Professor Marc Smith, Professeur de Paléographie, École Nationale des Chartes, Lyell Reader in Bibliography 2020

“Writing models from manuscript to print: France, England and Europe, c. 1400–1800”

These lectures will be delivered online and can be viewed on 29 September, 1 October, 6 October, and 8 October 2020

Registration information will be available soon at:

A series of four lectures 

From the later Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century, western handwriting was subjected to an unprecedented diversity of scripts and styles, characteristic of nations, languages, institutions, functional uses and the professional or social status of men and women.

The calligraphic models for teaching such scripts were developed by professional scribes such as copyists, chancery clerks, secretaries and writing masters. A minority among them had their manuscripts translated into print and widely circulated, thus contributing to a European market of letter forms, shaped and reshaped by the changing balance of power and taste.

After the prevalence of Italian models in the Renaissance, French writing books were an essential component of that market, until the English round hand (later known as ‘copperplate’) gradually became the common medium of business in the West.

At the crossroads of bibliography and palaeography, the lectures will address a number of technical, commercial and cultural issues raised by the cataloguing and scrutiny of French writing books, hitherto the least charted territory in early modern calligraphy.