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Manuscripts After Print

  • Project Dates: From February 2019 - July 2020
  • Project Leader: Dr Aditi Nafde
  • Staff: Dr Matthew Coneys, Dr Kate Court, Fiona Galston, Susan Hufton
  • Sponsors: AHRC

Manuscripts After Print was an AHRC-funded project that investigated the production and readership of handwritten books after the invention of print. The project ran from February 2019 to July 2020. 

The project was led by Dr. Aditi Nafde in collaboration with rare book librarians, calligraphers, printers, booksellers, and digital specialists to answer a pertinent question: why is handwriting still important?

The way we read is in flux. We are in the midst of the 'digital revolution' which challenges the way books are available to their readers and how they are produced, sold, and read. Yet the popularity of printed books and handwritten crafts continues to grow. This AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow project, Manuscripts after Print c.1450-1550: Producing and Reading Books during Technological Change, took advantage of the current, crucial moment in the history of the book to examine the way in which books were produced and read in the past, the way they are produced and read now, and the way they might be produced and read in the future.

The archive-based research investigates the effect of print on the production, perception, and reading of manuscripts c.1450-1550, challenging the general narrative that the rise of print was also the decline of manuscripts. 

Alongside this, the project asks two broader questions: what is the relevance of handwriting in a digital age? how might the book look in the future? Most readers have a preference between paper books and digital books, and between handwriting and typing, which sparks strong feeling and debate. Two articles published in quick succession in The Guardian, 'EBooks are stupid' (20 Feb 2018) and 'Ebooks are not stupid' (21 Feb 2018), demonstrates this strength of feeling. The project engaged with librarians, booksellers, artists, creative practitioners, and the wider reading public to consider the ongoing significance of handwriting.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences