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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Material Texts Roadshow: Women Collectors and Their Collections

Inscription by Frances Wolfreston at the beginning of The Tragedy of Othello: "Frances wolfreston her bouk a sad one"
Inscription by Frances Wolfreston at the beginning of The Tragedy of Othello (1655, Penn EC Sh155 622oc): "Frances wolfreston her bouk; a sad one"

Monday, April 11, 2022, 5:15pm, via Zoom*

*For Zoom information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.

A virtual roundtable featuring Lisa Baskin, Emiko Hastings, and Sarah Lindenbaum.


Lisa Unger Baskin, "Phillis Wheatley Peters, Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, A Metamorphosis: How I Learned to Love My Copy"

I will speak about a copy of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (London, 1773), which was in my collection and is now at Duke. I will use the images to discuss this particular copy of the Poems, how my response changed, and how I ultimately understood the physical condition of this copy.

Lisa Unger Baskin is an historian, curator, editor and political activist. An intense collector for the past 50 years, she voraciously acquired books, manuscripts, ephemera, objects and photographs documenting women and work. In 2015 the collection was acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Library at Duke University. On the cusp of the pandemic Lisa Unger Baskin co-curated 500 Years of Women’s Work at both Duke and the Grolier Club. She continues to build her collection and community through her activism. She serves on the board of the David Ruggles Center for History & Education in Florence, Massachusetts, is an active member of the Grolier Club and the American Antiquarian Society; for a number of years she has taught at CABS, the Colorado/Minnesota Antiquarian Book Seminar, where she established the Belle da Costa Greene and the David Ruggles Scholarships. Co-chair of the Western Massachusetts Rainbow Coalition, she was elected a Jesse Jackson delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

Emiko Hastings, "Reconstructing a Library: Abby E. Pope and the Caxton Malory"

Abby Pope gathered together a remarkable collection of rare books in the late 19th century, but her work is almost forgotten today. Reconstructing this collection offers a glimpse into a lost library and the life of an ambitious woman collector. This talk will highlight one significant book from her collection, the Caxton edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485).

Emiko Hastings is Curator of Books and Digital Projects Librarian at the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. She collects books about American women bibliophiles and is working on a project to reconstruct the library of Abby Pope. A preview of this work in progress can be seen on her blog (

Sarah Lindenbaum, "‘Sad’ and ‘Dumbe’: Frances Wolfreston’s Playbooks at UPenn"

Reader Frances Wolfreston (1607–1677) is renowned for her collection of literary works, many of which were sold at an auction of her family’s library in 1856. This auction contained over 100 playbooks—some now traced, others still awaiting identification—likely to have belonged to her. This presentation considers three of those playbooks now in UPenn’s collections and what they tell us about her reading and book ownership. It also touches on how missing playbooks once owned by her may be identified in the future. 

Sarah Lindenbaum is a former secondhand bookseller, rare-book cataloguer, and outreach librarian, and now independent scholar. She has been working on a project to reconstruct Frances Wolfreston’s life and library since 2013, and studies women’s reading and book ownership in the early modern period. Her article on Wolfreston’s annotated almanacs was recently published in The Seventeenth Century.

Caroline Schimmel, "Chance Encounters: Two More of Caroline's Very Small World Stories"

I will talk about a couple of completely accidental meetings at the conference Penn gave during their run of my 2017/18 exhibition OK, I'll Do It Myself, which lead to great leaps forward in literary and historical scholarship.

Caroline Schimmel was born in NYC, the oldest of five girls, and raised in Chestnut Hill. Fortunately her maternal grandparents lived in NYC where she was head of the YWCA and he chief of surgery at Roosevelt Hospital, so Caroline's mother gladly popped her on a train back starting when she was ca. 10. In 1967 she graduated from Penn in the soon-to-be dismantled but wonderful American Civilization Major. Later she graduated from Columbia University's soon-to-be dismantled MLA program. She was encouraged by her soon-to-be second husband Stuart Schimmel, noted book collector, that forming a book collection was way more fun than working as a librarian for someone else.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.