Pierre-Louis’s PhD investigates the role of clubs and learned societies in the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America in the medieval manuscript trade. When it comes to the reception of written artefacts of the Middle Ages in the modern period, to what extent did these bibliophilic organisations help codify values projected onto medieval manuscripts? And how much did they influence the study, trade, and collecting of these manuscripts in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States of America in the early twentieth century?
The period between 1900 and 1945 was one of considerable change in the composition, aims and activities of clubs and societies which had medieval manuscripts among their areas of interest (e.g. the Roxburghe Club, the Société des Bibliophiles François, the Grolier Club) or which were almost exclusively dedicated to them (e.g. the Early English Text Society, the New Palaeographical Society and the Société des Anciens Textes Français). A conspicuous shift occurred in the ways medieval manuscripts were described and perceived during this period; one way in which this can be traced is through exhibition catalogues and publications issued by clubs and societies.
While the categories of ‘club’ and ‘society’ are often unsatisfactorily blurry, Pierre-Louis’s work explores the tension between individual and collective agency in the analysis of social groups: the scholarly, commercial or collecting practices of a club or society member do not necessarily account for prevailing trends – if any – in the groups to which they belong. This social and cultural study tackles the various dynamics within these complex, idiosyncratic and overlapping networks of collectors, dealers, librarians and scholars.