Eating Words: Text, Image, Food


The main event hosted by the Centre this year was a one-day colloquium entitled ‘Eating Words: Text, Image, Food’, which took place in Gonville and Caius College on 13 September 2011. The colloquium, organized by Melissa Calaresu and Jason Scott-Warren, set out from the observation that the text that can be eaten, or that accompanies eating, might be thought to represent writing at an extreme of materiality. Nonetheless, we readily use words and images associated with eating to describe processes of reading and writing. The colloquium brought together an international line-up of literary scholars and historians of food with the aim of understanding the peculiar confluence of metaphor and materiality that flavours so many of our dealings with the word—whether written or spoken, swallowed or angrily spat out.

The conference opened with a session on ‘Culinary Technologies’. Helen Smith (York) brought a rich blend of intellectual influences (Wendy Wall on kitchen literacies, Michel de Certeau on the ancient tricks at work in the scientific laboratory, Bruno Latour on hybrid man-machine organisms) to bear on the accounts of printing in Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683). Examining his references to the use of foodstuffs such as salad oil in the printing house, she suggested that the domestic and typographic arts were close kin. Emma Spary (Cambridge) followed this up with an exploration of the mysteriously eleborate preface to a rather commonplace cookery book entitled Les Dons de Comus ou les Délices de la Table (1739). This fine sauce to vile meat was suspected by many to have been penned by Voltaire, and sparked a controversy about the proper language for the dissemination of culinary knowledge. Was cookery a ‘scientific’ subject, or some species of fine art? Or were such notions made to be ridiculed? Spary ended with a call for food historians to be more attentive to the satirical and parodic motives lurking in apparently straight-faced works.

The second morning slot was divided between two parallel sessions. The first, ‘Cookbooks and Method’, got stuck into the difficulties of thinking about cookery books as a genre. The two papers were sharply contrasted. Divya Narayanan (Virginia) surveyed a variety of Indo-Persian manuscripts, many of which survive in several richly-illuminated exemplars, and the texts of which defy dating. Highly diverse in terms of their documenting of ingredients, their interest in matters of health and deportment, and their representation of patrons and connoisseurs, these manuscripts offer an insight into past culinary cultures whilst posing many insoluble questions of origin, transmission and audience. Nathalie Parys (Brussels) set out the methodology of her doctoral project on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Belgian and Dutch cookery books, defined very firmly as books that dealt only with food. Parys’s database will offer a longitudinal survey of what people thought they ought to be cooking and eating, and will survey changing trends in the categorization and naming of recipes.

In the concurrent session, entitled ‘Studies in Bibliophagy’, the speakers discussed brilliant but strange artworks that take the book-eating metaphor literally. Tammy Ho Lai-Ming (KCL) talked about Tom Phillips’s A Humument, a book (and now an app) that ingests or cannibalizes a Victorian novel, by painting over and otherwise manipulating its text in order to discover a new, fragmentary narrative within it. This, she proposed, provides a model for a class of neo-Victorian novels that consume their precursors as they come into being. Gill Partington (Birkbeck) described the conceptual artist John Latham’s experiments in book eating (and book-burning) in the 1960s. One of these resulted in the reduction of a printed book to a semi-digested pulp; a dispute with a library; and the artist’s dismissal from his job.

The morning ended with the first of the day’s plenary speakers, Deborah Krohn (Bard Graduate Center). Krohn is currently completing a monograph on the first illustrated cookery book, Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera dell’arte del cucinare (printed in numerous editions between 1570 and 1643). This was a work that first caught her eye as a historian of art, but this paper was absorbed with the question of book use, and with making sense of one particularly densely-annotated copy of the Opera. The reader of this copy customized the index and added numerous marginalia, including cross-references to recipes that employed similar ingredients or that led to similar results (the reader had an evident fondness for polpette, or meatballs!). In sum, he thoroughly masters (or digests?) Scappi’s text. Drawing attention to the division of labour between stewards and cooks in Italian elite households, Krohn suggested that the reader of this volume belonged to the former group. The book would never have been present in the kitchen, but was part of the broader management of the household.

One of the two afternoon sessions, entitled ‘Mealtimes’, ranged widely across time and space in search of ingredients. Tessa Webber (Cambridge) explored the practice of reading during meals in monasteries—a practice established, according to one monastic commentator, to prevent the idle chatter and dissension that inevitably arises when people come together to eat. Another spur came from the practical demands of the annual cycle of reading, which could not be completed in the time afforded by the Mass and the Night Office (Matins), and so spilled over into the refectory. The practical demands of juggling saints’ lives, patristic commentaries and gospel homilies, sections of which were read at different times in different parts of the monastery, were considerable, as is evidenced in the margins of the weighty volumes that survive. Sara Thornton (UCL) then shifted the focus from reading to writing, looking at the use of foodstuffs (and in particular jam and pickles) in novels and short stories by Henry James. James on one occasion distinguished directly between those fictions that the public swallowed down like children wolfing jam and those (like his own) that were deemed harder to swallow. In her subtly nuanced account, Thornton argued that James’s dealings with food were frequently characterized by greater or lesser degrees of abstraction, and that jam and pickles figured for their ancillary, supplementary quality, their ability to play (like the writer) teasingly around the edges of food’s materiality. Supplementation was also at issue in the final paper of the session, as Ruth Cruickshank (Royal Holloway) took us into the entanglement of two phenomena often thought of as quintessentially French—cooking and literary theory. After an introduction surveying the significance of the residual, the undigestible and the ‘leftover’ in theory, her paper focused on Barthes and Lévi-Strauss. Cruickshank showed how their celebrated analyses of eating have their own leftovers or blind-spots resulting from the repressed traumas of twentieth-century French history.

The parallel session, ‘Banquets of Words’, kicked off with Raphael Lyne (Cambridge) on the tendency of classical and early modern literary texts to describe themselves as foodstuffs. Macaronic poetry, mixing lines of Latin and vernacular languages, was named after macaroni; the pastiche was named after the pasticcio, a mixed rustic dish; even the satire seems to take its name from a stew. Speculating that the metaphorics of eating words were an example of what George Lakoff calls ’embodied metaphor’, which explains a comparatively distant and complex phenomenon (reading) in terms of the more comprehensible and close-to-home (eating), Lyne proposed that these literary foodstuffs owed their existence to their perceived indigestibility, illustrating his case with reference to Thomas Nashe (supposed author of An Almond for a Parrat [1590]) and Thomas Coryate (writer of Coryates Crudities: Hastily Gobbled up in Five Moneths Travells [1611]). His paper was followed by Erin Weinberg (Queen’s, Canada) on the numerous stomach-turning foodstuffs of Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus (printed 1594), from the sizzling human entrails of Act One to the cannibalistic meat-pie of Act Five. Weinberg was particularly interesting on the way in which eating might function metaphorically within the play, as more and more of its characters are consumed by the desire for revenge. Finally we heard Elizabeth Swann (York) on the notion of taste embedded in the commonplace early modern image of the good reader as a bee who sucks honey from the garden of literature. Her paper included a fascinating discussion of the imagined relationships between the composition of ink (made, in part, from the ‘galls’ that grow on oak-trees) and the humours (including the ‘gall’ produced by the gall bladder) that determined the physiology of the human body.

In the concluding plenary, Sara Pennell (Roehampton) considered how the pre-modern English kitchen might have furnished a stage-set for ‘lived religion’-the practice of piety in everyday life. Her exploration of probate inventories suggested that the kitchen was a significant locale for the keeping of Bibles and other devotional manuals; meanwhile, puritan life-writings suggested how readily providential interpretations could be attached to humble domestic accidents (when a chopping board fell from a high shelf without hurting anyone, God’s hand was visible in the world). Religion was powerfully instantiated in the numerous interlocking cycles of feast and fast, and it was rendered visible in a host of images on wall-tiles and firebacks, pan-handles and prints. Even the salt had apotropaic qualities. Drawing on fragmentary, often recalcitrant evidence, Pennell painted a compelling picture of the kitchen as a sphere inscribed with religious significance.

This intellectual feast was preceded on the evening of 12 September by an experiment in book-eating at Plurabelle Books, courtesy of Michael Cahn (visual evidence at The day was rounded off by a dinner which began with alphabet soup and continued in the same vein through to dessert—thanks to the efforts of the Caius chef and Lucy Razzall, who also provided numerous highly literate sweet treats (including fortune cookies and cakes topped with love-hearts) throughout the day. Thanks also to Harriet Phillips for her help with administration.

Jason Scott-Warren

Eating Words


A great time was had by all who attended the CMT ‘Eating Words’ colloquium at Gonville and Caius College yesterday. A more detailed report of the day will follow, but in the meantime, I was amused to read this message in the email bulletin from my local Freecycle this morning:

‘WANTED: Any Culture, Cookware or Crockery. I am moving into my first house and as you can imagine it is an exciting but costly time. If anyone has any old Culture, cookware or crockery I would greatly appreciate it.’

As yesterday’s second plenary speaker Sara Pennell revealed in her fabulous exploration of religion in the early modern kitchen, there is indeed a lot of ‘old Culture’ to be found amongst pots and pans and other kitchen essentials…

a full report on the ‘Eating Words’ colloquium can be found on the ‘About’ page–click on the tab to the right.

