Drawing Letter Forms and Lines


This is a series of meetings organized by Sachiko Kusukawa and Alexander Marr in conversation with Paul Antonio. We are interested in gathering scholars of early modern culture, science and art interested in letter forms, line and flourishes as part of their research. We are fortunate that Paul Antonio, a professional scribe with a deep familiarity with historical letter forms (for his work, please see (http://paulantonioscribe.com/https://www.instagram.com/pascribe/?hl=en), has kindly agreed to work with Cambridge scholars in a series of meetings among his busy schedule.

What kind of manual dexterity and expertise are involved in letter forms? to what extent were the seemingly effortless ‘flourishes’ carefully planned and produced by a ‘disciplined’ hand? is it possible to speak of ‘individual styles’, when students were urged to trace and learn the lines from ‘copybooks’, especially in relation to ‘character’? what were the cultural cues and significance of particular letter forms, lines, curves and flourishes? did line-making and letter forms affect modes of thought? These are some of the questions we’d like to think through with Paul. To this end, we’ve organized two meetings: in the first meeting, we gather together to find a common ground of discussion and generate some specific questions, to which we will return with concrete examples, in a second meeting. We hope that these two meetings will lead to a colloquium on early modern script.

Meeting 119 June (Monday) 2 to 5 pm (CRASSH, University of Cambridge)

Methodological and historiographic discussion.

Readings: M. Baxandall, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), chapter 6, ‘The period eye’, Tim Ingold, Lines : A Brief History (London: Routledge, 2007), chapter 5, ‘Drawing, writing and calligraphy’.

Using these well-known studies as a spring-board, we will discuss various positions among historians about script and ‘linearity’ as a historical source, and how Paul’s perspective as a practitioner can be integrated to current interest in ‘reconstruction’ methods, visual culture and the history of material texts. We hope to generate specific questions that we can return to in the next meeting.

Meeting 2:  21 November (Tuesday) 2-5 pm:

Study Day with Paul Antonio.

Preparation: identification of specific historical cases that are of interest to scholars.

These will be commentary sessions, where scholars will present their working assumptions about particular scripts and why they consider them historically significant. We will then ask Paul Antonio to demonstrate how those scripts are formed, and reflect with him how our assumptions have been changed or challenged. This in turn will help us formulate new research questions.

Colloquium on Early Modern Script (TBC Spring/Early Summer 2018)

This would be a colloquium for scholars working on script, integrating demonstration and commentary by Paul Antonio, and hopefully also a professional engraver who knows what is involved in transforming letter-forms into print.

The Elzeviers and their Contemporaries: Reading, Writing, and Selling Scholarship

Calls for Papers, News;

Friday 2 June 2017, Woburn Suite, Senate House

Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London


2017 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Louis Elzevier, bookseller and founder of the publishing house which dominated Dutch printing in the seventeenth century. Elzevier books spread across the known world, through their own vast international trade network and via the many foreign students who read them while studying at Dutch universities. They thus helped shape how the topics represented were understood, learned, taught, read, collected and pirated. The renowned dynasty lives on today through the long collectability of its output and through its namesake, the Elsevier publishing house. This conference explores material evidence of the production and consumption of academic books in the early modern period, based around publications by the Elzeviers and their contemporaries.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers on topics related to early modern scholarly publishing. Topics for papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • The contemporary book trade and the migration of books;
  • The secondhand/antiquarian book trade;
  • The Elzeviers in context;
  • Collecting and owning early modern books;
  • Piracy, both of content and publishing strategies;
  • Business models of academic presses;
  • Cheap publishing / pocketbooks;
  • Editing in the early modern period;
  • Early modern book illustration
  • Relationships between authors and publishers;
  • The bibliographers of publishers;
  • Digitisation and metadata

The conference will coincide with a display of Senate House Library’s Elzevier collection, one of the largest worldwide.

Please send abstracts of approximately 200 words and a short paragraph of biographical information to Dr Cynthia Johnston at cynthiajohnston@sas.ac.uk by 24th April 2017.




The Whipple Library’s ‘Science in Print’ seminar examines the
production of printed science books from the early 1500s to the early
1900s over the course of two terms. Following on from the success of
last term’s ‘hand press’ section, we look forward this term to thinking
about mechanized book production in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries in a series of 3 sessions led by Drs Sarah Bull and James
Poskett on Wednesday 1, 8 and 15 March from 11.00am to 12.30pm in the
Whipple Old Library (further details below). There will be an additional
workshop at the University Library on Monday 20 March (11.00-12.30) to
look at a broader range of examples of the techniques and materials
discussed during the seminars.

The sessions are open to all (undergraduates, graduates, visitors and
beyond), but places are limited to ensure all have full access to the
examples. Please contact Anna Jones (ahr23@cam.ac.uk) to register your
interest as soon as possible. The sessions are conceived as a series,
but if you can’t manage all three, please indicate which you would like
to attend so we can allocate spaces accordingly.

_More about Science in Print II_
Understanding how a book is made and distributed is vital to the study
of its contents, helping to locate its economic and social context, its
audience, and its historical significance. Using examples from the
Whipple Library’s collection of rare books and periodicals, this
workshop series will explore some bibliographical techniques to identify
and describe the production and distribution of printed material from
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the focus will be
on scientific texts and illustrations, these sessions will be of
interest to book historians in all disciplines, and all are welcome.

I (1 March): Review of the material structure of the book; Introduction
to 19th and early 20th century printing methods.

II (8 March): Illustration methods in the 19th and early 20th

III (15 March): Print and technologies of distribution in the 19th and
early 20th centuries.

IV (20 March): Workshop at UL to discuss further examples.

和本の形態と内容の相関関係 Formats and Contents of Japanese Books (wahon): A Meaningful Interrelation


Speaker: Prof Sasaki Takahiro (Keio University, Shidō bunko)

Place: Faculty of Asian and Middle Easter Studies, The University of Cambridge, Room 8-9
Date: Monday 23 January 2016, 5pm

For many centuries Japanese antiquarian materials (kotenseki 古典籍) have used five types of binding originally invented in China. The choice of one form of binding over another depended on the type of contents contained in the book alongside its purposes. Something similar happened in the case of the script, i.e. the Chinese characters and the two scripts developed from them in Japan (hiragana and katakana). Namely, the aims of a book as well as the conditions of its production determined the choice of what form of writing was used. Therefore, by studying both binding and script, we discover a meaningful interrelation between them and the contents. This type of analysis allows us to gain understanding of the genre consciousness that existed at the time as well as to determine the nature and the value of the verbal text preserved in a physical book. This lecture discusses concrete examples that will shed light on the features of Japanese antiquarian materials, which, in turn, are helpful in the study of Japanese pre-modern culture.

Cambridge Bibliographical Society meeting


The next event in our calendar will be a talk by Dr Nick Hardy (Munby Fellow, 2016-17), entitled ‘New evidence for the drafting, revision, and intellectual context of the King James Bible (1611)’, on Thursday 26th January.

Dr Hardy’s talk will offer the first holistic treatment of several crucial sources for the creation of the King James Bible that have been discovered or rediscovered in the years since 2011. Taken together, these sources allow us to see for the first time how an individual biblical book (the apocryphal 1 Esdras) was drafted by a group of translators, and then revised once the Bible was nearing completion. They also show how the translators’ decisions were shaped by the philological, historical and theological questions which they were asking about the origin and significance of the Old Testament Apocrypha, and their relationship to the canonical books.

The talk takes place in the Milstein Seminar Rooms at the University Library, with tea from 4.30 and the talk beginning at 5.00. Rare books and manuscripts relating to Dr Hardy’s work will be on display.

Rose Book-Collecting Prize 2017


Attention student book-collectors!

Your chance to win £500

You can enter any type of collection provided it is solely owned by you and has been collected by you. The books do not have to be especially valuable – a collection of paperbacks, put together with imagination, is equally eligible. The contest is open to all current undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Cambridge.

The closing date for entries is the first day of Lent Full Term, Tuesday 17 January 2017

Full details of how to enter are given on the University Library website at:

Gordon Duff Prize 2017


The Gordon Duff Prize is an annual competition for an essay on any one of the following subjects: bibliography, palaeography, typography, book-binding, book-illustration, or the science of books and manuscripts and the arts relating thereto.

The Prize, which will be of the value of £500, is open to all members of the University.

To enter, candidates must submit the proposed subjects of their essays to Dr Jill Whitelock, Head of Special Collections, Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, CB3 9DR (jw330@cam.ac.uk)  so as to reach her not later than the last day of the Michaelmas Term, i.e. 19 December 2016. Candidates will be informed whether their proposed subjects are approved by the Library Syndicate after its meeting on 7 February 2017.

If the proposed subject is approved, essays, which must not exceed 10,000 words in length, must be submitted by the last day of Lent Term, 25 March 2017.

For further information see http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/about-library/prizes-and-fellowships/gordon-duff-prize.

Sybilline Leaves: Chaos and Compilation in the Romantic Period


A bicentennial conference: Birkbeck College, University of London, July 20-21, 2017

This conference takes the bicentenary of Coleridge’s Sibylline Leaves as an opportunity to reflect on the materiality of the paper archive, and processes of dispersal, scattering and recollection. We welcome proposals on the composition, publication and reception of romantic poetry, particularly those which take into account the metaphorical, material and political implications of the ‘leaf in flight’.

Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be emailed to sibyllineleaves2017@gmail.com by 15 October 2016.

For more information, please visit the conference’s website: https://sibyllineleaves2017.wordpress.com

Manuscripts in the Making


Dates: 8-10 December 2016

Venue: Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge
Lensfield Rd, Cambridge CB2 1EW (map)

The conference will accompany the Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts (30 July – 30 December 2016).

This interdisciplinary conference will aim to break new ground in integrating recent advances in the art historical and technical analyses of illuminated manuscripts with research in social and intellectual history.  While Western illuminated manuscripts from the 6th to the 16th centuries will form a major focus of discussion, the conference will also include papers on Byzantine, Islamic and Pre-Columbian material.

For further information, visit http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/colour/conference



to Elizabeth Savage, a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at the CMT and the Faculty of English, who has just been appointed Lecturer in Book History and Communications at the Institute of English Studies in London’s School of Advanced Studies. We wish her every success in this exciting new role.