Geospatial Analysis: Women Printers in the Early 18th Century

For this geospatial analysis project, I wanted to learn more about women printers in the early eighteenth century—I was really interested in using a historical map, and this seemed like an interesting avenue. Where did women in the print trades work? How many were there? Were they located centrally, or marginally, geographically speaking? I did not have a pre-existing data set, so I created my own of about 60 printers, publishers, and booksellers from about 1680-1750 by compiling the data. Sources included two digital projects based on early modern maps–Locating London’s Past and The Grub Street Project, which helped me navigate early eighteenth-century London and find the cross-streets and addresses. I had to do a lot of cross-referencing and reading! I also read the following texts, included in my source slide:

  • “’Print[ing] Your Royal Father Off’: Early Modern Female Stationers  and the
  • Gendering of the British Book Trades” (Smith)
  • “Women and the Business of Print” (McDowell),
  • Publishing Business in Eighteenth-Century England (Raven);
  • Three library exhibit sites from Cambridge University Libraries; Glasgow University Special Collections; and Boston College Law School Special Collections;
  • “New Light on the King’s Printing  Office” (Haig);
  • “London Printers and Printing Houses in 1705” (Treadwell);
  • The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics, and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace  (McDowell);
  • A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1688-1725 (Plomer)

I was particularly interested in printers themselves, but I learned a great deal about how amorphous the trades actually are; so, my data skews toward the printers at the expense of booksellers and stationers, both of which—especially booksellers—would have had much higher numbers of women running their own stalls and shops.

I wanted to create a map, first and foremost, but I could not easily find a high-resolution single image of the Rocque map I chose for timeliness; given time constraints, I could not order a digital image from a library. So, I spent a lot of time trying to piece together the version on Wikipedia, which I eventually gave up on. Instead, I took a bunch of full-size screenshots of the map in Locating London’s Past and layered them atop one another in Photoshop to create a passable whole. There must have been a better way to do this. Then, I plotted everything in the Tableau utility (after losing all my data twice, I was ready to move on!). That took a great deal of time because shops did not have conventional addresses; instead, they were denoted by landmarks which have since disappeared. I had to do a lot of cross-referencing in a variety of websites, digital projects, and books/articles. Then, I was curious about how long some of these women’s careers were, so I did a simple calculation to get the time they were active as named constituents of their shops. This was complicated by the fact that several women had multiple shops. Though the data isn’t pristine, it gives a good sense of how present women were in the print trades—I knew they were visible, but I was astonished to find just how visible they were. I paired the map with a treemap, organized by last name and trade, so that users could see family connections (mothers and daughters, especially). I added a navigation tool to delimit trades, and tooltip details, as well as an embedded URL that was a simple animated GIF scrolling through some of the most interesting details I found.

In terms of design, I had fewer elements this time, so was able to organize everything on the page pretty well—it felt much simpler in design terms. I used Hoefler Text, which is the closest thing to Caslon, one of the earliest modern typefaces, for the main text, and Avenir for the details and smaller text. My color scheme was very simple, led by the black and white of the map. I wanted users to see the map first, and then note the time scale, perhaps going back and forth between the panels and the navigation tool to explore the map. Zooming in to the map allows you to read much of the details of the streets! But I do wish I had a better map, and I would love to have learned how to connect these points to their contemporary locations on say a google map. The Grub Street Project is an inspiration!

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