Digitization; juxtaposition of my experiences

My laptop screen shines its florescent light upon my dry eyes. My safari web browser is open to six or seven different tabs. My mind is jumping between free people’s sale on denim, a primary source document on Taiwanese independence, and a sublet ad in the east village. I open yet another tab and type Hathitrust into the search bar. I proceed to type in various search bars the specifics about my pet book, Godey’s Lady’s Magazine, until I find the, 1843 v. 26-27 copy. Click. Click. Click. The first piece of the book I see is a black scanned page with the bar code stamped with the New York Public Library.

In the words of Joshua’s Troop, “reverse! reverse!”. The kind lady’s of special collections greet me in the quiet room and I walk into the Robinson room. I pick up my book. It’s leathery and modest outside weighs down my palms. I sit rather peacefully in the silence of the room. All of the distractions around be are encased in their bindings waiting to be read. My hands leaf through the foxed pages. I am present. The physicality of seeing the evidence of aging allows me to transport. I smile and laugh a little at the thought of me in a corset and wired skirt reading about the proper way to conduct yourself at tea.

The transportability of my experience with the physical copy of Godey’s Lady’s magazine  is the strongest juxtaposition. These feelings are intangible to a reader who has not had experience with either the hard or digital copy however, I hope my description relays this difference. This book its over one hundred years old and my research throughout this semester has allowed me to understand the importance of the people that handled this specific copy and the women that these magazine’s influenced. My experience with the digital facsimile suppressed my imaginativeness with the physical copy.

As stated in Kirschenbaum and Werner and Werner’s essays,

“Digital facsimiles appear to be at, made up of pages without depth or relationship to other pages, part of a sequence that is made up of bits rather than bindings” (419)

In addition to my lack of connection to Godey’s Lady’s history when reading the facsimile I want to address other juxtapositions. For example the lack of binding contributed to a completely different experience. When reading on my computer I flipped through the magazine using a digital side bar that was their version of the table of contents. When reading the physical copy, my fingers physically flipped to different sections of the book much easier than the digital version. I was not waiting for parts of the page to load etcetera.

Sideways illustration
physical illustration showing foxing

Another part of my pet book which drew my immediate interest when deciding, were its illustrations. The intricacy of the intaglio prints and the vibrancy of the color are not translated well digitally. The colors are more muted and the detailed is increasingly blurred. In addition, the images are projected sideways on the screen so one cannot look at the image straight on.

One feature that the digital facsimile translates well is the scale of the book. The pages are roughly equal in size to the physical Godey’s Lady’s. However the fragility, provenance and marginalia, which all allow for further understanding of Godey’s audience, are missing from the facsimile. However, it is also important to note that reading from a laptop is only one form of technology that one can read a digital facsimile. For example, if I had been reading the text via my phone the scale would have been completely thrown off and I would have had a very different experience with the text.

Firstly, the signature on the inside cover, written by Mary Davis bestowing this book to her daughter is missing. Second, the foxing(Foxing is an age-related process of deterioration that causes spots and browning on old paper. The name is said to be derived fro fox-like reddish-brown color of the stains) is missing from the digital facsimile. Third, the brittleness of the pages is not translated. The experience of using a tool of being extremely careful as I turned a page was not necessary on my computer. Each of these seemingly minute differences carries weight into a overall difference in my experience with Godey’s Lady’s.

I believe that a vital part of appreciating Godey’s Magazine is the understanding of the audience of women it was catered to. This was written at a time where women were inferior in society.

Also stated in Kirschenbaum and Werner and Werner’s essays,

“At the moment, most digi- tizations focus on the value of the object as a text to be read” (419)

I understand there is merit in the environmental and increased accessibility of translating work digitally. Additionally, I drew similarity between the experience of seeing Godey’s Magazine from the lens of my computer and reading Vogue or Harpers Bazaar from my computer today. Godey’s digitized likened by experiences with fashion periodicals and but lessened my ability to understand how the women of the 19th century were experiencing this magazine.

After spending the semester with this century old book, the knowledge gained from being physically present with my book was an invaluable experience that contributed to a greater appreciation for Godey’s Lady’s Magazine.