Tag Archive for: Cambridge

Looking and Healing: Artists and their Doctors

Looking and Healing: Artists and their Doctors, Lecture Seminar, Centre for Humanities and Health, King’s College London (May 2012)


Artists and doctors share highly developed observational skills and a fundamental love for humankind.  This lecture explores some historically revealing relationships between these different practitioners, and the intellectual, social and professional complexes in which these relationships sit.  Representational, technological and ethical epistemologies can be traced in the performed intimacies of such self-reflexive clinical arenas.  Examples from both physiological and psychiatric medicine are explored, in pairings from Goya and Arrieta through Munch and Jakobsen as well as Duchamp and Dumouchel and beyond. Painting, engraving, photography and sculpture from approximately 1750 to 1990 are addressed.

An earlier version of this lecture was given at the 2006 British Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Norwich, at the invitation of Professor Ludmilla Jordanova, then President of the British Society for the History of Science. Professor Jordanova is a leading authority on scientific portraiture, and is principal investigator for the medical portraiture strand of Kings’ Centre for Humanities and Health. We had first worked together in 2002, when as Development Manager of the Royal Society, I invited her to become involved in the Society’s portraiture collection.

It is not the only subject on which she has invited my thoughts vis à vis medical humanities. In 2005, Professor Jordanova was Director of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.  It is a vital centre for the development of interdisciplinary practice, and her directorship was a particularly dynamic period for CRASSH. Notably, she convened a fantastic workshop in December 2005 which arguably refocused CRASSH for the next decade: The Future of Interdisciplinarity.

She also invited me to speak at an exploratory closed workshop on Humanities and Medicine in Cambridge Undergraduate Education in October that same year. My contribution to the day concerned the visual arts in relation to medical practice and was entitled Looking and Healing: The Arts in Medicine.  It is linked to Artists and their Doctors by more than just the title.

What was at issue in October 2005 is still at issue today: the overlaps between medicine and the humanities and the contributions each make — and could make — to the effective practice of the other.  The two crucial issues are, I feel: the importance for medicine and medics of understanding the highly charged representational issues in medical imagery, from abstraction and realism to diagrams and data visualisation; and the field of ethics to which a truly self-reflexive medical practice could productively contribute as well as adhere to.

This is the précis of The Arts in Medicine that I handed out after my presentation:

Medical students and arts students alike need to be aware of the long historical working relationship between the two practices in the development of anatomical understanding as a legacy;

Imaging practices have gone far beyond the optical in medicine, and medical practitioners (as well as artists and the lay public) need training to parse the origins and effects of data-produced images which carry hidden within their ’visualisation’ a long complex history of representation with vested interests;

Not all those medically trained practice exclusively in medicine: investing in this deeper structure to shared intellectual territory, one which gives rise to new methodologies and not just new data, is one which could bear fruit for both medical and arts & humanities teaching;

The exploration, exposition, practice and development of the whole fundamental way in which we look at — or approach — each other as human beings is at the core of any medical activity, and emotional and intellectual instruments for accommodating it within the self and for parsing it in relation to daily practice are crucial to learning medicine: this is practicing ethics, not just ethics-as-law;

It is also true that physicians thus trained and engaged could make major contributions in turn to ethics on a much wider plane than medical ethics and legislation alone, extending to fundamental philosophical questions and the understanding of humanity — physicians could and should contribute to the humanities.


Interestingly, I heard this last note echoed five years later by the senior medical practitioner and former editor of the British Medical Journal, Dr Richard Smith, at the London School of Economics event, Valuing the Humanities. It is the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and its existential power, which has potential in the field of ethics.  This is one of the conclusions of my lecture, Artists and their Doctors:


Looking at life, and looking at one another, is a very complex process socially, psychically, ethically. The eyes with which both artists and physicians survey the body acknowledges ‘the human’ in the form before it and the call to mercy and to transcendence which we make in standing before each other every day before even speaking a word. Attention is paid without judgement, and yet the attention itself issues from the fundamental human encounter of one person with another.

