Skip Trinity Banner Navigation

Skip to main content »

Trinity College Dublin

Skip Main Navigation

Centre for Irish-Scottish and Comparative Studies

(formerly the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies)

Secondary Navigation

BHRN - Reports from Previous Events

  • University of Warwick, 18 January 2003
  • The Victoria & Albert Museum, 2 June 2003
  • University of Reading, 2 April, 2004
  • Senate House, University of London, 20 November 2004
  • Chetham's Library, Manchester, 28 April 2005
  • University of Liverpool, 13 October 2006
  • Study Day at the University of Warwick, 18 January 2003
    A report by Catherine Armstrong

    On Saturday 18th January 2003 the Book History Postgraduate Network held a study day at the University of Warwick. Fourteen delegates at various points in their careers attended, including Masters and PhD students from around the country as well as a few more experienced scholars. The day was organised very informally by Maureen Bell and John Hinks, both from the University of Birmingham, along with Catherine Armstrong who was the local contact at Warwick.
    Though previous study days have been centred round a theme, it was decided that the group would be small enough this time to allow a much more loosely structured programme. In the morning Maureen Bell introduced everyone to the workings of the Book History Postgraduate Network, summarising some of its achievements and aims. Then many of the delegates spoke to the rest of the group on the nature of their own particular research covering two main topics: practical issues that arise from archival research and theoretical difficulties, especially suffered by students who did not have a strong tradition of book history at their institution.
    Just before lunch, the archivist at the Modern Records Centre on Warwick University campus gave a fascinating talk on the holdings of the centre, leaving many delegates wanting to return to undertake research of their own. During the afternoon, delegates once again shared problems together informally about their own research, with the more experienced members of the group often able to offer some troubleshooting suggestions. John Hinks also gave a brief talk on the role of the British Book Trade Index – see - updating the group on the progress of this massive project.
    The day concluded with a number of the delegates retiring to the bar to discuss the role of the network in book history scholarship in general. The transitory nature of the postgraduate student body was highlighted, but it was thought that the establishment of a register of students’ research interests, to be maintained by John Hinks, would both provide information for conference organisers and help to end the isolation felt by some book historians. Finally, the next study day was set for London in early June and delegates left Warwick feeling that this gathering had been very productive.

    Study Day at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 2 June 2003
    A report by Elizabeth James

    The Book History Postgraduate Network held its latest Study Day in London, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, on Monday 2 June. The organisers were John Hinks (Birmingham University) and Elizabeth James (V&A). 16 delegates attended; as before, a mixture of registered students and independent researchers at different stages in their projects. All present introduced themselves and gave a brief account of their current work, before the longer presentations. On this occasion we had people working on aspects of publishing, printing and bookselling history; book illustration, design and typography; the papermaking industry; concepts of authorship; small presses, and publishing in series. 
    Five 10-15 minute papers were presented. Tom Mole (Glasgow University) road-tested a brilliant post-doctoral proposal on authorship and attribution in the Romantic period, basing a new taxonomy upon a solid quantitative analysis. To hear a powerfully argued and planned outline at this level is of great benefit to those who are at earlier stages in their degrees. Alice Ford-Smith (Wellcome Institute) gave a paper on the fascinating subject of provincial execution broadsides, re-evaluating their worth and significance in relation to the ballads, which have overshadowed them in scholarly attention. Rathna Ramanathan (Reading University) presented the initial findings of her doctorate on the Gaberbocchus Press, a 20th-century artistic small press of great distinction and important associations. This was especially enjoyable as at lunchtime we were able to view a display of Gaberbocchus publications as part of our visit to the National Art Library. 
    For our visit also, NAL colleagues had prepared an extensive display of books to demonstrate the opportunities for book history research in the Library (which has now joined the Prints, Drawings and Paintings collections of the V&A to form a Department of Word and Image, furnishing even more opportunities especially in areas such as graphic design and illustration). Objects shown included private press books, children's books and chapbooks, artists' books, illuminated books, jobbing printing and trade literature, fashion magazines, bookbindings and comics, as well as manuscripts and editions indicating the work that might be done here on art publishing or art historiography. John Meriton, the Deputy Keeper of Word & Image, gave a talk explaining the recent changes in the Department, and an overview of the material available. Other members of staff were on hand to talk to delegates and answer questions. 
    There were two further presentations, from Catherine Armstrong (Warwick University), who as an experienced researcher opened up some fundamental issues of wider interest raised by her specific work on the reading of early American immigrants: definitions and experiences of texts and their use that challenge our assumptions about what reading and reading material ordinarily consist of; the role of manuscript and the oral; how to validate deductions from evidence. Finally, Ian Brown took a break from his current research on 'editing the internet' to outline (impressively, from memory) a previous project on Tony Godwin, an innovative editor at Penguin Books in the 1960s. As before, it was an extremely stimulating day, and I for one returned to my own work full of new thoughts and connections.

