The Lyell Lectures

A painted portrait of a man sitting in a leather chair - he wears a tweed suit, and looks into the mid-distance. He holds a pipe in his right hand


The Lyell Lectures

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  Annual lecture series


The Lyell Readership in Bibliography at Oxford University is endowed by a bequest from James Patrick Ronaldson Lyell (1871–1948), a solicitor, book collector and bibliographer.

Each year since 1952, a distinguished scholar has been elected to deliver the lectures, usually six in number, on any topic of bibliography, broadly conceived.

J.P.R. Lyell lived in Oxford and (on his retirement) in Abingdon from 1927 until the end of his life. Even as a young man he was interested in collecting early printed books, and he made a study of early book illustration in Spain. In the 1930s he began collecting medieval manuscripts, eventually accumulating some 250 of these, of which one hundred were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library. A further series of some 65 manuscripts, mostly post-medieval, were bought by the Library from his executors.

The first Lyell lectures, for the academic year 1952–3, were delivered by Neil R. Ker, university reader in palaeography and fellow of Magdalen College.

Image: Portrait of James Patrick Ronaldson Lyell (1871–1948) by Helen McDougall Campbell. Bodleian Library LP 827

The Lyell Lectures 2024

Copying the Classics (and Fathers): explorations in the transmission of Latin text
Professor Stephen Oakley, Kennedy Professor of Latin and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
23, 25, 30 April and 7 and 9 May 2024



Date Reader Lecture series title Publication / Recording
2022–23 Professor Ann M Blair In the scholar’s workshop: amanuenses in early modern Europe Watch the 2022–23 lectures
2021–22 Professor Susan Rankin From Memory to Written Record: English Liturgical Books & Musical Notations, 900–1150 Watch the 2021–22 lectures
2020–21 Paul Needham The Genesis, Life, and Afterlife of the Gutenberg Bible Watch the 2020–21 lectures



Date Reader Lecture series title Publication / Recording
2019–20 Marc Smith Writing models from manuscript to print: France, England and Europe, c.1400–1800 Watch the 2019–20 lectures
2018–19 Richard Sharpe Libraries and books in medieval England: the role of libraries in a changing book economy Watch the 2018–19 lectures
2017–18 David Pearson Book Ownership in Stuart England Watch the 2017–18 lectures
Oxford University Press, 2021
2016–17 Paul Nelles  The Vatican Library and the Counter-Reformation  
2015–16 Teresa Webber Public Reading and its Books: Monastic Ideals and Practice in England c.1000–c.1300  
2014–15 Michael Suarez, SJ The reach of bibliography Listen to the 2014–5 lectures
2013–14 H.R. Woudhuysen   'Almost Identical': Copying Books in England, 1600–1900 Watch an introduction to the 2014 lecture series
2012–13 Richard Beadle Late medieval English autograph writings and their uses  
2011–12 Lukas Erne Shakespeare and the book trade Cambridge University Press, 2013
2010–11 David Parker Describing the New Testament Oxford University Press, 2012



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
2009–10 Ian Maclean The business of scholarship: the trade in Latin books in the age of confessions, 1560–1630 Scholarship, Commerce, Religion. Harvard University Press, 2012
2008–9 Christopher F R de Hamel Fragments in Book Bindings  
2007–8 Kristian Jensen Collecting Incunabula: Enlightenment, revolution and the market – rediscovering and re-creating the earliest printed books in the eighteenth century Cambridge University Press
2006–7 Mirella Ferrari The scriptorium and library of Bobbio  
2005–6 Leslie Howsam Historical knowledge and British publishers, 1850–1950: discipline and narrative BL /Toronto UP, 2009
2004–5 Reinhard Wittmann Literary life and book-market in Germany under the Swastika 1933–1945  
2003–4 Kathleen L Scott Suppleatur per ymaginacionem : Exceptional images in later medieval English manuscripts London, 2007
2002–3 Nigel G Wilson The world of books in Byzantium  
2001–2 Bruce Bryning Redford Designing the Life of Johnson Oxford University Press, 2002
2000–1 Rodney Malcolm Thomson Books and learning in twelfth-century England: the ending of 'Alter Orbis' Red Gull Press, 2006



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
1999–2000 David McKitterick Set in print: The fortunes of an idea, c.1450–1800 Cambridge University Press, 2003
1998–9 Malcolm B Parkes Their hands before our eyes: A closer look at scribes Ashgate, 2008
1996–7 Robert Darnton Policing literature in eighteenth-century Paris  
1995–6 Peter Beal In praise of scribes: Manuscripts and their makers in seventeenth-century England Oxford University Press, 1998
1994–5 Henri-Jean Martin Du manuscrit au livre imprimé: mise en page et mise en texte des textes littéraires Français de la fin due XVe siècle au milieu du XVIIe siècle Electre, 2000
1993–4 Joseph Burney Trapp Illustrations of Petrarch from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century Quaderni petrarcheschi, 1996
1992–3 Bernhard Fabian English authors and German publishers in the eighteenth century  
1991–2 R H Rouse Book-producers and book-production in Paris: family, shop and neighbourhood on the Rue neuve Notre-Dame, 1200–1500 Harvey Miller, 1998 / 2000
1990–1 A R A Hobson Two renaissance book-collectors: Jean Grolier and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, their libraries and bookbindings Cambridge University Press, 1998



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
1989–90 Elizabeth L Eisenstein Grub Street abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution Oxford University Press, 1992
1988–9 Donald H Reiman The Study of Modern Manuscripts: Public, Confidential, and Private Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
1987–8 D F McKenzie Bibliography and history: seventeenth-century England  
1986–7 Mary Pollard Dublin Trade in Books 1550 to 1800 Oxford University Press, 1989
1985–6 Edwin Wolf Books, bookmen, and booksellers in colonial Philadelphia Oxford University Press, 1988
1984–5 Gordon Norton Ray The Art Deco book in France Univerity of Virginia Bibliographical Society, 2005
1983–4 Robert Shackleton The bibliographical history of Montesquieu  
1982–3 Jonathan J G Alexander Creation and transmission: methods of work of manuscript illuminators in the Middle Ages Yale, 1993
1981–2 Berthold Wolpe The quest for Beauchesne: contributions to the history of Elizabethan calligraphy and print-making  
1980–1 Ian Gilbert Philip The Bodleian Library in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Oxford University Press, 1983



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
1979–80 Monsignor José Ruysschaert Recherches vaticanes sur la miniature italienne du quinzième siecle  
1978–9 Howard Millar Nixon English decorated bookbindings  
1977–8 Mme Jeanne Veyrin-Forrer La famille Fournier et la fonderie typographique en France au XVIIIe siècle  
1976–7 T Julian Brown The insular system of scripts, c.600–c.850  
1975–6 David F Foxon Pope and the Early Eighteenth-Century Book Trade Oxford University Press, 1991
1974–5 T A M Bishop The script of Corbie 1977
1973–4 Alan W Tyson Beethoven: Studies in the genesis of his music 1803-9  
1972–3 André Masson Le catalogue figuratif: a pictorial guide to the contents of European libraries from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century Oxford University Press, 1981
1971–2 Wytze Hellinga The bibliography of early printing in the Low Countries between 1767 and 1874  
1970–1 Otto Ernst Pächt The art of drawing within the realm of medieval illumination  



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
1969–70 William Burton Todd Scholarly texts: variable techniques and designs  
1968–9 Cornelis Reedijk The labours of Hercules: some observations on the history of Erasmus's Opera omnia Basel, 1980
1967–8 Harry Graham Carter A View of Early Typography up to about 1600 Oxford University Press, 1969
1966–7 Anthony Ian Doyle Some English scribes and scriptoria of the later middle ages Published as articles
1965–6 Simon Harcourt Nowell-Smith International Copyright Law and the Publisher in the reign of Queen Victoria Oxford University Press, 1968
1964–5 William Beattie Some aspects of the history of the Advocates' Library  
1963–4 Jacques Guignard L'Art de le reliure en France et l'action des bibliophiles: quelques aspects de la question  
1962–3 A N L Munby Three nineteenth-century collectors of manuscripts Oxford University Press, 1972
1961–2 Philip Hofer The artist and the book in France  
1960–1 Henry Graham Pollard The medieval book trade in Oxford  



Date Reader Lecture title Publication / Recording
1958–9 Fredson T Bowers Bibliography and Textual Criticism Oxford University Press, 1964
1956–7 Stanley Arthur Morison Aspects of Authority and Freedom in relation to Greco-Latin Script, Inscription, and Type Privately printed as pamphlets, 1957
1954–5 Walter Wilson Greg Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing between 1550 and 1650 Oxford University Press, 1956
1952–3 Neil Ripley Ker English Manuscripts in the Century after the Norman Conquest (Oxford, 1960). Ker's first lecture, 'The manuscripts of James P. R. Lyell, delivered at the Ashmolean Museum, 29 Jan 1953, in accordance with the terms of Lyell's will, as the first Lyell Lecture by the first James P. R. Lyell Reader in Bibliography, was printed in Catalogue of the Collection of Medieval Manuscripts bequeathed to the Bodleian Library Oxford by James P. R. Lyell, by Albinia de la Mare (Oxford, 1971), xv-xxi. The more complete typescript is now Bodl. MS Eng. c. 2013. Oxford University Press, 1960