About the Project

Reading East: Irish Sources and Resources has been developed as a postdoctoral research project by Dr Marina Ansaldo, under the supervision of Dr Jane Grogan, at the School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin. The project was developed from January to December 2012 under the Government of Ireland Research & Senior Research Fellowship Project in the Humanities and Social Sciences, funded by the Irish Research Council. The website itself has been created in collaboration with Niall O’Leary of the Digital Humanities Observatory, a project of the Royal Irish Academy.

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The Catalogue

The Catalogue hosts early modern printed texts that attest to contact between Europe and the East, and that are held in Dublin research libraries. It is a selective descriptive catalogue. Its purpose is not to offer an exhaustive list of all the books about the East present in these libraries, but to provide a selection of books representative of the holdings of each of the libraries, supplying as much bibliographical information as possible about these texts. We hope that such data may be useful to further scholarly research.

The books have been selected on the basis of a number of guiding principles. One of the key aims of the project is to show the range and diversity of texts about the East that are present in the participating libraries. As a consequence, a variety of genres have been included: travel accounts and geographical descriptions, works on medicine, oriental languages, astronomy, science, and early modern editions of classical works about the East, for example. The catalogue does not, however, include genres that are predominantly fictional in the modern sense, such as drama and poetry, nor does it include manuscripts or collections of maps.

In selecting the geographical boundaries of the project, similar principles have been adopted. By ‘East’ it is intended the whole of the Asian continent, from the European regions of the Ottoman Empire to Japan. This is to emphasise that the interest in the East in the early modern period extended from the very near East to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean.

The desire to be inclusive and representative of a variety of types of texts about a vast portion of the globe has been accompanied by the wish to bring into view, alongside the more famous works, the rare and peculiar. This combined scope has influenced the time-boundaries of the project. We have decided to focus on earlier texts to show the richness of the genres and modes of engagement with the East even before the explosion of interest in the literature of travel from the mid-seventeenth century. Thus, earlier publications have been privileged ahead of more recent ones, and the greater majority of the books included in the catalogue were published before 1625, and the publication of Purchas His Pilgrimes. This vast work represents a significant text for the study of the history of exploration to the East (see James Wood’s essay about this book), and brings to its ‘posthumous’ conclusion the most important English compilation of early modern travel accounts, Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, currently the subject of a major editorial project (see the link to The Hakluyt Edition Project in ‘Resources’). This seemed an appropriate date to mark the conclusion of our journey through this bibliographical quest. But we hope that more texts, and more Irish libraries, will be included in the project. What follows is a brief guide to how to use the catalogue.

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Searching the Catalogue

The format of the catalogue allows for its entire contents to be scrolled through easily for an overview. The books are displayed in a table which can be ordered by title, author, date of publication and place of publication by clicking on the headers at the top. Some of the information appears in brackets. This indicates that the data is not present in the book itself but derives from external sources (for instance in the case of a missing title page). Be aware, however, that the brackets affect the way in which these records are sorted within the table. In the case of large multivolume works, more than one date of publication is usually provided. This, too, affects the sorting mechanism of the table. Clicking on a thumbnail on the left will enlarge the image of the title page; clicking on a title will open the catalogue record for that specific text. The menu on the right allows users to search any word within the records. Try synonyms and spelling variations of names and places to ensure a more comprehensive search. Under the main search box, you will find two menus enabling you to sort the books by library and by subjects.

The ‘Timeline’ and ‘Map’ buttons on the right offer an alternative to the more traditional table view of the catalogue. By clicking on these links, the books will be displayed in a timeline, according to their date of publication, or in a map that shows the geographical regions discussed by each text. The facets on the right remain the same in the table, map and timeline views, and the catalogue can be searched using any of these interfaces.Each record contains a bibliographical description of the book in question, copy-specific information, such as marginalia, imperfections and bindings, links to the catalogues of all of the libraries involved in the project and, where available, additional images of interest from inside the book, links to the relevant entry of the USTC/ESTC or other online catalogues, and a link to a digital version of a copy of the same edition from another library worldwide. Each record usually coincides with a single edition of a book, and may include the description of copies identified in other Dublin libraries.