    Study Day at the University of Reading, 2 April, 2004
    A report by Rathna Ramanathan and Nicola Robson
    On Friday, 2nd of April 2004, the Department of Typography at the University of Reading hosted a study day for the Book History Postgraduate Network. The day was attended by postgraduate students and independent researchers working in the field of book history. Institutions represented at the Study Day included University of London, University of Reading, University of Warwick, University of Southampton and Macmillan Publishers.
    The day began with a welcome talk by the head of the department, Professor Sue Walker. This was followed by individual presentations from researchers Gail Chester (20th century publishers’ readers), May Jurilla (History of the Book in the Philippines), and Katherine Gillieson (textbooks). 
    Attendees were also introduced to the Department of Typography’s printing history collections by Martin Andrews, and to the University of Reading’s incunabula collection by Dr. Peggy Smith. In addition to this, the day also provided an informal environment for researchers to discuss their work, and exchange information about research resources.

    Study Day at Senate House, University of London, 20 November 2004
    A report by Giles Bergel
    The Book History Research Network held its first Study Day under its new name on Saturday 20 November at the University of London Senate House. The day was held with the generous co-operation of the Centre for Manuscript Studies of the Institute of English Studies, whose Director, Professor Warwick Gould, started the day with a welcome to the Network and an account of the Centre's history within the University of London. The Network was then granted privileged access to Senate House Library. Mike Mulcay of the library's Special Collections staff gave an introduction to the Library and a tour that including the Goldsmiths and Durning-Lawrence Libraries, the open-access Book History collection and the Palaeography rooms. Some of Senate House Library's treasures had been put on display for us.  
    Two sessions of papers took up the rest of the morning and the early afternoon. In the first session, Dawn Sanders (National Foundation for Educational Research) gave a presentation based on her own collection of natural history textbooks, put into historical context; Emma Townshend (University College London) explored the South Seas reception of missionary texts of the 1830s; and Tracey Rosenberg (University of Edinburgh) gave an account of the Victorian 'triple-decker' novel format. After lunch, Catherine Armstrong (University of Warwick) discussed theoretical and practical issues encountered in her work on Early Modern reader-response; Tom Davis (University of Birmingham) shared his experience of analysing the handwriting of many eras and areas and identifying individual hands; Amy Haley (Princeton University) showed how the reading practices of the Sheridan circle were linked to larger trends in eighteenth-century reading and the compilation of commonplace books; lastly, John Spiers (Institute of English Studies, University of London) showed how the Victorian publisher Richard King had marketed books in individual volumes and themed series, and surmised how this evidence might illuminate his overall business practices.    
    With such a large number of high-quality papers, there was only a little time for plenary discussion. Delegates were from a variety of backgrounds and at various stages in their careers. The seventeen members present included postgraduates, experienced academics and independent scholars; the methods and disciplines brought to bear on the common subject of book history included librarianship, education, graphology, history, literature and the history of science.
    It was stressed that the activities of the Network were as open-ended as the interests of its members: future Study Days could be held under a common theme proposed by members or could reflect the eclectic interests of the Network as a whole. The day ended with many feeling that, as before, the opportunity to meet informally and discuss various and common interests had been one of the great strengths of the day.

    Study Day at Chetham’s Library, Manchester, 28 April 2005
    A report by Catherine Feely
    On Thursday 28 April 2005, the Book History Research Network held a study day in the historic surroundings of Chetham’s Library, Manchester. The day was organised locally by Catherine Feely (University of Manchester) with help from John Hinks (University of Leicester) and Michael Powell (Chetham’s Library). The thirteen delegates in attendance included Masters and PhD students at various stages in their degrees, as well as several more experienced book history researchers. Institutions represented included the University of Manchester, the University of Liverpool, the University of Sheffield, Trinity College Dublin and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
    After brief introductions, the day started with Michael Powell giving us tour of the library: the oldest public library in the English speaking-world, established in 1653. Michael then kindly gave us the opportunity to handle some of the Library’s book trade related treasures, including a fantastic collection of broadsides and the diary of James Weatherley, a nineteenth-century Manchester bookseller. Caroline Webber (Liverpool) then presented the first of the day’s papers, on Ann Radcliffe’s posthumously published historical gothic novel Gaston de Blondeville (1826). Caroline gave a fascinating account of how the complicated narrative structure of the text itself has affected its subsequent treatment by a number of different editorial hands. We look forward to reading Caroline’s own critical edition of the novel, currently in preparation, in the future. Just before lunch, Barry McKay gave a very entertaining slice of his recent Gryphon Lecture on the History of the Book at the Fisher Library, University of Toronto, on the subject of chapbooks. Barry triumphed over technology (a digital projector with a remote control!) to give us a superbly illustrated sense of how these eclectic little booklets made a huge contribution to the development of British popular culture.
    In the first paper of the afternoon, Joseph Maslen (Manchester) explored the absence of a book. His paper examined Margot Kettle’s failure to find a publisher in the late 1980s for her oral history of the 1930s British Communist youth movement. Drawing particularly on letters between Margot and various publishers, Joseph showed how the failure to get ‘Recollections of a Younger World’ published reflected changing priorities on the part of publishers, in the cultural climate of Thatcher’s Britain. Matthew Yeo (Manchester) followed with a paper on the critical issues surrounding his MA thesis, on a sing-a-long grammar primer for young women published in 1788. This paper provided an excellent example of the innovative use of analytical bibliography can help to place single titles into a wider historical context. Painstaking research has allowed Matthew to trace how the popular songs used in the primer subsequently reappeared during the French Revolution, and to investigate the effect they may have had on the reinforcement of gender roles in the public sphere after 1789.
    In the final paper of the afternoon, Catherine Feely gave a general account of the methodological issues surrounding her research on the diffusion of ideas (particularly those of Marx and Freud) in Britain between 1880 and 1939. These individual issues were then related to wider ones for ‘book history’, particularly in relation to the demands of interdisciplinary research. This led to a lively general discussion in which we discussed, amongst other things, the suitability of the term ‘book history’, the physicality/materiality of the book and the place of reading in contemporary society.The atmosphere at this event was particularly warm, friendly and informal. Many thanks to all of the speakers, participants and our very accommodating hosts at Chetham’s Library for helping to make the event so productive and worthwhile.