This is not just about bedside manner, or about medical legislation, or about inspiration, but about the way in which we approach each other as human beings. There are, inherent in the portraits I have been showing you, realities about the human condition – about a face-to-face that is both detached and full of love, about the different ways in which we keep each other as best we can from death and from the fear of death.




Further Links: King’s College London Centre for Humanities and Health; British Association for the Advancement of Science; British Society for the History of Science; CRASSH; LSE Valuing The Humanities

[Image References: Photographic Self Portrait in Dr Jacobsen’s Nerve Clinic, by Edvard Munch (Copenhagen 1908); Photographic Self Portrait, painting the portrait of Dr Jacobsen, by Edvard Munch (Copenhagen 1909); Portrait of Dr Jacobsen, by Edvard Munch (1909)]

Senior Research Associate: Reconstructing Sloane

Research and Project Management, Reconstructing Sloane (2011 – present)


The vast Enlightenment-era collections amassed by Sir Hans Sloane are the foundation-stone of the British Museum, British Library and Natural History Museum. A major interdisciplinary digital humanities research project to virtually reunite and analyse Sloane’s collections and his own catalogue inventories is now being planned, led by curators and research staff of these institutions. I am collaborating with these colleagues to design, develop and resource the Reconstructing Sloane project. My own related research, investigating collections management as a knowledge producing practice in the early modern period, is supported by both Visiting Fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and a Research Scholar Affiliation at the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge.


Sloane’s early modern collections of natural history, ethnographia, antiquities, artworks, numismatics, books and manuscripts are now divided across the three world-class institutions which were created by his gift to the nation: the British Museum in Bloomsbury, the British Library in King’s Cross, and the Natural History Musem in South Kensington.  Over the 260 years since his death in 1753, the materials have followed the paths of the disciplines which they themselves in part had spawned: thus the integrity of the collections and their meaning as a coherent site of early modern intellectual practice has been slowly obscured.

Of course, the collections also changed a great deal, in their form and use, over Sloane’s own lifetime, as he was collecting internationally for some 70 years in a period of immense global and intellectual change. The 18th century is arguably the first period of globalisation, and the relationship between trade and intellectual life in this epoch is a subject of considerable interest in a wide range of humanities fields.  The world in which Sloane paid close attention to the messy business of organic life – irreducible to mathematics –  is also the world of Boyle and Hooke, of Locke and Newton, of Leeouwenhoek and Leibnitz.

This exciting project was first proposed in 2010, when a 350th anniversary of Sloane’s birth in 1660 was celebrated by the British Library with a conference. From Books to Bezoars was a wide-ranging two-day event that showed the astonishing breadth of Sloane’s work and influence, even today.  It was organised by Alison Walker, who has been the driving force behind the Sloane Printed Book Project, which aims to locate and identify all books owned and used by Sloane and subsequently bequeathed to what would become the British Library.  It was common practice then, as today, for libraries to sell off duplicate copies of books: a number of Sloane’s books, well used and full of highly significant marginal notes, were auctioned through the 18th and 19th century – no doubt considered at the time to be the grubbier of any two copies the Library owned!

Later that year, in August 2010, a meeting of curatorial and research staff from the British Library, British Museum, Natural History Museum, the Royal Society Centre for History of Science, the Wellcome Library and beyond took place at the NHM under the auspices of its  Centre for Arts and Humanities Research. I was at that time seconded into CAHR as part of its small dynamic research development team, and for that meeting I collated an overview survey of the state of Sloane collections and research across the three institutions.

