I like what Stauffer says about books being artifacts of private and public history, exchange, and encounter. In particular, I find the question of private and public space, as they relate to the book-as-artifact, very interesting.
For example, Stauffer mentions, in the Atlantic article, a women who wrote a eulogy for her daughter in an edition of Felicia Hemans’ poems:
“Stauffer gives a poignant example. A woman named Ellen received a book by the sentimental poet Felicia Hemans. Years later, her seven-year-old daughter died, and she adapted lines from Hemans to create a memorial inside the book. Mary, Mary, Mary.”
For me, an interesting question this brings up is: To what extent could we consider this a private act of mourning, considering that it was written in the pages of a book, a publicly inflected item? Moreover, what expressions of grief are allowed in the space of the book that are perhaps disallowed elsewhere, if we take the 19th century’s strictures on mourning into account? Is the sentimental book a vehicle for a private-public hybridization of mourning that would not be possible in other spaces and contexts? If so, the book-as-space-for-mourning serves social functions that we have yet to fully ascertain.