Visible Strains: Implications of Bibliographical Evidence in the Early Career of Alexander Pope

Lecture details

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Text: Lectures at the Weston Library


Visible Strains: Implications of Bibliographical Evidence in the Early Career of Alexander Pope

  14 November 2019   

   5.15 – 6.15pm   

   Admission free

Visible Strains: Implications of Bibliographical Evidence in the Early Career of Alexander Pope

Drawing on close examination of multiple copies of all of Pope’s publications through the first volume of his Works in 1717, this talk examines a pattern of conscious adjustments to his publications that, I argue, lets us observe Pope crafting his reputation.  Some of his methods are explicit, but many rely on timing, choice of publisher and format, context and details of presentation that, while individually minor or not even noticed, point to a series of significant decisions that led Pope to publish his Works when he was only 29.

This talk also probes the issue of whether bibliographical analysis can or should rely on information other than the physical object.  I hope this case study will demonstrate that bibliography and biography are most successful where they inform each other, but it may also be that Pope is an exceptional case, because he knew more about printing and publishing than most authors before or since.  While bibliography may not always illuminate biography, therefore, it still seems to me that bibliography makes its strongest case when it can place its insights within a larger historical framework, whether about production materials and methods, business practices, censorship or aesthetics.


Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG

Access to the lecture theatre will be through the readers’ entrance on Parks Road

 Wheelchair access

The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible.


Free admission


Shef Rogers


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