Before my secondment ended in Spring 2011, we organised several exploratory meetings internally and between the institutions, and the project quickly developed momentum.  Representing the NHM, I worked with Dr Kim Sloan, curator of the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum, and Liz Lewis, Higher Education Partnerships Manager at The British Library, to co-author a 60-page business plan for ‘Reconstructing Sloane.’ Produced in July of 2011, this project development roadmap is now the backbone of the undertaking.  My current research and project management work with the three national institutions picks up from there, and we are now working on project design and resourcing. A particularly exciting prospect is that of working with digital humanities colleagues to quite literally reconstruct, albeit virtually, Sloane’s intellectual world, and to explore what a deep history of ‘information science’ might look like.

Throughout 2012, with support from an Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Science in Culture’ Networking Grant to the British Museum, the three institutions led some of the most exciting cross-disciplinary seminars and meetings ever to be held about early modern intellectual life and legacy.  These events brought together dozens of disciplinary fields and areas of curatorial expertise, showing just what can be done when museums and universities work together (recordings of many of the proceedings are available online from Backdoor Broadcasting).



At the Network meeting which took place at the British Museum, I led a breakout session about cataloguing as research, and research into cataloguing itself.  What is of interest to me with Sloane is the unique triangulation between history of science, history of collections, and history of the book – three fields I have always found highly productive.  Sloane’s world is one which could be called ‘pre-disciplinary,’ and requires a highly interdisciplinary team if we are to understand, in the 21st century, what exactly that might mean.

It was nearly 20 years ago that I first heard about Sloane from the man who first brought the history of collections to the attention of other humanities disciplines, Dr Arthur MacGregor.  Arthur edited the volume Sir Hans Sloane: Collector, Scientist, Antiquary (1994), which has become the bible of those of us working on the meanings and use histories of Sloane’s collections.  In a more recent publication, Arthur’s Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (Yale 2007), we read:

“A parallel evolutionary process can be traced between the development of the cabinet and that of the catalogue.  More than mere inventories, catalogues had a dynamic of their own that contributed not only to the formal registration or recording of collections but also to their analysis and explication at several levels.  Furthermore, the catalogue developed a distinct literary and philosophical programme through which it evolved into a genre that, even if (at least normally) dependent on the collection, was more than merely reflective of it.”

I have been investigating the implications of these ‘evolutionary processes’ between the cabinet and the catalogue during research fellowship periods at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and as an Affiliated Research Scholar at the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Cambridge. This is essentially a study of collections management as science, and though my research remit is not limited to Sloane’s work alone, his meticulous attention to the documentation and organisation of his collection is a major focus.



Three Collaborative Doctoral Awards focusing on Sloane’s collections are now underway:

Collecting and Correspondence: Sloane’s Papers and Scientific Networks (Supervised by Dr Arnold Hunt, British Library and Dr Anne Goldgar, King’s College London)

Putting Nature in a Box: Sloane’s Vegetable Substances (Supervised by Dr Charlie Jarvis, Natural History Museum, and Professor Miles Ogborn, Queen Mary University of London)

Visualizing Natural Knowledge: Sloane’s Albums of Natural History Drawings  (Supervised by Dr Kim Sloan, British Museum, and Dr Elizabeth Eger, King’s College London)


Further Links:  Sloane’s Treasures British Museum; Sloane’s Treasures Natural History Museum; British Library Foundation Collections; Sloane Printed Books Project; From Books to Bezoars; British Museum Collections Online; Backdoor Broadcasting Sloane Workshops Podcasts

[Image References: Onyx Cameo of a Goat (16th-17thc, Sloane Collections), British Museum; view of the Enlightenment Gallery, British Museum; page spread from Sloane’s own catalogue of Miscellanies, British Museum; cabinet drawer (c1670), Centraal Museum, Utrecht.]

Image, Data and the Mathematical Sublime

Painting by Numbers: Image, Data and the Mathematical Sublime in Late Twentieth Century Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (May 2006)


Very large data sets are ‘collections’ too: in an increasingly digital world, we need to understand their materiality as continuous with other forms of material culture.  We need to understand how they are generated, how they are analysed, how they produce knowledge, and what this means in epistemological terms.

