A Database of Production and Reception
database project arises from ten years’ general research into
Romantic-era British fiction, which culminated in the publication
by OUP of a two-volume bibliography in April 2001, edited by
Peter Garside, James Raven and Rainer Schöwerling, and entitled
The English Novel, 1770–1829: A Bibliographical Survey of
Prose Fiction Published in the British Isles. The database
itself was initially developed in March 1997 by Professor
Peter Garside and Dr Anthony Mandal,
and concentrated on the 1800–29 period also covered by the second
volume of the bibliography.
The initial aim of the project was to create
a tool, which complemented but did not duplicate the material
provided in The English Novel. The database was designed
to allow a broad and sophisticated level of analysis of over
2,260 titles from the period 1800–29. Data were entered
into a Microsoft Access database over the course of about three
months, and the database was then updated as new bibliographical
data became available.
The bibliographical information is divided
into various fields, which enable analysis of gender distributions,
publisher popularity, authorial status, prices, translations,
etc. In addition, a reference number allows the user to return
to the full entry as it appears in the printed bibliography.
To ensure that the database and the bibliography
remain separate but related research tools, a certain amount
of streamlining has taken place. Author information and publisher
imprints have been standardised as fully to support continuity
in searching. A case-in-point is the Minerva Press, which was
ran at various times by William Lane, A. K. Newman, and both.
While the bibliography records these developments on a title-by-title
basis, to maintain consistency in the database it has been necessary
that the publisher details remain constant—after all, irrespective
of whether Lane or Newman controlled the firm, it remained the
As well as enabling the study of broad statistical
data, fuller bibliographical information can also be consulted
on a per-record basis. Analysis can therefore take place on
two levels: the general (for spans of years, types of fiction,
specific authors) and the individual (studies of individual
texts, with rich information about the work concerned). Moreover,
the database performs a two-fold function: it is both a statistical
tool, allowing such analyses of data, and an archival resource,
collecting together disparate kinds of information which relate
to individual novels.
By mid-1999, the database consisted of 2,256 discrete
items which recorded basic bibliographical data for each title.
Following the initial award of a modest grant, we were able
to develop a pilot scheme in order to explore new areas covering
the production and reception of fiction at this time. The pilot
consisted of one year’s intensive data-collection, concentrating
especially on circulating-library catalogues and reviews, followed
by the processing of the material after collection.
In February 2000, Dr
Jacqueline Belanger was appointed as a full-time Postdoctoral
Research Associate responsible for the gathering of pertinent
information from a variety of sources. These would then be added
to the records as appropriate, in order to build on our perceptions
of the presentation of and reaction to fiction of the early
19th century. Sources marked for examination included the following:
Entries in circulating-library
Over the last two years, we have focused on
the acquisition of these contemporary materials which will provide
a more comprehensive context for the primary bibliographical
data already available. As well as providing supplementary data
to the bibliographical record which forms the core of the database,
examination of these sources and from other researchers have
uncovered additional titles and further information about works
listed in The English Novel, all of which is incorporated
dynamically into the database.
So far, out of 50 circulating-library catalogues
held at the Centre, we have processed entries from libraries
in Aberdeen, Bath, Caernarvon, Cheltenham, Dublin, Edinburgh,
London, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Norwich, and Wigan.
Further collections are currently underway. In Issue 5 of Cardiff
Corvey (December 2000), we made available entries from four
circulating libraries from various parts of the British Isles,
although work on this field has progressed extensively (for
more details about how to access this material, please go to
the bottom of this page).
Similarly, reviews, notices, and announcements
of fiction are in the process of being collected from over 30
periodicals. We have already acquired complete runs from the
Anti-Jacobin Review, La Belle Assemblée, British
Critic, British Review, Blackwood’s Edinburgh
Magazine, Christian Observer, Critical Review,
Edinburgh Review, Flowers of Literature, Imperial Review,
Literary Gazette, Monthly Review, and Quarterly
Review. So far, around 3,000 items have been collected,
stored, and catalogued for the database project. It is anticipated
that within the next months, we shall concentrate on processing
this vast store of material electronically, for inclusion within
the final database. Issue 7 (December 2001) of Cardiff Corvey
has already made publicly available review matter from The
Flowers of Literature (for more information, see the bottom
of the page). During the summer of 2001, additional help in
processing review informations was provided by various members
of staff and graduate students working within Cardiff University.
