A one-day symposium on women collectors, curators, and readers in Britain from the Middle Ages to the present
26 October 2018, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London

For much of the past, men have on the whole been more highly educated than women, and have consequently dominated the world of books. From at least the Middle Ages, however, women have been involved in reading, owning, writing, and even commissioning books: activities that have increased over the centuries. With the advent of public libraries in the nineteenth century, which coincided with increased literacy, and, gradually, with the increased employment of women, women further became involved in looking after public collections of books, first in a clerical fashion and ultimately in positions of leadership.

In the year in which the University of London celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s first access to University education in Britain with the intake of eight women at Queen Mary College, this symposium explores the interaction of women and books from the Middle Ages to the present, from the time that the book left the printing house: as collectors, owners, readers, and mediators, whether curatorial (librarians) or literary (adapting and translating for new audiences). It aims to enable connections across time and across types of engagement with the book, in discussion covering book, literary, and cultural history.

Invited speakers are: Dr Katie Halsey (University of Stirling), “Women reading Jane Austen” and Dr David Pearson (University of London), “Seventeenth-century women book owners”.

20-minute papers are invited which may cover, but not be limited to, the following areas:

  • Individual women readers
  • Classes of women readers
  • Individual women owners or collectors of books
  • Groups of women owners or collectors of books
  • Female librarians and/or curators
  • Female bibliographers or other book scholars
  • Female literary patrons
  • Female book donors
  • Female guides of literary taste
  • Female mediators of the book: adaptors, translators, and teachers of literature

Topics with a London connection are particularly desirable. Papers connected with the University of London, or to women as pioneers in any way, will be especially welcome.

Please send proposals of ca 200 words for papers of 20 minutes in length, with a short biography, to Dr Karen Attar, k.attar@sas.ac.uk, by 15 June 2018.