Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Main content

Assembly of a variety of material texts including a sculpture.

Founded in 1993 by Professor Peter Stallybrass (English, emeritus) and the Penn Libraries, the Workshop in the History of Material Texts is a weekly seminar, held in the library, that features scholars presenting a wide variety of research in book history, bibliography, manuscript studies, history of reading, publication and printing, and related topics. Subjects range widely in chronology and in geography: from the ancient world to the modern and with a global scope. The usual format of the workshop is a presentation of approximately thirty minutes, followed by discussion. Talks are accompanied by PowerPoint presentations, handouts, or other visual materials. Materials from Penn's special collections are often displayed as part of the workshop.

All are welcome to attend. Participants, including faculty, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students, conservators, booksellers, and others, come from a wide range of disciplines.

Information about past seminars and related materials is available through the Workshop in the History of Material Texts website.

View lectures from 2020-2021 on the Penn Workshop in the History of Material Texts youtube channel.

***COVID-19 Update***

For Fall 2021, we will present the Workshop in person at the Class of 78 Pavilion, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, and via Zoom. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

Fall 2021 Speakers

  • Sep. 13: Jack Lynch (Rutgers University-Newark): “Real Fakes and Fake Fakes: Materiality in Literary Forgery”
  • Sep. 20: Ada Kuskowski (Penn): “Foundational Legal Documents in an Era of Customary Law: Thinking about the Middle Ages”
  • Sep. 27: Christina Lupton (University of Copenhagen) and Ben Davies (University of Portsmouth): “Corona Time: Reading Fiction During the Covid-19 Pandemic”
  • Oct. 4: Margaret M. Bruchac (Penn): “Reading the Material and Textual Histories in a Path Wampum Belt”
  • Oct. 11: Theresa A. Goddu (Vanderbilt): “Antislavery Media”
  • Oct. 18: Brenton Sullivan (Colgate): “Buddhist Monastic Constitutions”
  • Oct. 25, 26, 28: Michael Suarez (Rare Book School and University of Virginia), Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography: “Printing Abolition: How the Fight to Ban the British Slave Trade Was Won, 1783–1807”
  • Nov. 1: Elizabeth McHenry (NYU): "'Utterly Worthless'?: Race Publishing, Subscription Books and Black Communities"
  • Nov. 8: Asheesh Kapur Siddique (UMass Amherst): “Documenting the Body of State: Paper and the Matter of the US Constitution”
  • Nov. 15: Sarah Wasserman (Delaware): “Pop-up Buildings and Postage Stamps: Ephemera and the American Novel”
  • Nov. 22: VIRTUAL EVENT: HMT Roadshow, feat. Brian Cassidy (Type Punch Matrix), Jessica Linker (Northeastern), Michelle Warren (Dartmouth): “Copy Technologies”
  • Nov. 29: Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews) & Arthur der Weduwen (University of St Andrews): “Materializing the Immaterial: Recovering the Lost Books of Early Modern Europe”
  • Dec. 6: Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University): “Unstable Access to the Print Record: The Case of Back Number Budd and 19th Century Newspapers”

List of workshops

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

If you would like to receive announcements about upcoming meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website. For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.