SRS Postdoctoral Fellows 2022-2023

July 24, 2022
By News Updates

The Fellowships Committee is pleased to announce James Misson and Julia Smith have been awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships for 2022-2023. We received 29 applications this year and, as ever, the field was exceptionally strong.

James Misson, ‘Manuscript>Print>Code’

In the 1490s, the printer Richard Pynson and his team of compositors printed two books using Middle English manuscripts as their copy texts: a religious dialogue called Dives & Pauper, and John Lydgate’s 36000-line poem, The Fall of Princes. Against all odds, the manuscripts used to print these editions have survived. By comparing the texts, we can see that the process of typesetting allowed the compositors to make many linguistic and typographic changes, imbuing the texts with their own idiolects and typographical whims. What can we learn about the technique and language of these compositors — and early compositors in general — by comparing the manuscripts with the printed editions at scale? Using digital humanities techniques, we are able to do so: this project will compare transcripts of the copy texts made using the AI-powered platform Transkribus with the XML files produced by EEBO-TCP, augmented with part-of-speech tagging by the EarlyPrint project. Using the programming language Python, the practices of these early compositors can be revealed by creating statistical and visual representations of those textual features deemed worth editing, or where textual fidelity was more important, as well as the influence of the manuscripts’ mise-en-page on the appearance of the printed books.


Julia Smith, ‘Resplendent Piety: Printed Religious Books as Luxury Objects in the Sixteenth Century’

Resplendent Piety is a project about how printed books served as luxury material objects for both Catholic and Lutheran audiences in the German-speaking lands in the early sixteenth century. The project marries two discrete fields in book and art history: the material culture of early printed books, and the impact of the Reformation on religious art. The project has two parts: firstly, it will examine how pre-Reformation Catholic book owners had their printed devotional books lavishly and expensively hand coloured to transform a relatively cheap, mass-produced book into an opulent and unique art object. Secondly, it will explore how, despite Martin Luther’s emphasis on the didactic function of images, and the primacy of the Word of God, sixteenth-century owners of Luther Bibles continued this earlier tradition of lavishly colouring their religious printed books. The project will demonstrate the trans-denominational nature of customising religious books, whereby owners of both confessions invested a spiritually valuable book with significant material value. In doing so, the project will shed new light on how the material culture of religiously significant objects transcended the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

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