Eating Words


Eating Words: a one-day CMT workshop

Gonville and Caius College. Cambridge, 13 September 2011

Some of our most material interactions with texts are grounded in the very food that we eat. Comestibles are eloquent objects; they come stamped with words, festooned with decorative designs, and wrapped in packaging that is at once visually and verbally loquacious. The kitchen has long been a textual domain, regulated by cookery books and recipe collections and noisy with inscriptions on pots, pans, plates and pastry-moulds. This one-day workshop will explore numerous aspects of the relationship between writing, eating and domestic life across a broad swathe of history, in order to illuminate the unsuspected power of words and pictures in a paradigmatically practical locale and to shed light on the textual condition more broadly.

Plenary Speakers: Deborah Krohn (Bard Graduate Centre) & Sara Pennell (Roehampton University)

To download a flyer, click here. A draft program is available here. A booking form is available here.

Eating Words — call for papers


Some of our most material interactions with texts are grounded in the very food that we eat. Comestibles are eloquent objects; they come stamped with words, festooned with decorative designs, and wrapped in packaging that is at once visually and verbally loquacious. The kitchen has long been a textual domain, regulated by cookery books and recipe collections and noisy with inscriptions on pots, pans, plates and pastry-moulds. This one-day colloquium will explore numerous aspects of the relationship between writing, eating and domestic life across a broad swathe of history, in order to illuminate the unsuspected power of words and pictures in a paradigmatically practical locale and to shed light on the textual condition more broadly.

Questions to be addressed include:

What is the relationship between the visual and the verbal in the history of food?

What archival and physical evidence survives for the textual realms of the kitchen, and what methodological challenges does it present?

Who produces the texts that circulate during the preparation and consumption of food, and for whom?

How do the textual economies of the kitchen relate to those of other household spaces-the study, the library, the gallery-and of the wider world?

How are public historical or cultural events refracted in the domestic locale and its object-worlds?

What permutations has the metaphor of reading-as-eating undergone in its long history?

Speakers include: Deborah Krohn (Bard Graduate Centre), Sara Pennell (Roehampton University)

This one-day workshop will take place under the auspices of the Centre for Material Texts, University of Cambridge, on 13 September 2011. Please submit 250 word proposals for 20 minute papers by 1 May to Melissa Calaresu ( and Jason Scott-Warren (

download a flyer here: eating words cfp

Miracle paper


“Water is the great enemy of books,” my grandmother used to tell me, for reasons that I can’t now recall. I’ve always suspected that she was right, though, and have always been wary of reading in the bath. Presumably things are riskier still for those who have moved over to ereaders.

Now, though, books and water have come together in what the press is billing ‘the drinkable book‘–a book made of paper that is capable of filtering out bacteria, rendering the water that passes through it safe for drinking. The paper is being touted as a cheap and easy solution for parts of the world that are afflicted by a shortage of clear water. It’s still at the development stage, so it might not be plain-sailing from here–but it sounds like a wonderful prospect.

Perhaps the odd thing about this story is why the filter papers should have come together as a book–since you don’t buy kitchen-roll, or toilet-roll, or coffee-filters in book form. I wonder if it’s because reading has so often been associated with eating and drinking, so that there’s a kind of rightness to the idea of drinking a book. (If this seems like a strange claim, see the report on our 2012 conference on the theme of ‘Eating Words‘. Or settle down with a glass of wine and a good book to test it for yourself).

CMT Research Themes 2012-17


the material text in material culture

Recent years have witnessed an increasing interest in the study of material culture, a fascination with the ways in which our lives shape and are in turn shaped by physical objects and environments. This theme focuses on the interrelations between the textual and the material, and explores the processes by which texts are produced, circulated and consumed, as objects alongside other objects, or sometimes on or in objects (since the things we live among are often notable for their loquacity).

Related Initiatives: the 2011 CMT conference, ‘Eating Words’; the 2012 CMT conference, ‘Texts and Textiles’.


digital editing and digital curation

As soon as academics became aware of the internet, they became excited about the possibilities for new kinds of readerly engagement that it might open up, whether through hypertext editions that would encode multiple versions of variant texts, searchable ebooks that would hugely expedite research, or digital facsimiles that would allow unprecedented access to previously restricted materials. Two decades and many experiments later, it is time to assess how far we have travelled. Is it possible to extrapolate rules for a successful digital edition or curatorial project? What challenges do readers and scholars face in dealing with new technologies, and how might they be overcome? What might curators and editors of films, of music manuscripts, of theatrical ephemera, of cuneiform inscriptions learn from one another? And does the future lie with the increasing capitalization of the digital sphere, or with an efflorescence of open-access initiatives?

Related Initiatives: the CRASSH digital humanities network; collaborations with Anglia Ruskin’s Cultures of the Digital Economy.


the library and its publics

This theme focuses on rare book and manuscript libraries—with which Cambridge is unusually blessed—and explores the nature of their relationship with a variety of publics. What purposes will special collections come to serve in the twenty-first century? How might libraries best exhibit their collections and publicize their activities? Do new technologies create fresh possibilities for reaching out both to the academic community and the general public, or do they instead prove a costly distraction from the core business of curating and managing special collections? How might we increase the frequency and scale of academic collaborations with libraries?

Related Initiatives: the National Trust libraries collaboration.

good taste


I recently came across the above catalogue for a Sotheby’s auction held in July 2010 called ‘Books for Cooks: From the Collections of Stanley J. Steeger’. The sale featured over 150 items from the sixteenth century to the present day: all manner of manuscript and printed books related to food and cooking including early medicinal texts extolling the virtues of garlic and vinegar, a set of four continental volumes about olives and olive oil from the eighteenth century, nineteenth-century notebooks filled with recipes for puddings and jellies, and some first editions of Delia Smith.

Obviously it is in the interests of any auction house to make their lots appear as desirable as possible, and to this end this catalogue is a glossy book with luxurious paper, lots of photographs, and an elegant font. The description of each item is accompanied by a photograph, either of its title-page, an interesting illustration, or its binding. As well as these photographs, however, the pages of this sleek catalogue feature imposed images of food and drink stains and spillages: a scattering of lentils here, a glistening globule of marmalade and a smear of what looks like fresh pesto there, as well as the casual traces of a glass of red wine. So subtle are modern photography and printing techniques that these tasty spillages look as though they really could be licked off the page.

There’s a delicious irony embodied in this auction catalogue. ‘Fine’, ‘old’, and ‘rare’ books are considered more valuable the better condition they are in – a first edition of Delia Smith covered in dried ketchup smears would be of no interest to Sotheby’s. Yet books about food and cooking often appeal to our senses with lavish photos of the food in the recipes they contain. And in my house, recipe books are the only books I don’t mind accruing traces of various culinary ingredients – in fact, it’s usually inevitable that they will when I use them in the kitchen. It’s easy to find favourite recipes in my mum’s copy of the Cranks recipe book because it always falls open at certain flour-encrusted pages. While potential bidders are being wooed by Sotheby’s with these mouth-watering visual teasers, the items they may be tempted to buy will be also be delectable, but not quite so sticky…

for the CMT’s forthcoming colloquium on the theme of  ‘Eating Words’, see the ‘Events’ page





CMT Director: Jason Scott-Warren

Advisory Committee: Mary Beard (Classics), Simon Franklin (Slavonic Studies), Robert Gordon (Italian), David McKitterick (Wren Library), Rosamond McKitterick (History), John Rink (Music), Jim Secord (History and Philosophy of Science), Nicholas Thomas (Anthropology), John Thompson (Sociology), David Trotter (English), Mark Turin (Anthropology), Alex Walsham (History).

Steering Committee: Anne Alexander; Nicolas Bell; Abigail Brundin; Sarah Cain; Stefano Castelvecchi; Orietta da RoldMina Gorji; Alison Knight; Hester Lees-Jeffries; Anne McLaughlin; Stella Panayotova; Suzanne Paul; Mark Purcell; Paul Russell; Anne Toner; Andrew Webber; Tessa Webber; Andrew Zurcher

If you are interested in joining the CMT, please send a brief description of your research interests and a photograph to Jason Scott-Warren <>. You can sign up for our news mailings by following the instructions at (the list name is ‘english-cmt’).


Ruth Abbott (English)

I work on the manuscripts and compositional practices of 17th, 18th, and 19th century writers, particularly poets; I am currently completing a book on William Wordsworth’s notebooks. At the moment I am particularly interested in the relations between compositional practices, metrical practices, and reading practices, especially the practice of reading aloud.

Anne Alexander (Digital Humanities Network)

I am coordinator of the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, and co-convenor of the Ethics of Big Data research group at CRASSH. The main focus of my current research is on the changing use of social media by activists in Egypt in the wake of the 2011 uprising.

Gavin Alexander (English)

I teach palaeography for the MPhil in Medieval and Renaissance Literature in the Faculty of English, and in my own work try to bring perspectives from textual studies to bear on the job of literary criticism. My publications include a study of the literary response to Sir Philip Sidney (Writing After Sidney, 2006), in which the materials, make-up, and appearance of especially manuscript texts are often a part of what is interpreted. I am currently working on an edition of a newly-discovered Elizabethan manuscript treatise on poetics for CUP, and an edition of ‘Caelica’ and shorter poems for the Oxford Greville.

