Home » Currently Reading:


The following is a list of events organized by BHPC for the 2018-2019 academic year. We will soon update the BHPC Calendar with a detailed listing that includes relevant book history events around Toronto.


Orientation for Incoming Students
Monday, 17 September 2018, 5:00 – 7:00
Upper Library, Massey College


Digital Transcribe-a-Thon: Early Modern Recipe Manuscripts from the Folger Collections
Fisher Library, 4 October 2018
In association with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online Project
(open to students in all participating BHPC programs; advance registration is required but free of charge)


Toronto Centre for the Book lecture: “Tibetan Manuscripts of Mustang in Light of New Discoveries”
Agnieszka Helman-Ważny (University of Hamburg, University of Warsaw)
Thursday, 29 November 2018, 4:15 pm
Faculty of Information, 140 St. George Street, Room 728
In Association with the Faculty of Information and the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies
Abstract and Biography

 Although politically part of Nepal, Mustang is linked by its history, culture and religious tradition to Tibet. Historical and archaeological records suggest that this remote district was in the past absolutely central—a vibrant, dynamic, culturally rich, and religiously diverse area, and part of the ancient Tibetan culture. Therefore, both Tibetan monasteries and private houses, as well as abandoned caves in the region are known as being repositories of a wide range of ancient objects including many book collections. These books have not yet been systematically studied, mapped nor even viewed from a scholarly point of view. Moreover, we know relatively little about regional differences in book and paper history across the Himalayas.

Considering these perspectives, this lecture will present the preliminary results from surveying the Bön and Buddhist manuscript collections in Mustang, Nepal, such as for example the collection of Mardzong manuscripts found in the Caves of Upper Mustang near Lo Mönthang, the Lama Tsulthrim collection in Lubrak, the Bönpo Gompa collection in Jharkot, and the Drang srong collection in Lo Mönthang. This study will show the recent progress that comprises the description, identification and dating of newly discovered books using integrated multi-disciplinary methodologies. These are based on both codicology and scientific techniques such as fibre analysis, digital microscopy, and C14 dating. Features particular to these manuscripts will be discussed in the overall context of paper- and book-making traditions in Tibet and Nepal.

Dr. Agnieszka Helman-Ważny (Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, Germany and the Department of Books and Media History, Faculty of Journalism, Information and Book Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland) is a paper scientist and the author or co-author of four books and more than forty scholarly articles, including The Archaeology of Tibetan Books (Brill 2014) and Codicology, Paleography, and Orthography of Early Tibetan Documents: Methods and a Case Study (Universität Wien 2017, co-authored with Brandon Dotson). Her main research focuses on the history of the regional production and usage of paper and books in Tibet and Central Asia. Using interdisciplinary methods in collaboration with private collectors, museum curators, Tibetan artisans, as well as personal experience in “experimental manuscriptology,” Dr. Helman-Ważny’s work is concerned with establishing paper typologies, and applying modern technologies in the identification and dating of premodern non-western manuscripts, including the Dunhuang manuscripts.


BHPC Librorum
Wednesday, 5 December 2018, 5:00 – 7:00
Upper Library, Massey College

Join us for presentations by BHPC PhD students on their recent Practicum projects:

Billy Johnson (English),  “‘Through a smoked glass with dim eyes’: A Critical Study and Web Exhibition of Neith: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, Philosophy, Jurisprudence, History, Reform, Economics

Oliver Velázquez Toledo (Spanish & Portuguese), “Editing Identity: the Book-Shaped Nation of Poesía en Movimiento

Steven Hicks (Music), “‘The Seasons’ in Eighteenth-Century Austrian Print Culture: Brockes, Harries, Haydn”

Joel Vaughan (English), Beyond Trianon: Hand-Printing a Blake Facsimile in Massey’s Bibliography Room”


Toronto Centre for the Book lecture: “Books in Bits”
Susan Brown (University of Guelph)
Thursday, 24 January 2019, 4:15 pm
Massey College, 4 Devonshire Place, Upper Library
In Association with Massey College, the Department of English, and the University of Toronto Digital Humanities Network
Abstract and Biography

 Reports of the death of books have been greatly exaggerated, but nevertheless texts are significantly changed as they move into digital forms. Textuality is radiant, and as it goes digital it becomes more and more particulate. Drawing on experiences of creating and facilitating the circulation of scholarship digitally, as well as theories of editing including éditorialisation, I will explore the potential of texts in digital space. The technologies of linked open data open up structures of textuality and intertextuality that offer ways of constructing textual universes very different from those of the materially bounded book.

