Almost exactly two years since the first EModGraL workshop it was time for the research team and our collaborators to gather again in Turku for a second full-day workshop, which took place in the newly renovated Arcanum building (and on Zoom) on Friday 3 November. The day was full of invigorating discussions on different kinds of graphic devices and their research.
We followed the 3-session format established in the first workshop. The first session was devoted to questions related to data. We discussed the EModGraL data gathering process and our finalised typology for classifying graphic devices, recently published. The second important topic to discuss was the challenge of combining our data collected from the two databases, EEBO and ECCO, as each database provides a slightly different set of metadata with which we operate. Thirdly, as we are planning to open our research data for other researchers after the project, we discussed some of the practical, legal and ethical questions that need to be taken into account.
The second session after lunch was reserved for discussing draft versions of two in-progress research articles. Aino Liira and Wendy Scase presented their draft of an article on metatext concerning tabular displays. Sirkku Ruokkeinen and Outi Merisalo presented their work on graphic devices and typographical practices in early modern English military manuals.
In the third session, Matti Peikola (et al.) and Mari-Liisa Varila presented on-going research, after which some time was reserved for general matters and wrapping any loose ends. In practice, these two halves of the session were somewhat intertwined and discussion remained lively until the end.
Our final, important topic to discuss was the graphic literacies conference we’re planning for 2025. More information will follow shortly!
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.
Our EModGraL team and other philologists at the Turku Department of English will be strongly represented at the ICEHL this year. The 22nd International Conference on English Historical Linguistics takes place at the University of Sheffield, 3 – 6 July 2023. Below we will give a brief overview of our papers to be delivered at the conference. For the full abstracts, see the book of abstracts published on the conference website.
The conference programme includes three papers discussing research done as part of the EModGraL project.
Vice-PI Mari-Liisa Varila will give a paper entitled ‘Captions and caption-like elements related to graphic devices in early modern English medical texts’. She analyses the relationship of the text and the graphic devices and identifies the different purposes that captions and caption-like elements served in medical texts, such as identifying the device or providing the reader with instructions.
The paper by Aino Liira and Wendy Scase (University of Birmingham) will focus on various table-like elements and the vocabulary surrounding them (title: ‘Tables, lists, rules and accounts: Tabular “graphic devices” in Early Modern English books’). In this paper, they take a closer look at items which have been tentatively placed under the category of ‘unclear tables’ in the EModGraL data collection process, and aim to find out how such graphic items were conceptualised by early modern authors and book producers.
Sirkku Ruokkeinen’s paper ‘“With diuers Tables annexed for the present making of your battells”: Paratextual framing of graphic devices in sixteenth-century military works printed in England’ discusses the use and framing of graphic devices in sixteenth-century works addressing military strategy and education. She particularly focuses on the title-pages and paratextual front matter of the books, where the graphic devices were advertised and discussed in order to promote the work.
The EModGraL team members and our colleagues at the English department are involved in several interesting research projects, and we decided to take the opportunity to introduce these as well.
Hanna Salmi will give a paper closely related to the EModGraL research interests. The title is ‘“I think my self obliged to place three Figures here together”: Framing graphic elements in 18th to 19th century dance manuals’. In this paper, she draws into focus an under-researched genre of dance manuals, which featured many kinds of graphic devices and visual notation. To shed light on the use of these graphic elements which supported verbal dance instructions, she examines how they were framed and explained to the reader.
Scribal practices are discussed in a joint paper by Peter Grund (Yale University) and Matti Peikola, entitled ‘Colonial orthographies: Uses of the ampersand in the legal documents from the Salem witch trials’. Their research reveals that there were clear differences in how the recorders at the Salem witch trials (1692–3) used the ampersand and the Tironian et (⁊), as opposed to the written-out and. They also show that several linguistic and extralinguistic factors played into this variation. Their paper is part of a broader project on the orthographic features of the witch trial documents.
Sara Pons-Sanz (University of Cardiff) and Janne Skaffari’s joint presentation ‘Orrm’s French- and Norse-Derived Terms’ is part of a workshop focusing on the Ormulum, a sermon collection from the late 12th century. In this paper, Janne looks at the French-derived words, many of which represent the lexical field of faith.