Shortly after the completion of my NESTA residency at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, I was invited to present my research findings at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

Under the direction of Professor Lorraine Daston, the ‘History of Scientific Observation’ project had just got underway, and I chose to make a contribution to this project with an extensive paper about numerical databases in recent astrophysical research.  In particular, the paper concerns the coming into being, use and impact of the Automatic Plate Measuring Machine which for thirty years had been at the heart of data generation in UK astronomy.

This pivotal instrument was designed by Ed Kibblewhite on the cusp of the 1970s and operated by Mike Irwin at the Institute of Astronomy until 2005, when it was finally decommissioned.  The photograph you see above, taken by IoA Graphics Officer Amanda Smith, shows it leaving the building that was constructed to house it.

The main function of the APM was to scan very high quality all-sky survey photographic plates of the near universe and turn the numerical data generated into coherent, searchable databases. Its use precedes the wide use in telescopes of particle detecting CCDs (charge couple devices) which deliver a constant stream of numerical data. As such, it was the machine that produced an entire algorithmic lexicon for understanding the universe.

Here is an abstract of the paper, which I am currently preparing for publication:

What does “observation” mean in a digital age and how is this related to its origins in eras when visual culture was more physically tangible? Beginning with the material culture of astronomical photography and extending into current computational astrophysics, this paper traces the intertwined evolutions of data and image in astronomical practice. I will argue that, far from there existing a philosophical or methodological split between those practitioners who use images and those who use logics as ’observational’ tools, in astronomy image and logic are synonymous, collapsed into each other.

I will explore this phenomenon in part through its origin in traditional observational practices of technical and computational data extraction from photographs of the sky over a hundred year period, showing how this ’tribal memory’ affects not only contemporary astronomers’ relationship with avalanches of post-digital data, but also in turn culturally informs the production of present-day images synthesized from the accumulated data itself. The paper pays close attention particularly to the 1970s, a period in which overlap between the material culture of ’sky survey’ photographs, the design of automatic measuring devices and the rapid evolution of computer power — all functioning at the very limit of their capacities — created a nexus of image-data systems which enshrined the mobile equivalence between the two.

This evolving relationship from image to data and back again to image via scanners, computers and display technologies is a very important one for science in general and for culture at large in the last 40 years. In astronomy, the build-up of large data sets in what has been a supremely visual science of light extends the very notion of what the adjective ‘visual’ means and thus it is a good test case to examine these cultural changes.

Starting with an overview of recent historical, sociological and art historical attention paid to late 20th century astrophysics, I show different approaches to the visual culture of astronomy and to notions of aesthetics. I conclusion, I propose a mathematical sublime at the core of the production of photo-illusory visualisations of the universe produced for public consumption, and suggest that the feature missing from a clear understanding of all image-making in contemporary science is the still undeveloped context of a logic of aesthetics.


This project is one of several outcomes of my NESTA residency at the IoA: another was the assistant curation of You Are Here: The Design of Information.

It was to be the first of several visits to the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science as a guest researcher. On that occasion in 2006 it was fantastic to be able to compare notes across astronomical image and data with photo historian Dr Kelley Wilder (now running the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University) and historian of 19th century physics and astronomy, Dr Charlotte Bigg (now a senior researcher at the Centre Alexandre Koyré in Paris), both of whom were at the MPIWG at that time.

I have also more recently been a guest researcher again at the MPIWG in March of 2012, developing an exhibition project and giving the Institute Colloquium on 21 March 2012 — about the very different subject of natural history museums.


Further Links:   Institute of Astronomy University of Cambridge; History of Scientific Observation, MPIWG; Dr Kelley Wilder; Dr Charlotte Bigg

[Image References: the decommissioning of the Automatic Plate Measuring Machine (Amanda Smith, 2005); black and white photo of the prototype automatic plate measuring machine by Ed Kibblewhite]

NESTA Fellowship

Fellow, National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (2004 to 2007)


Three year Senior Fellowship awarded by closed nomination for research exploring observational practice across scientific disciplines — astronomy, particle physics, spectroscopy, ophthalmology — and identifying potential methodological alignments between these practices and artistic practices.

