Stories in the making: American fiction in magazines since 1960


A new CMT exhibition in the English Faculty first floor atrium, 9 West Rd

Anxious musings about ‘the fate of reading in the electronic age’ are now commonplace, with most attention focused on perceived threats to the tangible pleasures of the book. Gutenberg elegies are, however, seldom sung for print magazines – perhaps because they were always intended to be ephemeral.

This miniature exhibition, associated with our up-coming symposium Books in the Making <>, focuses on American fiction, and celebrates the mass-market and avant-garde magazines in which some of the best known twentieth-century writers first found a place to publish.  Sometimes magazines published extracts from novels, but more often than not they relied on and promoted short stories – complete fictions that were said to appeal to modern readers because (as one late nineteenth-century editor put it) they could ‘be taken down with a gulp.’

For more than half a century, American magazines – big and small –  loved short fiction, which in all sorts of contexts (including Playboy!) provided a powerful enticement for readers and therefore for advertisers.

Today, however, things are different – advertisers and many readers have departed for TV and the internet – and even little magazines struggle to maintain a print presence. While, as Stephen King pointed out in 2007, the high-paying New Yorker remains the ‘holy grail of the young fiction writer’, much original short fiction today is published in web-based outlets. Nonetheless, new media often look back to earlier moments; this year the Evergreen Review, a once venerable print journal, will be relaunched online <>.

Kasia Boddy and David Winters

CMT inaugural exhibition


Compilation, Composition, and Commonplace Books

Now in situ in the first-floor of the English Faculty, 9 West Rd.

An exhibition compiled and curated by MPhil students from Ruth Abbott’s ‘Writers’ Notebooks: Literature, Scholarship, and the Organization of Knowledge, 1800-1900’ course.

Commonplace books became popular during the seventeenth century, acting as repositories for aphoristic, literary and philosophical quotations, as well as more clerical forms of note-taking. By the nineteenth century, commonplacing came to be recognised as a valuable aid to literary composition, particularly among autodidact authors and poets like George Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Our exhibit focuses on the use of commonplace books by ordinary middle-class families in the nineteenth century, how they chronicled and contributed to an everyday engagement with literature, theology, poetry and domestic activity. From the Bible to Byron, musings on God to sketches of the family dogs, the commonplace book offered a powerful collective storehouse for the miscellanies and medleys of material that amassed at the center of communal family life in the nineteenth century. Through this exhibition we hope to celebrate this pursuit, and we encourage all exhibition-goers to contribute to our very own commonplace book.

Please come along to eat cake and celebrate the arrival of our beautiful new display cases on the first-floor landing on Monday, 26 January, from 10.15-11.15 am.

Digital Editing Now


7-9 January, 2016

Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge

For programme and booking, see:

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in scholarly culture and funding strategies towards digital formats for edition projects. This is driven by the potential for new forms of production, presentation and access that the digital promises. And it involves a reassessment of the conventions that have determined editorial practice in the age of print. This conference gathers together leading figures in the field to exchange ideas about the state of digital editing, its future potential, challenges and limits. How should we place ourselves relative to fundamental issues of authority/openness, durability/fluidity? Can we establish a set of ideal types for digital editorial method, or would its optimal strengths rather lie in more hybrid forms, including a productive mode of cohabitation with the print formats that it appears to want to supersede?

The academic book of the future: evolution or revolution?


11 November 2015, 9.30-5
Darwin Room, Pitt Building, Trumpington St, Cambridge

This event will bring together people from all stages in the production cycle of the academic book, from authors and publishers to booksellers, librarians and readers, to consider the past, present and future of scholarly communication. How did the academic book come to take the form in which we know it today? What should we cherish and what should we loathe in the academic book? And, as we start living our intellectual lives online, what does the future hold for scholarship in this form?

mapsSpeakers will include: Richard Fisher (former Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press), Rupert Gatti (Faculty of Economics/Open Book Publishers), Anne Jarvis (University Librarian, Cambridge University Library), Danny Kingsley (University of Cambridge, Office of Scholarly Communication), Peter Mandler (Faculty of History, President of the Royal Historical Society), Samantha Rayner (Senior Lecturer in Publishing, UCL), Alison Wood (Mellon/Newton Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, CRASSH).

