One way that the project pursues its aims is by bringing groups of scholars together for new conversations.
Questions in Conservation, May 2020
As specialists working with heritage objects first-hand, conservators are in a unique position to ask questions leading to interdisciplinary and collaborative breakthroughs in the areas of medieval book history, conservation and heritage science, and the protection and study of vulnerable and little-understood materials.
On May 13, 2020, the Book and the Silk Roads hosted conservators from the Cambridge University Library, the British Library, the Chester Beatty Library, and Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden to participate in a Zoom workshop with the aim of identifying questions, puzzles, and areas of research interest which may be suitable for the application of non-destructive scientific approaches and scholarly research.
Formats of the Book in East Asia and Environs, November 2019
Co-PI Suzanne Akbari (now at the Institute for Advanced Study) hosted a workshop on November 19, 2019 bringing together researchers from the University of Toronto, Princeton University, and others, for a day of study focused on “Formats of the Book in East Asia and Environs.” The event was jointly hosted by Stephen Teiser, on behalf of Princeton’s Buddhist Studies Workshop, along with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1802-05532). The day began with a survey of manuscripts and early printed books at the Firestone Library, led by Martin Heijdra, Director of Princeton’s East Asian Library. Images from the exhibition are featured in this blog post by Julie Mellby; see also the IAS's press release here.
The morning session on early book forms of East Asia, including fragments from Turfan and documents from the "library cave" in the Mogao complex near Dunhuang, was followed by presentations on The Book and the Silk Roads project by co-PI Alexandra Gillespie (UofT) and on collaborative research with the Royal Ontario Museum by UofT's Amanda Goodman and Jessica Lockhart, as well as a survey by Princeton’s Stephen Teiser of the Luce Foundation-funded project “Dunhuang Art and Manuscripts” (2014-18).
Transcultural Manuscript Nomenclature, October 2019
Conservator and bookbinding scholar Alberto Campagnolo (Udine) led a workshop about appropriate schemas for conducting transnational, transcultural manuscript studies. Conservator Karin Scheper (Leiden) worked with some of our collaborators at the Aga Khan Museum in October. She delivered a lecture at Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies on October 19, 2019, "Working with Islamic Manuscripts: from a Western Perspective to a Neutral Stance, and a Vocabulary to Reflect This," with a response by Alberto Campagnolo. Our project is indebted to Scheper's The Technique of Islamic Bookbinding 2nd ed (Brill, 2018).
New studies on material aspects of manuscripts from the Islamic world have changed our understanding of this manuscript culture and its larger role in the development of bookmaking techniques. As a result, we must also see the Western tradition in a different light and question our vocabulary when we talk, write and teach about these objects. This talk discussed misunderstandings that evolve from the lack of proper terminology, and presented ongoing work to address this problem.
Medieval Ethiopia, October 2019
Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies hosted Medieval Ethiopia: A Second Colloquium with a particular focus on manuscript studies, coordinated by Book and the Silk Roads co-PI Suzanne Akbari, on October 11-12 2019.
Ethiopia was a key point of contact both during the early Middle Ages, with the kingdom of Axum serving as an important trading partner that linked the Roman-dominated Eastern Mediterranean with Indian Ocean trade routes, and during the later Middle Ages, when the Solomonic dynasty emerged as a regional power in the Horn of Africa. Connectivity––extending north and south, to the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, and eastward into the Horn of Africa––is a key feature of our research on Ethiopian craft practices, as witnessed by the rich codicological traditions of the region.