1st Edition

Cultural Heritage and the Literary Archive Objects, Institutions, and Practices between the Analogue and the Digital

Edited By Tim Sommer Copyright 2025
    222 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Modern literary archives play a key role in how authors’ lives and works get canonized and consecrated as cultural heritage. This interdisciplinary volume combines literary studies, book history, textual criticism, heritage studies, archival theory, and the digital humanities to examine the past, present, and future of literary archiving. Featuring contributions from leading international scholars and archive professionals, the book explores the objects, practices, and institutions that have been at the heart of the modern archival landscape since its emergence in the nineteenth century. Covering a wide range of questions, the volume reconstructs how literary manuscripts turned into secular relics and analyzes the impact that the rise of the archive has had on the scholarly study and public perception of literature as cultural heritage. Individual chapters range from historical accounts of the Romantic origins of manuscript worship to critical discussions of the archiving of contemporary writers’ born-digital material.

    List of Contributors




    Introduction: Literature, Heritage, Archive

    Tim Sommer


    Part I: Historical Origins


    1. “This Warm Scribe, My [Profitable] Hand”: Agency and the Acquisition of Literary Archives

    Christopher Fletcher


    2. British Romantic Poetry and/as Cultural Heritage: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Robinson

    Tim Sommer


    3. Women Writers and Publisher Archives: Jane Austen and Beyond

    Michelle Levy


    Part II: Institutional Collecting


    4. The Collections Cycle of the Modernist Archive Market

    Amy Hildreth Chen


    5. “Operation Manuscript”: A National Institutional Response to Collecting Contemporary Literary Heritage

    Jamie Andrews


    6. Manuscript in the Writer’s House Museum

    Nicola J. Watson


    Part III: Authors and Archives


    7. Archival Anxieties: On Memory and Forgetfulness

    Stephen Enniss


    8. Archives as Texts and the Stories They Tell

    Jennifer Douglas


    9. Writers’ Libraries and Vestigial Notes as Cultural Heritage: Minding the Gaps in the Material Record

    Dirk Van Hulle


    Part IV: Digital Archives, Digital Heritage


    10. Capturing, Collaborating, and Curating: A Community-Led Approach to Contemporary Born-Digital Literary Archives

    Justine Mann


    11. Invisible Touches: The Challenge of the Hidden Revolution in Bookmaking for Publishers’ Archives

    Matthew G. Kirschenbaum




    Tim Sommer is Lecturer in English Literature and Culture at the University of Passau. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, an Academic Visitor at the University of Cambridge, a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, and a Humboldt Fellow at the University of Oxford. At the University of Heidelberg, he was principal investigator on the project “Modern Literary Manuscripts as Cultural Heritage: Valuation, Archivization, Digitization” (2020–2021). His research on literary authorship, cultural heritage, and archival institutions has appeared in Romanticism, Book History, the Journal of World Literature, and the Harvard Library Bulletin, among other venues. His monograph Carlyle, Emerson and the Transatlantic Uses of Authority: Literature, Print, Performance was published in 2021.

    “This timely collection interrogates with a critical eye how we construct literary heritage and thinks about how such ideas might shape our future. Its importance lies in the essays’ combination of heritage, literary, and archival studies to deconstruct the institutions that have authored our cultural understanding of literary archives.”

    Carrie Smith, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University, UK