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The Project

Newberry Library Case Wing ZC 27 .T763 is laden with data. Addresses, inventories, invoices, names, spilling out into infinite directions of archival documentation in the form of legal documents, wills, diaries, maps, and urban directories. All of this—the excessive, the networked, the ever-evolving—lends itself greatly to the digital. 

English Trade Cards: A Digital Companion to serves as the online home for the bibliographic and sociohistorical research surrounding the book. With a searchable archive, project-specific metadata, and an interactive map, this digital space seeks to embrace the boundlessness of digital archival research and function as both a research tool and living publication, existing simultaneously as both process and product. 

The Digital Companion presents two tiers of investigation: the research questions of the greater project, and the questions presented by the digital space itself. Ultimately, this project seeks to consider the intentions and receptions of ephemeral print at a time when its commercial potential was just being uncovered, and how impulses of preservation and curation-of-self lend themselves to a book form. And of course, continuing to uncover some of the mystery surrounding the book’s authorship. The digital space explores the potential for analog-digital hybrid research and possible forms of digital archival research and publication, using a geospatial map to present the same data in a new, hopefully illuminating, arrangement. 

Digital spaces have unprecedented potential to show context; therefore, the Digital Companion can be used as an elaborate appendix to the physical object, or accessed as a stand-alone portal into the physical object’s content.


“And it would indeed be foolish, stubborn, maybe even pridefully obsessive… if this exact recopying of words did not feel somehow necessary, an exclusive and privileged way of entering into the world of the document, as both accomplice and outsider.” – Arlette Farge

The trade cards' metadata spreadsheet—a very, very living document—can be accessed here.