Graduate Seminars

The History of Material Texts

The seminar in the history of material texts is a forum for research across disciplines and across periods, for all those interested in the history of the book, bibliography, histories and theories of reading, and the intersections between intellectual history and material culture, including the creation, production, publication, distribution, reception, transmission, editing and subsequent history of texts as material objects in manuscript, print, digital media or other forms. It is based in the Faculty of English but welcomes speakers and participants from history, the history and philosophy of science, classics, modern languages, Asian and Middle Eastern studies and archaeology and anthropology, among others.

For further information, see Wine and soft drinks will be served at the start of the seminar. All are welcome.

Michaelmas Term 2018

Board Room, Faculty of English,

Thursday, 25 October, 5.30-7.30pm
Micha Lazarus
Lucius Florus and a pownde of prunes: What was a Book in Tudor Oxford?

Thursday, 8 November, 5-7pm
Lukas Erne (Geneva)
The Integrity of Marlowe's Works

Thursday, 22 November, 5-7pm
Anne Toner (Cambridge)
Jane Austen's Chapters

For more information, contact Dunstan Roberts (, Jason Scott-Warren ( or Andrew Zurcher ( or see

Lent Term 2017

30 January, 12.30-2 A guided tour of the Cambridge University Library Milstein Exhibition exhibition ‘Curious Objects’, in the company of Centre/Seminar Room, lead curator Jill Whitelock University Library followed by discussion.
Places are limited–please email jes1003 to reserve.

6 March, 12.30-2 ‘The Medical Book in the Nineteenth Century: Milstein Seminar Room, From MS Casebooks to Mass Plagiarism’ University Library.
A workshop led by Sarah Bull, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, HPS.


Michaelmas Term 2016

19 October, 12.30-2.00pm, Board Room, Faculty of English
Matthew Symonds (ULC/CELL) will introduce the Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe Project and the new Digital Bookwheel

16 November, Day Symposium, Trinity Hall/Magdalene
'Scribal Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe'
Convenors: Alexander Marr and Sachiko Kusukawa
Speakers to include Peter Stallybrass, Jonathan Gibson, Jan Loop, Angus Vine and Andrew Zurcher

30 November, 12.30-2.00pm, Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street
A guided tour of the Fitzwilliam exhibition 'Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts' in the company of curator Stella Panayotova
Places are limited–please email to reserve

For more information, contact Dunstan Roberts (, Jason Scott-Warren ( or Andrew Zurcher ( or see




Past Terms

Lent Term 2016

3 Seminars, weeks 4, 6, & 8, Thursdays 5.00pm.

4 February-Kate Kennedy (Oxford),'Appealing for Release: Ivor Gurney’s ‘mad’ asylum letters'. Venue: Milstein Seminar Room, CUL

18 February-Mina Gorji (Cambridge), title tba. Venue: S-R24, Faculty of English

3 March-James Mussell (Leeds), 'Moving Things: Replication, Mediation, and Serialisation in Charles Dickens’s Mugby Junction'. Venue: S-R24, Faculty of English

Michaelmas Term 2015

15 October-Discussion of Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 45/3 (2015), 'The Renaissance Collage'. Venue: Milstein Seminar Room, CUL

This special issue is available online at

29 October-Jennifer Richards (Newcastle University), 'Listening readers and the visible voice'. Venue: S-R24, Faculty of English

12 November-Catherine Ansorge (University Library), 'Ink and gold; how the Islamic manuscripts came to Cambridge'. Venue: Milstein Seminar Room, CUL

26 November-Vittoria Feola (University of Padua/University of Oxford), 'The Bartolomeo Gamba Project - or, the London-Paris-Padua book trade connection, 1600-1840'. Venue: Milstein Seminar Room, CUL


Easter Term 2015

30 April-Jaclyn Rajsic (University of Cambridge), 'The Rolling Text: using space in royal genealogies, c. 1300-c. 1450'. Venue: Faculty of English, 9 West Rd

14 May-Stacey McDowell (University of Cambridge), 'Keats’s Reading'. Venue: Faculty of English, 9 West Rd


Lent Term 2015

22 Jan 'Authenticity and Duplicity: Investigations into Multiple Copies of Books' NB This session will be held in the Milstein Lecture Room, University Library, and will start at 5 pm. William Zachs (Edinburgh)

5 Feb Title tba Victoria Mills (Cambridge)

19 Feb 'Transatlantic Passages: journalistic technique and the construction of a black international in West African and Caribbean colonial newspapers' Leslie James (Birmingham)

