“Theory of Visual Perception: A Critical Edition, with English Translation and Commentary, of the First Three Books of Alhacen’s De Aspectibus, the Medieval Latin Version of Ibn Al-Haytham’s Kitab Al-Manazir.” Edited by A Mark Smith. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2001.

A. Mark Smith’s critical edition and translation of Alahacen’s first three books of the De aspectibus is a welcome addition to the history of science. As he points out in the “Introduction” this volume should not be thought of as duplicating Sabra’s similar efforts in the Arabic version, the Kitaab al-Manazir, particularly due to the numerous differences between the Latin version and the Arabic – particularly due to the fact that the first three chapters of Book I are missing from the Latin version (p. Xxiii). As a result, Smith’s efforts here (to be followed by later similar editions of the remainder of De aspectibus) will inevitably spur further research into these works.

In addition to the critical edition and translation, Smith also provides a helpful “Introduction” to Alhacen and his optical influence. In it he addresses the optical theory of Alhacen, the way various important optical texts gave shape to it, as well as addressing the overall influence of Alhacen’s text in the Renaissance. The information here is a succinct summary of many parts of Smith’s other scholarship on the topic, and so I will not summarize it all here.

What should be commented upon, though, is how Smith understands the significance of Alhacen. According to Smith, Alhacen’s significance is best understood in the way it brought the perspectivist tradition to logical completion, the result of which was that he simultaneously laid bare its vulnerabilities (p. Cxvii). Thus, in contrast to Lindberg – who understands Alhacen as establishing the conceptual framework for Kepler – Smith argues that Kepler actually developed his theory of optical thought and the theory of image formation on the retina due to the shortcomings of Alhacen, not because of the framework of Alhacen. To that extent, Smith even seems to suggest that Alhacen is a significant figure for the history of optics, but not essential to it.

As suggest above, this is an exceptionally fine critical edition and English translation, with a very detailed Introduction. Ironically enough, despite the fact that Smith underwent all this work, his overall estimation of Alhacen in the history of optics is quite less than what other scholars have suggested.

Hey there!

Well, this is it. The blog I’ve had stashed away for almost two years, a subdomain relegated to theme experimentation, logo auditions, and HTML mishaps.

It’s been a long time coming. Welcome.

For years, I’ve been saying that I would start a blog, but I was never really sure how to motivate myself to create something sustainable and enjoyable. As we approach a new year and a new semester, I think I’m finally in a good place to get started with a long-term writing project.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Please feel free to check out my bio, and click over to my portfolio if you want to get caught up on what I’ve been doing for the past few semesters. I’m also thrilled to be launching a store of my very own, where I’ll be selling handmade accessories for winter and beyond.

I’m excited about this, and I hope you are too.

Erik Kwaakel. “Commercial Organization and Economic Innovation.” In The Production of Books in England 1350-1500. Edited by Daniel Wakelin and Alexandra Gillespie. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Eric Kwakkel’s chapter provides a helpful analysis of the economic and social foundation to the book trade in late-medieval England. As he points out, by the fourteenth century book production had become embedded in the urban economic activity (p. 174). As he details, the activity of the “stationer” – which he takes to mean someone who sold books or arranged for their selling – increasingly situated them as supervisors of the book trade. Moreover, their activity in such a role indicates the existence and relative stability of book production as an economically viable activity in England (p. 178). Thus, such an insight ought to curb against any naive understanding in which a book is produced as a mere exchange between an artisan and a patron.

His chapter, though, is focused on more than the existence of stationers. It also details the wide array of factors that could influence the cost and production of a book. Such factors include, the location of the scribal book shop, the type of script, availability of binding materials, quality of handwriting, and of course the materials from which the book was produced. Throughout each of these areas one important consideration that Kwakkel arrives at is the fact that a market for cheap books was developing in England. These books were known for being made with limp binding, poorer handwriting, and on lesser quality materials. Similar to the existence of the stationer, the fact that cheap books existed also addresses the book market that existed, one which was more than patron and scribe.

Although this chapter is rather anecdotal in its details, it does provide some helpful indications as to the variety of influences, people, and decisions, that went into the production of books. The significance of this is that for the historian of the book, one ought to be careful not to provide too simplistic understanding of book production. It was a complex process with many parts, the various aspects of which were closely connected to the overall urban economics.

About Me

Hello all! My name is Eva Sparks and I am so excited to be writing to you all on this brand new website of my very own! I didn’t know that a website domain name could ever make me feel this cool, but I’m totally nerding-out over it.

To give you a little bit of background on me, I am a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. In high school, I actively participated in competitive drama, debate, musical theatre, charity events, volunteer networks, and pre-professional organizations. I plan to keep up this involvement in college. I also enjoy traveling and learning new languages — I plan on studying abroad to Spain and potentially pursuing a Spanish major in addition to my (already decided) International Business major!

I have recently joined a Global Engagement Fellowship program at my University and have created this blog to document my experiences throughout this program. You might occasionally find other posts regarding college, TED Talks, language classes, yummy foods, my unique room mates, yoga, or just life in general!

I can’t wait to get blogging and fill this blank space up with some ~exciting~ content!

