In the article, we discuss our methodology and introduce our model for classifying graphic devices in historical materials. This classification is the foundation for our ongoing quantitative survey of the use of graphic devices in early modern books.
We also discuss previous taxonomies and models which have been presented for classifying graphic elements in various fields, ranging from geography to semiotics and education psychology, for example. We explain why none of these existing models is suitable for our EEBO and ECCO materials, and what steps we have taken to devise our own classification model.
In short, we divide graphic devices in three main categories: general images (G), diagrams (D), and tables (T). All categories have subcategories for certain distinctive types, such as calendars (Tc) and musical notation (Dn). Additionally, any unclear items (unclear due to reasons of damage, or because they combine characteristics of more than one category, for example) are placed in a separate category (U). Tagging unclear items separately allows us to exclude them from the quantitative analyses while keeping them easily accessible for further examination in qualitative research articles.
Ruokkeinen, Sirkku, Aino Liira, Mari-Liisa Varila, Otso Norblad, and Matti Peikola. “Developing a Classification Model for Graphic Devices in Early Printed Books.” Studia Neophilologica, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1080/00393274.2023.2265985.
A personal anecdote from a freshly graduated English major | Text: Elina Parkkila | Featured image: Debby Hudson (via Unsplash)
A well over a year ago, I was in the stage of my studies where it was time to prepare for the MA thesis. I was facing the same questions many students have at that moment. What is a good topic? Should my topic reflect on my future plans? What kind of topics interest me? Fortunately, I was lucky to stumble upon a topic that served to feed my two main interests in life, the English language and history.
Prior to my thesis seminar, I did a course called Late Modern English project. As the name suggests, it introduces students to the period of late modern English from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century. I found the overall topic of the course interesting, but one portion of the material piqued my interest the most, grammar-writing. I decided to focus on this new topic I “discovered” for the essay-portion of the course. For my essay-writing, I picked a few 18th–century grammars and compared them to each other to see how they managed to cater to their audiences. In the essay, I made a small observation about how some of the grammars used what I referred to as “graphical content” and some did not. I constituted graphical content to be any form of break from traditional style of writing, which was supposed to be viewed visually through graphicacy rather than reading it as a text. Some examples of graphical content in 18th–century grammars were word lists, exercises, and atypical spacing of text. This observation was a blessing in disguise, as my course professor pointed out how this could be a possible thesis topic. I will not turn down a good suggestion, so I decided to venture further into the topic.
Graphical content in 18th-century grammars
For my MA thesis, I decided to analyse how different 18th–century grammars used graphical content for teaching grammar. I cross-referenced Eighteenth Century Grammars Online (ECEG) and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) for grammars that were written both by women and men. I was interested to see how the gender of the grammarian as well as the perceived target audience could influence the results. It led me down an interesting path to be educated on the overall history of grammar-writing in England, the history of grammarians, and the development of graphicacy.
Even to this day, almost a year after writing my thesis, I find the topic of grammar-writing highly intriguing. It was interesting to see how the societal changes and attitudes about people, the world, and languages were able to be seen in the grammars. As a woman, I was very intrigued by the research that had been done on female grammarians, who were slightly different in their approaches to teaching grammar compared to their male counterparts.
However, my analysis also proved my views to be slightly biased towards the growing demographic of female grammarians who mostly targeted their work towards women and children. Male grammarians, on the other hand, targeted their work more towards men and children. Before the proper analysis on my chosen grammars, I assumed that male grammarians were less inclined to use graphical content as a teaching tool, as their most common target demographic (men) were more likely to have received formal education on grammar. In a sense, I thought that the more educated the target demographic was, the less graphical content was used by grammarians. I proved myself wrong. Grammars targeted towards women contained the most graphical content, while grammars targeted towards men contained the second most amount of graphical content.
MA thesis writing is a multifaceted learning experience
As I am thinking about this learning experience a year later, it shows that I had a narrow view on who were a part of the new broader audiences for English grammars in the growing society of England. Sometimes checking your biases and learning from being wrong can open yourself up to an interesting analysis on how grammar-writing and teaching was viewed for different demographics.
Overall, I see the 18th–century grammars and grammar-writing as an interesting target of research, as the shifting economy and the rise of the working class created new avenues for writing and learning grammar. It makes one really think about the future of grammar-writing research, what kind of signs of our society today can be found in modern grammars?
The author is a former English student at the University of Turku. The history of the English language and history in general were the author’s key interests while studying. The author is currently working in the museum field.
Parkkila, Elina. 2022. The Beginning of Visual Grammar Learning: Analysis on the Use of Graphical Content in 18th Century English Grammars. Master’s Thesis, Department of English, University of Turku. Available online: https://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2022091358943
September marked the halfway point of our four-year project. Let’s look back into the past academic year and see what we have been up to.
Thousands of graphic devices
We completed the sampling of the EEBO data, i.e. the years 1473-1500, 1521, 1546, 1571, 1621, 1646, 1671, and 1696. From these years, we have analysed all books printed in English that are contained in EEBO. Altogether this amounts to ca. 4,300 books and 510,000 pages! The overall number of graphic devices we have found and classified in this material is ca. 25,300. We are eager to do further statistical analyses and publish the results.
Out of curiosity, it could be mentioned that the highest number of graphic devices encountered in a single book is 1,353 devices! The book in question is Samuel Jeake’s arithmetical work Logistikēlogia, or Arithmetick surveighed and reviewed published in 16961 (the full title is monstrous enough to be hidden in a footnote). As you can probably guess, this book mostly contains arithmetical notation.
Our team has been busy working on publishing the research results. In February, we announced the publication of Matti Peikola and Mari-Liisa Varila’s article on late medieval English calendars; in the meanwhile, another article by them, discussing reader instruction in Middle English tables and diagrams, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Historical Pragmatics. Our team-authored article on the EModGraL classification model has likewise been accepted and is forthcoming in Studia Neophilologica. The edited collection Graphic Practices and Literacies in the History of English (with chapters written by EModGraL team members as well as collaborators) is in progress and will be submitted to the publisher later this autumn.
Our team members are currently working on articles addressing topics such as captions (Varila), braces (Peikola & team), graphic devices and paratextual matter (Sirkku Ruokkeinen & Outi Merisalo), and metatext associated with tabular devices (Aino Liira & Wendy Scase), to name a few.
The EModGraL team members have attended various conferences and other events to present and discuss their research. In January 2022, Aino Liira attended the first national Research Symposium for Early Career Historians on the History of Science and Learning, where she presented the results of a study co-authored with Matti Peikola and Marjo Kaartinen on ‘visual chronologies’ in Early Modern English books (to be published in the Brepols volume). Later in February, Aino and Matti also discussed this topic in a Studia Generalia lecture hosted by TUCEMEMS. In July, the EModGraL team (along with some other Turku colleagues) travelled to Sheffield, UK, for the 22nd International Conference on English Historical Linguistics. Of course, our researchers have also participated in smaller but still important events and meetings throughout the academic year. For instance, Aino and Sirkku presented their research at the Research Day of the School of Languages and Translation at the University of Turku in the spring.
Research visits, collaboration and teaching
Last autumn we were happy to host James Titterington’s two-month research visit to Turku, funded by the Turku University Foundation and the EModGraL project. The collaboration on a research article continues after his visit. Around the same time as James arrived, Aino started her three-month visit to London and the University of Birmingham.
In the spring term, we offered a team-taught course ‘Early Modern Multimodal Practices’, available for students at the Department of English and other language departments. We had a small group of students but all of them were highly enthusiastic. The course included classes on early modern printing, the use of online databases such as EEBO and ECCO, paratexts, and multimodality in different domains and genres, such as science, religion and handbooks. We also paid visits to the University of Turku Library and the Donner Institute Library where our students had the chance to see and handle rare books. Our students enjoyed these practical, hands-on sessions tremendously, and they were a rare treat for the teachers as well!
Onwards to the second half of the project
At the moment we’re looking forward to a second workshop with our collaborators, to be held on Friday 3 November. Based on our good experiences from the first workshop, we’re expecting a day full of invigorating discussions. Time will be reserved for discussing article drafts and presenting on-going research as well as discussing the current stage of our quantitative survey of graphic devices.
Plans are also underway for an international conference on the themes of graphic devices and graphic literacies in 2025 – stay tuned for more information!
Text: Aino Liira & Matti Peikola | Photos: Aino Liira
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1. Jeake, Samuel. Logistikēlogia, or Arithmetick surveighed and reviewed: in four books. Viz. 1 book 1 part intergers. 2 part fractions. 2 book 1 part geodæticals. 2. part figurals 3 book 1 part decimals. 2 part astronomicals. 3 part logarithmes. 4 part coffics. 5 part surds. 6 part species. 4 book 1 part ratios. 2 part proportions disjunct. 3 part proportions continued. 4 part Æquations. Wherein the nature of numbers absolutely abstract, generally and specially contract, with their simple and comparative elements, are plainly declared, and fully handled. Every part furnished with such necessary rules, cases, theoremes, questions, observations, and varieties of operation, as principally to them belong, ... and delivered in so familiar a style, as may befit mean capacities, and if practically applied, become more than ordinarily useful both in mechanical and mathematica arts and sciences. By Samuel Jeake senior. London: printed by J.R. and J.D. for Walter Kettilby, 1696. Wing J499.
Writing an EModGraL-themed MA thesis | Text: Saara Kaltiomaa
Deciding on the topic
Back when I was a fourth-year student at the University of Turku I was planning on writing my master’s thesis about fluency measures and SLA (second language acquisition) related themes. But in the Spring of 2022 I took a course called Texts and Contexts 1 where I was first introduced to Early Modern Graphic Literacies. I was mesmerised by the illustrations we analysed in the classroom, and I knew I had to look further into the themes of woodcut illustrations in prints and the textual elements surrounding them, especially the Zodiac Man figure found in many Early Modern English (EModE) printed almanacks.
The lecturers, Matti Peikola and Mari-Liisa Varila (who both actually guided me through my writing process), were very supportive with my choices of themes and provided me with additional literature to help me approach the topic. We discussed that exploring the EModE printed almanacks would be a great place to start, as they can be found fairly easily in online databases. I myself used Early English Books Online (EEBO) which I found to be handy and easy to use.
The sheer amount of the EModE printed almanacks I found was astonishing: back in the day the publication was found in basically every household. As the printing press was developed and paper slowly replaced parchment, mass producing texts became way faster. Most importantly, printed publications were more affordable to the common folk (vs. manuscripts). These printed almanacks were also written in English instead of Latin or French, which made the publications accessible to many. Not to mention the more practical size: compared to handwritten manuscripts, printed almanacks were often sort of smaller, portable versions of them.
In short: I looked into the language, contents, and visual elements surrounding the Zodiac Man woodcuts in these EModE almanacks in order to trace the development of said features throughout the sixteenth century. I was trying to look for patterns and diachronic development in the aforementioned categories. The results of my research pointed to a relationship between verbal and visual elements: the contents of the almanacks determined the visual themes presented in them. In terms of language choices (the use of English, French, or Latin) and linguistic features (e.g. astrological vocabulary) there were, however, few patterns or traces of development detectable during the time period.
To summarise a few interesting findings I made: many of the 48 almanacks that were analysed contained the same terminology in different languages (and often even inside the same specific almanack), highlighting some undecidedness in the choice of terms before the standardisation of the English language. It is also unclear whether certain printers used only specific woodcuts but there were certainly some styles of woodcuts more preferred than others. The themes and topics of the texts surrounding the illustrations also had an effect on what kind of a Zodiac Man image was used in the publication. For example, a certain type of image was preferred depending on whether the text was more informational or whether the image served more of an aesthetic purpose separate from the surrounding text.
Looking at the research process now I realise there is a lot more to look into when examining EModE printed almanacks: besides the Zodiac Man image there are many other interesting illustrations and features to be examined. Perhaps one could even write a doctoral dissertation in the field of Early Modern Graphic Literacies?
The author (MA) graduated in the Summer of 2023 and is currently doing smaller translation tasks as a freelancer along with her day job in customer service. She is currently considering postgraduate studies at the University.
Kaltiomaa, Saara. 2023. Analysing the Man of Signs: A Study on the Changes of the Linguistic Elements and the Contexts of the Zodiac Man Figure in Early Modern Almanacks (1537–1603). Master’s Thesis, Department of English, University of Turku. Available online: https://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2023042438490.
Calendars were a specific type of table that was perhaps the most familiar to late medieval readers. They provided information about saints’ days and other liturgical feasts but also contained a variety of other kinds of information, often in a highly condensed form.
In their study, Peikola & Varila found differences between the contents and presentation of calendars in religious manuscripts vs those in e.g. astro-medical manuscripts. They suggest that these may be viewed as distinct subgenres, although they also found hybrids. Language choices reflected genre conventions and specialised functions, and calendars produced in the latter half of the period studied were more likely to be multilingual. Finally, the authors note that the potential influences of print technology on the generic properties of calendars should be examined in the future. This study is currently under preparation.
Peikola Matti & Mari-Liisa Varila. “Multimodal and Multilingual Practices in Late Medieval English Calendars”. In Multilingualism from Manuscript to 3D: Intersections of modalities from medieval to modern times, edited by Matylda Włodarczyk, Jukka Tyrkkö & Elżbieta Adamczyk, 93-118. New York: Routledge, 2023. DOI: 10.4324/9781003166634-6. (Open access)