Announcing our keynote speaker: Dr Kathryn M Rudy (Univ. of St Andrews)

We are delighted to announce our third keynote speaker, a member of our own staff. Dr Kathryn M. Rudy is a senior lecturer in art history at St Andrews. She has written extensively about late medieval manuscripts and is best known for her work on ‘Dirty Books’, that is, measuring signs of wear in manuscript margins in order to quantify reader reception. See her TED talk on this topic! Before coming to academia five years ago, she was curator of illuminated manuscripts at the National Library of The Netherlands. She holds degrees from Cornell, Columbia, and Toronto, and she has held fellowships, inter alia, at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Warburg, the Bodleian Library, the Getty, the Bauhaus University Weimar, and Trinity College Dublin. Her most recent book is Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books (Yale University Press, 2015). She has two books forthcoming, once about the relationship between images and indulgences in the decades before the Protestant Reformation, and the other about the modular structure of manuscripts in the fifteenth century and its implications.

Dr Rudy’s keynote lecture is entitled ‘Assembled from disparate parts: Medieval Manuscripts, Upcycled and Recycled’.

Medieval prayerbooks resisted obsolescence, despite an ever-changing devotional landscape. Made by highly specialised craftspeople (scribes, illuminators, book binders) with labour-intensive processes using exclusive and sometimes exotic materials (parchment made from dozens or hundreds of animals, inks and paints made from prized minerals, animals and plants), books were expensive and built to last. They usually outlived their owners. Rather than discard them when they were superseded, book owners found ways to update, amend and upcycle books or book parts.

These activities accelerated in the fifteenth century with the advent of modular production. Because books of hours and prayerbooks were made in units, it was easy to add new units, or to redeploy old parts into a new book. Practical considerations encouraged this manner of constructing books.Upcycling allowed owners to accommodate new prayers and images, because devotional culture was deeply subject to changes in fashion and taste. By structurally analysing several examples of recycled and upcycled manuscripts, I show how modifications reveal owners’ fears and desires, including their desires to remain devotionally au courant.