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The experience of the Oxford Traherne summer students 2018

Our two summer students, Hepzibah Hill (Lady Margaret Hall) and Joseph Hopper (Lincoln College), both second-year undergraduate historians, have recently completed a highly successful programme of practical activities and research designed to introduce them to the many skills and disciplines involved in the study, care, and conservation of early printed books. Some of their comments on their experience can be found below.

Hepzibah Hill writes:

I applied for an Oxford Traherne Summer Studentship after studying the second-year History module Literature and Politics in Early Modern England. This module left me wanting to learn more about how texts were made and transmitted, but the studentship provided me with much more than this, giving me the opportunity to meet several experts engaged in the history of the book, to undertake primary research, and to gain an insight into the making of a collected edition.

The studentship also gave us an absorbing insight into the worlds of those engaged in preserving, making and working with early printed books. Some of my personal highlights included the following: learning how to use a hand printing press with Richard Lawrence, looking at Paul Nash’s collection of printed books while he answered our extensive questions, seeing books in various stages of having their spines mended at the Oxford Conservation Consortium, and learning about the construction of the New Library with the librarian at the Queen’s College Library. I would like to thank all the book specialists and librarians who assisted me during the studentship for these fascinating and very enjoyable experiences.

I would also especially like to thank the Oxford Traherne team themselves, and particularly Dr Julia Smith, for providing this wonderful opportunity. The experience of attending one of The Oxford Traherne’s editorial meetings was a fascinating insight into the complex collaboration that goes into producing an edition of this size.

I will remember my time as an Oxford Traherne Summer Student for long time, not only for the immense amount it has taught me, but also as a very enjoyable experience spent surrounded by some of the most enthusiastic, expert and helpful people I have met.

Joseph Hopper writes:

The studentship more than fulfilled my hopes of learning more about early printed books, through fascinating trips to the Oxford Conservation Consortium; a session at the Bodleian’s printing press workshop with Richard Lawrence; and a lovely afternoon with Paul Nash at his Strawberry Press at Moreton in Marsh. Undeniably, a large amount of the three weeks was spent in various libraries, but many of the project’s best moments were had in these book-lined rooms. The extensive work that goes on in Oxford to preserve these early printed books is incredible, and the librarians who helped us navigate this world were amongst the loveliest and most impressive people we met.

In many ways though, the most satisfying part of this studentship was the opportunity to study the work of Thomas Traherne through his own writings, and those of his late nineteenth century acolyte, Bertram Dobell. The hours spent in the library with early printed books and Traherne’s writings were an invaluable introduction to historical research, teaching me skills that will stay with me long after I graduate.

I left this project not only with new knowledge, but also with many fond memories. It is true that I knew nothing of Traherne when I applied in the opening months of 2018, but this summer’s work has left me with a deep interest in his writings; the world in which they were written; and their various afterlives through figures such as Dobell. Hopefully many future students will share in the privilege of studying this man through this studentship, and that an even broader audience will be introduced to his writings by Julia and her team when they publish their comprehensive edition.
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We hope to run this popular scheme again next year.

The Oxford Traherne is grateful to the following organizations for their support of the scheme in 2018:

The Bodleian Libraries: Centre for the Study of the Book and Rare Books staff; Balliol College Library; Brasenose College Library; The Oxford Conservation Consortium; The Queen’s College Library; The Strawberry Press; Visual Geometry Group, Engineering Science; Worcester College Library

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Professor Ann Moss, FBA, 1938–2018

It is with great sadness that the Traherne editorial team records the death on 13 August 2018 of our colleague Ann Moss, Fellow of the British Academy and Professor Emerita of the University of Durham. Ann was a highly distinguished scholar of international reputation, with wide-ranging interests in French Renaissance literature, the classical tradition, and early modern intellectual culture, and her magisterial works Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (OUP, 1996) and Renaissance Truth and the Latin Language Turn (OUP, 2003) had, and continue to have, an immense impact on the understanding of Renaissance literature and thought.

Ann first joined the Oxford Traherne as our consultant in neo-Latin after her retirement from the School of Modern Languages at Durham. An enthusiastic participant in editorial meetings, she soon became so interested in the project that she asked to take on a larger role, and became editor of Traherne’s Ficino Notebook, collaborating with Angus Vine on volume IV of the edition. It was typical of Ann that  – complaining she was bored with frequent invitations received in retirement to repackage her existing expertise – she relished the entirely new challenge of applying her unrivalled knowledge of European printed commonplace culture to editing an English literary manuscript. She brought to it a sense of intellectual adventure from which we all profited, and it was a privilege to have worked with her.

From the beginning of our project, we have benefited not only from Ann’s world-class expertise, but also from her brisk common sense, her sharp mind, her kind heart, and her generous spirit, the last exemplified by the unstinting support she gave to younger scholars. Her commitment to the highest standards of research was combined with a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, in the best tradition of Renaissance scholarship.

In spite of increasing health problems over the last few years, Ann remained extremely determined to complete her work on the Ficino Notebook. In the end she was unable to do so, but she had finished a substantial amount of material, and her name will remain as an editor of the volume.

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