Saturday, 14 April 2012

ECSSS Conference in Columbia, SC

For the past few days I have been at the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies annual conference in Columbia, SC. The conference was held at Columbia because the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina contains arguably the best collection of Scottish rare books and manuscripts in the United States (especially related to Robert Burns). In terms of numbers, the ECSSS is a fairly small society. I would estimate that only about 60 people attended this year's annual conference. This is good news because it is easy to get to know a number of people at the conference, including several of the world's leading Scottish studies scholars.

The conference opened last Thursday, April 12 with a plenary lecture on Sir John Dalrymple by David Shields, who has written multiple books on a variety of subjects ranging from eighteenth-century cuisine to intellectual history. Other notable sessions included the celebration of the much-anticipated second volume of the Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland: Enlightenment and Expansion 1707-1800. This is a behemoth of a book, consisting of 400 pages and countless essays on a range of topics related to the history of the book in Scotland. Finally, scholars interested in the history of the book in eighteenth-century Scotland have a significant reference manual. For only $240, you can purchase your own copy; otherwise you have to read it at a research library.

I gave a paper on John Erskine as a cultural mediator during the American Revolution. The other panelists were Roger Fechner (Adrian College), who talked about John Witherspoon's use of political satire during the American Revolution, and Jan Swearingen (Texas A&M), who spoke on Presbyterians and printers in early America. I also had the opportunity to chair a panel in which Ned Landsman (SUNY Stoney Brook) and Brad Christie (Erskine College) spoke. As always, Landsman delivered a fine paper (on the Scottish Secessionists), and Christie went over the University of South Carolina's extensive holdings on Presbyterian Secessionists (the Charles Weasmer Collection).

I am already looking forward to next year's ECSSS conference at the Sorbonne in Paris (July 2013)!

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