Debby Banham (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic; History and Philosophy of Science)

My chief research interests are in medicine, diet and food production in Anglo-Saxon England, with an on-going sideline in monastic sign language. I’m currently finishing a book (with Dr Ros Faith) on Anglo-Saxon farming. Other projects include an analysis of the materia medica of Old English medical texts. My work on BL Sloane 1621, an eleventh-century Latin medical text at least partly written at Bury St Edmunds, has recently been published in Tom Licence, ed., Bury St Edmunds and the Norman Conquest (Boydell, 2014). I teach palaeography in the ASNaC department, at Birkbeck College and on the London International Palaeography Summer School.

Diane Barlee (Sociology)

Barlee_PicI am a PhD student studying sociology at the University of Cambridge. My research focuses on the social networks and publishing practices of contemporary British and North American poets. I am particularly interested in how new media is impacting the field of poetry.

Richard Beadle (English)

RichardBeadleI am currently (with others) working on a Handlist of Middle English Prose volume to be devoted to the manuscripts at St John’s and Magdalene Colleges, Cambridge. A future project may be a new descriptive catalogue of the medieval and early modern manuscripts at St John’s.

Richard Beadle was co-editor, with Colin Burrow, of English Manuscript Studies 16 (2011), a volume of essays arising out of a Scriptorium conference in Cambridge.

Katie Birkwood (Royal College of Physicians)

I am a librarian, particularly interested in special collections and outreach, and am currently Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian at the Royal College of Physicians. My personal research interests lie in the history of library usage, so far specifically in seventeenth-century use of the manuscript library of Sir Robert Cotton. I am hoping to mount a major exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians concerning John Dee (the RCP holds the largest known extant collection of his books) and warmly welcome suggestions of possible collaborations.

Patricia Pires Boulhosa (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

I am a historian of the mediaeval history of Scandinavia, with a special interest in the Icelandic laws of the thirteenth century – a period when Icelanders made major changes in their legal system, including the change from a kingless people to subjects of the Norwegian king. My analysis of the legal material aims to contextualize it within social, economic and historical circumstances, and also within its immediate material circumstance: the manuscript. My objective is to understand the laws in this immediate material context and within the interpretative context of scribes and their readers.

My current research involves the analysis of the layout of legal manuscripts, in order to throw light on the making of the manuscripts themselves, and the connections between layout and textual structure, as well as between the textual arrangement of the text and the legal content of the manuscript.

Katherine Bowers (Slavonic Studies)

I am a Research Associate attached to the project “Information Technologies in Russia, 1450-1850.” With Prof. Simon Franklin, I work on mapping out and analysing the various early modern information technologies, looking beyond the print revolution for a fuller picture of their shifting interrelationships and functionalities. My particular area of specialisation is eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian literature and culture. In addition to my work on the project, I also am interested in the rise and spread of popular fiction in Russian reading culture; in particular the influence of the eighteenth-century European Gothic novel on Russian Realism was the topic of my doctoral thesis.

Amy Bowles (English)

Bowles-cmtMy PhD thesis is supervised by Dr Jason Scott-Warren and explores scribal alteration or adaption of early modern texts, with particular focus on the copyist Ralph Crane. I’m interested in the ways in which one of the era’s most identifiable scribes exerted his own influence upon the texts he was employed to copy, and how this can be seen on the page. My other research interests include the history and development of handwriting, the collection and dispersal of libraries, and early book auctions.

Elizabeth Boyle (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

ElizabethBoyleMy research interests centre on the reception of European learning and literary culture in Ireland, particularly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I am currently working on vernacular Irish responses to the Berengarian controversies regarding the Eucharist. More widely, I am interested in the way that Latin learning was translated and adapted into the vernacular (especially Irish) during the middle ages, and in the transmission of theological and philosophical texts between Ireland, England and Continental Europe. My secondary research interest is the history of scholarship in the nineteenth century, and in this connection I am currently working on the Celtic scholar and colonial jurist Whitley Stokes (1830-1909), and his involvement with members of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Kerstin Bruchhaeuser (Fine Arts)

KB-CMTI’m writing a PhD on “The Subjects of Text in Contemporary Textile Art (since 1990)” at the Bauhaus-Universität in Weimar. I’m interested in the specific qualities and tactile possibilities of the textile material that seem to lead to the manifestation of constantly recurring topics like the artists’ childhood, inner fears, sex-life or other extremely intimate subjects. A description of the textiles’ changing role as a material in the history of fine art gives a background to the current situation. In the practical part I question the borders between subjective and common memory and perception of everyday life’s moments.

Abigail Brundin (Italian)

I’m working on a project called ‘Rewriting Trent: the practice of poetry in Counter Reformation Florence’. I’ll be looking in particular at academies and their oral and scribal practices in relation to the various indexes after 1560.

See our ‘Projects’ page for details of the National Trust libraries pilot, for which Abigail is Principal Investigator.

Claudine Brunon (Art History)

-1I am an independant researcher on medieval painters and scribes, working in France (Lyon). I work with images, specially with illuminations and with recipes books of colors. I’m interested in material culture – all the small things the craftsman used like writing tools and painting tools – of which I’m making an inventory. I study in Beaux-Arts and art history and medieval history at university. I am currently teaching illumination and calligraphy. At the moment, I have a corpus about 300 illuminations of painters and scribes (specially those with inkhorn).


Sarah Bull (HPS)

profile-pictureI am a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, working on my project “Medical Publishers, Obscenity Law, and the Business of Sexual Knowledge in Victorian Britain”. While charting the changing structures of medical publishing in Victorian Britain, I am investigating how different kinds of publishers selected, edited, marketed, and distributed writing on sexual health during a period that witnessed rising anxiety about the social effects of sexually explicit writing. In addition to my work on this project, I have broader interests in Victorian media and print culture; the history of bibliography, libraries, and collections; the history of pornography; and the intersections between digital humanities and book history. At HPS, I co-teach the graduate seminar Science in Print II: Book Production in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Christopher Burlinson (English)

I have worked on Edmund Spenser (and have edited, with Andrew Zurcher, a collection of his letters and other papers), and am interested in the manuscript circulation of poetry in the early seventeenth century, in particular in the context of the universities and other institutions of the day. My research aims to place our understanding of poetic manuscript communities in relation to other kinds of manuscript use at those institutions, and also to enrich it through a study of the physical production and use of the paper book in those places (through stationers, binders, and so on).

I am currently working on Richard Corbett (1582-1635), who interests me because of his involvement in many early seventeenth century manuscript networks (and the sheer number of copies of his texts in manuscript miscellanies and collections), but also because many of his poems take as their subjects the very institutions (e.g. university life) and structures (e.g. patronage) within which they were written and transmitted.

Sarah Cain (English)

Sarah Cain is College Lecturer and Director of Studies in English. Her research interests include Anglo-American modernism, the history of modern aesthetics and literary theory, and the intersections between intellectual history and material culture.

Melissa Calaresu (History)

Melissa Calaresu is a lecturer in history at Gonville and Caius College. She is writing a cultural history of the Neapolitan enlightenment which has grown out of earlier interests in the political thought of late eighteenth-century Naples and has combined this with newer interests on the material culture and material interests of the European enlightenment. Her recent research includes the history of ice and ice-cream in eighteenth-century Italy which explores some of the recent paradigms of enlightenment historiography, and this, in turn, has led to research on the representation and realities of food hawkers in early modern Europe.  She has written articles on historical and autobiographical writing in the eighteenth century, the Grand Tour, the representation of urban space in the early modern period, and on the public sphere and political reform in Naples.  She is co-editor of Exploring cultural history: Essays in honour of Peter Burke (2010).

In 2011 Melissa was one of the convenors of the CMT conference ‘Eating Words’

Stefano Castelvecchi (Music)

StefanoCastelvecchiMost of my work as a musicologist has focused on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century opera. I have been long involved with philology, as I published critical editions within the series dedicated to the works of Rossini and Verdi, collaborated in other ways to the editorial work of those series, and published brief contributions to the theory of opera editing. I hope to return soon to the study of the compositional sketches of Anton Webern (1883-1945).

Mark Chinca (German)

My current research is on the art of dying well in late medieval and early modern Europe. The principal concern is to investigate the persistence and mutations of a cultural paradigm that I call “dying by the book”: the regulation and management of the last hour of life according to precepts and scripts that are transmitted by, and learned from, books.

Jean Chothia (English)

I have edited a number of plays – 1930s redical texts for the old Nottingham Drama Texts series; 1890s/1900s emancipated women plays for OUP; Shaw’s Saint Joan for New Mermaids; James’s ‘The Outcry’ for the big CUP James project. I am interested in the shifts between the performed plays and the various published versions.

Jo Craigwood (English)

JoEastwoodI work on literature and diplomacy in early modern England. This has led me to consider (among other things) diplomatic agency in the international circulation of books, manuscripts, and literary news.

Alex da Costa (English)

image001My research frequently focuses on incunabula and early printed books meant for an English readership. I’m particularly interested in cheaper books and books which went through multiple editions and what they suggest about less learned and more “popular” reading practices and tastes. I have published articles on Mirk’s Festial, on pilgrimage souvenirs and guides to English shrines, and on controversial tracts and material. I’m currently working on a book exploring the ways in which the marketing and presentation of printed books changed readers’ habits in the early sixteenth century.

Richard Dance (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

My main interests are in the language and style of Old and Middle English literary texts, and in etymology and language contact. Amongst other things I have written about ‘The Battle of Maldon’, Wulfstan and ‘Ancrene Wisse’, and am currently working on the words derived from Old Norse in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Orietta da Rold (English)

2014-04-28 15.00.33I am a University Lecturer in Medieval Literature and the the Material Text and a Fellow at St John’s College. Before coming to Cambridge, I was at Leicester and before that I covered research positions at Oxford, Birmingham and Leeds. My research interests are in medieval literature and texts c. 1100-1500, Chaucer, and the digital humanities. In particular, I work on the social and cultural context of the circulation and transmission of medieval texts and books, and research the codicology and palaeography of medieval manuscripts. I have published articles and books on the examination of Old and Middle English literary traditions from a material perspective, and on the use of electronic media in the humanities. I am the editor of several books, including A Digital Facsimile of Cambridge, University Library, MS Dd.4.24 of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (hriOnline, 2013). My current project is a monograph-length study of the revolutionary impact of paper in medieval manuscript production, whose initial stages were funded by the Bibliographical Society with a Falconer Madan Award, which led to a visiting scholarship at Wolfson College, Oxford. For more information, visit my Faculty web page.

John Francis Davies (English and History, University of Lincoln)

JFDaviesI’m currently studying for a Ph.D. generously funded by a Research Investment Fund Studentship from the University of Lincoln, previously completing an MA at the University of Durham. My thesis surveys materials in the Tennyson Research Centre that are as yet unpublished and/or underrepresented, providing a critical gathering of the poet’s notes, sketches, drafts, manuscripts, proofs, and correspondence. Largely invested in chirographic transmission and examination of materiality, this project seeks to bring together both literary theory and genetic criticism to shed new light on Tennyson’s poetry and personality. I approach earlier versions of poems as standalone entities, and other non-fictional materials such as letters as literary texts and artefacts in their own right. (Email:

Sophie Defrance (History and Philosophy of Science)

DefranceI am currently a Research Associate with the Darwin Correspondence Project. My research interests include historical bibliography, the history of books and reading, history of science, and nineteenth century studies. My PhD focused on textbooks and school books for girls in secondary education at the end of the nineteenth century, and I am currently working on articles on the subject.

Hildegard Diemberger (Archaeology and Anthropology)

I am a social anthropologist and Tibetologist and the director of the Mongolian and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU). Particularly interested in Tibetan books as artefacts, I am currently working on the AHRC funded project: “Transforming Technologies and Buddhist Book Culture: the Introduction of Printing and Digital Text Reproduction in Tibetan Societies” hosted by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the British Library. I published a monograph on a Tibetan princess who promoted early Tibetan printing (When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet [Columbia University Press 2007]–see also lama/), several articles on the materiality and the social and ritual significance of Tibetan books and, in 2012, I co-edited (with Stephen Hugh-Jones) a special issue of the French journal Terrain on the book as ‘object’

Laura Dietz (English and Media, Anglia Ruskin)

LDietzJan2014I’m a Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, where I teach writing in the Department of English and Media. My research interests include digital publishing, science in literature and post-print literary culture. My current project is on the reputation and legitimacy of digitally distributed novels.

Ryan Dobran (English)

My current research centers around poetic form and textuality in 20th century poetry in English, specifically the work of J.H. Prynne, but also Ezra Pound, Charles Olson, and Edward Dorn. I am a co-editor of the academic open-access journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary.

Theodor Dunkelgrün (CRASSH, History)

Dunkelgrün photoI work on the history of biblical scholarship, especially the study of the Hebrew Bible, from its emergence into print in the late 15th century to the first critical editions of the late 19th century. I am particularly interested in early modern and modern anxieties about the instability of biblical texts, Jewish and Christian scholars’ exploration of each other’s textual traditions, and the study of ancient and medieval manuscript transmission throughout the long editorial history of the Hebrew Bible. My doctoral dissertation (University of Chicago, 2012) was a study of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1568-73). My Cambridge post-doc at CRASSH (2012-2017) focuses on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible in 19th-century Germany and Britain. For CRASSH I have organized conferences on “The Camera and the Critic: Antiquity, Photography, and 19th Century Scholarship” (2013) and “Collecting Greece in the 19th Century: text, image, object, knowledge” (2014). In 2014-15 I shall be teaching in the Faculty of History’s Part I, Paper 16, ‘Humanism and Print Culture’ and ‘The Low Countries’.

Tom Durno (English)

I’m just about to begin the second year of a PhD on ode-writing from 1786-1820, and am especially interested in ode-writing for ephemera and newspapers at this stage. I’m currently working on a bibliography of odes in the British Library’s Burney and British Newspaper collections, and a paper on the interaction of odes’ line-indentation and metre in the period. I have a more general research interest in visual and vocal renderings of poetic rhythm and metre that seems to fall within the Centre’s remit.

Tim Eggington (Librarian, Queen’s College Cambridge)

My principal bibliographic interests concern the collecting and editing of renaissance music (print and manuscript) in 18th-century Europe and the impact this had on English musical style and culture of the period. Following from this I am currently nearing completion of a book on the influential 18th-century London-based organization known as the Academy of Ancient Music.

Currently College Librarian at Queens’, I am fascinated by the inter-relationships between intellectual history and book history, as well as in all aspects of the curation and promotion of early print and manuscript collections.

Iain Fenlon (Music)

Following the award of a Leverhulme grant in 200-2003, I have continued to work on printed sources of music before 1650 in Iberian libraries. This topic is essentially about the importation of printed books from Italy and Flanders during that period. I am currently preparing a catalogue of the material.

Vittoria Feola (History and Philosopy of Science)

VittoriaFeolaI am Gerda Henkel Fellow and Senior Research Associate, Oxford University. I earned my PhD in History from Cambridge University (2005). I am interested in the history of early-modern knowledge and erudition; the history of private libraries; the Republic of Letters; the history of collections; the relationship between the histories of science and the humanities; and the modes of early-modern intellectual communication.

My books include the monograph Elias Ashmole and the Uses of Antiquity (Paris: Blanchard, 2013), and the collection of essays Antiquarianism and Science in Early Modern Urban Networks (Paris: Blanchard, 2014), which won a Urania Trust Book Grant. My articles about private libraries include: ‘Prince Eugene of Savoy’s Library. A preliminary assessment’, Rivista Storica Italiana vol. CXXVI No. III  (2015) : 742-787; ‘Elias Ashmole’s collections and views about John Dee’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 3 (2012): 530-538; and ‘The rediscovered library of Elias Ashmole’, Bibliotheca 1 (2005): 259-278.

James Freeman (University Library)

As of May 2016, I am the Medieval Manuscripts Specialist at Cambridge University Library. From January 2014, I was at the British Library, working first as an intern in the Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Section, and then as the Research and Imaging Assistant on the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project. In April 2015, I took up the position of Curator of Incunabula and Sixteenth-Century Printed Books.

My doctoral research (supervised by Tessa Webber; completed in 2013) concerned the manuscript dissemination and readership of Ranulph Higden’s Polychronicon and involved a survey of over a hundred surviving manuscripts at libraries and archives across the UK. With further funding from the Society of Antiquaries and AMARC, I am broadening my survey to include copies at libraries across Europe as well as copies of John Trevisa’s Middle English translation. I hope also to include those manuscripts at US libraries eventually, with a view to publishing my dissertation.

I am particularly interested in the development of page layout and scholarly apparatus in historical manuscripts, the role of authors or emendators or scribes in designing such tools, and the way in which these additions mediated the text, facilitated the use of chronicles as historical reference works, and altered the way historical information was written, retrieved and repurposed. Manuscript indexes of all kinds are of especial interest in this regard (and not just in relation to historical texts), as are their transition into print and the technological challenges these and other paratextual guides presented to early printers.

I have also conducted research on late medieval bilingual dictionaries, with reference to the Catholicon Anglicum.

John Gallagher (History)

I am in the beginning stages of doctoral research on encounters of language as experienced by English-speakers in the early modern world. My M.Phil research was on the study and experience of Italian in early modern England, and I hope to expand on this in order to better understand the multi-sensory experience of early modern interlinguistic communication. This will, in part, involve a study of the relationship between early modern linguistic pedagogy and instances of language practice and use.

John Gardner (English, Anglia Ruskin)

John Gardner is Principal Lecturer in English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University. He mainly teaches Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture. His recent research has focussed on poetry and politics in the years following the battle of Waterloo, which he explores in his book Poetry and Popular Protest; Peterloo, Cato Street and the Queen Caroline Controversy (Palgrave, 2011). He is currently supervising PhDs on Fanny Burney and conservative poetry of the 1790s. His current research is on the transmission of radicalism through the 1820s.

Judith Gardom (Criminology, Cambridge)

My PhD research on reading in prison is sponsored by the ESRC and supervised by Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe and Professor Alison Liebling at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. Part of my research will be carried out in a men’s Category B prison, alongside the prison librarian. I am interested in the reading practices of long-term prisoners, the spatial and material place of books in prison, and the cultural meanings of books and reading within the contemporary prison system in England and Wales.

Heather Glen (English)

Heather Glen is a Fellow of New Hall, Cambridge, and Reader in Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Cambridge.  She is editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Charlotte Brontë’s  The Professor and of The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës.  Her most recent book is Charlotte Brontë: the Imagination in History.

