Material Readings in Early Modern Culture (Plymouth)

Material Readings in Early Modern Culture, 1550-1700

A Conference at the University of Plymouth, 11-12 April 2008 

This conference explores the significance of the physicality of manuscript and printed texts in the early modern period. By comprehensively focussing on the material aspects of texts as a new and valuable way of reading and decoding meaning, it aims to provide a thorough reassessment of the varied cultures of manuscript and print from the late sixteenth century through to 1700. Avowedly interdisciplinary, a central purpose of the symposium is to foster vigorous dialogues between print and manuscript studies, critical bibliography and history of the book, palaeography and diplomatics, and social and cultural history. It is intended that papers will examine a broad range of texts, both canonical and non-traditional, print and manuscript, and will treat the following key areas:

  • The material, practices and processes of textual composition and production; manuscripts, drafting and editions
  • The technologies and tools of writing
  • Interpreting the uses of paper, quills, ink, desks, presses
  • The significance of space and the design of texts; the layout of the manuscript and printed page; script and white space; type and typography; paratextual apparatus
  • The space of textual production; the social context and location of writing
  • The social signs, codes and cues inscribed within texts
  • The distribution and dissemination of texts
  • Environments of reading and reception
  • Marginalia and practices of reading
  • The material text as object or thing

The Organisers

James Daybell is Lecturer in Early Modern British History at the University of Plymouth. His publications include Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England (Oxford, 2006), two collections of essays, Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700 (Ashgate, 2004) and Early Modern Women’s Letter Writing, 1450-1700 (Palgrave, 2001), and more than a dozen articles and essays in journals and edited collections. Dr Daybell is currently completing a monograph entitled, The Material Letter: The Practices and Culture of Letters and Letter-Writing in Early Modern England.

Peter Hinds is Lecturer in English at the University of Plymouth. His research currently focuses on the history of the book and of reading in late-seventeenth-century England. He has published several articles on Sir Roger L’Estrange (the Surveyor and Licenser of the Press during the reigns of Charles II and James II) and the London book trade. His book ‘The Horrid Popish Plot’: Roger L’Estrange and the Circulation of Political Discourse in London, 1678-83 is forthcoming with OUP

For further details please email:, or

Provisional Programme

Friday, 11 April 2008

Arrive, Registration and Coffee, 11.00am-12.00

PLENARY SPEAKER, 12.00-1.00: Professor Cedric Brown (University of Reading), ‘The Material Letter’

Break 1.00-1.15

SESSION 1, 1.15-3.15: The Material Letter

Professor Henry Woudhuysen (University College London) ‘The Early Modern Letter: Shapes and Forms’

Professor Lynne Magnusson (University of Toronto) ‘Donne and Material Letters’

Dr James Daybell (University of Plymouth), ‘Women, Politics and Domesticity: The Circulation of Lady Penelope Rich’s Letter to Elizabeth I’

Tea and Coffee, 3.15-3.30

SESSION 2, 3.30-5.00: The Material Book

Professor Mark Knights (Warwick University), ‘Hackney Poets and Hireling Pamphleteers’: Professional Authorship and the Book Trade in Late-Seventeenth-Century London’

Dr Peter Hinds (University of Plymouth), ‘Literary Authorship and the Printed Book, 1660-1700′

Tea and Coffee, 5.00-5.15

SESSION 3, 5.15-6.45: Material Manuscripts

Professor Arthur F. Marotti (Wayne State University), ‘The Personal Anthologizing of Poetry in Manuscript in Early Modern England: The Skipwith Manuscript (British Library MS Additional 25707)

Dr Jonathan Gibson (Royal Holloway, University of London), ‘Reading Topsy-Turvy Manuscripts’

7.00pm Wine Reception and Conference Dinner, The Barbican Kitchen

Saturday 12 April 2008

SESSION 4, 9.30-11.00: Women’s Material Manuscripts

Professor Victoria Burke (University of Ottawa, Canada), ‘Flourishes and Functionality in Women’s Late Seventeenth-Century Arithmetic Manuals’

Dr Gillian Wright (University of Birmingham), ‘Textuality, Privacy and Politics: Katherine Philips’s Poems in Manuscript and Print’

Coffee 11.00-11.30

SESSION 5, 11.30-1.00: Material Reading

Dr Maureen Bell (University of Birmingham), ‘Reading and Writing in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century Derbyshire: The Manuscripts of Titus Wheatcroft (1679-1762)’

Dr Mary Ann Lund (Mansfield College, Oxford) ‘Early Modern Sermon Paratexts and the Religious Politics of Reading’

Lunch, 1.00-2.00

SESSION 6, 2.00-4.00: Material Spaces

Dr Christopher Burlinson (Emmanuel College, Cambridge) ‘The Early Modern University Manuscript Beyond the University’

Dr Gabriel Heaton (Sotheby’s), ‘Texts of the Elizabethan Tiltyard’

Dr Tracey Hill (Bath Spa University) ‘A briefe narration of each seuerall shew’: the Lord Mayor’s Show from street to print’

Tea 4.00-4.15

SESSION 7, 4.15-5.15: Material Readings: Round Table Discussion

5.00 and beyond: departure or drinks and informal dinner arrangements

Published in: on January 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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