The National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts was set up through an endowment from the UK National Lottery in 1998, and has been through several ideological and corporate incarnations.  In the beginning under Jeremy Newton, and through the time that I was a Fellow, it was clearly focused on nurturing UK creativity across the arts, sciences, design and technology — its brand was ‘creative investor’.

The complex application procedure began with a closed nomination: my name had been put forward to them by a senior advisor, which meant that I received a call from NESTA inviting me to apply for a Fellowship. Following that, there were two sets of interviews at NESTA, a formal written application with a research plan and budget for three years’ work, letters from three referees, and an external evaluation interview — with Jim Al-Kahlili.

My main activities included a residency period of over a year at the Institute of Astronomy of Cambridge University.  This was both formative and productive, and led to my curating the COSMOS section of James Peto’s exhibition You Are Here: The Design of Information at the Design Museum.  I was also able to formulate a brief history of plate-measuring and scanning machines in astrophysics — Image, Data and the Mathematical Sublime — which became a contribution to the History of Scientific Observation project at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.

Of course, the overarching common interest between astronomers and artists is light: and I learned how much more to light there is than the visible spectrum, as well as the co-extensiveness of light with all other matter by dint of its particulate nature. The fact that it is possible to ascertain the elementary makeup of matter by measuring its radiation — often light itself — is profoundly exciting. Spectroscopy is one of the techniques I explored during this period.

Researchers at the IoA and also at the Cavendish Laboratory across the Madingley Road were generous with their time, and I received both formal and informal mentoring from Dr Robin Catchpole and Dr Jon Zwart.  The Institute’s Librarian, Mark Hurn, shared his history of astronomy knowledge and more, and I attended conferences and classes as an observer. Professors Craig McKay and Alexander Boksenberg, alongside Dr Mike Irwin, were especially helpful in illuminating the links — both theoretical and technological — between photons and data sets, via detectors and photomultipliers.

Understanding how data is collected is one thing; grasping how it is analysed is another.  The evolution of mathematical understanding from probability and statistics to computed algorithms is also a move from human to computer calculations.  I was lucky enough to have Professor Marcus du Sautoy as a maths mentor during my Fellowship, and my comprehension of mathematical concepts has been greatly increased.  Sadly, the ability to actually apply any of these concepts to sets of numbers, or express them mathematically rather than in words, is still lacking.

I became captivated by the Automatic Plate Measuring Machine, an instrument which Mike Irwin had spent most of his career cajoling into creating vast accurate numerical representations of the near universe.  The APM, now decommissioned, existed to scan All-Sky-Survey photographs in the interregnum before all astronomical data came routinely from particle detectors.  It is essentially the history of this unique machine — designed in the 1970s by Ed Kibblewhite — that I outlined in Image, Data and the Mathematical Sublime.

Not all those astrophysical particle detectors are out in the sky on satellite telescopes, either. Several are deep underground, where the mantle of the earth protects them from interference.  One such instrument is the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, which I visited in the framework of my NESTA Fellowship in March of 2006. It was a complex period for SNO; they were in the middle of a major building programme above ground, and were planning a second phase of experiments for the huge instrument, SNO+ — a phase that was at that time not assured of funding. It is one of the most important astrophysics instruments ever created, and I was very honoured to be so well received at such a critical moment.



The perfect little model you see here is of the heavy-water Cherenkov detector that is the core of the facility. The real thing is so big it requires a cavity in the rock the size of a ten story building, and it is installed two kilometers below the surface.  They carefully prepared me for the trip down the mineshaft and into the observatory; I was so excited that I hardly noticed the fear. It was one of the most terrifying things I have ever willingly done.

