Episode 18. “Women as Makers of Books”

May 5, 2024 in Anniversary, Book, Design, Manuscript Studies, Research Group Episodes for The Research Group Speaks, Research Group Speaks (The Series)

“The Research Group Speaks”
Episode 18
“Women as Makers of Books”

Saturday 14 December 2024
1:00–2:30 pm EST (GMT-5) by Zoom

Jaclyn Reed, Linda Civitello, Hannah Goeselt,
and Others

[Posted on 3 May 2024]

London, British Library, Harley MS 4431, fol. 4r.Christine de Pisan sits at work writing in an interior accompanied by a dog. France (Paris), c. 1410 – c. 1414. Image via https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/06/christine-de-pizan-and-the-book-of-the-queen.html.

London, British Library, Harley MS 4431, fol. 4r.Christine de Pisan sits at work writing in an interior accompanied by a dog. France (Paris), c. 1410 – c. 1414. Image via https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/06/christine-de-pizan-and-the-book-of-the-queen.html.

By its focus upon the agency of women in and for books, this Episode offers a pendant at the end of our 2024 Anniversary Year for the Episode which opened the year.

Then, in January, scholars, teachers, and writers spoke about their interests, long-term work , and current projects concerned with the writings of women authors across a long span of time. Reflecting womens’ roles, opportunities, constraints, and resourcefulness, the writings cover a wide range of spheres, subjects, approaches, and styles. The works range from literary creations to recipes for cookery.

Now, in December, the same speakers from that Episode return to offer reflections, presentations, or responses on the subject of women who contributed in one or more ways to the production of books in various forms during a range of periods across history. Other speakers and respondents join them, along with our audience engaging in the discussion with questions, comments, and observations.

Lewistown, Pennsylvania, Old Stone Arch Bridge spanning Jack’s Creek. Built by Philip Diehl in 1815. Photograph by KAATMAAN (August 2011) via Wikimedia Commons via CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

A Bridge for, or across,
Our 2024 Anniversary Year

In keeping with the Theme of our Anniversary Year, Bridges, this Episode brings the opportunity to round out the year by means of a bridge across the RGME’s year with a return or expansion upon the theme of women responsible for contributions to the making of books. Now, we think of them not only as writers of texts, as at the beginning of the year in Episode 15, but also, or instead, as makers of the images, scripts, bindings, and/or other materials which make up books themselves as carriers of knowledge, art, expressions,  explorations, and manifestations of human aspirations.

Genres and Styles

Womens’ contributions to the “making of books” also extend to manuscripts or other forms of presenting the written word in material form. These makers chose to work in spheres ranging from calligraphy to illustrations and the designs which governed the layout or production of the works themselves.

Periods under consideration might range widely across centuries and cultures.  Examples include the Arts and Crafts Movement which flourished in Europe and North America circa 1880–1920, the Art Nouveau Movement of circa 1890–1910, and the Art Deco Style of the 1910s to 1930s.

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, HD-83 (W)-PET FOL. Élisabeth Sonrel, Les Saisons. Études Décoratives (Paris, 1901), front cover (lithograph).

The Year Round
in Chromolithographic Engravings

As a case in point, we offer a sample of illustrations of the Seasons, personified as graceful women shown full-length within landscapes, by Élisabeth Sonrel (1874–1953), painter and illustrator active in France in the Art Nouveau Style. Gathered in book form as Les Saisons. Études Décoratives (1901), the full-page inscribed and colored engravings printed by chromolithography provide a suite of four illustrations depicting Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter: Printemps, Été, Automne, and Hiver.

As emblems of our Episodes 15 and 18 to start and end our Anniversary Year, we show here the scenes or pages for Printemps and Hiver.

Printemps / Spring

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, HD-83 (W)-PET FOL. Élisabeth Sonrel, Les Saisons. Études Décoratives (Paris, 1901), Printemps (chromolithograph). Image Public Domain via https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10546204w/f10.item.

Hiver / Winter

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, HD-83 (W)-PET FOL. Élisabeth Sonrel, Les Saisons. Études Décoratives (Paris, 1901), Hiver (chromolithograph). Image via https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b10546204w/f13.item#.

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Subjects and Makers as Examples

Our case-studies for examination include agents who created a variety of materials relating to, and contained within, books.

Examples include authors, artists, calligraphers, and designers.

Developing her subject for our Episode 15 in January this year, Jaclyn Reed would consider, among other contemporary authors, the creative approach by Ali Smith (born 1962) to her novel How to Be Both (2014), published in two versions which present the two different parts, or narratives, in alternate orders.

Hannah Goeselt would describe a different subject than the cookery specimens showcased in her presentation for Episode 15 by focusing upon aspects of the revival of manuscript illumination in the British Isles in the 19th and twentieth centuries as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In particular, Hannah addresses the instruction manuals for the Art of Missal Painting.  Artists include:

Dallas, Texas, Bridwell Library, Ashendene Song of Songs (1902), illuminated by Florence Kingsford and bound by Katharine Adam. Title page and opening of text. Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Heritage Collections. Collection of Reproductions of Medallions by Phoebe Anna Traquair: Song School St. Mary, 1897, fol. 5r. igital Image: Copyright The University of Edinburgh. Original: Copyright The University of Edinburgh. Free use.

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Do you have favorites among women who make , or have made, books (and their accompaniments in text, image, and more) in one or another way?

We encourage you to join the conversation and celebration.

To Register for the Episode:

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