Dr Hazel Wilkinson (JRF, Cambridge) ‘The Digital Life of Decorated Books’

Please join us for the next Archives & Texts seminar: Thursday 1st December, 1-2 in Humss G25, where Dr Hazel Wilkinson (JRF, Cambridge and visiting fellow at the Bodleian) will be introducing the newly launched Fleuron https://fleuron.lib.cam.ac.uk/

“The Digital Life of Decorated Books”

Throughout the hand press period the pages of printed books and ephemera were far more elaborately decorated than their modern counterparts. Printers’ ornaments were a staple of the printing house until they fell out of fashion in the late eighteenth century. Hand cut and cast blocks were used alongside ornamental type to decorate title pages, headings, blank spaces, and initial letters. Printers’ ornaments ranged from small, geometric shapes to large and elaborate depictions of landscapes, dramatised scenes, objects, and mythical and exotic creatures. In both literary criticism and art history, printers’ ornaments have fallen through the gap between the categories of “illustration” and “text”. Almost never reproduced in critical editions, their important mediation of the reader’s experience of the text has been all but forgotten, and a treasure trove of miniature works of art and graphic design has been neglected.

 

In this talk, Hazel Wilkinson will introduce a new online resource called Fleuron, a database of more than 15 million eighteenth-century printers’ ornaments. The talk will include a demonstration of Fleuron, and an explanation of the methodology behind its creation, followed by a discussion of the multi-disciplinary research questions we will be able to ask with Fleuron. The aim of the talk is to show that mass digitisation—often seen as the enemy of print—is creating new ways of creatively re-connecting with the material features of historical books.

Dr Hazel Wilkinson, Junior Research Fellow, Cambridge cxdwgfxwgaav8z7

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