— Eva Sparks

Happy NYE!!

Me turning my head @ 2016. Bring it, 2017!!!

I think that I will start trying to write on this blog more. It seems like a good way to document my life and experiences and such.

This year, I decided to break up my resolutions and give myself one per month. This way, I’ll be able to focus on only one resolution, while continuously trying to achieve all of them. So in January, I will try to do all six of these resolutions, but I will only hold myself fully accountable for the one that I plan to focus on (to get more sleep). I have only created resolutions through May, so that I can adjust them in case this system does not work. I also want to choose words each month that will be my “motto” for the month. I’ll post updates about those words on here as well!

Wish me luck, here we go!! Also, if you know me personally, hold me accountable for all of these resolutions, hehe!!

January: Get more sleep and form healthy sleeping habits. This will help you stay alert in classes and have the energy to fully interact and experience all situations.

February: Work out 3 times a week, at least. You deserve to feel strong, healthy, and fabulous in your own body. So make it happen!!!!

March: Write in your journal or on your blog. You may want to reflect on these days later in the year or in life. Give yourself the opportunity to!

April: Find time to read for pleasure. This one may be tricky because it’s in such a busy time of the year. So perhaps the challenge for this month is to be gentle with yourself, and to not push yourself too unnecessarily hard. Find a good balance!

May: Take care of yourself. This month will hold finals and the beginning of your study abroad experiences. Make sure that you are fully experiencing all the opportunities that you are afforded, but do not run yourself down to the point that you are not able to enjoy them anymore. you can do this!!

Donald F. McKenzie, “Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-house Practices.” Studies in Bibliography: Papers of hte Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia 22 (1969): 1-75.

Donal McKenzie’s chapter is an analysis of the methods of bibliography in the mid 1960s by analyzing what has been said about printing in England, particularly what has been said by Professor Hinman. The article itself pertains to some specific points made by some of McKenzie’s contemporaries, although there are some broader themes apparent. In his conclusion he summarizes such themes quite well in what follows:

“It’s the only way I can explain the central paradox of this paper: that all printing houses were alike in being different. Despite my misgivings about ‘norms’ I have tried to suggest that all printing houses were more alike over the years than many bibliographers are prepared to allow: in size of plant, variability of work force, edition quantities printed, use of standing formes, proofing procedures, and most important of all in printing several jobs concurrently. I have stressed the supreme importance of primary evidence and I have tried to use it to expose and curb what I take to be erroneous inferences. In doing so, I have also tried to demonstrate more generally some weaknesses inherent in the inductive method. When the standing of general statements is damaged by contrary examples, the inductivist usually seeks a safe retreat in some form of historical relativism; I have tried to show how naive this can be” (p. 60)

This is a helpful article for understanding the status of the debates on the so-called “New Bibliography” that were occurring in the mid 1960s. What is interesting about MacKenzie’s analysis, as is pointed out in the extend quotation above, is the way in which he was arguing that variety among early modern English printing was the norm, not the exception. One can begin to anticipate the turn toward book history, with its interest in nuanced meanings, that would develop in the 1970s and 1980s.

William Sherman. “Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England.” Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

William Sherman’s Used Book analyzes the marginalia of 7500 volumes of books printed between 1475 and 1640 in the STC collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. As he found out, nearly 1 in every 5 books contained some sort of annotation, evidence which runs counter to the predominant idea that it was oftentimes the case that those in the pre-modern period did not mark in their books (p. Xii). The book itself is organized into four sections. I will briefly note some of the highlights in each section.

The first section is titled “Of Marks and Methods,” and includes a variety of interesting methodological components. Perhaps the most interesting is the first chapter, in which Sherman indicates the emphasis that early modern teachers placed upon students using books, not merely reading them. This is then followed by a detailed analysis of manicules, indicating varieties of uses as well as varieties of marks (cf, the table on p. 26). The final chapter of this section suggests various ways to recover the traces of women in books, such as Books of Common Prayer, midwife instructions, collections of homilies, and books of conduct.

The second section is titled, “Reading and Religion” and includes one chapter about reading the Bible and one about the Book of Common Prayer. Of interest, Sherman notes that the distribution of the King James Bible likely contributed to book marking habits, and its widespread distribution also provides a helpful place for studying readership at large and the varieties of texts that readers likely used. It is also interesting, as Sherman points out, that the best guides for making a commonplace from the period actually comes from Edward Vaughan’s 1594 guide to Bible study (p. 75). The chapter on the Book of Common Prayer is a case study of the ways to approach a particular book, and the types of clues that may be derived.

The third section is titled “Remarkable Readers” focuses on the books of John Dee and Sir Julius Cesar. What begins to surface from the marginalia is the wide array of texts that these two authors referenced in their marginalia.

The final section is titled “Renaissance Readers and Modern Collectors.” In this chapter Sherman theorizes about the role of modern collecting has had on the theory of marginalia notation. Quite pointedly, he even suggests that the “cult of the clean book” is strongly correlated with the growth of institutional libraries (p. 157). What he seems to be suggesting by this is the fact that the privileging of clean copies by libraries contributed to the marginalization of marginal notation.