I was also given a tour of the new research building being constructed to replace the series of sheds and portacabins that had housed the project’s researchers from the beginning. I was able to return in some small way the knowledge exchange by advising Director of Operations Dr Fraser Duncan with a list of the material culture items that it would be advisable to preserve and exhibit in the new building’s ‘trophy case’ once the move was complete.  It is so often the case in these moves that things get thrown out that in 30 years’ time would be vital clues to an historian — or indeed to a later astrophysicist. The smallest thing on my list was a mousetrap, and the largest was the iconic silver workshop formed from an old railway car: Shed P31. The history of physics is littered with sheds and their mousetraps, and it’s a history that remains to be told.



Some of the most important and productive areas of creativity are those which overlap between NESTA’s areas of arts, sciences and technology. This can be the case in the practice of individuals as well as in the practice of teams. Though the research and projects that I effected during the Fellowship were mainly self-directed, they intersected with a range of team-based institutions.

A big plus to being a NESTA Fellow for me was the opportunity to meet and exchange with colleagues working in science fields that were new to me. The Science Crucible Laboratories organised by Nicola Turner and later by Alan Morton — whom I had first met whilst working at the Science Museum — are a case in point. Groups of early-career researchers and those interested in interdisciplinary work and science communication were awarded for a year-long period that included regular meetings and mentoring.

On some of those occasions, other NESTA awardees were invited to be part of weekend retreats.  I spoke to the 2005 Crucible Meeting at Dartington College of Arts, alongside Mark Miodownik of the Materials Library, on the subject of Creativity. Among many other things I spoke about, I outlined the friendship that sprang up in 1950s Berkeley between the great American composer Harry Partch and the physicist Lauriston C Marshall, then Director of High Voltage Engineering at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory:

These two different men saw something in each other that was about the fundamentals of waves and resonance. Larry learned to play Harry’s instruments and was one of the few who understood the mathematical underpinnings of his ‘just intonation’ and the physics behind his music theory. In 1950 they applied jointly and successfully for a Guggenheim grant to develop an electronic organ. In a short two years a great body of work was produced by this pair, ranging from musical compositions to early software and even shared MSc students: William Max Muller’s successful thesis was entitled “A Cathode Ray Tube Harmonic Generator for Musical Tone Production” — Glass and Gas!


At the latter end of my Fellowship, I returned to questions of the visible light spectrum, and had a closer look at ophthalmology with a view to understanding the physiology behind phenomenological experiences of light. NESTA’s Alan Morton arranged for several Fellows to spend the day at the UCL/Wellcome Institute of Ophthalmology with Professor Fred Fitzke.  I was also mentored by optometrist Andrew Field.

I became interested in the possibility of the reuse and repurposing of ophthalmological examination instruments and astronomical observation instruments — both optical and particle detection. The great advantage to having a period of time on such a research Fellowship is that hunches and interests become focused into frameworks for study and, ultimately, long-term projects.  As I wrote in 2005:

One sphere is the finite laws of physics which govern light, another sphere is the finite physiology of seeing — receiving light — and a third intersecting sphere in this Venn diagram would be the manmade instruments which manipulate light. I believe that somewhere in the intersection of these three spheres is a core of consciousness, and I also believe that we need as many phenomenologists as we do neurologists to explore this issue. We need as many artists as we need physicists. We need historians and we need historiographers. In short, we need to forge whole new methodologies.

