Conferences and research trips are difficult to fund on a graduate student budget, but with the generous support of the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies consortium, I was able to attend the 2019 Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference (January 24-26, 2019) and do research in the Newberry’s special collections.
At the conference I met and engaged with other graduate students from all over the world. The conference organizers were friendly and inviting, which made this conference a great opportunity for emerging scholars to present their research, ask questions, and bond over our mutual love of old books, libraries, and all things Renaissance.
Like any bibliophile, my favourite part of my experience at the Newberry was the books. The graduate conference gave us a taste of the Newberry’s immense holdings through their collection presentations. The best part, for me, was looking through the original quartos of the plays that I have been studying in my dissertation. Though my primary interest is in English Renaissance drama, the most interesting item that I found wasn’t a play at all, but a 1561 volume of Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier, translated into English by Thomas Hoby, that was owned and annotated by Gabriel Harvey in 1572 (VAULT Case Y 712 .C27495). Harvey’s manuscript notes all but take over the margins of the page as he summarizes the contents, makes note of passages for further study, and references other contemporary courtesy manuals. I spent hours reading Harvey’s comments on Castiglione’s work and thinking about the ways that people read and interact with texts. If my own treasured dog-eared and scribbled-over volumes are any indication, it doesn’t seem as though much has changed even if prevailing attitudes have, but my experience at the Newberry has only increased my growing fascination with early modern manuscript marginalia.
University of Western Ontario