Science and Heritage Programme

BookNET: a network for the technological study of the book and manuscript as artefact

School of Archaeology, University of Oxford

Principal Investigator - Professor Mark Pollard



The book is one of the major components of our cultural heritage - by 'book' we mean any portable object whose prime purpose is to convey documentary information (including images and text). For centuries vast effort has been devoted to investigating and interpreting the content of written documents, but, in comparison, relatively little attention has been paid to the medium itself. In fact, the study of the book as a physical object lags some way behind the technical study of other cultural objects (such as easel paintings). We propose to bring together those who are active in the study of the book (including literary and historical scholars, research scientists, as well as library curators and book conservators) in a Research Cluster, and, by combining this expertise with experience from related disciplines, generate a research agenda for such a study.

A major interest of the Research Cluster will be within the theme 'Authenticity, authentication and security', since a knowledge of the life histories of books is an essential contribution to understanding their content in context. We will also be interested in the nature of transformation of the various elements of the material objects, and the implications of this for conservation practice. The interaction between the various components of the book will be an important consideration here. As such, it also speaks to the theme 'nature of transformation'.

The Research Cluster will build on an existing research network, the 'Centre for the Study of the Book' (a partnership between the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the British Library, Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich and Princeton University). 

We believe that this activity will precipitate a step-change in the way in which the physical nature of the book is taken into account when the information content is evaluated, and will remind the world that the physical book contains more information than can be represented as a digitized image. The output will be a document which summarizes the current state of research, and generates a strategy for future interdisciplinary research.


BookNET Research Group Meeting 1

2nd March 2009 
Vere Harmsworth Library, Oxford University

Download the summary (PDF)

Link to agenda and PDFs of selected presentations

BookNET Research Group Meeting 2

18 June 2009
Rothermere American Institute, Oxford

Link to agenda and PDFs of selected presentations

BookNET Research Group Meeting 3

12th November 2009
V&A Museum, London

Link to agenda


Image © Matija Strlic

Image © Matija Strlic