Remediation and The Yellow Book: “Print it as it stands—beautifully”

Blogged by Karl PetschkeYellowCover

Hello! I’m an RA at Ryerson University’s Centre for Digital Humanities. Most of my work revolves around The Yellow Nineties Online, an open-access catalogue of the avante-garde magazine The Yellow Book (and other contemporary publications). These periodicals provide a unique look into the lives of an influential group of artists and writers that assembled in London near the end of the century. Most of my work involves coding documents to ensure the online catalogue is easily searchable and remains true to the source material. This means that my interactions with The Yellow Book are normally scattered across a range of devices, interfaces, and file formats (mostly xml, html, and pdf). Working with these complex, multi-layered documents, one can’t help but develop a renewed sensitivity to the movements of remediation that are so essential to digital publishing. Even as DH researchers it’s all too easy to lose track of just how much of our time is spent translating and transplanting – remediation is the water we swim in! But these processes are front and center at The Yellow Nineties Online, where it’s all about living up to the innovative publishing spirit of the 1890s. Once a handsome hardcover to be taken in hand, The Yellow Book I work with today is a nebulous collection of data sets that dart from server to server and billow in the cloud.

At the close of Henry James’ “The Death of the Lion,” which opens the first volume of The Yellow Book, the protagonist is entreated to publish an unfinished manuscript, to “Print it as it stands—beautifully.”

How better to articulate the challenge—at once so daunting and so exhilarating—that faces contemporary digital publishers?

One thought on “Remediation and The Yellow Book: “Print it as it stands—beautifully””

  1. One of the things so intriguing about digital remediation is the way in which this process creates a different *Yellow Book,* with navigational and search functions across all 13 edited volumes. The critical process of digital remediation also highlights and problemetizes many of the material features of the printed volume that we otherwise naturalize and see past: the square cover, with its changing designs; the asymmetrical title pages; the use of tissue-paper guards over illustrations; and the sheer variety of media–oil paintings, watercolours, etchings, drawings, pen-and-ink sketches, painted fans, bookplates, even sculptures—remediated in the fin-de-siècle technologies of reproduction: process engraving and line block engraving.

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