Rotunda News

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  • Dolley Madison: The Fame Years March 18, 2014

    Rotunda’s Dolley Madison Digital Edition, edited by Holly C. Shulman, has been updated with 158 new documents, 543 new and revised identifications of people, places, and terms, and two new editorial essays.

    This seventh installment takes the reader through 1845. By the end of the year, Dolley was settled in the nation’s capital, and would never return to Montpelier—or any other place in Virginia. She had established a close friendship with President Tyler, and after James K. Polk was inaugurated on 4 March 1845, she created a warm relationship with both the president and his wife. In addition, the reader may follow her friendships and her social life, and how she dined and partied with the elite of the Polk administration. She continued to receive requests for autographs, both hers and her husband’s, and received dedications for books and poems. This is the Dolley Madison of fame.

    Concurrently, Dolley lived a far different private life. Her financial situation was precarious. Her brother-in-law, General William Madison, had filed suit against her, and that proceeded even after William’s death. She asked for loans, and could only repay her debts in small amount. Her finances shot, her son still in Virginia, her slaves divided between Henry Moncure, John Payne Todd, and herself, she considered emancipating her husband’s valet, Paul Jennings, but in the end rented him out to President Polk.

    The image above was painted a half century after her death. The illustrator, Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, depicted Dolley presiding over a ball held on 8 December 1812 and imagined her accepting the colors of the just-captured British vessel Macedonia, walking toward it in readiness to stamp on the British flag. The ball did take place, the flag was brought there, but Dolley never trod on it, nor did James Madison even attend. The picture reflects one of the myths that by 1845 had grown up around Mrs. Madison.

  • Texas Joins Archipedia February 27, 2014

    With the 2014 annual meeting in Austin just over a month away, we are happy to announce the addition of 1,319 building entries covering roughly half of the state of Texas to Rotunda’s SAH Archipedia, with 50 of these accessible via SAH Archipedia Classic Buildings. This material comprises the full text of the recently published Buildings of Texas: Central, South, and Gulf Coast. Additional photographs will be added in the months to come. The first of two Buildings of the United States books devoted to the Lone Star State, this volume includes four major cities (Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, and San Antonio), surveys a range of building types and styles from Spanish missions to modern skyscrapers, canvasses everything from the Alamo and the Johnson Space Center to the Menil Collection/Rothko Chapel and the O. Henry House, and highlights such topics as Texas dance halls, faux bois (false wood) art, cattle and ranching, and barbecue.

  • Additions to History of the Ratification February 27, 2014

    The digital edition of The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, published by our electronic imprint Rotunda, has just made two important updates to its content. With the addition of Volume 23 from the print series, the digital edition includes the complete New York content. This chronicles the proceedings of the state Convention, where a mostly Antifederalist collection of delegates debated over the Constitution clause by clause. We have also added Volume 24, which is the first volume of Rhode Island content. Notably independent in its thought, Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen states to ratify the Constitution, a process that eventually took three years to complete.

  • FLOTUS Showdown February 21, 2014

    Greatest film of all time? Vertigo, according to the Sight and Sound poll. Greatest album? Sgt. Pepper, says Rolling Stone. Best college men’s basketball team? AP has Syracuse at the top (for now). We live in an age of lists. While list-making is to a certain extent just a parlor game, as well as a handy way to sift through information overload, such a list can be a fairly reliable yardstick for fluctuations in reputation.

    The Siena Research Institute periodically polls historians to assemble their rankings of the U. S. Presidents, but many people probably don’t know that Siena also ranks the First Ladies. The latest edition of the First Ladies rankings has just been released, and it has inspired considerable commentary (including this CNN piece). In the rankings’ top spot is Eleanor Roosevelt, who, apart from her famous marriage, was one of the great public figures of the twentieth century. In fourth place, almost exactly 200 years after she and her husband left the White House, is Dolley Madison, often credited with creating the role of the First Lady as we know it.

