Oxford Lyell Lectures 2018

News;
David Pearson, ‘Book ownership in Stuart England’

This lecture series will explore seventeenth century personal book ownership, looking not only at book acquisition patterns but also investigating motives and collecting cultures. A key theme will be the use of material evidence from books themselves to help to enhance our understanding of seventeenth-century values.

The series begins Tuesday, 24 April, in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, at 5 pm.

Who owned books in the seventeenth century, what kinds of people, what kinds of books, how many, can patterns of change and development be tracked? The first lecture will provide an overview, based on a systematic gathering of many categories of evidence for the existence and scope of private libraries. It will consider methodologies and approaches to private libraries in contemporary book history, and review the sources we have available for constructing our understanding.

Archetype

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Thanks to Stewart J. Brookes for coming to talk to us last night about Archetype, a dazzlingly rich and flexible tool for image-comparison, designed for palaeographers attempting to substantiate their claims about the dating and development of hands, but now being used to analyse (among other things) the making of the Bayeux Tapestry. The software can be freely downloaded and applied to any set of images you may happen to be grappling with.

We will be able to answer big questions with this. Personally, I’m still trying to answer a very small research question: who in the sixteenth/seventeenth century in England wrote ‘g’s like this?

strong-minded

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The centenary of a milestone in the history of women’s voting rights yesterday coincided with my graduate student Molly Yarn handing in the latest instalment of her PhD on female editors of Shakespeare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the women whose history she has been unearthing is Agnes Russell Weekes, who produced editions of As You Like It, The Tempest and Cymbeline for the University Tutorial Series. Weekes had a degree from University College, London; she worked as a tutor and co-wrote novels with her sister, with whom she lived at 9 Queen Anne Terrace in Cambridge. In 1911, Agnes (aged 30) and Rose (aged 36) filled in their census form. In the ‘INFIRMITY’ column, which invited you to note whether anyone included on the form was ‘lunatic’, ‘imbecile’, or ‘feeble-minded’, they wrote ‘unenfranchised’.

Agnes and Rose Weekes were among the thousands of suffragists who either boycotted the census or who used their forms to write messages of protest, such as Dorothy Bowker’s ‘No Vote – No Census. I am Dumb politically. Blind to the Census. Deaf to Enumerators. Being classed with criminals lunatics & paupers I prefer to give no further particulars’. It’s nice to have this opportunity to celebrate the courage of their protests.

 

fat news

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Catching up with an article in last Saturday’s Guardian magazine, about whether the YouTube algorithm (the behind-the-scenes formula that directs you to new material) is biased towards particular kinds of content. Did it, in the last election, direct people to Trump-friendly videos, whilst drowning Clinton in wild conspiracy theories? Along the way there’s a quotation that takes me back to our conference on ‘Eating Words‘ (shortly to appear from Routledge as an essay collection):

‘This is a bit like an autopilot cafeteria in a school that has figured out children have sweet teeth, and also like fatty and salty foods … So you make a line offering such food, automatically loading the next plate as soon as the bag of chips or candy in front of the young person has been consumed’.

It’s not a subtle connection–anyone who has ever engaged in ‘binge-viewing’ will be attuned to the connection between visual content and food. The troubling idea here is automation, and the idea that humans might absent themselves entirely from the process of deciding what consumers get to see/eat. Still, I’m looking forward to the day when news comes with warning labels about its fat and salt content.

Cambridge Bibliophiles meetings, Lent 2018

Events;

Wednesday, 31st January, at 8.45 p.m.
James Carley: In the Footsteps of the King: John Leland’s Visit to York in 1541
Friends of Peterhouse Seminar Room, Peterhouse

Wednesday, 7th February, at 8.45 p.m.
Dennis Duncan: Sex and Violence and Pseudonyms: Editions du Scorpion and the Post-War Avant-Garde
Friends of Peterhouse Seminar Room, Peterhouse

Thursday, 15th February, 6 p.m. — 8 p.m.
Drinks reception as guests of G. David
An opportunity to meet exhibitors before the Cambridge Book Fair, David’s Bookshop

Wednesday, 28th February, at 8.45 p.m.
Daniel Margócsy, A Census of Vesalius
Friends of Peterhouse Seminar Room, Peterhouse

Wednesday, 7th  March, at 3 p.m.
Visit to the Library of Pembroke College
Assemble at the Porter’s Lodge of Pembroke

Thursday, 15th March, at 8.45 p.m.
Informal meeting, hosted by Scott Mandelbrote, with Basie Gitlin as guest of honour
4 St Peter’s Terrace, Peterhouse

Birkbeck Lectures 2018

Events;

Julia M. H. Smith is giving the Birkbeck lectures at Trinity this year, dates and titles as below. Julia is currently planning on holding an open seminar on the day after the final lecture, particularly for interested graduate and early career researchers, to pick up on the topics arising from her talks, details of which will follow closer to the time.

Julia Smith (Chichele Professor of Medieval History, University of Oxford) on ‘Christianity in Fragments: the Formation of the Cult of Relics, c. 300-800.’

5 February: ‘Refashioning the Holy Land’
12 February: ‘Material Blessings’
19 February: ‘Protecting Body and Soul’
26 February: ‘Martyrs, Bones and Bodies’

All lectures take place in the Winstanley Lecture Theatre at 5.00 pm

History of Material Texts Seminar, Lent Term 2018

Seminar Series;

 

Thursday 8 February, 5 pm, Board Room, Faculty of English                              

Stewart J. Brookes (Cambridge), ‘Archetype: A Digital Humanities Approach to Medieval Script and Iconography’

 

Thursday 22 February, 5 pm, Board Room, Faculty of English

Tiffany Stern (Shakespeare Institute), ‘Playing Songs and Singing Plays: Ballads and Plays in the Time of Shakespeare’

 

Thursday 8 March, 5 pm, Board Room, Faculty of English

Anne Toner (Cambridge), ‘Jane Austen’s Chapters’

 

All welcome

Merry Christmas!

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skin-to-skin contact

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A snap from the second of David Pearson’s masterclasses on early modern bookbindings, held last week in the Cambridge University Library. The classes were a reminder that a rare books library is an extraordinary collection of dead animal skins, a mausoleum for the thousands of pigs, sheep, cows and goats that gave their lives in part to make words on paper more durable. The sessions were also an encounter with the mystery of design, as they traced the changing decorative fashions that allow a trained eye to date a binding quite precisely to a particular period.

Somewhere inside me I still have a logocentric self that thinks bindings don’t matter–they are just there to serve the words. Perhaps that is reinforced by the fact that the vast majority of bindings are distinctly plain and functional, turning the book into something sturdy and everyday. But to face up to the scale of the premodern binding trade, and of the extraordinary price-differentiation of the products that it produced, is to realise that books were once choice objects, things to flash around as evidence of wealth, taste and social status. Our thanks to David for making this sometimes arcane world accessible once more.

An ebay rarity

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I’ve just written a blog-post for the Cambridge University Library rare books site, on an extraordinary seventeenth-century book that was the library’s first purchase from ebay. You can read it here:

A chance discovery: Guest post by Jason Scott-Warren