Mapping Print, Connecting Cultures

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Library & Information History

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This article discusses the potential of ‘historical bibliometric’ methodologies for understanding past cultures and offers a vision for how historical bibliometric research might be conducted on a comparative and global scale. Drawing on conceptual work being undertaken at the Western Sydney University in order to further develop and extend the widely respected ‘French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe’ (FBTEE) database project, it explores how historians might proceed to correlate, map, and analyse multiple spatially referenced data sets pertaining to the creation, publication, dissemination, ownership, consumption, reception, policing, and geographic setting of texts. While the authors recognise the many dangers and limitations inherent in reducing the cultural history of text to a set of statistical data, they observe that historians frequently use the production and circulation of texts as a useful proxy for understanding the circulation of ideas. Hence historical bibliometrics can provide measurable indicators of cultural resonance. The challenge, then, is to meaningfully integrate algorithmic abstractions with qualitative-based humanities research. This paper and the suite of projects it discusses seek to provide a way forward.



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