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 are back in person on the 6th floor of Van Pelt Library in Fall 2021, 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.


Next Meeting

On Monday, December 6th at 5:15 PM, we will be welcoming Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University) for a talk entitled “Unstable Access to the Print Record: The Case of Back Number Budd and 19th Century Newspapers.” Ellen writes:

Nineteenth century institutions did not consider old newspapers valuable and did not reliably save them. Researchers and others who needed outdated newspapers and even magazines had little chance of finding what they wanted unless they happened to learn of Robert M. Budd, better known as Back Number Budd. This African American dealer in old newspapers in New York City stockpiled millions of old newspapers, operating from around 1880 into the early 1930s. My talk will explore Budd’s pioneering work, his novel methods of obtaining materials, and how racism constrained his business and customers’ understanding of it. Growing out of my earlier work on newspaper clipping scrapbooks, this talk discusses varied ways people saved and used old newspapers. Our recent experiences as researchers and scholars who have been blocked from access to research materials during COVID lockdown and restrictions has sensitized us to questions of access. My talk will examine restrictions on newspaper access, and the difficulties people had finding and gaining access to information sources in the 19th century.  

Ellen Gruber Garvey’s two award-winning books are Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance and The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture (both Oxford UP). Her articles on print culture include work on abolitionists’ use of newspapers as data, women periodical editors, Alice Dunbar Nelson’s suffrage scrapbooks, the recirculation of newspaper items, book advertising, and zines. She is currently back at work on a project on late 19th century stories about slave ships. She is Professor Emerita at New Jersey City University.


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 2021 winners!

Undergraduate Category:

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”

Graduate Category:

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"


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