The Lyell Lectures 2020

Lecture details

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The Lyell Lectures 2020

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

  29 September, 1, 6 and 8 October 2020

   Free, book in advance

To book your place please email


A series of five 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.


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

The Lyell Lectures 2020 series

Lecture 1: Writing Models and the Formation of National Scripts

  29 September 2020, 5.00pm

Watch Lecture 1 online

Lecture 2: Bibliography and the Life Cycles of Writing Books

  1 October 2020, 5.00pm

Watch Lecture 2 online

Lecture 3: Renaissance Calligraphy from Pen to Press and Back

  6 October 2020, 5.00pm

Watch Lecture 3 online

Lecture 4: The Golden Age of French Writing Masters?

  8 October 2020, 5.00pm

Watch Lecture 4 online

Lecture 5: L’Ecriture Anglaise dans sa Perfection

 To be delivered in March 2021. Full details and registration information will follow closer to the time.


Booking information

When you book a ticket, this will give you access to the whole lecture series.

You do not need to book each lecture separately.

A link to access the online lecture will be sent during the week before to the email address associated with your booking.

If you have yet to receive your link to the event, please email