New Book | Small Things in the Eighteenth Century

Posted in books by Editor on November 11, 2022

From Cambridge UP:

Chloe Wigston Smith and Beth Fowkes Tobin, eds., Small Things in the Eighteenth Century: The Political and Personal Value of the Miniature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 280 pages, ISBN: ‎ 978-1108834452, $99.

Book cover showing a detail of a painted letter rack.Offering an intimate history of how small things were used, handled, and worn, this collection shows how objects such as mugs and handkerchiefs were entangled with quotidian practices and rituals of bodily care. Small things, from tiny books to ceramic trinkets and toothpick cases, could delight and entertain, generating tactile pleasures for users while at the same time signalling the limits of the body’s adeptness or the hand’s dexterity. Simultaneously, the volume explores the striking mobility of small things: how fans, coins, rings, and pottery could, for instance, carry political, philosophical, and cultural concepts into circumscribed spaces. From the decorative and playful to the useful and performative, such small things as tea caddies, wampum beads, and drawings of ants negotiated larger political, cultural, and scientific shifts as they transported aesthetic and cultural practices across borders, via nationalist imagery, gift exchange, and the movement of global goods.

Chloe Wigston Smith is the author of Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel (2013) and co-editor, with Serena Dyer, of Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers (2020). Her current research, supported by a British Academy fellowship, centers on material culture and the Atlantic world.

Beth Fowkes Tobin, a recipient of NEH and NSF fellowships, is the author of The Duchess’s Shells: Natural History Collecting in the Age of Cook’s Voyages (2014), Colonizing Nature: The Tropics in British Arts and Letters, 1760–1830 (2005), and Picturing Imperial Power: Colonial Subjects in Eighteenth-Century British Painting (1999).


Notes on Contributors

Introduction: The Scale and Sense of Small Things — Chloe Wigston Smith and Beth Fowkes Tobin

Part I: Reading Small Things
1  ‘The Sum of All in All’: The Miniature Book and the Nature of Legibility — Abigail Williams
2  Nuts, Flies, Thimbles, and Thumbs: Eighteenth-Century Children’s Literature and Scale — Katherine Wakely-Mulroney
3  Gothic Syntax — Cynthia Wall
4  Small, Familiar Things on Trial and on Stage — Chloe Wigston Smith

Part II: Small Things in Time and Space
5  On the Smallness of Numismatic Objects — Crystal B. Lake
6  Crinoidal Limestone and Staffordshire Teapots: Material and Temporal Scales in Eighteenth-Century Britain — Kate Smith
7  ‘Joineriana’: The Small Fragments and Parts of Eighteenth-Century Assemblages — Freya Gowrley
8  ‘Pray What a Pox Are Those Damned Strings of Wampum?’ — Robbie Richardson

Part III: Small Things at Hand
9  ‘We Bought a Guillotine Neatly Done in Bone’: Illicit Industries on Board British Prison Hulks, 1775–1815 — Anna McKay
10  ‘What Number?’: Reform, Authority, and Identity in Late Eighteenth-Century Military Buttons — Matthew Keagle
11  Two Men’s Leather Letter Cases: Mercantile Pride and Hierarchies of Display — Pauline Rushton
12  The Aesthetic of Smallness: Chelsea Porcelain Seal Trinkets and Britain’s Global Gaze, 1750–1775 — Patricia F. Ferguson
13  ‘Small Gifts Foster Friendship’: Hortense de Beauharnais, Amateur Art, and the Politics of Exchange in Post-Revolutionary France — Marina Kliger

Part IV: Small Things on the Move
14  Hooke’s Ant — Tita Chico
15  Portable Patriotism: Britannia and Material Nationhood in Miniature — Serena Dyer
16  Revolutionary Histories in Small Things: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on Printed Ceramics, c. 1793–1796 — Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth
17  A Box of Tea and the British Empire — Romita Ray

Afterword: A Thing’s Perspective — Hanneke Grootenboer

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