The Digital Miscellanies Index is a three-year project, led by Dr Abigail Williams, based at the Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford, and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The Index will be hosted by the Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book, and will also involve a public concert, radio programme, conference and exhibition based on material from the miscellanies.

Poetic miscellanies are vital to understanding the diversity of eighteenth-century literary culture. Miscellanies, popular printed collections of poetry and songs, reflect fashions, popular taste and the literary market, rather than the state of high literature. They were the form in which many ordinary people would have read poetry in the eighteenth century, and offer insights into readers and consumers of the past.

As one of the most visible points of contact between the shaping of the literary canon, and the commercial demands of print culture, they represent a particularly important and popular mediation of poetry in the eighteenth century. Yet they have been largely neglected, because of their bewildering number and variety: there were approximately a thousand published between 1700-1800, yet the contents of most of these are relatively unknown. The Digital Miscellanies Index is based on a comprehensive new bibliography of eighteenth-century poetic miscellanies compiled by Professor Michael F. Suarez SJ.

The Index will create a relational database of the contents of all these collections, enabling users to search the range of miscellanies by author, poem, genre, first line and publisher. In displaying this material for the first time, the Index will enable users to map the changing nature of literary taste in the eighteenth century. It will also enable us to understand the traffic between commerce and culture in this period, and the complex relations between authors, buyers, readers, and publishers.

The Digital Miscellanies Index is based at the Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book, and the Oxford University Faculty of English. It is due to be completed and released for public access in the summer of 2013. The Principal Investigator is Dr Abigail Williams, and the Post-doctoral Project Co-ordinator is Dr Jennifer Batt. Academic consultants on the project are Professor Michael Suarez and Dr Adam Rounce. The development of the project, along with other related resources, can be seen on the Digital Miscellanies blog.

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