    Study Day at the University of Liverpool, 13 October 2006
    A report by Johanna Archbold
    Hosted by Dr Pollie Bromilow, under the auspices of the Liverpool University History of the Book Research Group, the second BHRN Study Day of 2006 was a great success. The event attracted speakers and attendees from across the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. The first session, ‘Organizing Knowledge’ was started by Djoeke van Netten from the University of Groningen, whose energetic paper on the printing of science texts in the early seventeenth century by the Dutch printing house of Blaeu. Djoke’s analysis highlighted the unusually central role that Blaeu himself played in the presentation of his texts and the extensive intellectual networks that he was involved in. Harald Braun, a lecturer in the history department of the University of Liverpool followed with a paper focusing on El governador Christiano, a text from early sixteenth century Spain which catapulted its author, Juan Marquez into an influential court position. Harald laid out the unusual structure adopted by this text which embraced both traditional scholastic systems of inquiry and the Humanistic style to produce a manual of Christian statecraft as an antidote to the rational texts of Machiavelli, and other near contemporaries.
    After coffee the late morning session, ‘Books that Travel’ featured Alex Drance-Francis from the University of Liverpool and Bob Snape from the University of Bolton. Alex discussed his collaborative project which has created a 4,500 item bibliography of travel writing from Eastern Europe. Bob discussed his extensive research on the National Home Reading Union (1889-1930), specifically concentrating on its appearance in the British colonies and dominions. It was clear that the character of these far flung branches of the Home Reading Union served different purposes, both socially and nationally that the British model. The results of this research raise questions of localism, nationality, community and relations with the imperial centre.
    After a beautiful lunch at Bistro Jaques the group reconvened to be treated to an enthusiastic and passionate talk by Mary Hammond (Open University) discussing her personal experiences as a ‘Book Historian’ and sharing her well-proven tips for success in this area. She reminded us of the importance of getting involved in our discipline at all levels, be it in reviewing a lecture series/books, giving conference papers and organizing conferences. In an interdisciplinary area such as Book History, making contacts and networking is a vital skill and one which can only enhance your job opportunities when  (not if!) you finally get your PhD. This talk sparked a debate about the type of support the BHRN and other such organizations can offer alternative non-academic routes available to Book History PhD students.
    The final session of the day, ‘Shaping the Text’ included three papers considering medieval and early modern topics. Abdullah Alger from the University of Manchester discussed the difficulties of interpreting the date and significance of scribal punctuation in the Exeter Book’s Christ II. His detailed analysis raised the questions relating to the role of the scribe and of the functional purpose of punctuation when it is heavily evident in some places of the text while not so in others. The following paper by Florent Noirfalise from the University of Liverpool, continued the theme of para-textual analysis in relation to the early manuscripts of the Chronique dite de Baudouin d’Avesnes. By detailing the differences and the significance of the remaining 52 manuscript copies Florent highlighted the importance of more rigorous scholarly attention to the manuscript sources themselves. The final paper of the day by Dirk Schoenaers also from the University of Liverpool, suggested a re-evaluation of Gerard Potters unprinted manuscript which circulated in upper Dutch society in the 15th and 16th century, which has been neglected due to the negative comments of the Dutch philologist Muller in the late nineteenth century. Dirk’s evidence of contemporary use of this manuscript and its wide circulation made a compelling case for its’ continued study as a significant source for the social history of Dutch society in this period.
    In the final wrap-up the Study Day was considered very useful and a great way to meet other students. Thanks were given to all speakers and particularly to Dr Pollie Bromilow and staff of the University of Liverpool involved in the History of the Book Research Group.
    The next Report from the Study Day at Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, 10 May 2007 will be posted soon.

Back To Top

Last updated: Jul 27 2007.