PROJECTS > Margaretta Black

In Search of Margaretta Black

This project was begun in 2007 and continues into the present. In Search of Margaretta Black is an experimental genealogical-historical novel/miscellany with an opening essay, a soundscape, timelines, a map, dramatis personae, ads+illustrations, and a genealogical chart. The rough outline of intent at the outset was to explore the life of an ancestor, Margaretta Black Miller, a farmer's wife who lived from 1823 to 1872. The project uses the Directory of the Borough of West Chester for 1857, published by E.F. James, as the exact template for the book (160 pages), with all design elements copied as exactly as possible, and with Miller's material inserted into it, replacing the material from 1857.


• Sleeves on inside cover boards with the following contents:

1) sound-delivering device for soundscape already in process. The soundscape project was undertaken with the help of a production grant from Chicago's Experimental Sound Studio with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in the summer of 2016. Preissing has used that and other material to compose pieces for the miscellany.

2) a map: concentric circles with differing scales. The Miller farm in Westtown is at center and 10 mile radius around it (circa 1/2 the map). Then the circles go up in multiples of 5  50 mile radius = a quarter of the map, 2500 an eighth of the map, 12,500 a sixteenth of the map; then X 20 to get the moon in, then the whole background with the sun, galaxies etc. Mind of Goddess/God as the container. The concentric circles will all rest on the back of a turtle with a tree coming out of it. This map will include many further details and saved materials, which is yet to be created. Chester County waterways will be key. as well as the possibility of overlaying old trails and roads with current ones. Map will be folded.

• Image (drawing, painting?) of Margaretta facing title page.

• Dramatis Personae: a chart of both real and fictional individuals, with a divider to separate them.

• Essay (approximately 100 pages), a version of the 1857 essay by William Darlington "Historical Sketch of the origin and progress of the Borough of West Chester, PA. By The Oldest Inhabitant." As in the 1857 volume, it will open with geological information: in this case for West Chester, Westtown, & Philly (PA); Reno, Tonopah, Millers, & VA City (NV); Corte Madera, CA; Washington, DC; and Chapel Hill, NC. The fictional world is that of the narrator of the Songs series, with her narrative voice.

• Three timelines: History of Delaware Indians (circa 24K BCE to present); Historical timeline pegged to Margaretta's lifespan (1823-1872); Margaretta's timeline (1682: Penn's arrival in what would become Pennsylvania—1972, death of Margaretta and Robert's last surviving grandchild). The third timeline combines historical, genealogical and thematic material. None of the timelines are in any way comprehensive or complete. While showing an encyclopedic impulse, they are at the same time forced to be full of gaps and mistakes. Too long to be included in their entirety, circa ten opening pages of each timeline will be included in the volume.

• A fold-out (tipped-in) genealogical chart "The Chester County Web of Robert Hoopes Miller" with facing page being RH Miller's photograph. Arrows to show various latter day relations such as Barack Obama and Hubert Humphrey.

• Appendices and Advertisements: There will need to be some notes and bibliography, kept to a minimum. Also a few select items of interest. The advertisements will be for Chapel Hill businesses. All will mimic the original 1857 volume.