The Typographic Hub

Making things curious

Making things curious is the subject of JENNI DIXON's PhD Research Project, which aims to examine role of print in the production, promotion and consumption of Birmingham’s manufactured luxuries,1730-1830

Curiosity is sparked when gaps in knowledge are perceived in the cognitive maps used to navigate physical, social and cultural worlds. When these knowledge gaps are perceived there is an insatiable urge to fill them. Curiosities are objects that spark curiosity: they are fragments that awaken the unseen, disrupt expectations, or provide visual delight that stimulates wonder. Between 1730 and 1830 the manufactured luxury items produced in Birmingham were referred to as curiosities, and the manufactories that created them as cabinets of curiosity. Historians have identified a ‘culture of curiosity’, aspects of which were science, technology, exploration, as well as social and cultural change. The thesis will investigate the following questions:

  • How was print used to disseminate the culture of curiosity and its aspects to manufacturers and how was this interpreted in the design and production of objects;
  • What was the role of print culture in the promotion of not only the objects, but  the idea of the object, and in transforming perceptions of Birmingham;
  • How did new printing technologies enable a transformation in the design and modes of display of spaces of consumption, to entice the curious consumer;
  • How were these three aspects, production, promotion and consumption, interrelated?