I study manuscripts and early printed books illuminated in England from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries in order to see what they reveal about their production, dissemination, and use, and thus about literary and cultural history. To this end, I specialise in vernacular text illumination, a relatively neglected field compared to scribal, dialectal, textual, and provenance studies in this area. My current project, "The Illuminators of the Middle English Poetic Tradition", seeks to address the fact that the majority of manuscripts containing complete (or near-complete) copies of six major works by Chaucer, Hoccleve, Gower, and Lydgate - more than 130 manuscripts - were decorated at strategic textual moments with borders of gold and pigments. By identifying the work of these professional artists elsewhere, primarily within the comparatively extensive Latin book trade of the period, I aim to achieve a better understanding of the social and geographical contexts of the Middle English poetic tradition.
My interest in using the illuminator as a tool for locating different kinds of book-producing activity developed from my research on the collaborative practices of England's scribes and illuminators, and particularly in their methods for streamlining book production and supplying demand. My PhD thesis, "Collaborative Manuscript Production: Illuminators and their Scribes in Fifteenth-Century London", identified numerous regularly collaborating groups of book producers and questioned the standard account of book production as one based on ad hoc and temporary arrangements.
I acknowledge the generous support of the following organisations: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Fund for Women Graduates, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Society for Renaissance Studies, New Chaucer Society, visiting fellowship awards from the Houghton Library at Harvard and the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Leverhulme Trust.