Overall the opening chapter and the conclusion are of greatest interest to the casual reader in the history of the book. The other chapters are helpful for widening the imagination as to the process of capturing the readership, although the specifics are only helpful in so far as they actually pertain to a particular research topic.

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History and Humility

True life: My blog posts have got to be shorter or I’ll never keep up with them. I already don’t keep up with them but you get what I’m saying. I’m writing about travels from October so I’m sure I’m losing key details and killer moments but better late than never, right? I just can’t stand the thought of not remembering anything from each stop a year from now. So read on if you want all the goods from Oxford, Mississippi. If you don’t read on I’ll understand, but mostly I’ll never know. True life part two: it’s fun to type out Mississippi while spelling it out in your head.

Everyone told me they were so excited for me to visit Ole Miss, but I didn’t fully understand why until arriving. The campus is beautiful and people are so friendly that your heart smiles. The city of Oxford has history around every corner. It’s truly a city that books could be (and have been) written about.

Part of the history in Oxford is something Ole Miss struggles with. During my time on campus I humbly asked many questions about their divided past. I view the world through a ‘post SAE’ lense and there is still a lot I struggle to understand. For those that don’t know, while I was a student at the University of Oklahoma a fraternity was kicked off campus for members singing a racist chant. Members of the fraternity were expelled from the university but suddenly it was an all eyes on OU moment. National media outlets were parked on our lawn and the air felt thick.

When I first heard the news my eyes filled with tears. My initial reaction was to think this didn’t happen at the University of Oklahoma. Things like this don’t happen here and people don’t feel this way I thought. As my hands were busy loading the last of supplies from the previous day’s philanthropy event I continued to think this event wasn’t real. At the exact moment this racist chant was being sung thousands of students were celebrating that the generosity of the Sooner family had raised over half a million dollars for our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. However, as I began to truly listen I learned just how wrong my previous thoughts were. Many people, both at OU and all across the United States are made to feel less every single day. In a time where we would have celebrated this incredible philanthropic victory there was suddenly a more important task at hand. Listening was my greatest responsibility. My eyes were opened for the first time, sadly, to my own privilege and blind ignorance. Though there is always work to be done, I do believe this event brought many things to the surface that has created positive change for the University of Oklahoma. This event also opened my eyes to the many universities that struggle to make all people feel equally valued as they pursue their education. I believe this experience on my campus has helped me as I navigate relationships with collegiate women on a daily basis.

Oxford, Mississippi is a town with bullet holes that remain in buildings with confederate soldier cemeteries scattered about. There is no escaping this dark past, as many statues’ plaques on the Ole Miss campus state. “This historic statue is a reminder of the university’s divisive past. Today, the University of Mississippi draws from that past a continuing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth, knowledge, and wisdom,” one reads. I learned that the nickname Ole Miss itself is what the first yearbook was entitled. ‘Ole Miss’ was a term slaves used to refer to the wife of the plantation owner. I also learned that their primary administrative building, the Lyceum, served as a Civil War hospital. I was able to learn so much history through my campus tour and from my tour of Oxford. I felt so honored that one of the campus guides would take me around in the heat and that they set me up with a tour from the oldest man in Oxford. I was greeted at my hotel with a ‘Visit Oxford’ water bottle in a ‘Visit Oxford’ car to see the town. I saw double decker buses and red telephone booths drawing a parallel to the other Oxford. I even got to sit on a couch that both John McCain and President Obama sat in during their time at Ole Miss for one of the presidential debates in 2008. One of my favorite facts I learned is that students dress up for football games, just as we do at the University of Oklahoma, because family members used to dress up to send their family members off to war and the football players are also going into battle.

My tour of Oxford led us all over but also through the square, which is the heart of the town. The entire square was delightful but my favorite store within the square was naturally the bookstore. Take me shopping and of course I would walk away with a book. I also got to visit Rowan Oak (William Faulkner’s home) and the famous Big Bad Breakfast. Best of all I got to see my cousin, Kayla, from Florida who attends Ole Miss. I rarely get to see her so it was a total treat. I can see why she loves it there because the people are seriously endearing. I meet people I enjoy all throughout my travels, but Ole Miss gave me some soul quenching conversation. The women I worked with cared about me and poured into me big time. I won’t soon be forgetting the way my time there made me feel really effortlessly myself.

I also had my first ~travel blogger~ moment. We got free cinnamon rolls for promoting the Beagle Bagel Cafe!! So here is their #feature on my #travelblog, pictured below. If anyone else wants to #sponsor me hmu and we’ll workout a sweet deal. #ad #kiddingandnot

One day when we are all ten years older I’ll be caught up on writing about all my travels. Stay tuned for Oregon!

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Favorite Restaurant: City Grocery (Apparently it is Morgan Freeman’s favorite, but I would chose Madeline Tackeberry as my dinner date every dang day!!)

Thing To See on Campus: The Walk of Champions

Travel Tip: Find your item that seems frivolous to most but brings you joy. I can totally justify adding a pound to my suitcase for my candle. Lighting it makes any hotel room feel more like home!