Young man reading a page of English text in a yellowed book that sits in a book rest

Source Material, or, Project Vox visits the archives

Posted on March 27, 2024

This Behind the Scenes post and photos were provided by Project Vox co-director Liz Milewicz.

This spring, during a pause in research while awaiting reviewer feedback on their next entry, the Project Vox Team visited the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, to engage with a range of items held by its impressive women’s history collection, the Sallie Bingham Center. The display featured materials from the Bingham Center’s Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, which documents five hundred years of women’s work with a focus on the Early Modern period to the mid-20th century. Behind the scenes, Sallie Bingham Center director Laura Micham, Rubenstein Library Research Services Librarian Kate Collins, and Librarian for Philosophy (and Project Vox team member) Cheryl Thomas selected just a few of these works for our team to view up close.

Once they got comfortable with gently opening and turning pages of these works, most of which were at least two centuries old, the team was surprised by different aspects of the books, from their covers to their content. Among the documents were slim, anonymously authored pamphlets produced in France during the revolutionary period. Students like Zoé Murphy were amazed by the pristine condition of these pamphlets as well as their topics (such as an argument for divorce). Mary Purcell remarked on the stature of the works by Margaret Cavendish, which stood out from other volumes both in their size and decoration.

Such physical aspects added another dimension to understanding the influence of these writings and their authors. It’s hard to convey the experience of being so close to the material lives of the philosophers we research and study. Special and deep thanks to Cheryl Thomas, Laura Micham, and Kate Collins for organizing this special opportunity for our team.

Young woman looks up and smiles as she holds open a small old book that sits on a book rest.
Research Team member Zoé Murphy looks up while perusing a 19th-century edition of Madame de Staël’s De l’Allemagne.
Woman gazes on open pages of book supported by folded fabric.
Project Vox O&A Team member and Philosophy doctoral student Mary Purcell reflects on a volume of writings by Margaret Cavendish. The team explored three works authored by Cavendish, all published in the 17th century.
Two people standing in front of an open book laid on a book rest, the taller individual pointing to an illustration on the book's page.
Project Vox co-director and Philosophy Professor Andrew Janiak points out aspects of a book’s frontispiece to Feasibility Team member Max Ma.
Young man peering at a yellowed page in a book sitting on a book rest, his hand readying to turn a page
Research Lead and Philosophy doctoral student Michael Veldman reads handwritten text inside one book’s cover.