Department of English

University of Toronto

Toronto Centre for the Book lecture series - What Was the Cost of Books in Chaucer’s Time?

Event date: Thursday, January 11, 2018, from 4:15 PM to 6:00 PM
Location: Upper Library, Massey College, 4 Devonshire Place, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2E1

Alexandra Gillespie (University of Toronto), “What Was the Cost of Books in Chaucer’s Time?”
Thursday, January 11, 2018 @ 4:15 PM - 6:00 PM 

This paper argues that historical analysis of the cost or price of medieval books is confounded by the quantity and quality of the available evidence. Medieval scholars depend on very small data sets to address this question, and even the data that are available have been stripped by time of key contextual information. In the absence of a reliable empirical approach to the question, I turn to other forms of inquiry. Some of these are grounded in the close analysis of the physical forms of the medieval codex. I am also interested in ideas about value, and about evidence itself, that I find in some of Chaucer’s writing.

Alexandra Gillespie is a Professor at the University of Toronto in English and Medieval Studies, where she teaches medieval literature, bibliography, and manuscript studies. Her research is concerned with medieval and early modern texts and books; she is especially interested in the shift from manuscript to print, the relationship between book history, literary criticism, and literary theory, and the digitization of medieval books. Her publications include Print Culture and the Medieval Author: Chaucer, Lydgate, and Their Books, 1473-1557 (Oxford, 2006) and The Production of Books in England, 1350-1500, edited with Daniel Wakelin (Cambridge, 2011). Professor Gillespie currently serves as Chair of the Department of English and Drama, University of Toronto at Mississauga; she also directs the Old Books New Science (OBNS) Lab, which brings together undergraduate research assistants, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and technologists with interests in digital scholarship, digital text editing, computational approaches to humanities research, and medieval book history (manuscript and print).

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