Oxford Events Calendar

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Adam Smyth ‘The Book Makers’ with Abigail Williams

16 July @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Join us for a celebration of the printed book, told through the lives of 18 people who took it in radical new directions.

The Book Makers

This is an extraordinary story of skill, craft, mess, cunning, triumph, improvisation, and error. Of printers and binders, publishers and artists, paper-makers and library founders.

Some we know. We meet jobbing printer (and United States Founding Father) Benjamin Franklin, and watch Thomas Cobden-Sanderson conjure books that flicker between the 20th and 15th centuries. Others we’ve forgotten. We don’t recall Sarah Eaves, wife of John Baskerville, and her crucial contribution to the history of type. Nor Charles Edward Mudie, populariser of the circulating library – and the most influential figure in publishing before Jeff Bezos. Nor William Wildgoose, who meticulously bound Shakespeare’s First Folio, then disappeared.

The Book-Makers puts people back into the story of the book. It takes us inside the print-shop as the deadline looms and the adrenaline flows – from the Fleet Street of 1492 to present-day New York. It’s a tale of contingencies and quirks, of successes and failures, of routes forward and paths not taken. This is a history of book-making that leaves ink on your fingers, and shows why the printed book will continue to flourish.

Adam Smyth

Adam Smyth began his career at the University of Reading before moving to Birkbeck College, London. He came to Oxford in 2013, to Balliol College, where he is now Professor of English Literature and the History of the Book. His scholarship is marked by a brilliantly focused curiosity and the ability to make material that might seem unyielding – printed waste, typographical errors, fragments of flowers found in old books – come alive with critical interest.

Abigail Williams

Professor Abigail Williams is the Associate Head of Research and Innovation for the Humanities Division. Working with the divisional research support and impact teams and TORCH she leads on strategic oversight of research activity across the nine faculties and departments. She is Professor of English Literature and Lord White Tutorial Fellow at St Peter’s College. Her research focuses on eighteenth-century literature, politics, and the history of the book, with a recent focus on historical and contemporary readers and reading practices.


Blackwell’s Bookshop
48-51 Broad Street
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3BQ United Kingdom


Blackwell’s, Broad Street Oxford
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