Michaelmas Term 2014

09/10/14 No seminar: CMT start-of-year welcome party, Faculty of English social space, 4-5.30

23/10/14 'Gendered Archival Practices and the Future Lives of Letters' - Prof. James Daybell (Plymouth)

06/11/14 Discussion of David Trotter, Literature in the First Media Age: Britain Between the Wars (2013) Respondents: Prof. Clare Pettitt and Prof. Mark Turner (King's College London)

20/11/14 'Creating a 'National' Archive of the English Reformation: the Parker Society and its Legacy' - Prof. Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University)

Easter Term 2014

24/04/14 '‘Community Libraries: Connecting Readers in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850’ - Mark Towsey (History, Liverpool)

01/05/14 ‘Good Reading for the Million: The Advent of the Mass-Market Non-Fiction Paperback’- Peter Mandler (History, Cambridge)

15/05/14 The Japanese Book - Laura Moretti (AMES, Cambridge) & Hamish Todd (Japanese Section, BL)

29/05/14 ‘Palm-Leaf, Paper, Digital Dharma: Exploring the Materiality of Tibetan Buddhist Texts and Their Transformations’ - Hildegard Diemberger & Stephen Hugh-Jones (Social Anthropology,  Cambridge)

Lent Term 2014

30/01/14 'What Is (and is not) the Poem? Genetic Editing and Emily Dickinson's Manuscripts'
Held jointly with American Literature Research Seminar - Prof Cristanne Miller (Buffalo SUNY)

06/02/14 'Community Libraries: Connecting Readers in the Atlantic World, 1650-1850’ - Mark Towsey (Liverpool) - rescheduled for Easter Term

20/02/14 Title tba - Simon Franklin (Cambridge)

Michaelmas Term 2013

17/10/13 TBC

31/10/13 Cancelled

14/11/13 TBC

28/11/13 Reading group 

Easter Term 2013

2 May 2013: Robert Priest (History, Cambridge): Writing to Ernest Renan: Fan Mail, Hate Mail and the Historical Jesus in Nineteenth-Century France

16 May 2013: Lucy Razzall (English, Cambridge): Thinking Inside the Box: Containers and the Materiality of the Early Modern Texts

Lent Term 2013

24 Jan 2013: Bob Groser (Bibles Production Manager, Cambridge University Press) will talk about materials and processes used in modern Bible manufacture.

21 Feb 2013: Elizabeth Upper (Munby Fellow, Cambridge University Library) and Ad Stijnman (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), 'Cycles of Invention: The Historical Developments of 'New' Innovations in Colour Printing, ca. 1600-1700'

Easter Term 2011

5 May    Professor James Raven (University of Essex): The Sites of Printing and Bookselling in London in the Eighteenth Century

19 May   Reading group on recent work on paratexts and the history of the book. Texts for discussion (below) are online via the Faculty Library’s CamTools site: please email Sarah Cain ( for further details or hard copy.
- William Sherman, ‘On the Threshold: Architecture, Paratext, and Early Print Culture’, in Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, ed. Baron/Lindquist/Shevlin (Amherst, 2007), 67-81; and
- Franco Moretti, ‘Style, Inc. Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles (British Novels, 1740-1850)’, and Katie Trumpener, ‘Critical Response I: Paratext and Genre System: A Response to Franco Moretti’, Critical Inquiry, 36 (2009), 134-74.

Lent Term 2011

27 Jan    Harriet Phillips: “Waste Paper: Early Modern Broadsides as Popular Print, and  MarieLéger-St-Jean: “long for the penny number and the weekly woodcut”: Early Victorian Popular Authors and their Readers
24 Feb    Managing curious collections: Stuart Stone (Radzinowicz Library):  a visit to the collection of ‘banned books’ from the Home Office; Katie Birkwood (St John’s College Library): Managing the Fred Hoyle Collection of papers, books and other material texts

Please note that the seminar on 24 February will begin at 5.30 in the Radzinowicz Library at the front of the Institute of Criminology on the Sidgwick Site, for a ‘show and tell’ of banned books, and will move for the second presentation and discussion to the Faculty of English.           

Michaelmas Term 2010

14 Oct    Prof. Anne Coldiron (Florida State University): Printers Without Borders: Translation and Literary Transnationalism in the Long Sixteenth Century

11 Nov   Prof. Jim Secord (University of Cambridge) Nebular Visions: Image and Text in John Pringle Nichol’s Architecture of the Heavens       

Easter Term 2010

29 Apr     Reading group and discussion of new directions in the light of two articles: Leah Price, ‘From The History of a Book to a “History of the Book”’, Representations, 108 (2009), 120-138; and Bill Brown, ‘Objects, Others, and Us (The Refabrication of Things)’, Critical Inquiry, 36 (2010), 183-207. Both articles are online via JSTOR, LION and the Faculty Library’s CamTools site. Please email the seminar convenors for further details or hard copy.

27 May    Subha Mukherji (Downing): ‘The voice of things: some archival evidence’, and Christopher Burlinson (Jesus): ‘Maps and letters in the early modern archive’                                                             

Lent Term 2010

21 Jan      Ruth Ahnert (Murray Edwards) and Becca Weir (Jesus): Writing, Occasion and Media
                (1530s, 1860s)
18 Feb     Hester Lees-Jeffries (St Catharine’s): Shakespeare: Text, Memory, Object; and Kit
                Grover (designer), in conversation, on literary souvenirs. Participants are invited, but
                not required, to bring literary souvenirs and memorabilia for a ‘show and tell’

Michaelmas Term 2009

15 Oct     Dr Jason Scott-Warren (Gonville and Caius): Reading Graffiti in the Early Modern Book

12 Nov    Prof. Sue Powell (University of Salford): After Arundel but before Luther: The First Fifty Years of Print

Easter Term 2009

23 Apr      Dr Sebastiaan Verweij (Scriptorium Project, Cambridge): ‘Eikit addit & copeit out off ye print’: Reading and Mending the Troy Book in Renaissance Scotland

30 Apr      Dr Giles Bergel (Oxford): ‘Ballad history and the history of the ballad: “The  Wandering Jew’s Chronicle”, 1630-1820’

7 May       Special seminar in conjunction with Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Clark  Lectures: Professor Roger Chartier (Directeur d’Études, École des Hautes Études en SciencesSociales, Paris; Professeur, Collège de France): ‘Written Culture and Literature in Early Modern Europe. Some propositions.’ 
(This seminar will take place in the Allhusen Room, Trinity College, at 5pm: please note the change of time and venue.)


Lent Term 2009

Special Seminar:

Scriptorium / History of the Book Seminar on Commonplace Books, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kohnen (University of Köln), 'Commonplace-book communication: Role shifts and text functions in Robert Reynes's notes contained in Tanner MS 407', Queens' College, Old SCR, 5.15pm, Tuesday 3rd March

The seminar will resume in Easter Term 2009.

Michaelmas Term 2008

16 October 2008
Dr Ian Williams, Christ’s College
‘He creditted more the printed booke’: Common Lawyers’ Receptivity to Print, 1550-1640

20 November 2008
Dr Kathleen Tonry, University of Connecticut
Reading Print’s Histories

Easter Term 2008

1 May 2008 Jean Khalfa, Trinity College, Cambridge
Poetics of the page as space: 20th century artists' books in France

15 May 2008
Mark Chinca, Trinity College, Cambridge
The Art of Dying in Lutheran Germany

Lent Term 2008

24 January 2008
Dr Fredrik Hagen, Christ's College
Why Egyptologists can't read Egyptian Papyri

7 February 2008
Dr Ian Gadd, Bath Spa University
'Leaving the Printer to his Liberty' : Printing and Publishing Jonathan Swift's Political Tracts, 1711-14

21 February 2008
Victoria Kingham, The Modernist Magazines Project, De Montfort University: 'Aspects of the modern in early American magazines '291' (1915-1916) and 'The Soil: A Magazine of Art' (1916-1917)'

6 March 2008
Dunstan Roberts, Trinity Hall
Deletion, Self-Censorship, and the Reformation Reader

Michaelmas Term 2007

18 October 2007
Prof. Adrian Poole, Faculty of English and Trinity College
The Collected Edition of Henry James (Junior)
(Note: this talk is postponed from an earlier date.)

25 October 2007
Dr Angus Vine, the ‘Oxford Francis Bacon’ project, CRASSH
Bacon’s Bookkeeping

8 November 2007
Dr Rebecca Rushforth, ASNaC and the ‘Parker-on-the-Web’ project
Using the Parker-Library-on-the-Web Project

22 November 2007
Dr Richard Beadle, St John’s College and the Faculty of English, and Dr Christopher Burlinson, the ‘Scriptorium’ project
The Digital Miscellany and the Material Book


Decorative border image on this page is © Cambridge, St John's College, MS C. 21, f.2v (detail), reproduced with kind permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College.