Allen Riddell

Enumerating the Great Unread: Estimating the Yearly Rate of Novel Publication in the British Isles, 1789-1914

Date: March 2, 2017

Time: 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Room: Wells Library, Rm LI 030


It is widely acknowledged that literary historians and historians of publishing do not know how many novels were published during the 19th century in the British Isles. Exhaustive bibliographies do not extend past 1836. Estimates of the number of new titles published during the remaining years of the long 19th century have considerable practical value. The estimates are useful for the continuing work of bibliographers and for assessing the degree of representativeness of convenience samples of literary works from library digitization projects. With tight estimates of the number of new titles published each year, literacy historians interested in looking outside the “canonical fraction” of the ca. 25,000 novels published during the 19th century will be able to estimate a variety of quantities of interest, such as, for each year, the percentage of novels written by women and the percentage of novels reviewed each year in “high-culture” literacy reviews. In this presentation, he will show how the yearly rate of new novel publication can be successfully modeled by combining a heterogeneous collection of related time series.


Allen Riddell is an Assistant Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing. His research explores applications of modern statistical methods in the humanities and allied social sciences. His research interests include sociology of literature, publishing history, comparative media studies, library digitization, and text mining. Prior to coming to Indiana University, Riddell was a Neukom Fellow at the Neukom Institute for Computational Sciences and the Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College.