPP.
Check out this excellent recent article by Matt Huculak about these very issues, which explores how digital modernist projects have “reenergized the field.” MAPP gets a favorable mention, and the Hogarth Press door plate—portal and threshold to our own digital edifice—a pleasing show. Enjoy!