PhD Opportunity: Writing and Material Culture 1560-1660

MEMS and the School of English are delighted to announce a unique doctoral opportunity. It has arisen as a result of the award of an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant entitled The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort: writing and material culture 1560-1660. The project is led by Professor Catherine Richardson at the University of Kent (Principal Investigator); Dr Tara Hamling at the University of Birmingham (Co-Investigator) and Professor Graeme Earl at King’s, London (Co-Investigator). More information on the wider project, which examines the cultural lives of the literate, urban ‘middling sort’ in early modern England, analysing the broad range of written and material forms with which they were engaged as producers and consumers, is available here.

The studentship will be in an area related to the project – developing an aspect of early modern studies that explores either the literature or history of the period as it pertains to individuals of middling status (working people of status but below the level of the elite, including professional and mercantile individuals in an urban context, and larger farming and craft households in rural areas). The project could be focused on their own writing or social lives, or the places, products and processes which take them as subject or target audience – print, theatre, town hall etc. Professor Richardson is very happy to discuss possibilities in advance with interested candidates. The student will benefit from a close and vibrant working relationship with the project and its team of PI, Co-Is and RAs, and the skills development opportunities offered by its digital work and public engagement agenda.

Studentship Selection Criteria for 2019/20 are based on the following:

Research Proposal
~The proposal is clearly written and demonstrates engagement with an academic field at a high level of sophistication.
~The project demonstrates original thinking in its field.
~The methodology proposed clearly demonstrates the viability of the planned research.
~The planned research is described in a way that inspires confidence that it will definitely be completed within three years.
~The links to the wider AHRC research project are made clear.

Preparedness for Research
~The applicant demonstrates understanding of appropriate research skills required for successful completion of the project.
~The applicant has appropriate training at Master’s level or equivalent to undertake the project.
~The applicant’s references fully support the applicant’s preparedness for doctoral study.

Suitability of Research Environment
The applicant has given clear thought to the fit between their project and their proposed research environment, within the project but also more broadly in relation to the work of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Kent and the project partners’ interests at Birmingham, King’s London, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Weald and Downland Museum.

How to apply
Students wishing to be considered for this scholarship must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 17 May 2019. Applicants are advised to discuss their research project with Professor Richardson as soon as possible.

Cassandra Harrington on the Lyghfield Bible workshop

Cassandra Harrington |
PhD Candidate, Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent

After a rare opportunity, and successful auction bid in July 2018, the Lyghfield Bible has once again returned to Canterbury. A single volume of impressive craftsmanship, textually complete, with fine Latin script and lavish illuminated initials, this so-called ‘pocket Bible’ was produced in thirteenth-century Paris before arriving in Canterbury, likely in the fourteenth century. Not only is it an exquisitely beautiful example of a medieval manuscript, but an absolute treasure trove of cultural and historical value to the city.

On the afternoon of 4th March 2019 academics and graduate students gathered at the University of Kent for a workshop dedicated to the Lyghfield Bible, which gains its name from the sixteenth-century monk who owned it before the disbanding of the monastery at Canterbury during the Reformation. Co-organised by Kent’s own Drs David Rundle and Emily Guerry in collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral, its aim was to foster conversation and shed light on the Bible’s origins and history with short papers given by scholars from a range of institutions, and encourage the discussion of ideas and opportunities for future research.

Following a very warm welcome from David and Emily, delegates were acquainted with the Lyghfield Bible by Mrs Cressida Williams (Canterbury Cathedral Library). As Head of Library and Archives, she recalled the challenging process of its procurement: from spotting the lot in a Bloomsbury auction catalogue, to the generous funding acquisitions making its purchase possible, and navigating the final task of bringing it back home to Canterbury (via a train from London) after almost 500 years away.

The first session, chaired by Dr Robert Gallagher (University of Kent), set the scene of bustling medieval Paris, with Dr Alison Ray (Canterbury Cathedral Library) contextualising the production of books in the late thirteenth century and Paris’ status as a flourishing city and international centre of learning. This was followed by Dr Emily Guerry (University of Kent) revealing similarities in iconographical trends among the Parisian illustration workshops, and Dr David Rundle (University of Kent) examining what marginal annotations might reveal (or, indeed, don’t reveal!) about the Lyghfield Bible.

Questions came in from all corners of the room, including considerations of provenance, Parisian practices of production and design, usage, literacy, scholasticism, and the interplay between image and text. Could it have been made for a successor of Archbishop Stephen Langton (d. 1228)? How ‘standardised’ are its illuminations, and was there much scope for their customisation? What do the choices of pigments used tell us? Do we have an indication of how many scribes were working on the Bible, and can this offer us a more concrete means of dating it? How does the material evidence and the cleanness of its margins inform our understanding of how the Lyghfield Bible might have been used?

