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Self-Inscription Formats of Eighteenth-Century England: Commonplace and Extra-Illustrated Books


Throughout the letter press era of the eighteenth century, manuscript (“written by hand”) writing encompassed other techniques besides inscribing words on paper with pen and ink. Visual images, printed lines of text, and the blades used for dismembering and recreating books worked together with handwriting to produce different forms of writing by hand. This thesis examines the history of writing as a practice of documenting and archiving the self using mixed media formats throughout the eighteenth century. Its main objects of study are extra-illustrated books and commonplace books, interactive book formats that their owners created or kept to manage personally significant information and records. Bringing the intermedial writing practices of Britain’s long eighteenth century to light through these two formats offers a historical framework through which to read the novel self-inscription methods used in today’s personal digital archiving systems, and other twenty-first century forms of electronically-mediated memory and identity.

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