Sponsored by the AHRC-funded ‘Academic Book of the Future‘ project, Cambridge University Press and the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts, this one-day colloquium will form part of a week of events and exhibitions taking place across the country.

There is no charge for registration, but places are limited. To sign up, please use Eventbrite at

CMT garden party


The CMT will be hosting an end-of-year garden party on Tuesday 7th July, 4-6 pm, in the Fellows’ Garden, St John’s College, or in the Parsons Room if wet. Strawberries will swim in the cream. Please come!

The Novel in the Age of Amazon


MARK McGURL (Stanford University) will be talking about EVERYTHING AND LESS:THE NOVEL IN THE AGE OF AMAZON

THURSDAY 4th JUNE at 5.30pm


Mark McGurl is the author of, among other works, a much discussed and lauded recent book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (2009)

‘Magisterial’ (Fredric Jameson)

‘It is a cliché to say that a book so changes your view of a particular historical period or problem that you never see it the same old way again. But this is the kind of book that warrants such praise.’ (Jim English)

CMT Material-Textual Breakfast


Wednesday 13 May, 9-10.30 am
Social Space, English Faculty

Please join us in the Social Space on the ground floor of the English Faculty for the first ever CMT material-textual-breakfast. This is an opportunity to meet people, to discuss current projects and to firm up plans for the future. Grab a coffee from the ARB (or wherever) and come over. Freshly baked cakes will be provided!

Early Modern Visual Marginalia colloquium


visualmarginalia1 May 2015, 09:30 – 13:00

Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

Colloquium fee: £5 – includes refreshments
Sign-up deadline: Wednesday 29 April 2015

Covenor: Dr Alexander Marr


Professor William Sherman (V&A)
Dr Julian Luxford (St Andrews)
Dr Alexander Marr (Cambridge)
Dr Kate Isard (Visiting Scholar, Cambridge)
Dr Richard Oosterhoff (Cambridge)
Dr Francesco Benelli (Columbia)


A colloquium on early modern visual marginalia organised by Department of History of Art, Trinity Hall, University Library, University of Cambridge.

Sponsored by Department of History of Art; University Library; Centre for Material Texts.

For further information please click here.

CUL incunabula masterclass


On Friday 20th March 2015, Cambridge University Library will be holding a further masterclass as part of the Incunabula Project.

The masterclass, entitled “Rubrication and fifteenth-century English printing” will be led by Satoko Tokunaga of Keio University & Takako Kato of De Montfort University.

The seminar will be held in the Sir Geoffrey Keynes Room at the Library. It will start at 2.30pm and will last approximately 90 minutes, allowing time for questions and discussion. Attendance will be limited in order to allow all attendees a chance to see the books under discussion up close, and to participate in the discussion.

To book a place, please email <>.

CMT flash seminar: Randall McLeod


Friday 27 June 2014, SR 24, Faculty of English, 12.30-2

Randall McLeod (University of Toronto)

‘The Birth of Italics’

Randall McLeod’s lecture details the printing of the first book in italics, Aldo Manuzio’s 1501 Vergil, with type created for him by Francesco da Bologna. McLeod will offer not a reading of Vergil, but a reading of Book.  Printing began before the fount was complete, and the coming on stream of a dozen ligatures during production reveals the printing schedule: it was not in the narrative order imposed on the book by binding.  Aldo’s schedule is rendered even more precise by readings of the blank tops and bottoms of some pages (as the title page or colophon), for often they are not really blank, but are printed with type, like the other parts of these pages, but printed blind — that is, without ink. What do these invisible texts say?  Why are they present? And where do they come from?