Mark Goldie (History)

My field is British Intellectual, Political, and Religious History 1650-1750. I’ve always been anxious that ‘Cambridge’ intellectual history should more securely contextualise its work in publishing history, the history of the book, and so forth.

Robert Gordon (Italian)

I teach in the Italian department of the Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty. My research interests lie in the literature, cinema and cultural and intellectual history of modern Italy. My current research project is about responses to the Holocaust in postwar Italy.

Mina Gorji (English)

Mina Gorji is a Lecturer in the Faculty of English and a Fellow of Pembroke College. She is interested in the art of the uncultivated and her published works include a monograph, John Clare and the Place of Poetry, an edited collection, Rude Britannia, as well as essays on literary awkwardness, pastoral, working class poetry and weeds (forthcoming).

Fiona Green (English)

Fiona Green is a lecturer in the Faculty of English and a Fellow of Jesus College. She writes on twentieth-century British and American poetry.

Deborah Hodder (Newnham College Library)

I am the Librarian at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Joe Jarrett (English)


My PhD research (supervised by Gavin Alexander) investigates the overlaps and intersections between mathematical thought and literary practice in the early modern period, with a particular focus on drama. My interest in the material text is therefore primarily pointed towards early printed books and manuscripts on mathematics, astronomy, medicine and law. I am fascinated by the aesthetics of the printed page, the use and re-use of frontispieces, diagrams and illustrations, and evidence of book use in marginalia and annotation.

Peter Jones (King’s College Library)

My research interests centre on late medieval and early modern books, manuscript and printed, that contain scientific and medical information with a practical orientation. I am interested in patterns of circulation and appropriation of knowledge among practitioners and lay people. Currently I am working on the Generation to Reproduction project in HPS that has a strand concerned with ‘Representation and communication’, investigating how changing understandings of sex, development and evolution were produced, debated and used.

Lauren Kassell (History and Philosophy of Science)

LaurenKassellMy research focuses on early modern medicine, astrology, alchemy and magic. I know more about Simon Forman, the Elizabethan astrologer-physician, than anyone should. I am currently working on two major projects. The first is a book on magical ideas and practices in early modern England, provisionally titled ‘The Sons of Minerva’ and contracted with Yale University Press. The second is The Casebooks Project, which, in partnership with the Bodleian Library, will produce an electronic edition of Simon Forman and Richard Napier’s medical records, 1596–1634, and will use these records as a centerpiece for studying how the medical subject has been created and represented.

John Kerrigan (English)

My interest in textual scholarship began in the 1980s when there was a ferment of new thinking about the ‘instability’ of Shakespeare’s texts, especially, at that point, Quarto and Folio King Lear. This led me to work on editorial theory, and to explore the material conditions of textual production and circulation. My current research spans the early modern and the contemporary periods, attentive at both ends to way layout, format and the economics of print and the internet impact on the experience of reading.

Wai Kirkpatrick (King’s College Library)

Alison Knight (English, CRASSH)

My work focuses on the History of the Bible in English. My PhD (Cambridge) investigates early modern approaches to the textuality of scripture; I emphasise literary interactions with the Book of Job, which presents numerous textual challenges. I am currently a Research Associate at CRASSH, where I am part of a research team that is investigating the Bible and antiquity in the nineteenth century. My work examines cultural emphases on “the English Bible” in this period.

Sachiko Kusukawa (History and Philosophy of Science)

I have just finished a book on 16th century scientific illustrations (Picturing the Book of Nature, with Chicago, 2011), which includes quite a bit on technical and financial aspects of image production in printed book. My next project is on image-making in the early Royal Society (including how illustrations in the Philosophical Transactions were produced). I am also Co-Investigator for an AHRC research project on the function of astronomical images in the early modern period, which also looks as issues such as transmission, production and genre.

Elisabeth Leedham-Green (Darwin College, Archivist)

I am ex-Deputy Keeper of the University Archives; currently the Ancient Archivist of Corpus Christi College, and Fellow and Archivist of Darwin. Some years ago I used to do some teaching for the palaeography and bibliography modules of the MPhil in Medieval and Renaissance Literature. My interests are in the circulation of texts, chiefly in, but by no means exclusively from, the British Isles from c. 1500 to 1680.

Hester Lees-Jeffries(English)

I am editing Shirley’s The Example, for the Complete Works of James Shirley (OUP); and vol. 4 of The Works of John Webster for CUP. I have also edited Thomas Watson’s manuscript translation of Bernard Palissy’s treatise ‘Of Waters and Fountains’ (Houghton MS Eng 707), for History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

Claire Lockwood (English)

Rosalind Love (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

I have just finished a year’s research leave working on a Leverhulme-funded project jointly with people in the English Faculty in Oxford, focused on the early medieval manuscripts of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, specifically with the aim of editing and analysing the glossing and marginal commentary that is in the nearly 80 surviving manuscripts up to 1100 (project website).

Raphael Lyne (English)

Raphael Lyne works on renaissance literature, and his approach in recent years has increasingly been inflected by cognitive theory. One result of this is a book, Shakespeare, Rhetoric, and Cognition (CUP, 2011). He would probably rather not debate until the cows come home about whether this kind of work is very material, or not at all material. Instead he’d mention that he is currently co-editing (with Cathy Shrank) Shakespeare’s poems for Longman, which definitely does have a material side, including a fascination with Q7 of Venus and Adonis.

Anne McLaughlin (Parker Library)

I’m currently a Sub-Librarian looking after the Parker Library, the rare book and manuscript library at Corpus Christi College Cambridge. I completed my doctoral thesis on the illuminated manuscripts of Pierre Bersuire’s Ovidius Moralizatus, a fourteenth century Latin commentary on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, under the supervision of Professor Charles Burnett and Dr. Rembrandt Duits at the Warburg Institute. My research interests broadly lay in the fields of cultural and intellectual history, with a specific focus on manuscript studies, palaeography, the history of the book, and the development and role of medieval libraries. Owing to a lack of Ovidian commentaries in the Parker Collection, I’m currently exploring Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination, giant Bibles, genealogical rolls, and all manners of beautiful Psalters.

Scott Mandelbrote (History)

As the Perne Librarian at Peterhouse, I am responsible for the college’s collections of manuscripts (which represent perhaps the most significant survival of a pre-Reformation College library in Cambridge) and rare books (some of which made up perhaps the finest library in Cambridge, c. 1600). I organise an M.Phil. class on ‘The Book’ for the Early Modern M.Phil. in the History Faculty.

My own research concentrates on early modern intellectual history. Among other topics, I have published on the history of scientific and medical libraries; the manuscripts of Isaac Newton; the archaeology of the library at Peterhouse; the survival and transmission of manuscripts of the Bible, and the publication, distribution, and readership of Bibles and other religious books. I have contributed to both the Cambridge History of Libraries in Great Britain and Ireland and the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, and will be writing several chapters for the forthcoming History of Oxford University Press. I am general editor of the publications of the Oxford Bibliographical Society.

Peter Mandler (History)

I am an historian of 19th and 20th-century Britain and more recently have been extending my interests across the Atlantic to the U.S. as well, especially as regards the twentieth century. My principal interests in CMT’s sphere lie: first, in the creation and dissemination in Britain and the U.S. of information about the wider world, as embodied in texts and also in institutions (like research institutes and area-studies centres); second, in the propagation of social-scientific ideas and vocabularies through popular media. I have a particular interest in the rise of the non-fiction bestselling book since the 1920s.

Daniel Margócsy (HPS)

Dániel Margócsy is university lecturer at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. His research focuses on the connected histories of science, trade, and business, the print culture of early modern Europe, and the cultures of collecting, natural history and anatomy. He is the author of Commercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), and, with Mark Somos and Stephen N. Joffe, the forthcoming The Fabrica of Andreas Vesalius: A Worldwide Descriptive Census, Ownership, and Annotations of the 1543 and 1555 Editions (Leiden: Brill). His articles have appeared in Annals of Science, the British Journal for the History of Science, the Journal of the History of Ideas, the Netherlands Yearbook of Art History, and Social Studies of Science.

José María Pérez Fernández (Literature)

Jose_Maria_Perez_Fernandez-1José María Pérez Fernández teaches at the University of Granada. His current research interests focus on the relations between translation, diplomacy and the book trade, their role in the construction of the international republic of letters and the early modern idea of Europe. Recent publications include a critical edition of The Spanish Bawd, James Mabbe’s 1631 translation of La Celestina (London: MHRA 2013), and a collective volume co-edited with Edward Wilson-Lee titled Translation and the Book Trade in Early Modern Europe (CUP, 2014). Also with Edward Wilson-Lee he is currently collaborating on a project about the European and Transatlantic dimensions of Hernando Colon’s book collection.

David McKitterick (Wren Library, Trinity College)

David McKitterick is Honorary Professor of Historical Bibliography in the University, a Fellow and the Librarian of Trinity College. His many publications as author, editor or contributor include Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830 and The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. He is a fellow of the British Academy, vice-president of the Bibliographical Society and president of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society.