The research project ‘Between Science and Magic’ (@titaraproject; PI Mari-Liisa Varila) is represented at the conference by Ida Meerto, who presents some results of her PhD study in a paper entitled ‘Genre and Subject Matter in the Use of Words for Witches in Old English Prose’. She focuses on a selection of the most commonly occurring words, discussing how the word choice depends on the genre or register of the text but also on the temporal and geographical setting of the narrative.
We’re looking forward to an invigorating conference experience and many interesting discussions on the history of the English language!
Text: Aino Liira & the authors named Photo: Johanna Rastas
Dr Janne Skaffari is a senior lecturer at the Department of English, University of Turku. He joined the EModGraL team in August 2022. In this post, Janne tells us more about how the topic of graphic literacies features in his research and teaching.
How does your previous work connect to graphic literacies?
I think it was when the English Department’s Pragmatics on the Page team started working on the interplay of the linguistic with the visual that I first saw how relevant and exciting the visual – and also graphic – dimension was. We organised a symposium and edited a book together, and I keep returning to all things visual when I research, for instance, written codeswitching in medieval manuscripts.
What is your role and your main area of research in EModGraL?
I am the ‘grammar guy’, so I work on 17th-century grammar books and their graphic devices. Describing grammatical structures often invites graphic support.
Does the theme of graphic literacies feature in your teaching?
I see and utilise figures and tables all the time when teaching descriptive grammar. The model we use in the second-year grammar course is corpus-based, so frequencies and register differences are often presented graphically in the textbook, and it often makes sense to draw the students’ attention to the figures and tables, not just to the descriptions and analyses written in prose. As I also supervise theses, I often recommend explicating classifications and frequencies by graphic means. Quantitative results are often much harder to follow it they appear in sentences rather than in tables.
Why is studying early graphic literacies important?
We often think that the visual aids and graphic presentations we see around us are a new thing, and if not a brand-new thing, at least not something that goes back more than a couple of generations. However, tables and other graphic elements were used centuries ago, in quite early printed books but also before the printing press, when texts were manuscript rather than printed. Although things change all the time, there is a lot that does not disappear, even if the technology changes.
Has the project given you new research ideas regarding graphic devices or graphic literacies?
There is a lot of visual information in the early modern grammar books that is not explained; the readers were apparently expected to understand how tabular layout, curly brackets and the information in and around them should be read and understood. I am curious about these literacy skills. I would also like to trace diachronically the particulars of how specific grammar topics, such as the system of personal pronouns, have been presented in books over centuries, all the way up to the present. This is an area where I can bring what I teach together with my research interests.
Researcher mobility is an important part of academic life, although that “mobility” need not always be physical – as Mari wrote in her blog post in May, collaboration can take many forms.
This autumn term I was invited by our collaborator, Prof. Emer. Wendy Scase, to visit the University of Birmingham. She would mentor me during the 12-week visit and we would start working on a co-authored article. I would also spend a large part of my time in research libraries consulting early modern books for the project. Although travel restrictions have been lifted, the Covid-19 pandemic still has effects on daily life and some academic events are still being organised online. For these reasons, I followed my mentor’s advice and arranged to stay in London instead of Birmingham so that I would have easier access to research libraries.
I arrived in the UK on 1 September. In London, my weekly routine mainly consisted of days spent at the British Library. I typically reserved one or two days for working from home, which allowed me to participate in events and meetings via Zoom both in the UK and in Finland, as well as to take some time to organise my library notes and photos, to work on research articles, and so on. I also briefly visited the Wellcome Collection and the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham toward the end of my trip.
Some of the research seminars weren’t in full swing yet but I participated in both live and online meetings of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS). I was invited to give a talk in mid-October. I’d like to thank my enthusiastic audience and the great questions and comments I received! The event took place via Zoom but the discussion was lively. In my talk, I gave a brief general introduction to the EModGraL project and then discussed some of my own research in more detail, including both solo articles and collaboration. The article project which was my main focus during this trip, in addition to my collaboration with Prof. Scase, revolves around handwritten annotation in books containing graphic devices. These were the kinds of books that I was looking for when working at the BL.
Not everything went as planned. The frequent rail strikes did not affect me as much as I’d feared, but I’m grateful that I decided to stay in London! However, I was meant to deliver another talk to a different seminar group, which had to be postponed to next year. It’s a pity as I was looking forward to an in-person event at Birmingham, but at least we can maintain the connections over Zoom. I did meet some colleagues over lunch or coffee in London and in Birmingham – many thanks to everyone involved! – and got to attend all three wonderful Panizzi lectures on medieval diagrams by Prof. Jeffrey F. Hamburger at the British Library.
