- Honoring Jim Springer Borck
Festschriften, and their more melancholy cousins Gedenkschriften, inevitably take some of their character from their honorees. Some recipients of these tributes are known for One Big Idea, and the books that celebrate their careers tend to explore how that idea ripples and ramifies through different works or historical moments. Other recipients of scholarly tributes are known for working in a clearly demarcated field—Old English morphology, Federalistera journalism—and the books written in their honor typically have some of the coherence of their own careers.
Jim Springer Borck, who died in 2007 and here receives a posthumous tribute, falls into neither of these categories: his works suggest no Big Idea, no narrow patch of turf. Truth be told, the amount of his original scholarly writing has to be called meager: over a career of nearly forty years he wrote a few articles on John Bunyan, John Keats, Samuel Richardson, Henry David Thoreau, and William Wordsworth; he served as "technical editor" for the Georgia Edition of Tobias Smollett and was one of the editors for the Stoke Newington Edition of Daniel Defoe. He published no monograph. [End Page 63]
His most important contribution to eighteenth-century studies—and it is a mighty one—is his service on The Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography (also known as ECCB: The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography). Over his decade and a half as general editor, he oversaw something on the order of 150,000 entries. Everyone who worked in the field before the transformation of the profession by digital resources is likely to have made use of ECCB. Though it disavowed any claim of being "comprehensive" or "exhaustive," it was long the closest thing to systematic coverage of multi- and interdisciplinary eighteenth-century studies that could be found.
ECCB was born in 1926 when R. S. Crane supplemented Philological Quarterly with a handlist of recent publications in eighteenth-century studies, and it focused, as was appropriate for the journal in which it appeared, exclusively on literary topics. In 1970 the coverage began to expand, and in 1978 it became a stand-alone publication, no longer tucked in the back of PQ. Soon it grew from the length of an article to a booklet, and from a booklet to an overstuffed tome, creeping past the 500-page mark. Literary studies have always predominated, especially British literature, and the eighteenth century was the traditional "long" one of British literary studies, from 1660 to 1800. But ECCB's coverage was also much broader than British literature. Through most of Borck's tenure its entries were organized into six sections: "Printing and Bibliographical Studies"; "Historical, Social, and Economic Studies"; "Philosophy, Science, and Religion"; "Fine Arts"; "Literary Studies"; and "Individual Authors." The canonical figures of BritLit were always well represented, but scholarship on Mme de Sevigné, J. M. W. Turner, Immanuel Kant, Carl Linnaeus, Scottish architectural history, and the Swiss book trade all made substantial appearances over the years. Many entries were nothing more than a citation, but others came with brief descriptions, mid-length summaries, and, for a few hundred in every year's volume, reviews of as much as a thousand words.
Because this was Borck's major contribution to scholarship, he was more influential as a scholarly impresario than as an author. He specialized in being a generalist. Kevin L. Cope and Cedric D. Reverand II, the editors of this memorial collection, liken him to Archimedes, whose works were "voluminous yet lacking in focus," wickedly adding that a modern Archimedes might watch his "promotion and tenure application . . . collapse owing to its miscellaneousness" (xi). What, then, should a commemorative volume dedicated to such a generalist look like? Cope and Reverand have opted for the metaphor of "inflation" or "expansion," which captures Archimedean miscellaneousness well, though it gives readers few hints of what appears within.
The editors are well qualified for a volume of this scope. Cope, a onetime colleague of Borck at Louisiana State University, is founding editor of...