Saturday, March 05, 2011

Report from SEA: Day 2

[For my summary of Thursday's events, go here]

I'm still a day behind, but I figure better slightly late than slightly more late, right?

For yesterday morning's first session I resorted to a coin toss, which resulted in my attending "Transatlantic Borrowings, American Adaptations." All three papers were fascinating: Ed Larkin urged historians to stop creating a bifurcation between Copley's paintings done in America and those done in England, urging us to see his loyalism not as an either/or proposition and arguing that he still considered himself "Anglo-American" no matter which side of the Atlantic he was on. Ezra Tawil discussed Noah Webster's use of Samuel Johnson's works in his own lexicographical pursuits (quoting David Simpson on the point that it was easier to declare independence from George III than from Samuel Johnson). And Sarah Rivett spoke on Jefferson's interest in native linguistics, putting that into the context of European efforts to discover "pure language."

The second session, "The Transatlantic Literary Marketplace," focused on mostly 19th-century authors: Washington Irving and the complicated publication history of The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., James K. Paulding's humorous responses to snide English travel accounts of America, and some fascinating paratextual elements in John Neal's novels.

I got a real treat for the afternoon: the great folks at Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts treated me to lunch and the grand tour of their beautiful space at the Arsenal. We had a wonderful meal and a great chat about all sorts of bibliophilic things, and then I had a chance to browse their stacks and find some goodies.

My favorite find was a little Congressional report into the 1825 Library of Congress fire, which features the following exchange between a congressman (probably Edward Everett) and George Watterston, the librarian of Congress:

Question: What was the appearance of the Library Room on your first entering it, after the alarm of fire, on the evening of the 22d inst?

Answer: The Library Room appeared as usual, with the exception of the fire, which was burning out of the western gallery. ...

There is almost no better way to spend an afternoon than in the company of good books and the people who love them. And Cynthy, David, Zoe, Cynthia and the rest of the gang at PRBM, they love their books (and it shows). I look forward to my next visit already!

Last evening's plenary session at the American Philosophical Society went very well, with some really interesting discussions about the planning processes behind some recent Franklin exhibits, Franklin's role in public life, and Franklin in public memory. The very entertaining and enlightening dinner which followed proved an excellent capstone to the evening.

The conference Twitterstream is humming along nicely, so if you want to follow along, do check that out - it's been neat to see others signing up and signing on to Twitter over the course of the conference and joining in the conversation.

I almost can't believe it's the last day already - many more good panels on tap (speaking of which, I'd better finish this up so I can grab some breakfast before they start).

No comments: