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Cambridge University Library

Sandars Lectures 2020-21 - Paper Futures

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 Three: Paper Futures

The third and final Sandars Lecture will explore the relevance and future of paper studies. The technological tension between parchment and paper is a common ground of debate amongst medieval book and archival historians. We can see similar considerations in the discussion around paper and new technologies. Rather than focusing on what can be perceived as tensions, imagining future technological scenarios offers renewed possibilities for collaborative thinking centred on the study of medieval paper. How can we bring the study of medieval paper into the future and how can two technologies, one of the past and one of the future, work together to enhance and share knowledge and tell new stories?

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 one another, rather than compete against one other.

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’.

How you can attend 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: Credit - Maciej M Pawlikowski

Date: Thursday 11th November