Ann Blair to give 2023 MEMS Renaissance Lecture

MEMS is delighted to be able to invite you to this year’s Renaissance Lecture. We are very honoured to be hosting Prof. Ann Blair, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University as our Renaissance Lecturer for 2023. She is one of the world’s leading scholars of the intellectual life of the Renaissance world. Her work, for instance Too Much to Know (2010), often has striking contemporary resonances. At 5:30pm on Friday 26th May in the University of Kent’s Templeman Lecture Theatre, she will be sharing with us her new research on ‘The appeal of composite books for learned printers and authors in the Renaissance’.

Prof. Blair explains her topic:

A number of learned books in the Renaissance were composite, by which I mean that they comprised multiple texts, by one or more authors. Famous works like Erasmus’s Praise of Folly or Thomas More’s Utopia for example were not first published in standalone editions as we encounter them today, but rather in composite volumes, alongside other unrelated texts. In this talk I’ll ponder some of the reasons for the appeal of publishing multiple texts together in composite volumes. My main case study will focus on Conrad Gessner of Zurich (1516-1565), who published more than sixty books, among them his well-known folio volumes of natural history and bibliography. I draw on the printing histories and abundant paratexts in this corpus to suggest some of the reasons why he and his printers favored composite volumes, notably: to justify a new edition of a text already published by other printers, to add name recognition, to produce a book of sufficient heft, to avoid leaving pages blank at the end of a quire. I propose that these findings could apply to other author-printer relationships, in cases where we do not have good evidence for what motivated composite volumes.

You are welcome to join us in person but if you cannot travel to the campus, please contact the Co-Directors of MEMS, Drs Rory Loughnane and David Rundle, for a Zoom link.