It was a curious time to be in the UK – to think that during my brief visit of just under 3 months the country had two monarchs and three Prime Ministers! And if the political climate was somewhat turbulent, the actual weather was slow to change; it was exceptionally warm throughout the autumn, with sunny days well into November. The temperatures of some 10°C didn’t stop me from getting into a festive spirit toward the end of my trip as I visited a Christmas market in Birmingham and enjoyed a cup of mulled wine in Covent Garden. In the meanwhile, Finland had turned into a snowy Winter Wonderland and after an intensive research period it was lovely to return home in time for December. I had a lot of catching up to do and I’m now ready to wrap up the year.
On behalf of the EModGraL team, I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year!
Text and photos: Aino Liira | Twitter: @penflourished
We currently have two postdoctoral researchers working for the project. Sirkku Ruokkeinen started her research stint in July 2022. In this interview, she tells us more about her contribution to the project and her thoughts on graphic literacies.
How did you first become interested in graphic literacies?
I have always been interested in liminal spaces, especially paratextuality. My interest lies in managing the reader, their expectations, interpretations, and the ways the text is used. The relationship between text and graphic elements is reminiscent of that between text and paratext. What is expected of the reader? What different ways of reading does the author prepare for? How are errors and subversive readings prepared for? How is the reader instructed?
What will be your main area of responsibility in EModGraL?
I will look into how graphic devices are used in paratextual material – whether they were used to promote the work, advance its sales, if the paratextual matter was used to instruct in their use. This analysis will contribute to an overview of the expectations book producers had relating to the graphic literacy levels of the English readership.
What is, in your opinion, the most challenging aspect of the project?
At this stage, given that I have only just worked at the project for a few months, choosing and refining topics of research seems most difficult. There is plenty that could be taken up for study.
Is there a specific domain or genre you look forward to investigating? Why?
I’m especially interested in seeing how the Playfair graphs1 (late 1700’s) and other new graphic elements were framed on title pages and other paratexts, how they were discussed and presented to the audiences. I’m curious to see if there was an expectation of understanding, especially if any of these graphs made it to texts which were intended for non-expert audiences.
Why is studying early graphic literacies important?
It informs us on the ways in which our thinking may have differed from that of late medieval and early modern readers. Models for representing information influence our thinking and understanding of the world.
Sirkku Ruokkeinen & Aino Liira | Twitter: @proemium, @penflourished
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1. William Playfair (1759–1823) is considered the inventor of several types of statistical graphs, the pie chart among others.
Playfair’s 'The Commercial and Political Atlas' (3rd ed. 1801), with references for further reading, is available at: https://archive.org/details/PLAYFAIRWilliam1801TheCommercialandPoliticalAtlas/page/n75/mode/2up
The first-year mark of EModGraL is fast approaching. Dr Mari-Liisa Varila, the Vice-PI of the project, has recently completed her postdoctoral research stint. We interviewed her about her past and future work for the EModGraL project.
Dr Varila, your research stint in the project has recently come to an end. What have been some of your main tasks or responsibilities in EModGraL?
I participated in designing the EModGraL data collection procedure, and I collected data from incunabula and 16th-century books. Much of my time was spent on research and writing, but I also taught a three-session MA module on the project theme. I’m also the vice-PI of EModGraL and lead the work package focusing specifically on medical texts.
Your work as the vice-PI of the project continues and a part of your working hours as lecturer will be devoted to the project. What are some of the things that you will continue to work on?
I’ll continue to work on the medical texts work package. This autumn I’ll be focusing on an article on graphic devices in printed medical texts in 1500–1700, co-authored with our collaborators Jukka Tyrkkö and Carla Suhr. I’ll also continue to work on some other aspects of the project, as well as publications, including an edited volume and an article on our project methodology.
What has been most exciting about the project?
I’d say the most exciting part thus far has been getting to go through thousands of facsimile images of early printed books (including e.g. all incunabula on Early English Books Online) in search of graphic devices. It’s always exciting to consult primary sources, be it in situ or via a digital surrogate. I’m also very much looking forward to the results of our diachronic survey of graphic devices up to 1800 and to finding out more about the discursive strategies of book producers in presenting graphic devices and instructing the reader in using them.