    The Founders loom perhaps largest of anyone in our history, and not surprisingly their wives did very well in the poll, with Abigail Adams (#2) and Martha Washington (#9) joining Dolley in the top ten. Another trend in the list seems to be recognizing the more recent presidents’ wives: the four most recent First Ladies all made the top twelve, including Michelle Obama (#5). Who fared less well were the women in between—that long century and a half between the end of the early republic and the second World War. Lost in the shuffle are some formidable First Ladies, such as Lou Hoover (#17)—or the exceptional case of Edith Bolling Galt Wilson (#14), who hid her husband’s deteriorating health from his own cabinet and, in order to reduce his burden, actually took on many of his presidential duties herself. Historians debate whether this was admirable resourcefulness or simply a political spouse going rogue.

    A particularly poor showing on the list can almost always be traced back to difficult personal circumstances, whether it is Eliza Johnson (#38), who was too unhealthy to perform the traditional duties and had to defer to her daughter, or Jane Pierce (#39, last place), whose arrival at the White House was preceded by an almost incomprehensible run of personal tragedy (she lost all three of her children—the last only weeks before her husband’s inauguration).

    The way in which Dolley Madison and Eleanor Roosevelt seem to bookend a long period of largely forgotten stories says something about a historical memory that naturally concentrates on the recent history, as well as the enduring prominence of the Founding Era in our minds, but it may also reflect a diminishment of the President’s—and, in turn, the First Lady’s—importance during a significant stretch of our history. “While there were powerful presidents between Madison and FDR, including James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, during most of the 19th century the power of the president remained limited by the strength of Congress,” says Holly Shulman, editor of The Dolley Madison Digital Edition. “While this balance of power shifted under the Progressive Era presidents, it was only with FDR, the New Deal, and the Second World War that the Presidency as we know it took shape.  That supremacy has solidified in the nearly 70 years since the end of World War II.  The era of the imperial presidency has brought to the American public an ever-more prominent First Lady.”

    The very interesting survey results may be viewed in their entirety on the Siena web site.

  • Outstanding Academic Titles January 27, 2014

    At the American Library Association’s Midwinter meeting, Choice magazine announced its complete list of Outstanding Academic Titles from the year just ended. Included on the list are two titles from our Rotunda electronic imprint: The Digital Temple, which presents the poetry of George Herbert in a fully annotated digital edition, and The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry, an online archive of the correspondence between two founding-era women and members of one of South Carolina’s leading families. Also included on the list were Dialect Diversity in America: The Politics of Change by pioneering linguist William Labov and Public Nature: Scenery, History, and Park Design edited by Ethan Carr, Shaun Eyring, and Richard Guy Wilson. The publications deemed Outstanding Academic Titles represent the top ten percent of the hundreds reviewed each year by Choice.

  • 50 Years On: LBJ’s War on Poverty January 8, 2014

    Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty, NPR is beginning a series on the legacy of this initiative. The first installment, which revisits the Kentucky county where the iconic front-porch photo of LBJ was taken, may be found here. Half a century later, many residents could not survive without services such as food stamps and energy assistance, which date back to LBJ’s administration. Still, times remain very tough in this Appalachian community, due partly to a scaling back of the coal mining industry that was the region’s lifeblood for generations.

    For those wanting a closer look at this part of our history—from the project’s conception to its legislation and implementation—The Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson, published online under our Rotunda imprint, includes an extensive selection of behind-the-scenes conversations on the War on Poverty. Information on free-trial access to this resource may be found here.

  • New Jefferson Papers documents in Founding Era collection December 5, 2013

    Thanks to the ongoing “Early Access” transcription program at Documents Compass, we are adding over 16,000 new documents from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson:

    • 9951 documents from the original series, from July 1804 to 3 March 1809 (his last day as president)
    • 6188 documents from the Retirement Series, covering January 1819 to the date of his death, 4 July 1826

    Rotunda’s Early Access documents are made freely available to the public. Customers who have purchased one or more of our Founding Era publications will note that EA documents are integrated into the results of any searches they do across the collection.

