Digital Humanities: Digital Humanities Advancement Grants

Period of Performance

1/1/2022 - 12/31/2024

Funding Totals

$324,931.00 (approved)
$324,931.00 (awarded)

Freedom and the Press before Freedom of the Press: Tools, Data, and Methods for Researching Secret Printing

FAIN: HAA-284882-22

Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3815)
Christopher Warren (Project Director: June 2021 to present)
Matthew Lincoln (Co Project Director: October 2021 to April 2022)
Samuel Lemley (Co Project Director: October 2021 to present)
Max G'Sell (Co Project Director: October 2021 to April 2022)

The scaling up of tools and methods to allow scholars to identify and decipher illicit printing in documents predating and associated with the First Amendment. 

In response to the NEH's “More Perfect Union" initiative, this application contends that some of the most fascinating stories of the First Amendment’s prehistory are yet to be told – and that they can only be discovered with tools, data, and methods developed in digital humanities. Evidence for clandestine printing often lies below the threshold of human attention – in minute typographical details, recurring pieces of damaged type, similar or divergent paper stocks, or tiny variations in print shop practices, observable only at scale. At the same time, it takes sophisticated information architecture for researchers to move effectively from minute physical details to broader, more consequential patterns. Freedom and the Press before Freedom of the Press will ameliorate persistent challenges in studying clandestine printing by scaling up an established suite of tools, data, and machine learning methods developed to help researchers discover hidden information in letterpress print.

Media Coverage

CMU Projects Sleuth Secret Printers, Teach Shakespeare in VR (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Stefanie Johndrow
Publication: CMU News
Date: 4/11/2022