Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

  • Monday, November 26, 2018 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center, 6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will be welcoming Gary Dyer for a talk entitled: “John Hunt’s Lord Byron.” Gary writes:

Late in 1822, Lord Byron’s partnership with his longtime publisher John Murray disintegrated, and his final books were published by John Hunt, who hitherto was known as the publisher of the reformist Examiner newspaper.  Whereas the first two volumes of Byron’s poetic masterpiece Don Juan (containing Cantos I-V) had been published by Murray, the last four volumes (Cantos VI-XVI) were published by Hunt.  A poet as popular as Byron faced impediments in the literary marketplace: competition from inexpensive unauthorized editions of his work and, to a lesser degree, competition from spurious “Byron” books.  The Court of Chancery would refuse to suppress piracies of some Byron works because of their transgressive content, and therefore the only effective response to these piracies would be to offer the public a similar or better product for the same low price.  The split with Murray freed Byron to try such a publishing strategy, and each of the four Hunt installments of Don Juan was published in three editions simultaneously: not only two “fine editions” that conformed to Murray’s but also an octodecimo “Common Edition” for the almost unprecedented price of one shilling.  At the same time, the existence of spurious but plausible “Byron” works meant that the public would suspect fakery when his writings were published by someone other than Murray, and Hunt needed to convince potential purchasers that The Age of BronzeThe Island and Cantos VI-XVI of Don Juan were authentic Byron, even though The Age of Bronze and Don Juan lacked Byron’s name, and even though the one-shilling Don Juan’s physically resembled the books put out by the publishers who specialized in piracies and fakes.  My paper will consider how Hunt’s books as physical objects were calculated to suggest that these works were authentic Byron, that these editions were authorized by the poet, and that Hunt was indeed Murray’s legitimate successor. 

Gary Dyer, Professor of English at Cleveland State University, is author of British Satire and the Politics of Style, 1789-1832 (Cambridge UP, 1997), and he is editing Thomas Love Peacock’s Melincourt for The Cambridge Edition of the Novels of Thomas Love Peacock.  He is writing a book, titled Lord Byron on Trial: Literature and the Law in the Romantic Period, that recounts and analyzes Byron’s conflicts with the law in the period 1819-1824; Lord Byron on Trial aims to revise our understanding of the relationship between literary expression and legal constraints in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by exposing the uncoordinated, inconsistent, and often contradictory manner in which these constraints functioned.

All are welcome! Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.


Sep. 17: Nicholas Herman (Penn): “The Book-Shaped Object in Renaissance Europe”

Sep. 24, 25, 27 - Rosenbach Lectures: Carlo Ginzburg (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Fossils, Apes, Humans: A Chapter in the History of Science, Revisited

- Sep. 24: “Paleontology and Connoisseurship”

- Sep. 25: “Gods, Humans, Apes: Art History and Evolution”

- Sep. 27: “Medals and Shells: On Morphology and History, Once Again”

Oct. 1: Whitney Trettien (Penn): “Digital Book History”

Oct. 8: Priyasha Mukhopadhyay (Yale): “Unread: A History of the Book in Colonial South Asia”

Oct. 15: J.M. Duffin (Penn): “Draining the Swamp of Arcane Legal Text: Reclaiming the Geography of Eighteenth Century Philadelphia”

Oct. 22: Katie Chenoweth (Princeton): “Printers’ Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents”

Oct. 29: Sarah Guérin (Penn): “On Ivory, Wax, and Paint: New Insights on Devotional Booklets”

Nov. 5: Margo Natalie Crawford (Penn): “The Textual Production of a Shared Black Edge

Nov. 12: David Norbrook (Oxford): “‘But a copie’: Lucy Hutchinson’s Life in her Texts”

Nov. 19: Samantha Sommers (Ohio State): “Reading in Books”

Nov. 26: Gary Dyer (Cleveland State): “John Hunt's Lord Byron"

Dec. 3: Mitch Fraas (Penn): “Boilerplate: Documentation, Paperwork, and the Persistence of Form across the Early Modern and Modern Worlds”

Dec. 10: Arthur Kiron (Penn): “Hidden in Plain Sight: Christian Readers of Rabbinic Literature in the Colonial Americas”