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Cambridge University Library

Sandars Lectures 2020-21 - Paper in Time

Sandars Lectures 2020-21

Hosted by Cambridge University Libraries

The Sandars Readership in Bibliography is one of the most prestigious honorary posts to which book historians, librarians and researchers can be appointed. Those elected deliver a series of lectures on their chosen subject.

Lecture One: Paper in Time

This year's first Sandars lecture tells the story of paper’s relation to time. Only tentatively can we date the majority of medieval books produced in Britain. Such ambiguity hinders how we can contextualise and discuss the texts written in them and the social interactions that medieval books enjoyed. The lecture will discuss how the study of paper can contribute to a chronology of medieval British books, it will consider some of the principles of such chronology and propose that ‘sequencing paper’ can be as distinctive and exciting as sequencing the human genome.

About the series: Paper Past and Paper Future

Paper is so common in our everyday life that we sometimes fail to notice it. It is available in all sorts of shapes, degrees of quality and colour. We rely on paper for the quotidian and the extraordinary. We think with paper, we write with paper, we create with paper, we imagine with paper and we feel through paper. It is both ephemeral and long lasting. The digital revolution, heralding the demise of paper, turned out to be a technological evolution, and we have discovered, or perhaps are still discovering, that these two technologies can accommodate rather than compete against one another.

The arrival of paper in medieval Europe also heralded an era of technological innovation and evolution. Drawing on extensive research in Cambridge collections and beyond, Orietta Da Rold will consider the significance of this material as a commodity and particularly as the stuff of which books are made. These lectures are about the stories that medieval paper can tell. Looking differently at the books on the shelves of our libraries, paper unfolds fascinating stories of technological innovation, transnational interactions and human ingenuity. 

About the speaker:

Dr Orietta Da Rold is an Associate Professor at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of St John’s College. She has published widely on medieval textual cultures and manuscript studies. She has recently published Paper in Medieval Britain: From Pulp to Fiction (CUP), which emerged from her British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, and edited the Cambridge Companion to British Manuscripts with Elaine Treharne. She is currently working on a project provisionally entitled ‘Paper in Time and Space’.

Attending this lecture: 

This lecture is free and open to all. The event will take place in Robinson College’s Umney Theatre in Cambridge and will be simultaneously live streamed via Youtube. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person, or watch online. For those attending in person please be aware that seating in the Umney Theatre will operate at full capacity. Help us to keep everyone safe by wearing a face covering where possible, and by respecting other people’s personal space as you enter and depart the building. We encourage attendees to take a Lateral Flow Test 24 hours in advance of the lecture. 

Registration to attend via live-stream has now closed. If you missed out but would like to tune in, please email and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

If you would like to attend in-person, CLICK HERE to register.

Image: Cambridge University Library, MS Dd.4.24

Date: Tuesday 9th November