Workshop in the  History of  Material Texts
HMT About Search Events Impact

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 meet each Monday on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania. We also live-stream our events via Zoom. For updates and Zoom links, please sign up for our listserv.

Recordings of previous talks are available on our YouTube channel.


Next Meeting

On Monday, March 27th at 5:15 PM, we will be welcoming Tiffany Stern (University of Birmingham) for a talk entitled “Clown Images in and Beyond the Early Modern Playhouse.” Tiffany writes:

My talk will be on the clown Richard Tarlton (d. 1588) and his use of print as part of his branding. It is in two parts. The first half, ‘living Tarlton’, will consider the way Tarlton wrote and sold printed ballads as an extension of his clowning throughout his life, bringing the print trade into the playhouse. The second half, ‘dead Tarlton’, is on the way Tarlton’s print brand thrived posthumously, so that texts by but also about him became a staple of theatre sales. Exploring how a posthumous picture of Tarlton, apparently sold in the playhouse, worked its way into the copybooks, and onto the houses, taverns and lavatories of early modern England, it will argue that the early modern theatres’ thriving print trade had clowning, and specifically Tarlton, at its heart.

Tiffany Stern, FBA, is Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Literature at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. She has published twelve books and editions on sixteenth to eighteenth century dramatic literature, book history, theatre history, editing and Shakespeare, including Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (2000), Making Shakespeare (2004), [with Simon Palfrey] Shakespeare in Parts (2007), Documents of Early Modern Performance (2009), Rethinking Theatrical Documents (2020), and Shakespeare, Malone and the Problems of Chronology (2023). A general editor of three flagship series, New Mermaids Plays (with William C. Carroll), The Norton Anthology of English Literature (16th century; with Stephen Greenblatt), and Arden Shakespeare Fourth Series (with Peter Holland and Zachary Lesser), she was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2019.


The Stallybrass Prize in the History of Material Texts

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 2022 winners!

Undergraduate Category:

Winner: Katherine Hann, "An Analysis of the History of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels"

Honorable Mention: Quinn Gruber, “Crestomazia dei poeti italiani del Cinquecento: un manoscritto ignoto ed enigmatico”

Graduate Category:

Matthew G. Aiello, "Trauma, Aurality, and the Wounded Orrmulum Manuscript (c. 1170)"


2022–23 Recordings

                                        University of Pennsylvania Logo                               Logo for the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts