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Early English Books and the History of Reading


14 March 2018

Responsable de l'activité

Devani Singh


Dr Devani Singh, Unige

Dr Mary Flannery


Prof. Alexandra Gillespie, University of Toronto


In recent years, advancements in digitisation, online cataloguing, and social media have transformed how medievalists and early modernists approach the history of reading. These new tools promise to transform this field into one that is "radically multi-disciplinary, multi-generational, team-based, and collaborative", to quote Alexandra Gillespie, the Director of the Old Books, New Science Lab based at the University of Toronto. Yet at the same time that they make early books and related scholarship more accessible than ever before, such technologies raise pressing questions regarding what they leave inaccessible: the physical structure of a medieval manuscript, the qualities of an early modern book's binding, and other elements of the book-as-object that can only be assessed in person, and with appropriate training. 


Professor Alexandra Gillespie, also the Director of the Mellon-funded Digital Tools for Manuscript Study project, is one of the rare scholars who pursues traditional approaches to the history of the book while also taking advantage of what new digital tools have to offer. She is the author of numerous books, articles, and essays on medieval manuscripts, early printing, and the literature of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. This half-day event in Geneva will feature a lecture based on work from Prof. Gillespie's new monograph, Chaucer's Books, and a workshop on medieval English bookbindings. The workshop will introduce students to vocabulary and tools for the description of the most overlooked - and at-risk - part of any early book: its bindings.  We will learn from a series of illustrated case studies: books made for private and institutional collections; bound between boards or parchment; stitched, tacketed, clasped, strapped, chained, or tied. Drawing on these examples, Prof. Gillespie will argue for the importance of careful, formal work on bindings to an understanding of the social and symbolic significance of medieval books.





Deadline for registration 07.03.2018
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