Complementing our collection of the public
responses recorded in the reviews, we have also been gathering
private reactions in the form of anecdotal information. So far,
comments on fiction from around 50 sources have been collected,
including responses by Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth,
Susan Ferrier, Anne Lister, Lady Morgan, Walter Scott, and Mary
Shelley. In Issue 6 (June 2001), Cardiff Corvey presented
comments on 124 titles from many of these commentators (for
more information, see below).
Although we have focused principally on circulating
libraries, reviews, and anecdotes, headway has also been made
in the other areas. We have collected copies of around 60 subscription
lists, which we hope to begin preparing for the database. As
far as publisher records are concerned, we have processed impression
numbers, as well as publication costs and profits, from the
Longman Archives (a microfilm copy of which was purchased as
part of the pilot). Preliminary examinations of the major London
dailies—such as The Morning Chronicle, The Morning
Post, and The Star—indicate that newspaper announcements
are clearly a fecund source of new information on the dissemination
of titles. Issue 8 (June 2002) provided lists of announcements
which appeared in the Star for titles published between
1815 and 1824.
In May 2001, a further grant was awarded by the Arts
and Humanities Research Board to extend the database project
beyond the pilot scheme, with the aim of mounting the resource
on the Internet, in the form of a freely accessible website.
Concluding in late 2004, this project will create a full record
of contemporary fiction as it was produced, circulated, and
received in Britain during the period 1800–29. As a result of
the AHRB award, a second full-time post was made available,
and in October 2001 Dr Sharon Ragaz joined the project, focusing
initially on circulating-library catalogues, newspaper collections,
and anecdotal comments.
The present team attached to the project is
led by Peter Garside, with the assistance of Professor David
Skilton, and consists of Jacqueline Belanger, Anthony Mandal,
and Sharon Ragaz.
In addition to the continued collection and
processing of the kinds of source materials mentioned above,
a pilot version of the database was tested in Autumn 2003 by
a panel of assessors, and received a very positive response.
This pilot version of the database presently allows for the
searching across various categories, such as gender, author,
title keywords, publisher, place of publication, and dates.
Additionally, the database allows users to browse across three
alphabetically arranged indexes: author, title, and publisher.
Material from the new stage of the project, in the form of anecdotal
records linked to the main records, has also been added to the
database. Our next steps will be to mount transcriptions from
subscription lists and publishers’ records early in 2004.
Invaluable assistance in the development of the online database
has been provided by Chris Veness,
of Movable Type Ltd.
In light of the feedback from our advisory panel, the team is
continuing to develop the database in order to combine high-quality
material with an easy-to-use interface. We hope to add more
sophisted search mechanisms to the online database, which will
allow users to query the Notes field for supplementary information
and to locate the presence of secondary material immediately.
There are a number of reports and downloadable/printable
resources based on work done in the Database project available
for visitors. Please click on a link below to open the relevant
I Report: Information about the first stage (199799)
of our ongoing database project.
II Report (Feb–Nov 2000) and Circulating-Library Checklist:
Details of progress covering the first six months of the project,
as well as a full Checklist
of 2,256 titles from four circulating libraries.
II: Anecdotal Comments: A record of comments from 30 sources,
which will form a fraction of the material included in our continuing
II: The Flowers of Literature: Transcriptions of
reviews in The Flowers of Literature (180109),
of over 140 novels and tales.
II: Newspaper announcements from the Star, 181524:
A comprehensive listing of announcements, providing dates, prices,
and other key information.
6 January, 2004
This document is maintained by Anthony Mandal (Mandal@cf.ac.uk).