This week at Things we were joined by Dr Sean Roberts who was able to come and speak to our group thanks to funding from the Seeing Things Project also hosted by CRASSH. Speaking on the materiality of early modern engravings Sean started his paper by suggesting that an investigation of the materiality of engraving would help us to think about Renaissance art in a new way. By looking past the ephemerality of paper and focusing on the concrete process of production Sean addressed the question of what kind of a ‘thing’ a print is. By comparing woodcut and metal engraving techniques as well as considering the geography of renaissance print culture Sean came to the exciting conclusion that by adding knowledge of production to current traditional scholarship on prints we can learn more about the concept of wonder and collection in the early modern period.

Sean’s talk was followed by Elizabeth Upper who spoke to Sean’s call for technological focus directly with a discussion of colour printing techniques in the early modern period. During her discussion of the increased labour and time involved in colour printing in Tudor England, Elizabeth seconded Sean’s call for a new understanding of prints in light of production technologies. Elizabeth went onto ponder the motivation for the use of colour with symbolism and functionality made explicit by colour in engraving plans for metalwork as well as religious prints. Concluding that we have to consider the ‘thinginess’ of prints, Elizabeth argued for the connection between function and content as well as the re-categorization of prints as ‘things’ rather than images.

This first session of term sets up nicely the theme for the rest of Easter; we have papers from Elaine Leong and Helen Smith on ‘paper, making, things’, as well as Melanie Vanderbrouck and Ben Carpenter on ‘handling things’ and finally we’ll be finishing the term with Matthew Hunter and Mark Hallett discussing ‘painted things’. For those that didn’t make it to CRASSH last week, please check out the podcast of the ‘printed things’ session. While you’re there sign up to Things Podcasts on ITunesU – you can check out the previous seminars and never miss another Things session again! If you’re desire for Things is still not satiated Sean and Elizabeth’s papers were featured on the Cambridge current research blog on the university website as well.

A fantastic start to Things this term!