18th Century Periodicals and the Digital Realm: A Research Assistant’s Perspective

No part of modern Literature seems to us as rich and fertile as the Novel”: this passionate judgement opens up the long review of Elizabeth Inchbald’s 1791 novel, A Simple Story, appeared on the Venetian periodical Nuovo Giornale Enciclopedico in January 1795. Significantly enough, this article is one of the earliest examples of a literary review as such, it is a judgement on a literary genre that was then in its earliest stages of life, and was penned by Elisabetta Caminer Turra — writer, editor, publisher, translator, and the first female journalist in Italy. As I started working as a Graduate Research Assistant for the DH project Transcultural Journalism in the Long Eighteenth Century, I have begun to discover the fascinating complexities of this reality where the novel as a genre, the review, and the roles of author, translator and reviewer were just beginning to shape themselves into what we know them for. Going through the material that my supervisor, Prof. Sandra Parmegiani, has been collecting through the years in archives and libraries, I have had a chance to read what Silvio Pellico had to say about Byron’s The Corsair; to trace the direct connection between an Italian review of a British novel and its source, copied word for word from a French journal; to look in vain for the original titles of works now lost forever; or to find them translated and reworked into completely different novels. All this material, in the form of notes, photographs and bibliographies, is the record of a complex and still largely invisible network along which novels, their translations, and their reviews travelled in 18th century Europe: and bringing it to light in a way that can effectively reflect its interrelated structure is precisely the aim of the Transcultural Journalism digital project, and of my work as a Research Assistant.

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