Vicky Mills (English)

VMillsI am a Research Fellow in English at Darwin College where I am writing a book provisionally titled Masculinity and Material Culture in Victorian Fiction, which focuses on literary depictions of collectors. As part of this project I have published on sensory experience and eroticism in nineteenth-century accounts of bibliomania. My main research interest in material texts revolves around a group of nineteenth-century novels published by Bernhard Tauchnitz and Co. Titles including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun, George Eliot’s Romola and Edward Bulwer Lytton’s Last days of Pompeii were published by Tauchnitz containing blank spaces onto which British and American tourists could paste photographs or postcards relating to scenes in the text, thus creating their own extra-illustrated versions of the novels. I am exploring the Tauchnitz volumes as embodied texts and I am interested in the ways in which texts and images mediate, struggle with and theorize the materiality of history in the nineteenth century.

Drew Milne (English)

I am currently interested in the materiality of modernist and contemporary poetry, and in ways of thinking about the material status of modernist performance texts and their related ephemera.

Nicolò Morelli (Italian)

My current research focuses on animal images and vocabulary in Medieval Italian poetry, including their relationship with Classical, Occitan and Old French sources. My interests comprise paleography, codicology, and textual criticism. Besides my project on animal imagery in the Middle Ages, indeed, I am working on a critical edition of the sonnets by the Florentine poet Lorenzo Moschi (late 14th century) and on a study of the manuscript tradition of Petrarch’s ‘Canzoniere’, with special reference to the codices preserved in Cambridge.

John Morrill (History)

John Morrill is Professor of British and Irish History in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Selwyn College. He is a prolific author with over 100 publications mainly on the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries and with special interests in state formation, religious ideas, and the nature of the British Revolutions of the 1640s and 1650s. He was the pioneer editor (originally for OUP) of the Royal Historical Society Bibliography of British and Irish History, and he was one of the principal investigators for the 8,000 survivor depositions from the massacres in Ireland in the winter of 1641-2. He has also chaired the editorial board for the multi-volume Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly, 1643-1653 (OUP, 2011) and is the editor in chief of a new five-volume edition of all the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell (OUP, forthcoming).

Subha Mukherji (English)

My interest in material texts began when I started working on law and literature, and examining court records and exhibits from the early modern period. Much of my work has been informed by archival evidence. I have recently been engaged with the material spaces of the text, especially its thresholds, as well as the lay-out of poems and letters. My current research is about literary form and the uses of doubt, a project that may involve an examination on the indeterminacies as well as the determining functions of the material dimension of texts, both manuscript and print; it will also address the relation between texts, objects and personhood.

Michael Mumisa (Middle Eastern Studies)

MichaelMumisaMy research investigates early (8th -10th century CE) ‘Abbasid notions, imaginations, and constructions of the Jahili past (from the later 5th century CE), and seeks to re-assess modern scholarship on classical Arabic literature which has predominantly been characterized by formalist ‘close reading’ strategies which have not seriously considered the historicity of Jahili (ancient) poetry. There has been an assumption, particularly within New Critical and Structuralist readings of Jahili poetry, that it is possible to have unmediated access to the poems. Such reading strategies have approached the Jahili poems as decontextualised, ahistorical, and self-contained aesthetic objects. My study involves a close analysis of ancient Arabic texts in terms of discursive practices that produced, sustained, and promoted the notions of the Jahiliyya in early ‘Abbasid society.

Lucille Munoz (Queen’s College Old Library)

LucilleMunozI am currently Project Associate (Rare Books Cataloguer) at Queens’ College Cambridge, a post funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is supporting the College’s cataloguing and outreach project entitled: ‘Renaissance Queens’: Discovering Cambridge’s unique Tudor past in the Old Library of Queens’ College Cambridge’. I catalogue the Library’s sixteenth-century books and assist with the project’s outreach components.

During my master’s degree in book history and librarianship, I wrote a dissertation on Swift’s writing and the copies of his works at Lyon public library. My second dissertation focused on the 18th century Dutch writer, Justus Van Effen. As a rare books cataloguer, I am particularly interested in provenance. I co-created the Sion College Library Provenance, a digital gallery of provenance evidence found in the books from Sion College Library, now housed at Lambeth Palace Library, while I was working there:

Mark Nicholls (St John’s College Library)

My teaching and research interests lie in Tudor and Stuart government and politics. My major publications are Investigating Gunpowder Plot (Manchester, 1991) and The History of the Modern British Isles, 1: The Two Kingdoms, 1529-1603 (Oxford, 1999) the first volume in the Blackwell History of Modern Britain series. I have also published several analyses of conspiracies and state trials, as well as studies of ‘succession politics’ at the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the political career of Sir Walter Raleigh, and University humour. I completed a new edition of George Percy’s ‘Trewe Relacyon’ (2005), one of the key texts chronicling the initial English settlement at Jamestown, in Virginia. Having edited the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research for eight years, I retains an active interest in the history and traditions of the British Army. I was closely involved in the conferences and public events marking the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot conspiracy in 2005.

Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams’s Sir Walter Raleigh: in life and legend was published by Continuum early in 2011.

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic)

I am interested in Text and Context and in the learned, cultural environment in which early medieval texts, primarily of Ireland, but also of Wales and Iceland, were produced. Editorial work forms part of my research and I have a particular interest in eleventh- and twelfth-century pseudo-historical narratives which shed light on Hiberno-Scandinavian relations.

Richard Oosterhoff (CRASSH)

imageI work on the history of late medieval and early modern science, especially the links between university or humanist learning and artisanal and popular knowledge. Interests that relate to CMT include the practices of collaborative authorship in the Renaissance and the visual cultures of early printed textbooks. A related interest is the divergent kinds of reading inspired by technical books, one of the fastest-growing genres of early modern Europe.

Stella Panayotova (Fitzwilliam Museum)

Stella Panayotova is Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books at the Fitzwilliam Museum. She is part of the team for the Hamilton Kerr Institute/Department of Chemistry/Fitzwilliam Museum project on the pigment analysis of illuminated manuscripts.

Ian Patterson (English)

As part of the work I do on literature and politics in twentieth-century Britain and America, I have a longstanding interest in the publication history of poetry and fiction in the early and mid- twentieth century, particularly the more fugitive or short-lived or eccentric periodicals and ephemera. This is shaped by two impulses, one essentially bibliographical, the other aesthetic and epistemological, which come together in a focus on the material forms of publication and exchange. Small press publication, little magazines, politically-inspired periodicals with a cultural bent, pamphlets, and quotidian cultural and political commentary are my main interest in this field, along with the networks of circulation that sustain them; this is supplemented by a concern with typography, book design, private presses (especially in the period between 1918 and 1933) and patterns of patronage, translation and literary agency. Although some of this takes the form of literary or cultural history, I am also interested in the ways in which the experience of the material form in which the text is read affects and shapes the reader’s response to it. (I am also Keeper of the Queens’ College Old Library.)

Adrian Poole (English)

I am one of four general editors for a complete new edition of the novels and tales of Henry James, to be published by Cambridge University Press; I am myself editing The Princess Casamassima (the autograph ms. for which has, unusually for James, survived). As one would expect, the work of the edition involves extensive engagement with publishing practices in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, on both sides of the Atlantic. I am also a member of the editorial board for a complete new edition of the writings of Evelyn Waugh, to be published by Oxford University Press.

Ed Potten (University Library)

Now head of Rare Books at the Cambridge University Library, I was formerly responsible for the early-printed collections at The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester, where I lectured on the history of the book, the arrival of the printing press and icunable editions of Dante. I have recently published on the use of liturgical books in the fifteenth century and seventeenth-century book production and collecting.

Claire Preston (English)

I’m the general editor of the complete works of Sir Thomas Browne (8 vols, forthcoming from OUP 2016-2018), an AHRC-funded project based at Queen Mary London, where I’m Professor of Renaissance Literature. Within that edition, I am co-editing Urne-Buriall, The Garden of Cyrus, Christian Morals, and A Letter to a Friend ( My research interests lie in seventeenth-century scientific, natural-historical, and antiquarian writing, and in emblem-culture and the early-modern illustrated book.

Renee Raphael (History and Philosophy of Science)

I am a research associate with the AHRC-funded project “Diagrams, Figures, and the Transformation of Astronomy, 1450-1650” with the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. My own research focuses on the reception of Galileo’s 1632 ‘Dialogo’ and 1638 ‘Discorsi’ from their publication to the end of the seventeenth-century by Jesuits at the Collegio Romano.

James Raven (History and English)

ravenMy research continues in the cultural, social, economic and political history of publishing and reading. Most recently I have been examining the sites of literary production in London (Bookscape published by the British Library and Chicago, 2014) and the relationship between the printing of non-book items and the economy (Publishing Business, Boydell and Oxford 2014). But I continue to be interested in all aspects of book history and bibliographical study. I am Director of the Cambridge Project for the Book Trust (see website) and current in-progress projects include “What is the History of the Book?” (Polity Press) and editing “The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book” (OUP). I am also completing a book on John Nourse, London Enlightenment bookseller, begun by the late Giles Barber.

Samantha Rayner (Publishing, UCL)

staffphotosamI joined UCL’s Department of Information Studies and the Centre for Publishing in August 2012 as a Senior Lecturer, having previously worked at Anglia Ruskin University as Director of the Cultures of the Digital Economy Research Institute (CoDE) and leader of the MA Publishing course in Cambridge. I teach and write on publishing and book related topics, with special interests in publishing archives and publishing paratexts, bibliography, the culture of bookselling, editors and editing, bibliotherapy, literary festivals and literary ephemera. I have also taught extensively on English Literature courses and have specialisms in Medieval and Arthurian texts. I enjoy collaborative and interdisciplinary project work, including knowledge transfer activities. As well as being the Research Officer for the Association of Publishing Education (APE) I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review Panel, and co-editor for the new Intellect journal, ‘Book 2.0’.

