Skip to main content

The Motley Emblem

Please do check out a project from Prof. Sean Silver here in English at Rutgers—The Motley Emblem!

From the project description:

Smack in the middle of Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century novel Tristram Shandy is a single leaf of marbled paper.  Sterne’s waggish narrator, whose “life and opinions” the novel is, calls that leaf “the motley emblem of my work.”  That is where this project gets its name and its inspiration; the purpose of the Motley Emblem is to recreate that page, well enough that it could (almost) pass for an original.  I say “almost” because there’s no intent to make it pass for genuine; the Motley Emblem isn’t a forger’s shop!  The point is to meet the marbled leaf at its own level, gathering the knowledge it took to make it.  This means making (at least) one.  Since it was a mass-produced object designed for a book, it probably means making several hundred, in the proto-production line conditions of the British cottage system of manufacturing.

Photo credit:

The motley emblem: a door to the world’s first maritime empire.  Photo by Sean Silver, from University of Pennsylvania, Day 20, 3.168-69.