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How to read old paper: Searching for meaning in early modern English writing paper

October 11, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

Please join us for our annual invited Iowa Bibliophiles lecture as we study Shakespeare’s world through a unique lens.

This year we are joined by Heather Wolfe, a consulting curator of manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. She will present her talk “How to read old paper: Searching for meaning in early modern English writing paper” at 6pm October 11th in Shambaugh Auditorium and on Zoom.

In the late 1580s and 1590s, England experienced a writing paper renaissance. High status people began to have access to and develop a vocabulary for an expanding range of imported fine paper. At the same time, a German refugee jeweler named John Spilman began one of the first viable paper mills in England. Despite his documented struggles in sourcing rags, he supplied writing paper to Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council and a handful of printers, adorning it with intricate watermarks depicting the queen’s coat of arms, royal badges, and cypher. Join Wolfe as she digs into the archival evidence to tell a story about paper that begins with impoverished and unhoused London rag women and ends with Queen Elizabeth.

In addition to stewarding the manuscript collection, Wolfe teaches people how to read English secretary hand and oversees transcription crowdsourcing projects at the Folger. She publishes widely on early modern English manuscripts and hybrid books. Her essay “The Material Culture of Record-Keeping in Early Modern England,” co-written with Peter Stallybrass, received the 2019 Archival History Article Award from the Society of American Archivists. She was also the Munby Fellow in Bibliography at the University of Cambridge in 2021/22. Wolfe received her BA from Amherst College, her M.L.I.S. from UCLA, and her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.

This is a hybrid event. You can join us in person at 6pm at Shambaugh Auditorium in the Main Library, or on Zoom by registering here



October 11, 2023
6:00 pm
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Shambaugh Auditorium, University of Iowa Main Library
125 W Washington St
Iowa City, IA 52242 United States
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