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Session Overview
#SJ5: Print and Probability Panel
Friday, 26/Jul/2019:
10:45am - 12:15pm

Session Chair: Christopher Warren
Location: Marquis C, Marriott City Center
capacity 60

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Print and Probability: Computer Vision Approaches to Clandestine Publication

Christopher Warren, Stephen Wittek, Dan Evans, Matthew Lincoln, Shruti Rijhwani

Carnegie Mellon University, United States of America

Scholars frequently turn a blind eye to this remarkable fact, but there are over 100,000 early modern books and pamphlets whose printers remain unknown. Before the modern
era, the book trade was often dangerous and secretive. For fear of persecution and punishment,
printers between 1473-1800 declined to attach their names to about a fifth of all known books and
pamphlets. However, now that over 130,000 books have been digitized by Early English Books
Online (EEBO), anomalies and variations in the printing materials of this era may hold the key to
identifying these printers. Painstaking, individual studies by historians, editors, and analytic bibliographers have found tell-tale clues in individual characters from this era, due to damaged type pieces. Speakers on this panel will offer four linked case studies based on their work identifing and aggregating such anomalies at scale. Tackling mysteries that in some cases have confounded scholars for centuries, panelists will present new printer ascriptions derived from computer vision and machine learning amidst topics such as anonymization, piracy, distributed printing, and fictitious imprints.

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