  • The River of Change November 12, 2013

    As part of this year’s University Press Week, we are proud to join 36 other university presses in a blog tour that will touch on some of the most pressing issues in our industry. Blogging along with us today are Harvard University PressStanford University Press, the University of Texas Press, Duke University Press,  Temple University Press, and the University of Minnesota Press. A schedule for the entire week is here. Today’s theme is the future of scholarly publishing, so we turned to Holly Shulman, who served as editor of The Dolley Madison Digital Edition, the first publication under our electronic imprint, and coeditor of Rotunda’s latest title, People of the Founding Era.

    While visiting Houston last weekend, I heard for the first time about the East Texas town of Jefferson. By the time Texas became a state, in 1845, Jefferson was its sixth largest city.  It was an important transportation hub in the days when streamships and inland waterways were more important than railroads. Boats going up the Mississippi River crossed into Texas on the Red River, and Jefferson thrived. Today it is just a small town, a relic of the past that lives off of its tourist industry. Legend has it that the railroad companies wanted to route their tracks through Jefferson, and the city leaders said no: they had the river traffic; they did not need this new form of transportation. And so the city of Jefferson shriveled.

    This story may not be historically accurate, but it is compelling. It reflects a consistent dynamic in America wherein old ways are challenged and, finally, defeated by new ways—usually driven by a new technology.

    The fate of Jefferson may be predictive of changes occurring in the world of books and publishing. Almost overnight, what were once considered far-off possibilities in the industry are now fully arrived necessities. Every press must create e-books, an endeavor that has little to do with its traditional expertise. Publishers must adapt to and work with Amazon as they watch bookstores collapse under the weight of online competition. Each press must consider making the transition to an XML workflow.

    As a historian working with primary-source materials, I ask myself how this revolution will affect the world of documentary editions—the magisterial collections of the papers of our founding fathers, of Webster, Clay, and Calhoun, of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Eleanor Roosevelt, still published in print on smooth creamy paper, heavy with text. Will such projects survive the next ten years? Or does the community of editors have to adjust in order to avoid going the way of Jefferson. I am inclined to think that yes, even here the new will push out the old.

    And what about the university press—will it be able to accommodate the new, especially in the arena of documentary editions? Perhaps only with difficulty. But I don’t think in this case that shortsightedness is to blame. It is not that the publishing world’s city fathers believe that what they have—the water traffic—will support their prosperity well into the future. I suspect it is because university presses, which have always published print editions, find the new way of doing things hard and expensive. Creating a really good digital edition—one that either repurposes an older print version, or produces a new born-digital one—is daunting. A press has to acquire a server. It must hire a staff of knowledgeable experts. These new professionals must be conversant in XML and in TEI, in computer languages and databases. These are not the skills of past generations of publishing staffs.

    I feel thankful to have found the only electronic imprint among American university presses: Rotunda, the digital wing of the University of Virginia Press. My project, The Dolley Madison Digital Edition (DMDE), will turn ten soon, and as the event draws closer I have been thinking about what Rotunda has meant to me and to the DMDE. Rotunda took me under their wing and together we designed a whole new kind of edition that neither looked nor felt like a book.

    As a historian and editor, I feel as if I have not only explored Dolley Madison’s world, but been able to share it with readers in a way I never could have done in print. Rotunda’s latest publication, People of the Founding Era: A Prosopographical Approach, on which I was fortunate enough to collaborate, is the imprint’s most sophisticated project yet. This database, containing many thousands of biographical profiles, reveals the relationships and trends of a distant era in a way that no print publication could have.

    We who are published by Rotunda ought to be grateful. We have a publisher who can take on the technical challenges that presses are increasingly faced with and one that has generated a business plan that makes online publishing of primary-source material financially sustainable. Recognizing one must advance is one thing; to avoid the fate of Jefferson, Texas, one must also be prepared to advance. And while we must take that leap to ensure our survival, we will find it enriches our work in ways we had never imagined.

    Holly Shulman, Research Professor at the University of Virginia, is the editor of The Dolley Madison Digital Edition and coeditor of the forthcoming People of the Founding Era, both published by Rotunda.


  • New Buildings and Photos in SAH Archipedia August 27, 2013

    SAH Archipedia has been expanded to include 1371 new building entries, including 857 from Buildings of Michigan and 514 from other states, along with 75 new photographs and updates to about 2400 entries.