Did anything unexpected or surprising come up? Did the project provide you with new research ideas regarding graphic devices or graphic literacies?
I’m not sure I would use the word ‘unexpected’, but it has definitely been interesting to see the distribution of different types of graphic devices in our data thus far, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about the relationship between graphic devices and genre / target audience. It’s also been fascinating to see some examples of devices that do not quite fit in with present-day conventions and definitions of graphic devices, and I’m hoping to take a closer look at some of these in the future.
Do you have any reading recommendations related to early graphic literacies and/or graphic devices?
This is such a multidisciplinary field that it is difficult to give just a few recommendations – it would have to be a lengthy reading list. But I would say one benefits from reading widely and being open-minded. One article I enjoyed reading last year was Elizabeth Rowley-Jolivet’s study on ‘The emergence of text-graphics conventions in a medical research journal: The Lancet 1823–2015’ (ASp, 73). Although both the medium and date of Rowley-Jolivet’s primary materials are outside the scope of EModGraL, I found that the analysis was very relevant for our interests. Since I usually focus on late medieval and early modern materials in my own work, I might not even have spotted this paper were it not for the project.
Mari-Liisa Varila & Aino Liira| Twitter: @mlvarila, @penflourished
Arguably, there is no better time to visit a Nordic country than late May. It’s starting to get lush and green again after the long winter, and people seem to have more spring in their step. After two years of isolation due to the pandemic, it definitely felt exciting and fun to be able to travel again.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Department of Languages at the Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden for a week to collaborate with Prof. Jukka Tyrkkö on EModGraL research. Originally, I was supposed to be in Sweden for several months, but the pandemic turned my mobility period into a mostly virtual one. Prof. Tyrkkö and I have been meeting on Zoom throughout this spring, so it was nice to be able to actually visit Växjö at least once.
Prof. Tyrkkö and I have mostly collaborated on two topics: the quantitative methods used in the EModGraL project and the case studies related to graphic devices in early medical writing (work packages 1 and 2 of the project). During my stay in Växjö, we gave a joint seminar paper on the EModGraL project in the Higher Seminar for Languages. I met several colleagues from the department, many of them working on topics related to translation studies or teaching/learning English. I also learnt the basics of JMP (statistical software).
Although it would have been nice to stay in Växjö longer, this experience proved that a mainly virtual mobility period can still be very useful. My previous long stays abroad have mainly consisted of working in libraries holding special collections, and in those cases, it would have been impossible to replace an actual visit with Zoom calls. This time, Prof. Tyrkkö and I mostly collaborated on methods and joint publications, which could be done reasonably well on Zoom. We also talked about the university and how things are run there, so when I was finally able to visit, I already knew a lot about the department.
I would definitely recommend this kind of virtual mobility for those situations where it makes sense. By virtual mobility I don’t just mean a random Zoom call but rather sustained collaboration over a specific period, for example three months or a year, focusing on a specific topic or research project. Virtual mobility is also sustainable and affordable, and may sometimes be more feasible for researchers with family.
Having said all that, there are obviously many things that cannot be done via Zoom. Chatting with colleagues over coffee or bakad potatis med skagenröra, spontaneous lakeside walks, campus tours, quick visits to local tourist attractions, and other such experiences are not easily replaced by virtual substitutes. I’m very glad to have been able to visit Växjö this month, and I’m grateful to Prof. Tyrkkö for all his help and hospitality before and during my stay.
Dr Aino Liira’s two-year stint as a postdoctoral researcher begun in January 2022. In this interview, she tells us more about her research interests and work for EModGraL.
How did you first become interested in graphic literacies?
The combination of visual and linguistic aspects of texts is what got me interested in academic research in the first place. I have previously mainly worked with paratexts, that is, elements such as titles or indices which surround or even overlap with the “main text” but are not quite part of it. I’m likewise interested in other phenomena regarding textuality, such as the intersection of the physical and the abstract, and the different roles played by the producers and the readers of texts in shaping the book. When working with paratexts, practical tools like tables (of contents) and indices grabbed my attention. I find it particularly fascinating when text producers modify these elements for new editions (or manuscript copies), and/or give instructions to readers on how to use them.
What is your main area of responsibility in EModGraL?
