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The John Rylands Research Institute

Past events

Annual Lectures

Annual Lecture 2017

The Institute's Annual Lecture for 2017 is to be given by Professor Michael Wood, Professor of Public History, University of Manchester. Professor Wood will deliver a lecture entitled: 'The Anglo-Saxons and the Making of England'.
It is often forgotten, but the roots of England lie before the Norman Conquest: the foundations of the English state were laid by three generations of the Wessex royal family; Alfred the Great, his son Edward and daughter Aethelflaed, and his grandson Aethelstan.

In this illustrated talk - which will include not just the manuscript treasures of The University of Manchester's Special Collections at The John Rylands library but also Ladybird books and cigarette cards - Michael Wood shows how these rulers made their England by using the ideas of Europe's first renaissance, the Carolingian.

Even more than the Tudors, he will argue, they were the most gifted and influential royals in English history.

Without them, the story of Britain might have been radically different: no English state perhaps; no English law, nor English ideas about government; and maybe the English language would not be the world's language?

Annual Lecture 2016

The 2016 Annual Lecture was inspired by Greek tragedy and the Arabian Nights, and entitled Oracular Narrative: Timing and Truth Telling.

The lecture was delivered by Historian, author and winner of the Holberg Prize 2015 Professor Dame Marina Warner DBE CBE FBA FRSL. 

A writer of fiction, criticism and history, Professor Warner has published novels and short stories as well as studies of art, myths, symbols and fairy tales. Her book Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.  Her earlier writings explore female symbols and mythic figures, such as the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, while more recently she has concentrated on fairy tales, including the Arabian Nights. Her fiction, such as The Leto Bundle and Fly Away Home, a recent collection of short stories, is also inspired by traditional stories, folklore and myth, and attempts to translate them into contemporary significance - to re-vision them. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, London, a Fellow of the British Academy, President of the British Comparative Literature Association, and has been given Honorary Doctorates at several universities. Professor Warner supplied a list of authors and works mentioned and recommended for further information. 


Guardian conference 2017

'Comment is free but facts are sacred': The Guardian in Local, National and Global History

A conference at The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester, Thursday 6 April 2017

John Rylands Research Institute Conference 2016: “The Other Within - The Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library”

  • Date: Monday, 27 June to Wednesday, 29 June 2016
  • Location: The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH

The Conference

The John Rylands Library preserves one of the world’s valuable collections of Hebrew and Jewish manuscripts, archives and printed books.

The holdings span Septuagint fragments to the papers of Moses Gaster and Samuel Alexander. The Rylands Genizah and rich collections of medieval manuscript codices and early printed books are among the strengths of the collection, making The John Rylands Library an important centre for the study of Judaism from the ancient world to the twentieth century.

The aim of this conference is to convene scholars, curators and students researching areas represented in the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish collections, including (but not limited to):

  • the Cairo Genizah;
  • medieval Hebrew manuscript codices;
  • early printed Hebrew books;
  • Samaritan manuscripts;
  • the collections of Moses Gaster.

It will take place as part of a programme of activities at The John Rylands Research Institute that aim to facilitate the study of the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish holdings.  This includes the 2015-2018 externally-funded project to catalogue the Hebrew manuscripts and two ongoing projects on the Gaster collections.


Public lecture

A public lecture will take place as part of the conference programme on the evening of Tuesday 28 June 2016. The lecture will be given by Dr Sarit Shalev-Eyni (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on, “New Light from Manchester on Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts: The John Rylands Collection and its Significance”. This lecture is open to all, and members of the public are warmly invited to attend.

Going Digital with Humanities Research

Convenor: Dr Stefania Silvestri, Research Associate, John Rylands Research Institute

When: Wednesday, 27 January - Thursday, 28 January 2016

Where: Samuel Alexander Building, The University of Manchester

For further details on this up and coming conferences please contact:

Visiting professorship events 2016/2017

Professor Alan Bowman, Vice President (Humanities) British Academy.