Works in more than one volume appear within the same record. All efforts have been made to provide detailed information about each individual copy, where it is located, and how it differs from other copies of the same work. All the information present in the records is the result of direct observation of the copies indicated in the entry itself. In a minority of cases, due to external constraints, a direct analysis of the copies in questions was not possible, and other sources were used. This is always acknowledged in the relevant records.

Opening a record displays the following information:

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The Project Developer

Dr Marina Ansaldo developed Reading East: Irish Sources and Resources in 2012 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of English, Drama and Film, University College Dublin, under the supervision of Dr Jane Grogan.

She completed her PhD thesis in the National University of Ireland, Galway, under the supervision of Professor Daniel Carey and Dr Clíodhna Carney. Her dissertation is entitled: Fortune and the Troilus and Cressida Story: A Study of the Representations and Functions of Fortune in Boccaccio’s ‘Filostrato’, Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Troilus and Cressida’.

Marina has taught English Literature in the English Department in NUIG and in the School of English, Drama and Film in UCD. Her teaching and research interests include Medieval and Early Modern English and Italian Literature, with a particular focus on Boccaccio, Chaucer and Shakespeare, Comparative Literature, Translation Studies, Stylistics, and Book History.

Dr Jane Grogan is a Lecturer in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. She is the author of Exemplary Spenser (2009), editor of Celebrating Mutabilitie (2010) and is currently completing her second monograph, The Persian Empire in English Renaissance Writing, 1549-1622, for publication in 2013. She was awarded an IRCHSS Research Fellowship in 2011-12 for a project entitled ‘Persia in English Renaissance Literary and Political Thought’; this resource was developed and funded as part of that project.

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Acknowledgements: a message from the project developer

Reading East has been created and developed as part of my postdoctoral research project, and I have conducted all primary research, planned the website, and designed its contents. This was an particularly stimulating experience, which brought me to venture in a variety of fields – from bibliographical studies, to photography and image editing, to essay editing, and website development, and without the kind assistance, mentoring and advice of several, extremely generous and professional people I encountered along the way, Reading East would not be as you see it today. I have learned a lot throughout this journey, and not only about books. I was positively surprised in realising the extent to which you can rely on the kindness of others when developing this kind of project with a very limited budget at your disposal. This is an attempt to thank all of them.

I am very grateful to the Irish Research Council for financing the project, and to Dr Jane Grogan for entrusting me with its development. Reading East was born as her vision, and she has been there to offer encouragement and counsel throughout this journey. Her enthusiasm for the project has been inspiring, and her support and counsel invaluable.

Niall O’Leary of the Digital Humanities Observatory created the website, and looked after the technical side of things. If it was not for him, the catalogue would probably still be trapped inside my laptop in an Endnote file. He has been a life-saver, and I am extremely grateful for his generosity in assisting us and for his professionalism.

None of this would have been possible without the collaboration of the libraries and of the people working there. Everybody has been very keen to assist and offer advice on a range of different issues that arose along the way. I would like to thank especially Dr Elizabethanne Boran, of the Edward Worth Library; Dr Jason McElligott, Keeper of Marsh’s Library, and his colleagues Sue Hemmens, Ann Simmons and Maria O’Shea; Siobhán Fitzpatrick, Librarian of the RIA Library and her colleagues, in particular Petra Schnabel, Amy Hughes and Dave McKeon; Dr Lydia Ferguson of the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections, TCD and her colleagues Helen McGinley and Simon Lang; Celine Ward of the Chester Beatty Library and her colleague Dr Frances Narkiewicz; Evelyn Flanagan and Eugene Roche of Special Collections, UCD. Working for a time in the reading rooms of these libraries has been a privilege and a pleasure.

I am also particularly grateful to Dr Ema Vyroubalova, Dr Derek Dunne, Dr Michiel van Groesen, Dr Noreen Humble, Dr James Wood, Dr Rima Greenhill and Dr Edel Semple for collaborating to the project by providing great essays.

Alessandro Ansaldo offered precious help and mentoring in image editing; Dr Elizabeth Tilley volunteered invaluable advice on prints and illustrations, and Dr Derval Conroy on French Literature. My sincere thanks also to Professor Anne Fogarty and the staff of the School of English, Drama and Film, UCD for their constant support of the project.