The history of a database and the digital afterlife of books

When we look at a book on a database, we may partially forget the human digits making list of collections, handling the books into the scanners, pounding keyboards for data-entry; we may also forget that they have an origin and that they evolve. So my own approach also insists on the temporal and material dimensions of the database. As D. F. McKenzie reminds us, a proper study of any text – including digital ones –  ‘directs us to consider the human motives and interactions which texts involve at every stage of their production, transmission, and consumption.’ Drawing on the recent work bridging book history and digital humanities (for example, Sarah Werner, Matthew Kirschenbaum), this paper will begin to bring to life the history of Gale-Cengage’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online. It will examine aspects of the messy and sometimes ad hoc building of ECCO, the scholarly re-use of its data, and its expansion through parallel publishing projects.