Susan Brown is Professor of English at the University of Guelph, where she holds a Canada Research Chair in Collaborative Digital Scholarship, and Visiting Professor in English and Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta. Her research in digital humanities, Victorian literature, and women’s writing informs Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (www.ualberta.ca/orlando), an ongoing experiment in digital literary history, published online by Cambridge University Press since 2006, which she directs and co-edits. She also leads the development of the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (www.cwrc.ca), a CFI-funded online repository and research environment for literary studies in Canada. CWRC is developing tools for collaborative knowledge production, interoperability, and sustainability of digital scholarly resources.


Toronto Centre for the Book lecture: “Marshall McLuhan’s Eighteenth Century”
Paula McDowell (New York University)
Thursday, 14 March 2019, 4:15 pm
Victoria College Chapel, 91 Charles St. W, Room VC213
The Seventh Annual J. R. de J. Jackson Lecture
In Association with the Friends of the Victoria University Library,  the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, and the Toronto Eighteenth Century Group.
Abstract and Biography

Marshall McLuhan is remembered today as a media theorist, but he was a literary scholar by training and an English professor by occupation. Attention has been paid to McLuhan’s contributions as a literary critic of modernism, and his doctoral thesis on Renaissance author Thomas Nashe has recently been published. But his lifelong relationship with eighteenth-century authors such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Laurence Sterne, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and William Blake has gone virtually unremarked.

Drawing on archival research at such venues as the Library and Archives Canada and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, this lecture will address McLuhan’s reading and writing about eighteenth-century literature, from his college years in Canada and Great Britain, to his decades as a professor and literary critic in North America, and finally, to his explosion onto the international stage after the publication of The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media.

The lecture argues that McLuhan’s reading of eighteenth-century texts shaped his (and by extension, our) views on media shift and social and cultural change, and it addresses compelling questions that this largely unacknowledged history raises. Given McLuhan’s emphasis that “the medium is the message,” how did the material form, as well as content of works such as Pope’s “epic of the printed word,” the Dunciad, influence his (McLuhan’s) thinking about the psychic and social effects of print? More broadly, if this media theorist’s understanding of the “consequences” of media shift was fundamentally shaped by his literary reading, what are the consequences for us as critics, theorists, and teachers today?

Paula McDowell specializes in eighteenth-century British literature and media and in the History of the Book. With the support of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the National Humanities Center, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she has published The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace, 1678-1730 (Oxford, 1998), Elinor James: Printed Writings (Ashgate, 2005), and articles on models of the Enlightenment, the epistemology of ephemera, the eighteenth-century novel, and many other topics. Her latest book, The Invention of the Oral: Print Commerce and Fugitive Voices in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Chicago, 2017), was awarded the John Ben Snow Prize by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best book by a North American scholar on any aspect of British studies from the middle ages to the eighteenth century. It examines the oral/literate binary as a heuristic — a tool for understanding that itself has a history — and argues that the concept of “oral culture” was in fact a back formation of the explosion of print commerce. She is currently writing a book on the scholarly life and reading of professor and media theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) and on the literary and humanistic origins of media studies.


BHPC Graduate Student Colloquium: “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous Texts: Controversies in Reading, Writing, Editing, and Printing”
Saturday, 23 March 2019
Upper Library, Massey College
For details, including the call for papers, see bhpccolloquium2019.wordpress.com


BHPC Annual General Meeting
Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 5:00 – 7:00
Upper Library, Massey College

BHPC flickr feed