Looking Back Towards the Light: An Artist in the Observatory, lecture delivered University of Oxford, University of Copenhagen, University of Calgary (2005)



Further Links: NESTA; Institute of Astronomy; Sudbury Neutrino Observatory; UCL/Wellcome Institute of Ophthalmology

[Image References: Institute of Astronomy Coradi Plate Measuring Table, in the shadow of Isaac Newton; Model of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory instrument showing the disposition of photomultipliers; Shed P31 workshop from Sudbury Neutrino Observatory; NESTA Fellows away-day meeting in 2006 at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, with l-r the then Director Michael Harrison, Brian Duffy (legs only!), Allan McRobie, Tom Shakespeare, Jane Prophet, Lise Autogena and Alan Morton]

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Visiting Lecturer, Visual Culture for BA Graphic Arts and Illustration, Anglia Ruskin University (1996 to 1998)


With lecture seminars such as ‘Phylactery,’ about the relationship between inscription and the sacred,  and ‘Names and Letters,’ concerning letterforms as embodiments, my teaching contributed to undergraduate understandings of the philosophical issues in all image-making at what is now Cambridge School of Art.

Teaching on this modular undergraduate programme across several strands and over two academic years, I effected regular lecturing, supervision and marking of coursework, leading seminars and studio tutorials. thus offering students both coherence in teaching and an understanding of the integrity of intellectual issues across a variety of artistic practices. My teaching involved an hour-long specially written lecture followed by a two-hour seminar with groups of up to 35 undergraduates. Beyond the two listed above, other lecture seminars I devised include:

‘Printed Chapbooks and Literacy: Reading Class,’ about early mass-printing of illustrated ballads, news and myths; including literacy and popular culture issues;

This overview of  images from broadsides and chapbooks covers the conditions of the printers, the woodcut artists and the writers as well as the distribution and use of this printed ephemera. It is a trade that began with printing in the 15th century and ended with the widening distribution of daily newspapers at the end of the 19th century. Broadsides were verses printed on one side of a sheet, often pinned or pasted to the walls of private and public buildings. Broadsheets were verses often meant to be sung, and to be held in the hand, printed on both sides. Chapbooks were little folded books taking up not more than one full sheet of paper, as it could then be printed in its entirety on one page and on one press. Almost all were illustrated, and the purchasing clientele base was a mix of many levels of literacy in the working and labouring class. The chapbook was also inexpensive, made cheaply often with poor materials and little attention to detail: the study of chapbooks is also the study of the evolving relationship between class and literacy.

‘Bewick: Through a Glass Darkly,’ concerning the recipriocity of Bewick’s engravings on both glass and wood in his work, exploring the relationship between image reproduction and materiality;

The difference between positive and negative, between glass or metal engraving and wood engraving, between the transparency of glass, the reflectivity of metal and the opacity of wood cut in relief, are at once enormous and subtle. Bewick understood all these things and practiced them equally. He was skilled in engraving and designing for several different kinds of material which allowed him to experiment with ways in which the parameters of one form could be transposed to another. It is this versatility and this virtuosity that makes Bewick a great artist. The harder he worked and the more he applied himself, the looser and more experimental he could become. He was intensely interested in the deep links between the daily exercise of his craft and the creation of images: in this he was a self-conscious — or perhaps just conscious, if we use the word correctly — artist. In later years, when he entered into partnership with the family that had apprenticed him, he was his own master in some of his work, so he made images he wanted to make at certain points.


I also gave a Visiting Artist lecture to the entire Art and Illustration undergraduate cohort of 1997-98. The subject of this lecture was the letterform and the book in my own work as an artist, including information about book artists and book arts that have informed my work. This was an opportunity for students to see how my own work as an artist integrated the research and intellectual preoccupations which had been informing the lectures and seminars I had led with them.  I was also involved in marking student projects, essays and exams, and contributing to the evaluation of both students and the programme itself.

The invitation to teach at Anglia Ruskin came from Will Hill, whom I had met at the 1996 meeting of the International Association for Word and Image Studies, of which we are both members. Will and I share an interest in the phenomenology of the letterform, coming at it from different angles, but meeting on many points.


Further Links: Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University; Will Hill; International Association for Word and Image Studies    

[Image References: Phylactery Case in silver and leather (Brooklyn Museum, 1885); Cambridge School of Art Quad, Anglia Ruskin University]