John Rink (Music)

RINKI have been studying the manuscript and printed sources of Chopin’s music for about twenty years. I initially became involved in a conventional print edition – The Complete Chopin – which employs a ‘best-text’ approach although significant variants are reproduced so that performers can decide which to play in any given performance. I then directed a four-year Leverhulme project (1998-2001) studying the multiple versions of the first editions; this gave rise to a 993-page book – Annotated Catalogue of Chopin’s First Editions – which Christophe Grabowski and I published with CUP in 2010. In the meantime, I began work on two digital projects: an AHRC-funded Resource Enhancement project entitled Chopin’s First Editions Online (CFEO), and the Online Chopin Variorum Edition (OCVE), which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These projects explore the creative history of Chopin’s music in different ways, both during his lifetime and to the present day. They also challenge prevailing notions of the musical work while potentially offering new opportunities to performers.

Shelise Robertson (English, Deakin University)

robertson-sheliseMy current research focuses on the scriptural and print economies of the Royal African Company (1672-1731). Paperwork enabled, not only the company’s exploits, but the relationships between company members and the broader public. I’m particularly interested in how the visual layout and textual content of their documents worked to shape an image of Englishness.

Dunstan Roberts (English)

I am interested in books, libraries, and reading in the early modern period. My doctoral thesis examined readers’ annotations in religious books during the sixteenth century, and I have recently been working on the libraries and reading practices of several early modern figures, including the Tudor administrator Armagil Wade (c.1511-1568), the puritan iconoclast William Dowsing (1596-1668), and the polymath Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648), whose substantial library I am in the process of reconstructing. I have also recently been working in collaboration with the National Trust on a study of books in the Grand Tour, which used Belton House, in Lincolnshire, as a case study.

See our ‘Projects’ page for details of the National Trust libraries project. You can read Dunstan’s co-authored article on ‘Book-Buying and the Grand-Tour’ (co-authored with Abigail Brundin) here (subscription required)

Paul Russell (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

PaulRussellI have just completed an AHRC-funded project on Early Irish Glossaries and we are in the process of preparing the editions for publication. I work in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic and my interests are mainly linguistic and philological with a strong line in learned texts, such as glossaries and grammars, and Latin manuscripts glossed in various Celtic languages.

Yvonne Salmon (Land Economy)

Yvonne Salmon lectures for the Department of Land Economy where she directs courses on law and behavioural economics. She is also an affiliated lecturer with the Faculty of Law, a member of the Faculty of English, an associate of the Department of Art History and an affiliate member of the Centre for Film and Screen, University of Cambridge. Yvonne Salmon directs the Alchemical Landscape Project.

Yvonne maintains an interdisciplinary research profile that extends across these fields. Relevant key themes have included: recording, memoir, surveillance, evidence, gossip, gender, vulnerability, mischief, identity, social media, unreliable narrators and attitudes towards interdisciplinarity. This work frequently focuses on archives, material texts and ephemera as in the case of ‘Headlands’, a speculative exhibition Yvonne mounted for the Centre for Material Texts in Summer 2016. Headlands developed into a live expanded cinema performance presented at the Festival of Ideas and will be released as a spoken word album in 2018.

Recent publications have appeared with Getty, Cambridge University Press, Intersentia, and the BFI (amongst others); an interdisciplinary study of sixties queer writing, identity, space and law is in press with Bloomsbury. She is currently writing on law, literature and the culture of the 1960s. Her original film work explores the relationship between the text and the visual, and a co-authored book of prose and images from her psychogeographical films will be published in late 2017. She is the director of the Alchemical Landscape project, currently hosted by CRASSH, and she will be giving a TEDx talk on the social value of mischief in October 2017.

Jason Scott-Warren (English)

Jason_5My research ranges widely in early modern literary and cultural history; history of reading; textual/manuscript studies; writing and the self; and the literatures of London.

I have published two monographs, Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift (2001) and Early Modern English Literature (2005). My recent work develops the archaeological and anthropological perspectives opened up by those volumes, exploring the place of the book in material culture and everyday life; recent articles have focused on book-graffiti, practices of commonplacing, the stringing and binding of books and the physicality of language in Elizabethan prose. These interests are brought together in my recently-completed study of the paper-trails laid down by Shakespeare’s first documented reader, Richard Stonley. I am currently in the early stages of a new book-project thinking through Alfred Gell’s notion of the exuvial across a range of early modern materials and texts, and I’m editing Strange Newes for the Oxford Works of Thomas Nashe.

Sophie Seita (English)

img_7161758231198I am a Junior Research Fellow in English at Queens’, working on my first book, tentatively called, Provisional Avant-Gardes: Little Magazine Communities from Letterpress to Digital—a diachronic study of provisional avant-garde communities in and around the medium of the little magazine, which rethinks received views of avant-garde ‘movements’ and their respective historical, social, and aesthetic boundaries, and theorises a dynamic and contemporary model of avant-gardism. My other research interests include 20th and 21st-century print culture, avant-garde poetry and poetics, new media, archives, and experiments with autobiography (from the 18th cent. until today).

Richard Serjeantson (History)

My current research, much of which is undertaken in collaboration with Dr Angus Vine, focuses on the writings of Francis Bacon, especially those from between 1603 and 1613. As such I am interested in questions of bibliography, codicology, palaeography, and textual transmission, especially as they pertain to the many surviving manuscripts (and rather fewer printed books) of his works from this period. A recent publication arising from this research is: R. W. Serjeantson and Thomas Woolford, ‘The Scribal Publication of a Printed Book: Francis Bacon’s Certaine considerations touching the Church of England (1604)’, The Library, 7th ser., 10 (2009), 119–56.

Nicholas Smith (University Library / Cambridge Bibliographical Society)

Nick Sparks (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic)

My research interests chiefly lie in the study of manuscripts, textual scholarship, textual criticism, and the transmission of texts in the middle ages; also, of course, palaeography, historical bibliography, and the provenance and survival of manuscripts.

Elsa Strietman (Dutch)

My research is in the early modern literature and history of the Low Countries, with a special interest in the prolific drama culture of the late-fifteenth and the sixteenth-century and the social and religious aspects of the texts and the activities of the amateur drama and poetry guilds, the Chambers of Rhetoric.

Catherine Sutherland (Magdalene College)

I am a special collections librarian at Magdalene College and founder of the Special Collections Group, an informal discussion group for librarians working in Cambridge Colleges with responsibility for rare books and manuscripts. I wrote my Master’s degree dissertation on the development of libraries in Cambridge from 1450 to 1550. My current research focuses on the collecting habits of Samuel Pepys and his ‘collecting friendship’ with John Evelyn. I have given talks at the following conferences : ‘Collecting Texts and Manuscripts, 1660-1860’ at Plymouth University, and ‘The Ferrars of Little Gidding’ at Magdalene College Cambridge. I write for and maintain the special collections side of Magdalene College Libraries’ blog:

Andrew Taylor (English)

One part of my current work on English humanists explores the competition for authority between manuscripts and printed editions of ancient texts, including the rhetoric of editors and translators (often combined). It also involves the emergence of scholarly printing in England. I contribute to the MML History of the Book, 1450-1650 MPhil module.

Corin Throsby (English)

My research focuses on the relationship between readers and authors in the nineteenth century. I am currently looking at the correspondence between prominent literary figures and their most enthusiastic admirers; I am interested in what “fan mail” can tell us about the way certain authors were read in their time, and also about an emerging culture of celebrity in the Romantic period. I also look at other fan activities in the nineteenth century: commonplace books and scrapbooking; fan clubs; and amateur stories or “fan fiction” based on existing work.

Anne Toner (English)

I am interested in the history of punctuation. In particular, I have written about the evolution of marks of suspension and omission in English literary texts and have recently edited a special issue of Visible Language (2011) which brings together essays that examine punctuation from different disciplinary viewpoints and as used within different media. I have also co-edited, with Joe Bray and Miriam Handley, a collection of essays on visual and material elements of literary works: Ma(r)king the Text: The Presentation of Meaning on the Literary Page (Ashgate, 2000).

For details of Anne’s new book on the history of ellipsis, see our ‘Gallery’ page here.

Tessa Webber (History)

My own current research is on the books and texts used for ‘public’ reading within religious communities from c.1000-c.1250: i.e. the reading in the refectory, at collation, during the daily meeting in chapter, and the readings of the night office.

Jill Whitelock (University Library)

Hazel Wilkinson (English)

WilkinsonI am a research fellow in English at Fitzwilliam College. I am currently writing a history of the printing office owned by John Watts and Richard Hett from 1718-1785, focusing chiefly on their work for the Tonsons. As part of this project, I am developing an online database of printers’ ornaments, and developing methods of identifying unknown printers using digital imaging. My doctoral thesis was a study of the eighteenth-century editions of Edmund Spenser, in which I examined the role played by the book trade in formalising the study of the English literary past. I am interested in the ways in which bibliographical studies can contribute to our understanding of literature and culture.

