August Blog Post: Rare Books at the Library of Congress

Working in DC in August was exciting with the opening of the Metro’s new silver line. A station opened within walking distance of my home, significantly shortening my commute to the Library of Congress. This month, I read texts in the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room at the Library of Congress. The Special Collections are in a separate section of the library from the Main Reading Room, and researchers need specific permission to enter this area. The Special Collections hold the pre-1800 materials of the Library of Congress. I gained familiarity with handling rare books at Swem Library. The key to reading rare books without damaging them is to touch the pages as little as possible. The pages are often very fragile and brittle. Many of these books have broken spines and have to be transported very carefully. Multiple cameras in Special Collections monitor the handling of the books by the readers, and bringing any bags or even pens into the reading area is prohibited. Although the Library of Congress takes significant steps to protect these original texts, anyone can apply for permission to read them because it is considered the library of the people.

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July Blog Post: Travel and Intellectual Development

During the month of July, I read secondary sources discussing travel in Europe and America. One of the most interesting texts was English Travellers Abroad, 1604-1667, by John Stoye. Stoye researched travelers abroad, particularly in France, Italy, and the Netherlands, in order to explain the origins of the Grand Tour. Stoye identifies how politics at home influenced travelers and shaped their journeys. The search for patronage and courtly politics impacted distant locales like Venice, where Englishmen formed small communities that replicated the hierarchy and conflicts of the court. Stoye argues that not all Englishmen abroad were committed to improving their classical education, instead regarding travel as a social activity. Many returned from traveling unmoved by their Grand Tour. However, others would be significantly impacted by their life abroad, such as John Milton, whose literary discussions with Italian scholars likely encouraged him to write Paradise Lost. Stoye’s book influenced the direction of my research and led me to focus on how the British developed intellectually through travel.

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June Blog Post: London Calling

During the month of June, I identified primary source materials for my thesis by exploring the online databases of the British Library in London and the Bodleian library at Oxford University. My goal was to locate first hand accounts of British travellers during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I complied an extensive list of primary resource materials and booked my flight to the United Kingdom.

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Travel Guides that Shaped the Nation: Abstract

My name is Madeline Grimm and I’m very excited to start working on my honors thesis this summer!

My honors thesis will focus on British travel literature during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its impact on British society and culture. Travel by British citizens in the early modern world was a lengthy and challenging enterprise. Travel to America required capital and government support, while traveling to Europe often involved developing contacts and connections at local universities, courts and through trade.

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