Monday, July 30, 2018



10-11 SEPTEMBER 2018


The introduction of paper to the West was a major technological innovation that transformed the ways in which texts of all kinds were transmitted. Having proved itself over many centuries as the intellectual fabric of Asian and Middle Eastern societies, the medium continued to demonstrate an extraordinary capacity for adaptation and diversification when it arrived in Europe. The stuff of playing cards, votive offerings and amulets, packaging and toilet tissue, wall-coverings and quilt-linings, paper was also crucial to the development of quotidian, democratized literacies and to the unfurling of national bureaucracies and capitalist economies. Light (in a single sheet) yet heavy (in a massive folio), durable yet fragile and throwaway, paper’s ability to combine contrary qualities and its willingness to enter into alliance with other substances and technologies helped it seep into every sphere of daily life. Paper’s smooth surface masked fundamental changes in substance — in particular the move from the rag-paper of the late medieval and early modern periods to the wood-pulp paper of modernity. Its protean surface facilitated deep continuities and extraordinary ruptures in European cultural history.

A spate of recent publications has demonstrated the urgency of getting to grips with paper, at a turning-point in our relations with it. The aim of "Paper-stuff" is to meet this urgency. It will bring together experts in the field, theorists of material culture and representatives of a variety of disciplines with a stake in the subject, so as to understand paper’s empire in the West. "Paper-stuff" will also take stock of rapidly evolving technologies available for the analysis of paper.

Plenary speakers:
Professor Pádraig Ó Macháin (University College Cork) Linda Toigo (paper artist)

For the draft programme, see

To register, visit

For further information please contact one of the organisers:
Dr Orietta Da Rold (
Dr Jason Scott-Warren (
Sponsor: The British Academy

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Exhibition - Personifying Plague

A new exhibition in the Whipple Library - Personifying Plague: Visualisations of Plague in Western Medical History - will be on view from 3pm on Thursday 19th of July until the end of October.

The exhibition has been curated by Ranana Dine, and was inspired by research she undertook during her MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“How scientific objects end. A workshop”

Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
December 3rd and 4th, 2018

 In his 2009 paper “We have never been Whiggish (about Phlogiston)”, Hasok Chang pointed at the difficulty of writing a history of the Chemical Revolution in terms of winners and losers, of new and old, of Oxygen and Phlogiston. Similarly, the forthcoming book Ether and Modernity (OUP, 2018) portrays a more complex image of the presence of the ether in the early twentieth century than usually depicted. Phlogiston and the Ether are indeed two favourite examples in traditional philosophies of scientific change: new theories and experiments supposedly proved those entities never to have existed and only wrongly considered as scientific. Post-hoc histories of such objects and the processes of their abandonment, however, are not necessarily neutral on the ontology of the objects and can often create a new entity, one that is certainly dead, but not necessarily equal to the one that was supposedly killed. In other words, writing about dead scientific objects can turn into a process of object formation that perfectly demarcates the properties of the dead object in new ways.

This workshop addresses the afterlives of scientific objects by paying attention to the role played by the histories of defunct objects in their configuration qua deceased entities. Such narratives include not only later historical accounts but also the early ‘obituaries’ of the objects (written by the actors involved in their rejection), laboratory and museum catalogues (in the cases of instruments and other material objects), and pedagogical and popular accounts.

Please send expressions of interest either to attend or to present new research at the workshop to by September 15th, 2018. Registration will be required but free of charge.

Confirmed speakers:
  • Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens): “Do scientific objects have a life (which may end)?”
  • Daniel Belteki (University of Kent): “Lost in the production of time and space: the transformation of the Airy Transit Circle from a working telescope to a museum object.” 
  • Hasok Chang (University of Cambridge): “Is the Voltaic contact potential dead?” 
  • Moritz Epple (Göethe Universität): “Have Vortex Atoms ever been alive? On an unstable existence between the Unseen Universe and new mathematics.” 
  • Alexandra Ion (Romanian Academy and University of Cambridge): “Itineraries after death: thinking about time and agency through anachronistic specimens caught in anthropological collections.” 
  • Jaume Navarro (University of the Basque Country): “The historiographical relevance of the early obituaries of the ether.” 
  • Mat Paskins (London School of Economics): “Dyeing Off: the death of dyestuffs as chemical objects.” 
  • Greg Radick (University of Leeds): “There was no such thing as the Mendelian gene and this is a talk about it.” 
  • Jennifer Rampling (Princeton University): tba 
  • Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge): “The object of death in oriental natural history.”
  • Richard Staley (University of Cambridge): “The Undead in Climate History: The death and afterlife of the Medieval Warm Period.”

Friday, July 06, 2018

Conference - The Visual Worlds of the Royal Society

Details here.


Monday 16 July 2018

Sachiko Kusukawa (University of Cambridge): Welcome & Introduction

Alexander Marr (University of Cambridge): William Sanderson's Criticism and Copying

Matthew Walker (University of New Mexico): Oblivious to the Ancient and Moderns? The Royal Society and John Evelyn's Translation of Fréart's Parallel

Rebekah Higgitt (University of Kent): The Making of a Medal: The Iconography and Manufacture of the Royal Society's Copley Medal c. 1736-1742

Henrietta McBurney Ryan (University of Cambridge): Mark Catesby and the Royal Society

Sietske Fransen (University of Cambridge): Netherlandish Influences on the Visual World of the Royal Society

 Kate Bennett (University of Oxford): John Aubrey's Prospects

Karin Leonhard & Elisa von Minnigerode (Universität Konstanz): John Finch. A Lynx with a Knife

Spike Bucklow (Hamilton Kerr Institute Cambridge): The Paston Treasure


Tuesday 17 July 2018

Andrew Burnett (British Museum): 'They found a great quantity of Roman money'. Institutions and Coin Collecting in the 17th Century

Frances Hughes (University of Cambridge): Visual Discernment in the Calligraphy Collection of Samuel Pepys

Katherine M. Reinhart (University of Cambridge): Institutional Image-Makers: Richard Waller and Claude Perrault

Katy Barrett (Science Museum): George Gabb 'The Physical Laboratory of the Académie des Sciences' and Unpicking the Visual Worlds of the Royal Society

 Felicity Henderson (University of Exeter): Closing Remarks

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

CFP - Literary Birds

Call for Papers: Literary Birds

A Durham University Conference

Durham Castle, UK, 11 – 12 October 2018

Keynote Speaker: Professor Simon Armitage

Throughout human history, birds have occupied a significant ubiquity in our physical and psychological existence. Our deep, yet conflicted relationship with birds is reflected in their enduring presence in the literary imagination from ancient to recent times. Leonard Lutwack notes that their ‘familiarity and transcendence have given birds a wider range of meaning and symbol in literature than any other animal’ (Birds in Literature, 1994). Paradoxically, as the non-human animal world diminishes in an ever increasing industrialist, capitalist society, human technological sophistication deepens our appreciation of its subtleties and complexities. This challenges the human-centric notion of a hierarchy of beings, which in turn persuades us to reappraise our ethical relationships to, and uses of, bird species. Current debates in Animal Studies and Speciesism encourage radical reassessments of notions of the literary animal, with the bird, arguably the most prevalent animal in literature, relatively neglected. Concurrently, award-winning literary output, such as Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (2014), and Nicholas Royle’s collection of avian tales, Ornithology (2017), confirm that the literary bird is just as potent now as it was for the Grecian songster.

‘Literary Birds’ celebrates avian literary encounters in their myriad manifestations. We would be delighted to welcome the submission of abstracts for 20-minute papers from postgraduate researchers, early career researchers, and established academics, which address the role of the bird in literature from ancient to modern times. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
  • Aspects of the literary bird, such as birdsong, feathers, flight, and nesting
  • Appraisals of and/or legacies of particular species of birds (e.g. the prevalence of the canary in nineteenth-century poetry and fiction)
  • Biblical, mythic, and folkloric birds
  • The bird in poetry and/or as poet
  • The bird and utopian and/or dystopian literature
  • The bird as gothic trope and/or the bird in ‘horror’ literature
  • Bird symbolism
  • The bird and gender politics
  • ‘Othered’ birds and avatars (e.g. the parrot in Wide Sargasso Sea and Treasure Island)
  • Film adaptations related to literary birds
  • Literary-visual intersections (e.g. bird illustrations and avian ekphrasis)
  • The prevalence of bird-related fiction titles
  • Bird ownership in literary circles
  • Literary birds in light of bird cultures, beliefs, and practices (e.g. hunting and eating, the emergence of pre-Darwinian natural histories, taxidermy, cabinet collections, bird ownership, and falconry)
Please send an abstract of 150-200 words, along with a brief biographical note (also 150-200 words), to the conference organisers, Professor Stephen Regan and Helena Habibi, by Wednesday 15 August 2018, to We look forward to reading your abstracts.