Welcome to the website for the University of Pennsylvania's Workshop in the History of Material Texts! Here you can find announcements about upcoming events as well as a searchable database of seminars we have held since the fall of 1996. (Information about speakers and talks from the initial years of the Workshop has unfortunately been lost. If you have such information, please contact us.)
We are planning to be in person on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library in Spring 2022, and we are also live-streaming all events. For updates and Zoom links, please sign up for our listserv.
Recordings of previous talks are available on our YouTube channel.
On Monday, January 24th at 5:15 PM, we will be welcoming Pamela H. Smith (Columbia) for a talk entitled “Making and Knowing in Early Modern How-To Texts.” Pamela writes:
An intriguing late sixteenth-century anonymous manuscript, Ms. Fr. 640 (now held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France), contains over 900 "recipes" for objects of art and of everyday use. In 2020, the Making and Knowing Project released a digital critical edition and English translation of this manuscript (https://edition640.makingandknowing.org). The technical and artistic content of Ms. Fr. 640 provides an opportunity to explore the meanings and conceptualization of making and materials in early modern how-to texts, as well as the type of knowledge they contain. The lecture will also introduce the digital edition of Ms. Fr. 640.
Pamela H. Smith is Seth Low professor of history at Columbia University, and founding Director of the Center for Science and Society and of its cluster project The Making and Knowing Project. Her articles and books examine craft and practice, and its relationship to scientific knowledge. The Body of the Artisan (2004), and her forthcoming From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World (Chicago 2022) make a case for treating craft/art as a way of knowing. Her edited volumes, Ways of Making and Knowing (ed. with Amy R. W. Meyers and Harold Cook, pbk 2017) and The Matter of Art (ed. with Christy Anderson and Anne Dunlop, pbk 2016), treat materiality, making and meaning. An edited volume, Entangled Itineraries: Materials, Practices, and Knowledges across Eurasia (2019), deals with the movement of materials and knowledge across Eurasia before 1800. In the collaborative research and teaching initiative, The Making and Knowing Project, she and the Making and Knowing Team investigate the intersection of craft making and scientific knowing by text-, object-, and laboratory-based research on technical texts. In 2020 they released a digital critical edition and English translation of a sixteenth-century technical and artistic manual as Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France.
The Stallybrass Prize in the History of Material Texts will be awarded annually to the two best essays by students in any school at Penn—one by an undergraduate, one by a graduate student—on any aspect of how texts take material form and circulate in the world. Our field covers texts of all kinds, from printed books, manuscripts, scrolls, and tablets, to e-readers, websites, hard disks, and server farms; from illuminations, woodcuts, and engravings, to GIFs and TIFFs; from title pages, flyleaf advertisements, and dealer catalogues, to listservs and email signatures. We are interested in printing and publishing histories, authorship, reception, piracy, censorship, and all themes related to the networks through which these texts circulate.
The Prize honors Peter Stallybrass, Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor Emeritus of English, who founded Penn's Workshop in the History of Material Texts in 1993. The seminar has been meeting every Monday evening since then, at 5:15 in the Kislak Center, Van Pelt Library. It has been one of the most influential institutions in the field and has led to numerous similar workshops around the world.
Like the Workshop itself, we encourage work that brings together the technical, material, and cultural aspects of texts. Essays will be judged by the directors of the Workshop and members of its Advisory Board, listed on the About page.
Congratulations to our Spring 2021 winners!
Winner: Vito Acosta, "The Act of Authorship in Early China"
Honorable Mention: Zoe Braccia, “‘Payment Received in Full’: Women’s Labor Contributions to the Philadelphia Printing Industry at the Turn of the 19th Century”
Co-winner: Drew Starling, “Unmasking Publius: Authorial Attribution and the Making of The Federalist”
Co-winner: Natale Vacalebre, “Divine Markets: Producing, Selling and Reading Dante’s Commedia in the Early Typographic Age"