The Typographic Hub

The Beauty of letters: text, type and communication in the eighteenth century

14th March 2015

The Baskerville Society is pleased to announce its second two-day conference

14-15 March 2015, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Jenny Uglow is an author, critic, historian, and editor. Her books include Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of StoriesHogarth: A Life and a WorldThe Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future; Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick; and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the RestorationHer latest book–The Pinecone– is a study of a forgotten Romantic heroine, the Cumbrian Sarah Losh, an antiquarian, architect and visionary. Jenny also reviews for press and radio and has been an historical consultant on BBC classic serials.
Susan Whyman is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She is the author of The Pen and the People: English Letter Writers, which won the Modern Language Association prize in 2010; Sociability and Power: The Cultural Worlds of the Verneys, and co-editor of Walking the Streets of Eighteenth-Century London, and is currently working on a book about WIlliam Hutton of Birmingham. Susan lectures widely in the US and the UK on British culture.


In his preface to Paradise Lost (1758), John Baskerville described himself as ‘an admirer of the beauty of letters’. This conference takes his phrase as a starting point to explore the production, distribution, consumption and reception, not only of letters, but also words, texts and images during the long eighteenth century (c. 1688-1820). This conference will consider how writing, printing, performance and portrayal contributed to the creation of cultural identity and taste, assisted the spread of knowledge and contributed to political, economic, social and cultural change in Britain and the wider world.  

Writing: teaching of writing and penmanship; styles of handwritten script; copybooks; shorthand; handwritten documents such as diaries, account books, letters, legal and parliamentary documents; the creation of texts by authors, poets and playwrights of the eighteenth century.

Printing: printers and typefounders; technology and technology transfer; typefaces and typography; manufacture and distribution of texts; libraries, and education; publishing and bookselling; the production of different forms of print media: books, newspapers, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, conduct manuals, scientific and medical literature, histories, travel literature, religious, legal and political texts, ephemera and street literature.

Performance: the enactment and communication of text in theatre, music, politics and education through writing and performance of plays, ballad operas, songs and lyrics; the presentation of scripts and musical scores; censorship; theatre programmes; theatre merchandising; speeches; sermons; scientific lectures.

Portrayal: the visual representation of text in mapsscientific drawingsarchitectural drawings; astronomical sketches; political/satirical cartoonsposters, labels; signs and shop-fronts including both architectural and fascia lettering; advertising.  



CONFERENCE ORGANISERS Professor Caroline Archer and Dr Malcolm Dick: and