The consensus places the Lyghfield Bible in the last quarter of the thirteenth century (possibly the 1290’s), though the number of scribes working on its script is at present unknown. However, the illuminations remarkably appear to be the work of a singular artist and entirety produced by one workshop. The utilisation of spectroscopy would give us more detailed and definitive information on the pigments used for illumination, but they are undoubtedly distinctive. Interestingly, it was observed that if the Bible had an initial French owner then they were not interested in leaving their mark in any way, as all evidence of marginal annotation is English in attribution.

After some much-needed fortification (in the form of tea, coffee and a selection of biscuits) the second session, chaired by Ms Roísín Astell (University of Kent), explored the context of the Lyghfield Bible’s reception in Canterbury from Paris. Getting things underway, Dr Emily Corran (University of Oxford/UCL) shed light on the tradition of Bible study at Canterbury, while Dr Claire Bartram (Christ Church Canterbury University) presented her findings on the book-culture of Canterbury and its surrounding areas. Lastly, Dr Eyal Poleg (Queen Mary University of London) had the challenging task of discussing the Lyghfield Bible’s place in the history of the Bible in England.

Exactitude in the when and how it came to Canterbury remains unknown, but an assortment of thought-provoking questions got everybody considering the Lyghfield Bible’s equally exciting ‘afterlife’ post-production, and broader aspects of identity and social status. Who would have the means and position to purchase such an elegant textual object? Was it brought over by a visiting scholar from the University of Paris? There is unfortunately no information available on book collecting, and provenance for the Lyghfield Bible in this regard remains obscure. However, interesting observations were made about its usage. Whilst almost certainly designed for personal use, issues with the nomenclature of ‘pocket bible’ were raised: indeed, for a still relatively weighty codex comprised from 590 leaves of vellum, you would need some thick-lined pockets to avoid doing yourself any damage.

After the workshop, delegates made their way down the hill to Canterbury Cathedral for a wonderful opportunity to see the Lyghfield Bible up close in person, and marvel at its size and beauty – a very special treat! The day culminated with a brilliant Annual Archives and Library Lecture entitled ‘Illuminating The Bible in Medieval Canterbury’ by Dr Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld Institute, London), and a celebratory glass (or two) at the drinks reception. The day was not only thoroughly enjoyable for those involved, but also a great success. Animated discussion on the life of the Lyghfield Bible, from its origin in thirteenth-century Paris to its time in Canterbury through the Early Modern period to the present day, explored fresh new perspectives and encouraged the possibility for future interdisciplinary and institutional collaboration. It also facilitated the opportunity for experts across a range of periods and disciplines to meet and reflect on what we know, do not know, and might yet know about the Lyghfield Bible. One thing is for certain, however: the Lyghfield Bible has an enticingly enigmatic past, and holds an equally exciting future, here in the city of Canterbury.

Jessica Schwindenhammer on the Lyghfield Bible workshop

Jessica Schwindenhammer |
Taught MA student, Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent

On 4 March 2019, MEMS lecturers, Dr. David Rundle and Dr. Emily Guerry organized a workshop celebrating the return of the Lyghfield Bible to Canterbury. The workshop focused on the production of the Lyghfield Bible in Paris and its reception in Canterbury. Over the course of three hours, attendees listened to six guest speakers associated with Canterbury Cathedral and the University of Kent, as well as visiting speakers from other universities. Additional events that took place included participating in Evensong and viewing the Lyghfield Bible at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. The day concluded with a public lecture at Canterbury Cathedral Lodge by Dr. Alixe Bovey.

Cressida Williams (Canterbury Cathedral Library) introduced the workshop by discussing how the acquisition of the Canterbury Trussel Bible (now Lyghfield Bible) was achieved. The Lyghfield Bible was spotted in an auction catalogue and acquired with the help of a private donation and a six-figure donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Dr. Alison Ray (Canterbury Cathedral Library), Dr. Emily Guerry (University of Kent), and Dr. David Rundle (University of Kent) placed the Lyghfield Bible into the context of book production in Paris by examining its illumination, illustrations, and marginalia.