I’m currently working together with the rest of the team, collecting data and immersing myself in the complexities of analysing and classifying the various types of graphic devices we come across! Later on, I will be in charge of one of the “work packages” focusing on graphic devices in their material context of the page. In practice this means that we will, for example, study the metadiscourse surrounding the elements (how the devices are referred to in the text) and the technological aspects of producing graphic devices, such as choices made by printers. I’m also interested in handwritten additions or notes left by readers, and hoping to find evidence of this by looking at physical copies of books.
What are you most excited about regarding the project?
The chance to familiarise myself with new research material and to encounter new, exciting types of graphic devices. This is also my first time in participating in a larger research project – working as part of a team is exciting and rewarding in itself! The first workshop we had with our collaborators in November was extremely stimulating, and I enjoy our weekly meetings with the team members where we often take a look at problematic cases and interesting findings together.
Is there a specific domain or genre you look forward to investigating? Why?
I’m more excited about the chance to see a variety of domains and genres, and potentially discover differences between them. My PhD revolved around a single work, a universal chronicle titled the Polychronicon, and I admit I’m curious to see what kind of graphic devices can be found in other books of history. I’m currently working together with PI Matti Peikola and Prof. Marjo Kaartinen to examine visual representations of time or chronological events in late medieval and early modern English books.
Why is studying early graphic literacies important?
Research on graphic devices gives us insight into various aspects of early modern book culture: print technology, textual practices (for example, how the structure of information is made visible through the use of certain graphic conventions such as braces), variation and patterns of change within genres, and so forth. Prose text is not always the most effective way of conveying information. It’s interesting to see what kind of solutions authors and book producers have come up with to transmit complex information that requires visualisation, for example when the reader is expected to identify relationships between concepts. Studying the distribution and variation of graphic devices increases our understanding of early modern reading culture and how a vernacular like English gained ground as a language suitable for transmitting specialist knowledge.
Aino Liira & Mari-Liisa Varila | Twitter: @penflourished, @mlvarila
I started working as a research assistant in Early Modern Graphic Literacies in November 2021. Almost four months have gone by since then – surprisingly fast – so it is high time for me to introduce myself.
I am currently finishing my master’s degree in Finnish Language at the University of Turku. The Department of Finnish and Finno-Ugric Languages in Turku has a long tradition of historical linguistics, so I got acquainted with the early forms and development of literary Finnish already during my bachelor’s studies. I ended up writing my BA thesis on the language of Mikael Agricola, often called “the father of literary Finnish”, using data from the Morpho-Syntactic Database of Mikael Agricola’s Works created at our department.
Last summer, I did an internship at the Institute for the Languages of Finland, working on the digitisation of the Postilla of Ericus Erici Sorolainen, a book of sermons published in the 1620s. The digitisation project is based on AI-powered text recognition and it is part of the work of the Dictionary of Old Literary Finnish and its related corpus, the Corpus of Old Literary Finnish. You can read more about the project in a blog post (in Finnish only) I wrote at the end of my internship and find a short English introduction to Old Literary Finnish at the Institute’s website.
With a background in Finnish instead of English studies, it has been fascinating, at times challenging, but ultimately very rewarding to jump into a project in a neighbouring field. My previous experience being mostly language-focused, working in the EModGraL project has also drawn my attention more to the material aspects of books. It has been a delight to see the range of genres in the project data as well – Finnish texts published before the 19th century tend to be either religious works or legal translations.
One of my favourite aspects of working with early modern texts is the perspective you gain into the historical and cultural context of the time period along the way. So far, I have completed classifying the data from the year 1596. The ongoing Long Reformation in England can be seen in anti-Catholic works, e.g. in the ex-Catholic priest Thomas Bell’s The suruey of popery, in which poperie is turned vp-side downe. The European exploration and colonisation of the Americas is evident in books such as Sir Walter Raleigh’s famous The discouerie of the large, rich and bevvtiful empire of Guiana, an account of his El Dorado expedition in 1595.
Perhaps the most interesting work in the 1596 data is Sir John Harington’s A nevv discourse of a stale subiect, called the metamorphosis of Aiax. In this work, Harington describes his brand-new invention, the flush toilet. It is a bit of a wild ride, with plenty of biblical and classical references, and it caused quite a stir after its publication due to its coded political messages. The book can be conveniently found and read on the Ex-Classics website for anyone willing to take a look.
I’m now working on data from year 1696. In a hundred years, the number of works in the data has exploded: from about 250 (excluding duplicates and reprints) in year 1596 to over 1400 in year 1696. I look forward to seeing what surprises the project data still holds!