Public Lecture - Memory, Vision and Cognition: Deciphering Ancient Documents in the Digital Age

23 March 2017

Exciting major developments in imaging technology and computer vision in the past twenty years have provided documentary historians with an unprecedented and very sophisticated tool-kit for accessing and understanding historical and linguistic information in ancient documents, which are often damaged and apparently illegible.  Such technologies cannot be regarded as providing a process of ‘automated reading’.  The role of the human ‘expert reader’ remains - and will always remain - critical for deciphering and interpreting texts and other material objects in a combination of visual perception and cognition, applied in conjunction with acquired knowledge of the subject-matter and the historical context.  Drawing on a variety of ancient documents written on stone and wood and ranging in origin from Egypt and the Middle East to Hadrian’s Wall, Professor Bowman will illustrate the complex interplay between these processes and offer some broader thoughts about the ways in which new technologies are now crucial in helping to improve our understanding of the past.

Professor Tracy C. Davis, Barber Professor of Performing Arts, Northwestern University, USA.

Public Lecture - A Victorian Woman Ventures Securely into Men’s Realms: Journalism, Politics, and Radical Advocacy

22 March 2017

Of the 241 Victorian theatre critics known to have written for the popular press, only one is known to be a woman; she, Pearl Craigie (1867-1906), daughter of an American millionaire and a well-connected socialite, concentrated her efforts on writing fiction and plays.  In stark contrast, new research makes a claim for a significantly earlier exponent of dramatic criticism.  Amelia Chesson (1833-1902) was the lower-middle-class daughter of an anti-slavery lecturer, George Thompson, well-connected in the sense of knowing the leading Radical activists of her day but never coming to prominence in her own right despite a lifetime of reviewing live art, starting with the Liberal daily The Morning Star and concluding with a long stint as book reviewer for the Athenaeum. Focusing on the onset of Chesson’s career, this research asks how a middle-class woman could undertake such work in the 1850s.  Evidence from Chesson’s diary (and that of her husband) demonstrates the kinds of spectatorial activities and social networks that first brought her this work, then sustained her ability to perform it on a semi-regular basis.  What is particularly interesting about this case is not just that she represents a “female first” but rather how she garnered the expertise to make the work possible, when her fertility made it impossible, how she managed it in conjunction with domestic responsibilities, the assignments considered appropriate for or by her, and the practicalities of evening work and early-hours deadlines that she met. 

Professor Frederic Bauden, Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Liège (Belgium). 

Public Lecture - "Of Buying Many Books There is No End”: Towards a History of the John Rylands Library's Collection of Islamic Manuscripts. 

2 February 2017

Masterclass - A holistic approach to manuscript studies

13-17 February 2017

This masterclass was aimed at Postgraduate students who need to work on Islamic manuscripts for their research.  The class provided them with the most important tools and methods to achieve their goal.  While codicology is essential to describe a manuscript and to analyse its support, it needs to be used with other disciplines in order to apprehend a manuscript (ie, also its text) in all its complexity.  During this class, the following issues were addressed: identification of a text and its author, codicological description of a manuscript, paratextual elements, history of the text and decipherment of scholars' handwritings.  Students had the opportunity to work on a selection of manuscripts.  

Visiting professorship events 2015/2016

Character and Consciousness in the British Enlightenment: the Interpretation of Dreams

Professor Phyllis Mack, Rutgers University, USA will deliver a Master class and Research Seminar during her time as Visiting Professor with the Institute. Renowned author and researcher Professor Mack is interested in 17 – 18 century popular religion and gender in England and America. The programme will focus on the subject of dreams and will consist of a Master classe and one Research Seminar. Both events will be held in the Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, the dates and times are as follows: 

  • Monday 23 May 2016, Masterclass
  • Thursday 26 May 2016, Research Seminar

Follow the link for a partial  bibliography of Professor Mack's own writings on the subject.

Research forums 2016/2017

2 May

'Unlocking the Archive of Anvil Press'

Anvil Press was founded in 1968 by Peter Jay, who remained its director until his retirement from publishing in 2015. With a focus on modern poetry in English and poetry in translation from all periods, Jay built up a prestigious list of international significance, featuring work by writers as diverse as celebrated translator Michael Hamburger, Chinese dissident poet Bei Dao, Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll, current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and many others.

Although 2015 saw the end of Anvil Press as a distinct operation, it also marked a new beginning: Anvil’s list was taken on by Manchester-based Carcanet Press to form what has been hailed as a ‘Northern world-poetry powerhouse’. In 2016, the Library acquired the later part of the Anvil Archive – covering the last thirty years – and this now lives alongside the archive of Carcanet Press. The presses have overlapping histories, and this talk will provide an introduction to the Anvil Archive, which is in the process of being listed, and explore some of the synergies between this and the archive of Carcanet Press. 

Fran Baker, Archivist, University of Manchester Library and Dr Florence Impens, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, John Rylands Research Institute

The Progressive Verse of Dawson Jackson and ASJ Tessimond

4 April

John Tessimond and Dawson Jackson are poets whose work complicates the popular understanding of the 1930s and 1940s as a nadir for British poetry. Research of key source material in the Dawson Jackson Papers at the John Rylands will inform this talk's discussion of the marginalisation of these poets from their contemporary literary scene and their omission from the critical narrative of the poetry of the period. Despite this lack of critical attention, Jackson and Tessimond's compelling explorations of radical and ecological concerns ensure that their poetry speaks to modern audiences. This talk will consider the ways in which their roles as literary outliers enable Jackson and Tessimond to offer unique perspectives on the social function of poetry during a period of crisis in Britain.

Imogen Durant, PhD Student, John Rylands Research Institute

'Norman Nicholson - A Regional Poet?'

7 March

The Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) was, perhaps rather dismissively, described in his Times obituary as ‘the most gifted English Christian provincial poet of his century’. The run of adjectives which qualify the term ‘gifted’ here seem intended to limit both the importance and the interest of his oeuvre. Yet Nicholson was far more than simply a provincial or regional poet. The current revival of interest in his work is centred on his importance as a poet and writer of place and environment, a forerunner in many respects of today’s eco-poetic movement. In his own time, particularly in the late 40s and throughout the 1950s, Nicholson’s work was highly respected, garnering not only many awards and prizes, but also the interest of an international audience. This talk looks at the evidence for Nicholson’s reception in the non-Anglophone world, as preserved in the John Rylands Library archive.

Dr Antoinette Fawcett, John Rylands Research Institute Visiting Research Fellow

Jeff Nuttall (1933-2044): Prankster in the Underground

7 February

The archive of Lancashire born Jeff Nuttall is the source of John Rylands Library’s current, major exhibition, ‘Off Beat’, which showcases Nuttall’s work and correspondence with many of the leading Beat Generation and Underground poets, artists and writers of the 1960s and 70s. Although a multi-talented and creatively ground-breaking figure, Nuttall has been largely overlooked since his death in 2004. Committed to the avant-garde, he wrote poetry, fiction and socio-cultural criticism, painted, sculpted, played jazz cornet, and devised performance art throughout his life. Nuttall and the international network of counterculture talents he connected with are explored in the exhibition. Janette Martin, who curates his archive will give an overview of the collection and its great research potential. Jay Jeff Jones, co-curator of ‘Off Beat’, writer, editor and friend of Nuttall, will provide some insight to the man himself and exactly what the underground was, and why it mattered.

Dr Janette Martin, Archivist/Historian, University of Manchester and Jay Jeff Jones, Writer/Editor/Poet

The Syriac Galen Palimpsest: Uncovering the Hidden Text by Means of Technology, Codicology and Philology

6 December

This talk will present the progress and interim results of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest (SGP) Project implemented at the University of Manchester since September 2015.  The SGP is a bound manuscript kept in a private collection in the US. It currently consists of 226 parchment leaves and is a palimpsest throughout, i.e. contains traces of undertext washed off to allow writing the overtext above it. Both texts are written in Syriac, the overtext is an example of a Melkite (Rum Orthodox) liturgical book, while the undertext is a Syriac translation of Galen’s treatise “On simple drugs” produced in the 6th century by a West Syrian scholar Sergius of Resh ‘Aina.    Natalia and Naima will discuss the problems, which scholars encounter when approaching this type of material, the typical methodology and the benefits of using advanced imaging techniques, which allow substantial improvement to the readability of the undertext.

Dr Naima Afif postdoctoral researcher, University of Manchester and Dr Natlia Smelova, postdoctoral researcher, University of Manchester

Bookhands in letters from late antique Egypt

1 November

Dr Danae Baffa, Independent Scholar

Using as a case study an unpublished letter from an ecclesiastical environment, written in the so-called 'sloping pointed majuscule', this paper will investigate late antique letters penned in literary scripts instead of cursive handwriting, which would otherwise be the norm for Greek documents. Earlier texts, such as those of Theophanes archive, also share this scribal tendency. Questions will include: Who were their authors? What was their educational level and social milieu? Are these letters the work of professional copyists? Finally, do script and language relate to each other?

Multispectral Imaging of John Dalton’s fire damaged papers

4 October 2016

Gwen Riley Jones, Heritage Photographer at the John Rylands Library

The John Dalton Papers held at The John Rylands Library are of fundamental importance for studies of the history of science, and in particular the development of chemistry in the early nineteenth century. A selection of Dalton’s hand written manuscripts were fire damaged during the Blitz in the 1940s and areas of the page have been lost completely, others are rendered illegible. This seminar will introduce the collections and present the results of multispectral imaging carried out to recover loss text.

Studying human colour vision and colour vision deficiency through hyperspectral imaging - Lessons from John Dalton’s colour vision

Dr Neil Parry, Consultant Clinical Scientist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital

Professor David H. Foster, Professor of Vision Systems in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Manchester

Dr Kinjiro Amano, Senior Researcher at School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Manchester

Colour perception starts with the way sensors in the eye respond to light of different wavelengths. The nature of the spectrum varies according to the type of illumination and surfaces. Three classes of sensors, cone-photoreceptors, have peak sensitivities at different positions over the visible spectrum, at nominally long, middle, and short wavelengths. Congenital defects in the cones lead to colour vision deficiency or ‘colour blindness’.  It is often called ‘Daltonism’ in recognition of John Dalton’s observation of his own deficient colour experience. To understand the impact of colour vision deficiency, it is helpful to examine cone responses to surfaces in natural scenes under different lighting acquired by hyperspectral imaging. This seminar will describe colour vision deficiencies and the application of hyperspectral imaging to research in colour vision and spectral analysis of historical manuscripts.  Using portable virtual-reality devices individuals will be able to experience the visual world of the colour blind. 

Research forums 2015/16

3 May 2016 - Theatres of knowledge

Giulio Camillo's “Theatre of knowledge” in the collection of Richard C Christie

Oscar Seip, PhD Candidate Manchester.

The Italian polymath Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) devised an influential ‘Theatre of Knowledge’. This fascinated not only the contemporary French King Francis I, but also the local nineteenth-century scholar Richard C. Christie. What drew them to Camillo’s theatre will be explored in this talk.

5 April 2016 - Out of the Ether

Collecting analogue photography in the 21st century: Through the lens of the photographer and curator

Stella Halkyard, Visual Collections and Academic Engagement Manager, The University of Manchester Library, and Tony Richards, Photographer, Heritage Imaging, University of Manchester Library.

Photography, as a medium and a practice, has always had a strong presence within the Library and its collections. Until recently however, its significance has been poorly understood. Current analysis of the collection of photography is beginning to reveal its extent and richness.

In this presentation a curator (Stella) and a photographer (Tony) will examine how and why it has grown into a collection, how we are developing it as a collection and what it has to offer to researchers. Tony will share the results of the experiments he has carried out in replicating early photographic processes using ‘recipes’ found in sources in the Library’s collections and the impact they have had on his practice as a photographer.

1 March 2016 - Ethiopian Magic Scrolls

"Prayers that Loosen charms" , Ethiopian Magic Scrolls

Dr Dan Levene, Reader in Jewish History and Culture, University of Southampton.

The use of amulets as an aid and support to traversing the trials and tribulations that accompany one in their life-time is common to every age. The so called “Semitic” branch of what we call in academia magic has preoccupied scholars for a good century. Within it we find Jewish, Christian and Muslim and religious varieties that occur in such languages as Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Arabic. While the Ethiopian magic scrolls exist in considerable abundance, the particular genre has been rather neglected.  In this seminar Dan will give an introduction to the rich Ethiopian magic scroll literature he is currently researching into as a Visiting Research Fellow with the Institute. 

2 February 2016 - Breaking news

What the papers say: The Guardian archive

Fran Baker and Jane Speller, John Rylands Library Archives, Manchester.

Wars of position: Communists on the media in 1930s Britain

Ben Harker, Lecturer, 20th-century British Literature, English, American Studies and Creative Writing, Manchester.

1 December 2015 - Medieval tales

Reading Boccaccio through space and time

Giovanni Boccaccio’s (1313-1375) corpus boasted a long –lasting and geographically extensive presence in early modern print production. This discussion addresses the book’s textual, visual and material forms.

Paul Clarke, PhD Candidate, John Rylands Research Institute.


Saint Francis of Assisi (d.1226) is the most famous stigmatic of the late middle ages and defended by his order. This discussion explores the debate around the understanding of stigmata and the surrounding controversies in visual representations up to the early seventeenth century.

Dr Cordelia Warr, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Studies.

3 November 2015 - Judaica and Hebraica

From Gibraltar to Calcutta: The Ketubbot from the John Rylands Library

Jewish marriage contracts are an important source of information on the socio-historical context in which they were created. This discussion is a short introduction on the Library’s beautiful collection of ketubbot, through a journey in space and time.

Dr Stefania Silvestri, Research Associate.

Gaster Collection Amulet 1771- text and tradition

This presentation explores the use of parabiblical language  in apotropaic magic with reference to a particular amulet of the Gaster Collection.

Miruna Belea, Postgraduate Student (MA Biblical Studies).

6 October 2015 - Collecting collectors

Enriqueta Rylands: Private collector, public philanthropist

Discover Enriqueta Rylands as a book collector and cultural philanthropist, remarkable for the manner in which she brought private collections in to the public domain.

Elizabeth Gow, Manuscript Curator and Archivist, The University of Manchester Library.

Modern Medici: The Earls of Crawford and their manuscript collections

A discussion on the Earls of Crawford whose superlative collection of manuscripts was purchased by Enriqueta Rylands in 1901.

John Hodgson, Manuscripts and Archives Manager, The University of Manchester Library.

Research seminars 2015/2016

24 May 2016 - Translating Poetry: Elaine Feinstein and Russian Women Poets

Based on the Papers of Elaine Feinstein (b. 1930) which are part of the University of Manchester's Special Collections and housed at The John Rylands Library, this talk will investigate her translations from the Russian, notably from Marina Tsvetayeva. 

Despite family connections with Russia, Feinstein is in her own words, no Russianist and ‘a very nervous Russian speaker’. Her versions are therefore often the fruit of a collaborative process, the extent of which becomes apparent through archival research. Drawing from drafts and correspondence, this talk will showcase the importance of genetic criticism in the understanding of translation methods, and discuss some of the methodological issues encountered while working on this uncatalogued collection.  With Dr Florence Impens, Research Associate, John Rylands Research Institute.

10 May 2016 - It’s a small world: reconstructing village life in early Roman Egypt through documentary sources

This paper will illustrate some of the different approaches Will has taken towards developing a fuller picture of life in the small, rural village of Euhemeria (located in the modern Fayum region of Egypt) in the decades following the Roman annexation of the province in 30 BCE.  Will's approach combines papyrology, the study of ancient texts on papyrus preserved by the Egyptian climate, with social history, the attempt to reconstruct the lives of ancient people not usually attested in literary sources from the ancient world. Euhemeria produced around sixty papyrological texts from the early Roman period, of which half are housed in the John Rylands Library.

This seminar will demonstrate how close examination of these texts has allowed Will to draw new conclusions about the people and society of the village, as well as throwing up new research questions, some of which will be presented to the audience. With Will Mundy, PhD Candidate, John Rylands Research Institute.

26 April 2016 - Nathaniel Bland’s Turkish Notebooks

This talk will explore the two Turkish notebooks kept by Nathaniel Bland (1803-1865), orientalist scholar. Bland's valuable collection of Persian, Turkish and Arabic manuscripts was sold through Bernard Quaritch in 1866 and purchased by the earl of Crawford. It subsequently formed part of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, which is now an important component of The University of Manchester's Special Collections and which is housed at the John Rylands Library.  Despite his many contributions to Persian literature through several papers that appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bland remains an enigmatic figure and his knowledge of Turkish uncharted.

This paper aims to bring alive Bland’s experience of learning Turkish during the summer of 1837, the year he spent in Paris, through the conversations he held with an Ottoman gentleman, which he meticulously recorded in JRL Turkish MSS 57 and 58.  With Dr Nil Palabiyik-Pektas, Research Associate, John Rylands Research Institute.

22nd March 2016 - Giulio Camillo’s Theatro della sapientia: Theatres of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period

This talk will present some initial thoughts on the importance of Logic to understand the different visualisations, and classifications, of knowledge that are found in Giulio Camillo’s (1479-1544) manuscript Theatro della sapientia (Theatre of Knowledge). The aim being to shed new light on Camillo’s life, career, and theatre, but also on the larger presupposed tradition of Theatres of Knowledge during the Early Modern Period.  With Oscar Seip, PhD Candidate, John Rylands Research Instutute

9 February 2016 - Norman Nicholson - Beyond Lakeland

Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) was an English poet and writer who was known for his lifelong connection to the small industrial town of Millom on the west coast of Cumbria. Although his work is clearly rooted in the local, he is far from being a merely local poet.  Dr. Antoinette Fawcett has been working on archival materials in the John Rylands Library since mid-January 2016, so the research she presents is very much a work in progress, but it is fresh and exciting in extending the range of what is commonly known about Nicholson’s work, and should help to contribute to the recent upsurge of academic and general interest in Nicholson’s life and writings.  With Dr Antoinette Fawcett, Visiting Research Fellow. 

8 December 2015 - The John Rylands Hebrew Manuscripts (and other texts) Collections

The John Rylands Library holds one of the most important smaller collections of Hebrew manuscripts in Europe. These objects, that include codices, scrolls and other texts in Hebrew script, are in the process of being made available to scholars and the wider public through the creation of a complete online catalogue. This paper will introduce the collection and outline the methodological approach, the challenges and solutions of carrying out such a cataloguing project. With Dr Stefania Silvestri, Research Associate, John Rylands Research Institute.

24 November 2015 - Rethinking persecutions: P.Ryl. 3 469 and the Manichaeans in Egypt

Bought in Egypt in 1920 by BP Grenfell, the so-called Christian letter against the Manichaeans published by C Roberts in 1938 offers a direct glimpse into competing monotheisms in late antique Egypt. Through a new reading and interpretation of the text in its wider context, this paper proposes a different perspective on monotheisms and the imperial answers to the challenges and opportunities they represented for secular power. With Dr Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History.

10 November 2015 - Rolling back the years: Peter of Poitiers' Compendium Historiae in Genealogia Christi at the Rylands

Peter of Poitiers' Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, a genealogy of the history of Christ composed in the late 12th century, is an example of a diagrammatic chronicle depicting the ancestral predecessors of Christ. This seminar will discuss the content and provenance of the two copies of the text present in the collection of the John Rylands Library, placing them within a broader medieval tradition of the use of visual techniques for the representation and recollection of information. With Dr Irene O'Daly, Research Fellow, Associate Programme Director, MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

27 October 2015 - Contesting the medieval/modern binary

The melding of disciplines that seem at first to be incompatible has often been described as problematic and fruitless - but the truth is very different. This discussion will address how traditional literary studies can be re-read through, and transformed by, book-historical and postcolonial approaches to material culture. With Paul Clarke, PhD Candidate, John Rylands Research Institute.

13 October 2015 - Moses Gaster and the Samaritan Book of Joshua controversy

During a visit to the Samaritan community of Nablus in 1907, Moses Gaster was gifted a manuscript which he identified as an antique revised edition of the Samaritan Book of Joshua. The publication of his discovery elicited public debate over the authenticity of the text. The paper discussed in this session sheds new light on the text and the controversy that surrounded it on the basis of evidence from the Rylands Gaster Samaritan collections. With Dr Katharina Keim, British Academy Post Doctoral Research Fellow.

Interdisciplinary seminar series

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Dr Elma Brenner (Wellcome Institute)

Responding with Urgency: Early Printing on Epidemic Diseases in the Rylands Collections

Samuel Alexander Lecture Theatre, 5.30pm

Thursday 11 May 2017

Dr Matthew Walker (University of Oxford)

Antiquarian Writing on Roman Architecture

Samuel Alexander Room A112, 5.30pm

Thursday 16 March 2017

Dr Benjamin Pohl (University of Bristol)

(Re-)Framing Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica in Twelfth-century Germany: John Rylands Library MS Latin 182

Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, 5.45pm

Our interdisciplinary events explore new and exciting topics in collaboration with other areas of the University.

For further details on the seminars please contact Dr Anne Kirkham:  

Medieval and Early Modern Studies seminars

The Institute runs this series in partnership with the John Rylands Library and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. Sessions are open to all.  The Programme is supported by the John Rylands Research Institute.  All enquiries for the Medieval and Early Modern Studies seminars should be directed to Dr Anne Kirkham ( or Dr Irene O'Daly (

Thursday 5 May 2016 - Imagining the Self in the Illuminated Passover Haggadah Manuscripts of Fourteenth-century Aragon

The Rylands Haggadah (Kingdom of Aragon, ca. 1340) is particularly well-known for the ‘picture bible’ that prefaces it. However, arguably equally salient are the depictions of the Passover ritual as it was presumably celebrated at the time when the Haggadah was written and illuminated. Other Haggadah manuscripts both from the Iberian peninsula and elsewhere in Europe also include scenes of contemporary ritual, especially of the family at the Seder table. Why did the owners have this desire to see themselves, and to see themselves in a particular manner?

  • Speaker: Dr Eva Frojmovic, Centre for Jewish Studies & School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds
  • This session will be held from 5.15-6.30pm in the Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester.

Thursday 21 April 2016 - Catherine Cadiere’s Body. Stigmata on Trial in Eighteenth-century France

  • Speaker: Dr Cathy McClive, Department of History, Durham University
  • This session will be held at 5.30pm. Abstract and venue TBC

Tuesday 19 April 2016 - Picturing Music in sixteenth-century Antwerp: Marten de Vos's motet prints

In 1584 the painter Marten de Vos, the engraver Johan Sadeler and the composer Cornelis Verdonck worked together to produce a motet print.  This was the first ever engraved representation of mensural musical notation, set within a beautifully designed image of the Virgin and Child enthroned. This talk explores the motivations behind this collaboration, the practicalities that it involved and, crucially, how this type of print might help us to understand the relationship between music and art in early modern Antwerp.

  • Speaker: Dr Margit Thofner, School of Art History & World Art Studies, University of East Anglia
  • This session will be held from 6.00-7.00 in the John Casken Lecture Theatre, Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester (Oxford Rd site). The programme is supported by the John Rylands Research Institute. Enquiries to be directed to Dr Anne Kirkham ( or Dr Irene O’Daly (

25 February 2016 - From memory to written record: royal documents from Arab-Norman Sicily

The Norman conquests in the central Mediterranean ended Muslim political power in Sicily, formed a single kingdom in 1130, and divided Christian Europe from Muslim Africa. The kingship that emerged was like no other in Europe: an absolutist, sacral monarchy that conspicuously made use of the Byzantine, Islamic and Latinate artist models as well as the kingdom’s three languages – Latin, Greek and Arabic –in inscriptions and chancery documents. This talk will provide an illustrated introduction to those documents explaining their aims, origins, and usefulness for those wishing to delve deeper into one of the most spectacular and unusual kingdoms of pre-modern Europe.

  • Speaker: Dr Alex Metcalfe, Department of History, Lancaster University
  • This session will be held from 5 - 6.15pm in Room A112 of the Samuel Alexander Building.

Print and materiality in the early modern world

The Institute runs this exciting seminar series in partnership with the John Rylands Library. Sessions are open to all.

28 April 2016 - Embodied emotions, mind and memory in past and present 

  • Dr Sasha Handley, Manchester, Sleep in Early Modern England
  • Dr Penny Lewis, Manchester, Sleep, Cognition and Neuroscience
  • Michael Smith, Manchester, Emotions and Devotions in Early Modern England

Sessions will be held from 5 - 7pm in the Christie Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester. The programme is supported by the John Rylands Research Institute. A group will go for drinks afterwards – all welcome! Convened by Dr Sasha Handley and Dr Jenny Spinks. Enquiries: Sasha Handley.

3 March 2016 - Embodied emotions and the supernatural 

  • Dr Stephen Gordon, Manchester, Michael Scot and Necromancy: An Investigation into the Provenance of Latin MS 105
  • Dr Laura Kounine, Max Planck Institute, Berlin, Conscience, Confession and Selfhood in Lutheran Witch-Trials
  • Dr Jenny Spinks, Manchester, Embodied anxieties in the sixteenth century: European print culture and the global supernatural

4 February 2016 - Sound and embodied emotions

  • Dr Penelope Gouk, Manchester, On hearing and harmony: Francis Bacon’s proposal for a new method of interrogating sound and its perception
  • Dr Matthew Laube, Cambridge/Brussels, Objects of Harmony: Music and Material Culture in the Confessional Age
  • Professor Thomas Schmidt, Manchester, On the making of polyphonic music manuscripts and prints in the early 16th century: the evolution of standard layouts and formats