Hazel’s database of 15 million eighteenth-century printers’ ornaments is now live at

Edward Wilson-Lee (English)

I work on literature in the first two centuries of print. I have published articles on the print and readership history of chivalric romances and broadside ballads, and have book projects in the final stages on the circulation of Sidney’s ‘Arcadia’ and on the role of translators in the early modern book trade.

Laura Wright (English)

Laura Wright is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of English and a Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College. Her books include Sources of London English (1996) and (as editor) The Development of Standard English 1300-1800 (2000).

Andrew Zurcher

I work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, with a particular focus on the works of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and William Shakespeare. With Raphael Lyne and Gavin Alexander, I wrote English Handwriting 1500-1700: An Online Course, now part of an AHRC-funded project, based at the Cambridge Faculty of English, called Scriptorium: Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Online. I am one of the general editors of the Collected Works of Edmund Spenser for Oxford University Press, and with Christopher Burlinson co-edited Edmund Spenser, Selected Letters and Other Papers (OUP, 2009). I maintain both the Edmund Spenser Home Page and the Sidney-Spenser Discussion List.

My research to date has emphasised early modern legal history, Elizabethan colonial and military activity in Ireland, textual studies (including palaeography and manuscript studies), the sixteenth-century reception of Academic and Pyrrhonist epistemology, early modern secretarial practice, and the theory and practice of allegory in the sixteenth century.




unicrest largeThe Centre for Material Texts at Cambridge fosters research into the physical forms in which texts are embodied and circulated, and the ways in which those forms have interacted with literary cultures and historical contexts. Based in the Faculty of English, it provides a focus for editorial and bibliographical work, and for critical, theoretical and historical projects of many kinds. The CMT fosters the study of a wide variety of media–from spoken words to celluloid, from manuscript to XML–and brings together academics and postgraduates from a range of faculties and departments across the University. This is a forum for starting new conversations which will push back the boundaries of knowledge in one of the most exciting areas of humanities research.

What is a material text?
A common assumption about texts – whether we are talking about plays, or works of philosophy, or letters – is that they are primarily mental events, which are merely reflected (often very inadequately) in their material forms. A writer may, in haste, put down the wrong word, a printer may misread their manuscript, or a censor may cut out sections of a book, and these acts work to corrupt the purity and integrity of the ‘real’ text. Such a view of the text accords primacy to writers and to their intentions, which readers should be able to access in their pristine state, in a meeting of minds. If you pick up a copy of a ‘classic’ in a bookstore, the chances are that it will have been edited with an eye to delivering ‘the text as the author intended it’, with nothing added and nothing taken away.

In reality, texts are always a good deal messier than this idea-centred account allows. The notion that any writer has a single, final intention is false, often demonstrably so; writers change their minds, revising their texts and responding to the unfolding form of their works in unforeseen, unpredictable ways. In addition, writing is a collaborative process, involving the writer in dealings with materials and institutions that help to give the text a presence in the world. The writer’s tools (pen-and-ink, typewriter, word-processor) may have a significant impact on the way that the text develops, as may the institutions and the media (manuscript, print, film, performance) by which it circulates. As the bibliographer D. F. McKenzie put it, ‘forms effect meanings’; every text is a negotiation between its creator(s) and a welter of worldly circumstances.

In recent years, academics across the humanities have been making a ‘material turn’ which has nowhere been so prominent as in our attitude to the words we read. The medium may not quite (as Marshall McLuhan had it) be the message, but its significance cannot be underestimated. The purpose of the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts is to foster the next generation of research into this fascinating field of inquiry.

The Centre

Established in July 2009, the Centre is run by a Director and an Executive Committee. Its website publicizes news and events, provides online research and teaching materials, and allows members of the Centre to communicate via an intranet Forum (RAVEN protected; see tab to right). In time it will also offer dedicated workspaces for the development of research projects. The Centre has its own seminar series, and holds a variety of colloquia and conferences, as well as assisting with the development of research and teaching initiatives. It has strong links with the Cambridge library community, and its website will also be used for online exhibitions which will bring many kinds of material text to a wider audience.

Membership of the Centre is open to postgraduates and academics at the University of Cambridge, and to any scholars with an interest who are visiting Cambridge, for however long or short a time. If you are interested in joining the CMT, please send a brief description of your research interests and a photograph to Alison Knight <>. You can sign up for our news mailings by following the instructions at (the list name is ‘english-cmt’).


Any Cambridge graduate students with training needs in the field of the material text (whether bibliographical, codicological, palaeographical, philological…) should contact the Director (


The CMT has run a number of major conferences: for reports, click on the links below

Inaugural Conference (2010)





Eating Words (2011)




Texts and Textiles (2012)





Delegates_generalsessionWriting Britain 500-1500 (2014)





Newes from No Place: A Conference Upon the Workes of John Taylor, the Water Poet (2017)







annual report 2016 annual report 2015 annual report 2014 annual report 2013 annual report 2012 annual report 2011 annual report 2010 annual report 0910

‘Collective considerations collating into Commonplaces’


CMT exhibition casesA backwater lay-by off the M5, Junction 24, three days before Christmas. A covert exchange of an unknown document, protected only by an iPad case, occurs between man, whippet and young woman. Shady as it may seem, this is not the stuff of reconnaissance but curation. This nineteenth-century commonplace book replete with beautiful illustrations, kindly donated by John and Caroline Robinson, now lies in situ on the first floor of the English Faculty, at the heart of the inaugural exhibition of the Centre for Material Texts. The exhibition, curated by myself and my MPhil colleagues on Dr Ruth Abbott’s Writers’ Notebooks course, focuses on commonplace books and the ways in which they acted as repositories for the recording of daily life in the nineteenth century. From passages of the Bible to Byron, musings on God to sketches of the family dogs, the commonplace book offered a powerful collective storehouse for the miscellanies and medleys of material that amassed at the center of communal family life.

19thcpbk1The unconventional method through which our exhibition materials were acquired proves apropos, given the unusual conditions under which the birth of our interest in commonplace books occurred. In another intrepid motorway adventure: a six hour, 250-mile minibus journey (nobly helmed by Ruth Abbott) with eight complete strangers, our group’s first weekend in Cambridge, was in fact spent in Grasmere, Cumbria working at the Wordsworth Trust. Guided by Ruth and curator Jeff Cowton we spent a full two days nestled in the archive, immersed in manuscripts and the materials which made them. It was a weekend stuffed with stuff. We created Thomas Bewick prints on a nineteenth-century printing press. We learned how to bind books on a sewing frame. Quills were carved and inks were made. Paste was pressed from pulp into paper (with the aid of a craftsman’s deckle and an improvised flattening dance on top of it). In a flurry of high spirits, fumbling with spirit-levels, our exhibition on the Wordsworth family commonplace books was installed.

19thCPBK3Like the chain lines and watermarks we spent the days studying in manuscripts, through curatorial collaboration we had impressed a profound mark on each other. The silence, sky and space of the Lakes and our collective academic endeavour had bound us together as tightly as the spines of the nineteenth-century treasures that lay on the archive’s shelves. What was particularly pertinent in creating this exhibition, born into being from deeply felt fellow-feeling from all parties, was that it chronicles and encourages the communal sharing of thought. The addition of our modern commonplace book to the display invites exhibition-goers to participate in shared forms of notetaking, to add their scraps and fragments of experience, their inmost thoughts, their favourite quotations and aid the creation of a beautiful, diverse collective text.

19thCPBK4Speaking to other students who have visited Grasmere, at a recent meeting with the Wordsworth Trust at London’s Brigham Young Institute, I further realised the true powerful potential of the material. Through awe-filled eyes, each sentence suffused with a quasi-religious fervour, they recounted the moment they were allowed to see a first edition of Lyrical Ballads and handle Dorothy Wordsworth’s real notebooks. In fact, the Wordsworth Trust’s website proudly proclaims ‘Visit the Wordsworth Museum to see Dorothy’s actual notebooks’. This is something our group reflected upon as we sat around Wordsworth’s ‘actual’ fire in Dove Cottage, reading his poems, souls stirred by the transcendent beauty of breathing life back into words where they were first brought into being. In curating this exhibition, in Grasmere and in Cambridge, and through Ruth Abbott’s phenomenal notebooks course we have relearnt the overwhelming magic of the material, the ability to encounter and interact with the ‘actual’. It is in this kind of engagement with ‘actual’ manuscripts, notebooks and papers that ‘with an eye made quiet by the power/Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, / We see into the life of things’.

19thCPBK5Through our immersion in the material practices from which texts develop, we learnt to cultivate a fresh appreciation for the ways in which literature is embodied and presented. The afterlives of the work we have done with these exhibitions, and the study of notebooks and manuscripts in general, like Wordsworth’s River Duddon, flow on endlessly. From future PhD projects to the reinstallation of the commonplace book exhibition in Cambridge ‘Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;/The Form remains, the Function never dies’. We hope that in this latest reimagining of our display, we encourage others to see the beautiful potential in collective interaction with note-taking practices. In doing so, our work continues ‘to live, and act, and serve the future hour’.

19thCPBK6Megan Beech, MPhil Modern and Contemporary Literature

Megan is a performance poet and created these two short poetry films in response to her experiences at the Wordsworth Trust and studying notebooks on Dr Ruth Abbott’s course:

Trust Wordsworth:

‘O! This is Our Tale Too!’: