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Cultures of the written artefact

In recent years, scholars have been investigating the cultures of manuscript and print with renewed vigour. Across the whole medieval and early modern period, there has been recognition of the importance of examining the material culture of the written artefact; and this has been accompanied by acknowledgement that the masses of writings produced for the everyday working of society are just as valuable as the particular and occasional items which have traditionally attracted most study. The IMEMS ‘Cultures of the written artefact’ strand brings together interdisciplinary teams – historians, literary scholars, art historians, musicologists, archaeologists, palaeographers – to address issues which necessarily cross old intellectual boundaries; applying a broad definition of written artefacts. It will examine written text, pictorial representation and musical notation, inscribed on a variety of media from parchment and paper to cloth, stone, clay and wood.

In the discussions and projects which the strand fosters, researchers ask some of the following questions:

  • What is the significance of manuscript and print culture in society?
  • Who wrote things, and for whom?
  • Who read and used specific texts and written artefacts and how?
  • How did the production and consumption of writing influence the identity and perceptions of individuals, communities and nations?
  • How were the knowledge and skills of producing and understanding writing transferred between generations: and how can the skills of interpreting surviving artefacts be passed on to new scholars today?
  • How can modern technologies be used to facilitate research into cultures of manuscript and print?

Geographically, the source materials for this strand can be found throughout the world, and people involved seek to build connections with a wide range of national and international archives and libraries: IMEMS members already have extensive contacts with many of these. However, we also aim to capitalise on local assets – including the holdings of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, the resources of the Bangor University Archive, and the fascinating archaeological heritage of North and West Wales.

For activities sponsored by the strand, and to join their discussions, click on the links below.

Dr Elisabeth Salter and Prof. Raluca Radulescu

Strand co-ordinators


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