Events | January 25, 2023

Bibliography Week Lecture on Clandestine Printing

Grolier Club

The Grolier Club plays host to this hybrid event on January 25, 2.30pm-3.30pm. A panel of Carnegie Mellon scientists and scholars - Christopher N. Warren, Max G'Sell, and Grolier Club member Samuel Lemley - will speak on Freedom and the Press before Freedom of the Press: Tools, Data, and Methods for Researching Secret Printing.

At the heart of this talk is the recognition that the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment developed out of a long and complex tradition of press controls and licensing in Europe and the colonies, and that this amendment's framers understood a lesson sometimes under-appreciated by scholars: that press controls had long pushed certain kinds of printing underground.

This panel's members contend that some of the most fascinating stories of the First Amendment's pre-history are yet to be told, and that they can only be discovered with tools, data and methods developed in computational bibliography. The most persuasive evidence of clandestine printing often lies below the threshold of human attention - in minute typographical details, recurring pieces of damaged type, similar or divergent paper stocks, or tiny variations in print shop practices, observable only at scale.

At the same time, it takes sophisticated information architecture for researchers to move effectively from minute physical details to broader, more consequential patterns. This presentation introduces a project aiming to ameliorate the persistent challenges of studying clandestine printing with a suite of tools, data, and machine learning methods that can detect, model, and integrate hidden sources of information in letterpress print.

More details and booking information at The Grolier Club.