Call for Submissions: Issue 2: Holes

Call for Submissions

Deadline for completed articles: 1 May 2021

Often dismissed as a flaw or quirk, holes are a common feature of the material text with much to tell us. For book historians they can be a kind of evidence: the pinpricks made by medieval scribes to mark out their page; the stitching holes made by binders; and the traces of bookworms and other vermin. They can be signs of violence or censorship: Johann Remmelin’s seventeenth-century anatomy book, Catoptrum Microcosmicum, in St John’s College Library, Cambridge has a triangular hole where an image of female genitalia has been cut out; a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim in the Library of Congress has a bullet hole from reputedly saving the life of a French Legionnaire in the battle of Verdun. But holes signify in other ways, too. Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar may be the most famous example, but children’s books were pioneering the hole as a narrative device in the mid-nineteenth century and artists books have appropriated it in experimental and subversive ways: Dieter Roth’s Bok 3b (1974) consisted of old comic book pages with circular die-cut holes, while Brian Dettmer surgically excavates the interiors of illustrated books to give them new forms. More recently, the hole has made its way into the literary text: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (2010) is more hole than page, excising parts of an existing novel to create a new one. 

We invite contributions that consider the long history and varied meaning of holes. Themes might include:

Holes as signs of production, stitching, binding, and markers of wear and use
Holes as gaps in texts, as missing parts
Holes as intentional constituents of the work, as informing presences
Holes in the archive, gaps in the historical record, lacunae in the field of book history
Holes and gaps in libraries and catalogues; spaces on the bookshelf
The metaphysics of holes: if – as Carl Andre writes – ‘a thing is a hole in the thing it is not’, how do holes invert or shift our perception of a page’s ontology, of absence and presence?
Holes and surfaces; holes and depths.

The theme is intended to be suggestive rather than prescriptive. Other, more oblique, unexpected or creative approaches to the topic are encouraged. We also welcome submissions about the material text more broadly. 

Submissions should be between 5-8,000 words, and can take the form of scholarly articles as well as creative-critical or more unorthodox pieces. The deadline for completed articles is 1 May 2021, for publication in Autumn 2021. Expressions of interest or short proposals are welcome at any point prior to this. Authors are welcome to include images with their text but copyright permissions must be obtained by the author prior to the submission deadline. All contributions will be double blind peer reviewed, and material will be available for Open Access. 

Contributions or expressions of interest should be emailed to the editors at

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