    Encompassing the architecture of the Upper and Lower peninsulas, which are surrounded by four of the Great Lakes, the newly incorporated material from the revised edition of Buildings of Michigan explores the state’s history and surveys the architecture of Detroit and many other cities and villages. The range of buildings and places includes early inns and houses along the Sauk Trail, the mine locations of the Copper and Iron ranges, the sandstone architecture of the Lake Superior region, the concrete buildings of Alpena, lighthouses and lifesaving stations of the Upper Great Lakes, the state’s numerous bridges, the great houses of automobile industrialists in Grosse Pointe, the factories of Albert Kahn, the mid-twentieth-century buildings of Alden B. Dow and Minoru Yamasaki, and contributions of numerous local architects who have added to Michigan’s architectural heritage. The up-to-date content introduces sites from the recent past and the present; discusses broad sweeping cultural landscapes, historical parks, greenways, and linear parks; and showcases triumphs in historic preservation.

    Over 500 entries from other states in the BUS series have been added following review of geocoding, and metadata has been reviewed and corrected for 2400 additional entries. SAH Archipedia now contains a total of 11736 building entries.

    Photographs contributed by former BUS editor in chief Damie Stillman have been added to illustrate building entries from Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.

  • Open Position: Editorial and Technical Specialist, Rotunda August 21, 2013

    NOTE: as of 10 September 2013, although this position is open in the UVA HR system, we have selected finalists and are no longer actively reviewing applications.

    The University of Virginia Press seeks to hire an Editorial and Technical Specialist for XML/metadata within our Rotunda division, which publishes peer-reviewed born-digital scholarly works. The incumbent in this position will be working primarily on SAH Archipedia, an ongoing reference work authored by the Society of Architectural Historians. Secondary duties will involve our Founding Era collections and Founders Online, and other Rotunda publications.

    All our Rotunda publications are XML-based, usually deriving from TEI-encoded texts and delivered via a MarkLogic server. Work on Archipedia will involve processing new content (delivered as XML or transformed from other file types), doing validation and quality control, and adding or verifying the metadata connected with building entries (geospatial data, controlled subject vocabulary terms, event history, etc.), in collaboration with other Rotunda staff and SAH editors and volunteers. Incumbents who have or can acquire skills in Web development and XML programming will also participate in extending the functionality and feature set of SAH Archipedia.

    The successful candidate will have a solid background in digital humanities and/or digital library skills and projects. Experience with XML and XML editing is a requirement, and ideally with related programming technologies such as XSLT and XQuery; familiarity with geospatial metadata and GIS or geocoding applications highly desirable. Other relevant skills would include general Web development and programming (HTML/CSS, PHP, Javascript, Drupal administration), database skills, and experience with metadata standards and controlled vocabularies such as the Getty AAT.

    The University of Virginia has a long tradition of excellence in the digital humanities and digital library work, hosting groups and projects such as the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, the Scholars’ Lab, SHANTI, NINES, and the Rossetti Archive.

    Following is the text of the position description at UVA Human Resources. To view it and additional information,  go to, select “Search Postings” and search for Posting Number 0612615.

    The University of Virginia Press is seeking to fill the position of Editorial and Technical Specialist for its Electronic Imprint. This position is responsible for technical editing and quality control of digital documents for the ROTUNDA imprint, and managing workflow of files received from authors and conversion vendors. It is also responsible for assisting with technical architecture and planning of ROTUNDA publications, and for development of tools and procedures to be used in production workflows and publications.

    For more information about the University of Virginia Press, please visit our website at Our ROTUNDA imprint is described at

    This position is a restricted position. Continued employment in this position is contingent upon satisfactory performance and the availability of funding.
    To apply, applicants must complete a staff application through Jobs@ (, search for posting number 0612615 and electronically attach the following: a cover letter of interest, a resume and contact information for three references.

    The University of Virginia Press and the University of Virginia welcome applications from women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities; we seek to build a culturally diverse intellectual environment and are committed to a policy of equal employment opportunity and to the principles of affirmative action in accordance with state and federal laws.

Older posts from before 2013 are available in the Rotunda news archive.