The Program in the History of the Book in American Culture (PHBAC) is hosting a new series of Virtual Book Talks. This installment features Gordon Fraser, lecturer and presidential fellow in American Studies at the University of Manchester, who will present on his recent book Star Territory: Printing the Universe in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).
The United States has been a space power since its founding, Gordon Fraser writes. The white stars on its flag reveal the dream of continental elites that the former colonies might constitute a "new constellation" in the firmament of nations. The streets and avenues of its capital city were mapped in reference to celestial observations. And as the nineteenth century unfolded, all efforts to colonize the North American continent depended upon the science of surveying, or mapping with reference to celestial movement. Through its built environment, cultural mythology, and exercise of military power, the United States has always treated the cosmos as a territory available for exploitation.
In Star Territory Fraser explores how from its beginning, agents of the state participated in large-scale efforts to map the nation onto cosmic space. Through almanacs, maps, and star charts, practical information and exceptionalist mythologies were transmitted to the nation's soldiers, scientists, and citizens.
The Virtual Book Talk Series showcases authors of recently published scholarly monographs, digital-equivalents, and creative works broadly related to book history and print culture. Each installment includes an informal presentation from the author and a Q&A with the audience. These talks are streamed live for registered participants and are recorded for posterity. Talks typically last one hour.
Information on future PHBAC book talks may be found at https://www.americanantiquarian.org/virtual-book-talks.