The material turn in fields that rely on printed matter has led to interest in how those texts and images were—and are—produced. Those objects, including cut woodblocks, etched/engraved metal plates, and lithographic stones, could be fundamental to research. Tens of thousands survive from the last 500 years, but the vast majority are inaccessible because they do not fit into the cataloguing structures and controlled vocabularies used by the libraries, archives and museums that hold them. Those that are accessible tend to be under-used, as few researchers are equipped to understand them or communicate about them across disciplinary boundaries. Even the most basic term is debated: to book historians/in libraries, pieces of type are multiples cast from a matrix (mould); to artists and art historians/in museums, the resulting types are the matrices (the sheets printed from them are the multiples).

As new possibilities to catalogue and digitise these artefacts are revealing their research potential, a common framework could advance knowledge of image-printing processes and images’ role in the print trade. This twelve-month project will create a research network and distil a single, interdisciplinary best practice from existing standards across disciplines and heritage collections to train researchers to engage with them.

As a precondition for this training is consensus on terminology, methodology and best practice, (1) an international, interdisciplinary working group will be formed. It will agree on recommendations following (2) a conference and (3) closed summit in September 2017. The aim of BARSEA scheme is to cascade benefits to early career researchers, so this framework will be put into practice at (4) a training session for ECRs in December 2017, refined, and (5) published open access in March 2018 so that researchers in many places and disciplines can use these objects in their research from the start of their academic careers.

This research is supported by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award.

Conference: Blocks Plates Stones (21 September 2017)

Convenor: Dr Elizabeth Savage

This deeply interdisciplinary conference will survey the state of research into cut woodblocks, intaglio plates, lithographic stones, and other matrices/printing surfaces. It will bring together researchers, curators, librarians, printers, printmakers, cataloguers, conservators, digital humanities practitioners, and others who care for or seek to understand these objects. The discussion will encompass all media and techniques, from the fifteenth century through the present. 

Early Career Researchers Training Day (1 December 2017)

This free, hands-on, object-based training day will introduce 10 ECRs to the research of historical matrices/printing surfaces (e.g. cut woodblocks, etched metal plates, litho stones). The emphasis is pre-1830. By analysing the objects and resulting impressions, participants will learn how to describe them; identify how they were made, used and copied; relate them to printed content; and use them as primary material in their own research. The interdisciplinary remit includes text and image, as well as decorations, initials, medicine, music, mathematical symbols, scientific imagery, and more. This event is the first application of a new research framework, which will later be published open access. Participants will learn new research skills and, through their feedback, help shape the future of research in fields related to print heritage. The training is convened by Elizabeth Savage and facilitated by Giles Bergel and Roger Gaskell.

Apply online (deadline 1 September 2017):
Flier [.pdf]: click here

Working Group

Laura Aldovini (Università Cattolica, Milan; Project Census Italian Renaissance Woodcuts, Fondazione G. Cini, Venice); Ilaria Andreoli (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris; Museo Correr, Venice); Giles Bergel (Oxford University); Erin Blake (Descriptive Cataloguing of Rare Materials: Graphics (DCRM(G)); Alixe Bovey (Courtauld), Rosalba Dinoia (independent researcher); Cristina Dondi (15cBOOKTRADE; Oxford University; Consortium of European Research Libraries); Caroline Duroselle-Melish (Folger Shakespeare Library); Richard S. Field (Yale University); Roger Gaskell (Roger Gaskell Rare Books); Shelley Langdale (Philadelphia Museum of Art; Print Council of America); Katherine Martin (V&A); James Mosley (University of Reading; Institute of English Studies); Paul Nash (The Strawberry Press; Printing Historical Society); Nadine Orenstein (Metropolitan Museum of Art); Christiane Pagel (Graphikportal; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum); Linda Stiber-Morenus (Library of Congress); Ad Stijnman (Herzog August Bibliothek); May Sung (FoGuang University, Taiwan); Jonathan Whitson Cloud (ICOM-CIDOC Documentation Standards Working Group; Horniman Museum).


Dr Elizabeth Savage (

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