Growing a Research Network: Approaches to Global Book History

Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Institute for Advanced Study, and Alexandra Gillespie, University of Toronto

October 15, 2021 - 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm @ Zoom
Hand holding a digital magnifying lens over opened manuscript with laptop visible in background.

The Book and the Silk Roads approaches the “book” in a capacious way: it is a writing surface, taken from the natural world, hand-crafted to bear textual records. Books can be rolls, leaves, screenfolds, codices, tablets, and even standing stones. To reveal their meanings, to read their diverse texts and scripts alongside their materials, physical structures, and layers of accretions, we need to marshal innovative, interdisciplinary approaches and a collaborative methodology, embedded within a global perspective. Over the past year and a half, we have worked to transform our understanding of the human past and its nonhuman contexts by establishing a wide range of research partnerships, laying the groundwork for a global history of the book. In this talk, we will offer an overview of The Book and the Silk Roads that 1) summarizes the lessons learned during the pandemic, as our project has pivoted in a nimble way to accommodate increased use of online environments and limitations on research travel; 2) outlines some of our research findings, from birchbark Kashmiri manuscripts to palimpsests from Sinai; and 3) describes our increasingly substantial public humanities focus, including our upcoming exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum, Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads

Video Recording


Professor Akbari and Professor Gillespie are Co-PIs on The Book and the Silk Roads project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.