Book production in Paris was centred on the studies that took place at universities such as the arts, theology, and scripture. Both secular and vernacular texts were created alongside the sacred and Latin texts. Additionally, people began to desire ‘pocket bibles’ similar to that of the Lyghfield Bible. In terms of illumination and illustration, the Lyghfield Bible was similar to other manuscripts produced in Paris. These other manuscripts seem to have been created by the Johannes Grusch Atelier. This group of artists created manuscripts in short periods of time by following a template that the artists knew would look aesthetically pleasing. The shared characteristic between the Lyghfield Bible and these other Grusch Atelier manuscripts included flat figures, C-shaped chins, and thick, spaghetti curls for hair. The marginalia provided in the Lyghfield Bible should provide information about previous owners and dating when it was in someone’s possession. What the marginalia does provide, however, is evidence of how it can misdirect us: early modern hands add a date of writing of 1353 and this has been thought to be based on an inscription that ends with ‘Aug.’ and a set of figures which have been read as a date. In fact, the inscription is a quotation from a work of Augustine, and the following figures a citation – there is no date there, and no basis for the claim elsewhere that it was produced in 1353. More work needs to be done to gain a complete understanding of the production and history of the Lyghfield Bible.

In the second session, Dr. Emily Corran (University of Oxford/University College London), Dr. Claire Bartram (Christ Church Canterbury University), and Dr. Eyal Poleg (Queen Mary University of London) examined the study of bibles and book culture in Canterbury. The study of bibles was inspired by the Parisian approach to education, so to read the book, people had to read both the actual text on the page as well as interpreting its spiritual meaning. While the text provided an understanding of biblical characters, events, and what people thought, the spiritual meaning provided theology and morality.

To obtain bibles as well as other books, markets were used to transmit information. People could own books, copy them, and trade them with other people. In Canterbury alone, there were 200 shops with various trades and workers. Some of these various shops enhanced book culture through the production of books. Looking at bibles, there is a typical layout which is also shared by the Lyghfield Bible. Every point is connected and is divided using chapter divisions. For the Lyghfield Bible, there is plenty of space for marginalia, but there is little evidence of annotations in the text. On the back flyleaf, there is a liturgical calendar paired with a list of biblical readings. To conclude, the Lyghfield Bible was used for individual use rather than public lectures. Despite the interest in bible study and book culture, readers did not leave many annotations in the Lyghfield Bible although there was space to do so.

The day culminated with a public lecture by Dr. Alixe Bovey, ‘Illuminating the Bible in Medieval Canterbury.’ Held in the Claggett Auditorium at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, Dr. Bovey’s lecture did not seem to have an empty seat in the room. In her lecture, Dr. Bovey examined Canterbury’s exchange of information through people and books, the sense of material culture which existed in the bible by using translations of text, images, stained glass, etc., and the concept of scale. To examine these themes further, Dr. Bovey incorporated various manuscripts that were recently featured in the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition such as the Codex Amiatinus, the Paris Psalter, and the Utrecht Psalter to name a few.

Throughout her lecture, attendees were told about the exchange of books and ideas between Canterbury and various other areas of Europe. In the case of material culture, by examining the Utrecht Psalter, Harley Psalter, and Eadwine Psalter similarities are shared between all three in the form of illustrations. Additionally, in the Eadwine Psalter, there are various Latin versions as well as Old English and Anglo-Norman French translations.

Lastly, scale was examined by including images of the manuscripts alongside her ruler. Dr. Bovey showed the evolution of scale for bibles starting with the notably large Codex Amiatinus to the ‘pocket-sized’ Lyghfield Bible. To conclude, Dr. Bovey made the same statements about the Lyghfield Bible that were made during the day’s earlier sessions such as its origins, similarities in illumination with other Johannes Grusch manuscripts, and that more is to be learned about its production. Dr. Alixe Bovey’s lecture was received well and was followed by a wine reception to celebrate the event.

This workshop has proved to be exciting for both the Canterbury Cathedral and MEMS at the University of Kent. The speakers provided insights on the future work that can be done on the Lyghfield Bible to be able to fully understand its production, contents, and history over time. Since the acquisition of the Lyghfield Bible, work has been completed to understand a small bit of its production and history. Now students, lecturers, and professionals can continue studying the Lyghfield Bible in its entirety. Additionally, what this workshop provided was insights into the work that can be done for manuscripts in general.

Reflections on the Lyghfield Bible workshop and lecture

In March 2019, a workshop and public lecture took place to celebrate the return to the City of Canterbury, a late-thirteenth century Parisian Bible (the ‘Lyghfield Bible’) which was acquired last year by the Cathedral’s Library and Archives. In the afternoon of Monday, 4th March the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) hosted a workshop, From Paris to Canterbury: the Lyghfield Bible in Context, bringing together experts on manuscript culture and the Bible in the thirteenth century. The same evening, Canterbury Cathedral held a public lecture, Illuminating the Bible in Medieval Canterbury, given by Dr Alixe Bovey of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Here, two current MEMS students – Cassandra Harrington and Jessica Schwindenhammer – reflect on the day and share the insights which they gained from these two events:

Read Jessica’s report | Read Cassandra’s report


‘Picture This…’ Dr David Rundle on The Lyghfield Bible

This month’s ‘Picture this…’ comes courtesy of MEMS’ own Dr David Rundle, and explores the Lyghfield Bible –  a gem of a manuscript whose early history places it in Canterbury, and which has recently been purchased by the Cathedral’s Library and Archives.  Dr Rundle writes;

It is not often that a new complete manuscript enters the ownership of an ancient institution, particularly when ‘new’ means later thirteenth-century. When an elegant pocket Bible with known Canterbury provenance came up for auction in the summer of 2018, the Cathedral was successful in its bid for it, thanks to support from generous donors. As a result, the Bible returned to a city it already knew well, and the Cathedral Archives became the possessor of a volume which is beguiling small (c. 173 × 112mm) but substantial (at 590 folios and weighing 700g) — you would have had to have capacious pockets to carry it. It is undeniably a work of impressive craftsmanship. More than that, though, it acts a gateway through which we can glimpse both a particular moment in the history of Christianity and some of the international connexions that defined medieval Canterbury…

Continue reading the full article at the ‘Picture This…’ pages of Canterbury Cathedral’s website.


Announcing our new Paris/Canterbury MA programme

MEMS is delighted to announce the launch of a new split-site Paris and Canterbury MA programme in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. From September 2019, our exciting new MA programme will provide the opportunity for in-depth study across a range of disciplines and will allow students to share their year between Paris and Canterbury.

Dr Emily Guerry, convenor of the new MEMS Paris/Canterbury MA commented; “This MA provides graduate students with unparalleled opportunities to study, live, and learn in two European cities steeped in a rich cultural heritage and it is the only one of its kind in the UK. I can’t wait to start teaching more MEMS students in Paris!”

Based on our long-running and highly successful MA, the new Paris/Canterbury MA programme offers a thorough grounding in the essential skills required for advanced academic analysis of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, including Latin, palaeography (the study of old handwriting), codicology (the study of pre-modern books). In addition, there is a fascinating range of optional modules to choose from, shaped by our cutting-edge research in a range of disciplines rooted in periods from the early medieval to the seventeenth-century.

Students will spend their first term in the historic city of Canterbury – an important focus for literary, religious, archaeological and architectural, and documentary scholarship. The spring term is based at Kent’s Paris School of Art and Culture, in the heart of historic Montparnasse. There students will participate in Paris-focused modules, taught in English, taking full advantage of the City’s extraordinary medieval and early modern cultural and material legacy.

Then in the final term (based in either Canterbury or Paris) students will complete their MA by writing a 12-15,000-word dissertation on a research topic defined in collaboration with their academic supervisors.

We welcome applications from enthusiastic students who want to embrace an interdisciplinary and dynamic pathway towards understanding the pre-modern past. Scholarships are available on a competitive basis. To find our more about the MEMS Paris/Canterbury MA programme and apply online, please see the University of Kent’s online prospectus or email

The 2019 Anselm Lecture by Prof Julia Smith

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the School of History invite you to this year’s Anselm Lecture, by Professor Julia Smith, Chichele Professor of Medieval History at All Souls College, University of Oxford.

Entitled, The Remains of the Saints; The Evidence of Early Medieval Relic Collections the lecture takes place at 6pm Thursday 21st March, 2019 in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 2 (GLT2).

All are welcome to the lecture and a wine reception afterwards.

Abstract of the lecture
This paper explores both the textual and material evidence for the nature of relics in Merovingian and Carolingian Europe.  Using the surviving relic assemblages at Saint Maurice d’Agaune and Sens in particular, it charts a gradual shift from associative to representational objects, and points out the slowly increasing attention to body part relics.

About the speaker
Julia Smith is Chichele Professor of Medieval History at All Souls College, University of Oxford.  Her current research addresses the materiality of Christian experience in the Middle Ages. She is concerned with ‘things which do things’, and use an ethnographic approach to exploring how, why and in what social contexts a wide range of material substances acquired a sacred aura, serving as mediators between humans and the divinity. The result will be a book on the emergence and development of the cult of relics from the 4th to the 11th centuries. This research draws heavily on approaches and methodologies derived from her earlier publications on the history of women and gender in the early Middle Ages (a field in which she retains a strong interest) but also has a strong cross-cultural dimension. Beyond that, Prof Smith is interested in developing interdisciplinary approaches to studying the abundant material remains of late antique and early medieval relic-objects which she has discovered while undertaking field work in the treasuries of some of Europe’s oldest churches.

MEMS Welcomes Dr Paul Dryburgh as an Honorary Fellow

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Dr Paul Dryburgh, Principal Record Specialist at the National Archives, as an Honorary Fellow of the Centre of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) for the next three years. Said Dr Ryan Perry, Co-Director of MEMS:

A number of our PhD students whose research has taken them to the National Archives will already know of the advice, support and training that Dr Dryburgh has generously given to members of the MEMS community, particularly to those who have taken up placements in the National Archives. Paul has an impressive constellation of skills and interests that makes him a fantastic asset to the National Archives- and now a most welcome addition to the MEMS team. We are hoping to celebrate Paul’s official affiliation with MEMS in the near future, including having him lead a workshop for postgraduates on using the archives and documentary materials as part of research projects.

Dr Dryburgh’s online staff profile at the National Archives describes him as, ‘an archivist and historian who specialises in government and society in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. After completing his doctorate at the University of Bristol, Paul worked for a decade on academic research projects, which included the creation of a handbook for sources relating to medieval Ireland at The National Archives and an online and in-print edition of the Fine Rolls of King Henry III (1216-72).
Prior to joining The National Archives as a Medieval Record Specialist in 2014, Paul worked as an access archivist at the Borthwick Institute, University of York.
Paul’s current research interests include ecclesiastical records, medieval Ireland, and the materiality of collections, particularly seals. He is also has a keen interest in the training of training of linguistic and palaeographic skills needed to access medieval records.
Paul’s work has involved considerable engagement with digital humanities and the creation of large datasets with potential for linking data, and he is keen to explore future opportunities in this field.
Paul is Joint General Editor of the Pipe Roll Society, Honorary Secretary of the Lincoln Record Society, and President of the Mortimer History Society. He is also a member of the AHRC peer review college’.

Details of the research workshops which Dr Dryburgh will be running for postgraduate students at the University of Kent will be announced soon.

Workshop on the Lyghfield Bible

From Paris to Canterbury: the Lyghfield Bible in Context
Monday 4th March, 1.00-5.30pm, The Peter Brown Room (Darwin College, University of Kent)

MEMS invites you to a half-day workshop run in collaboration with Canterbury Cathedral to celebrate the return to the city of a gem of a manuscript, a Parisian Bible of the late thirteenth century. Its early history places it in Canterbury so it was highly appropriate that the Cathedral should purchase it, with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral when it came up for auction in the summer of 2018.

The workshop is organised by Drs David Rundle and Emily Guerry. It will bring together experts on the Bible in the thirteenth century and on manuscript culture who will present short papers intended to stimulate questions and discussion. The event will begin with a light lunch at 1pm, and will run until 5:30pm. It will be followed by a public lecture organised by the Cathedral and held in its precincts, given by Dr Alixe Bovey (Courtauld Institute, London), and entitled ‘Illuminating the Bible in Medieval Canterbury’. The lecture will start at 6:45pm, and will be followed by a drinks reception.

While the lecture is open to everyone, please note that workshop numbers are strictly limited and places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please register on Eventbrite as early as possible to reserve a place.

Early Modernist Research Associate opportunity

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the School of English are seeking to recruit a Research Associate for a two-year contract to work with Professor Catherine Richardson (Principal Investigator), Dr Tara Hamling at the University of Birmingham and Professor Graeme Earl at King’s London (Co-Is), on the AHRC-funded project entitled The Cultural Lives of the Middling Sort: writing and material culture 1560-1660. The project will examine the cultural lives of the literate, urban ‘middling sort’ in early modern England, analysing the broad range of written and material forms with which they were engaged as producers and consumers.

As a Research Associate you will:

•Transcribe manuscript writings in personal and urban archives, and evidence of textual engagement from probate materials.
•Assist with the project’s impact activities, including working with the project partners on the selection of material for an online exhibition and KS3 educational resource.
•Write a series of blog posts for the project’s website that reflect upon the development of your research.

To be successful in this role you will have:
•Completed a PhD in a relevant area of Early Modern Studies.
•Have Palaeographical skills in 16/17C handwriting of various kinds.
•Have experience of archival work and research interests in early modern literature or social and cultural history.

The closing date for applications is 1st March 2019, with interviews held on 12th March 2019 (interviews are expected to take place in London). For a full job description and to apply, please see the University of Kent’s recruitment website.