Summer School 2018


Course convener: Roger Gaskell

June 25-29, 2018
Application form (doc) 


Origination and transfer of images; relief, intaglio and lithographic printing; the role of the author, draughtsman and printmaker; formal analysis of images; text-image relationships; bibliographical description and cataloguing; the history of scientific, technical, medical, and natural history illustration.


This course examines the production and use of printed pictures in scientific books from the incunable period (before 1501) to the end of the nineteenth century. Diagrams and pictures are not ancillary to scientific texts: they are part and parcel of the intellectual content; ‘illustration’ is a misleading if unavoidable term. To understand the role of  images, this course looks at how the production of images affects how and what theories, facts or observations can be communicated, and can be part of the making of scientific knowledge. What an author sketches or an artist draws will often be enhanced and refined in collaboration with the author in the print making process. By analysing the formal qualities of the printed image we can ask: what visual strategies of description, analysis, explanation and persuasion are deployed? We will also consider the description and cataloguing of the illustrated scientific book. The course will provide an introduction to the history of scientific illustration in the physical sciences, technology, medicine and natural history.
This course is intended for those with a strong interest in the history of scientific books and printed images. Some previous training in either art history or the history of science and the basics of analytical and descriptive bibliography will enable students to get the most out of this course, but neither one is a prerequisite. No language skills are required. In their personal statements, applicants should describe the nature of their interest in the history of the technical image and explain briefly the purposes to which they propose to put the knowledge gained from the course.


‘Printed mathematical instruments of the 16th century, bound and unbound’
Jim Bennett will discuss the use of printed mathematical instruments in the 16th century, paper machines that were operational instruments on the page of the book, or intended to be separated from the book and possibly pasted on card or wood, or even cut from the book and used independently.


Taught seminars will take place in the Bodleian Library where participants will examine original drawings, original printing blocks and plates and printed books from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
Printing demonstrations, led by Richard Lawrence at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press, will provide a first-hand understanding of relief, intaglio and lithographic printing.
Visits will be made to the Sherardian Library of Plant taxonomy and the Museum of the History of Science to look at original drawings, specimens and scientific instruments.

Roger Gaskell is an antiquarian bookseller specializing in scientific medical and technical books. He has lectured on scientific book illustration at the Bodleian Summer School and teaches a regular seminar, ‘Science in print’ in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and a regular course at the Rare Book School in Virginia.

Jim Bennett is former Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and curator of the Whipple Museum, University of Cambridge. His publications include London’s Leonardo: the life and work of Robert Hooke.


The fee of £500 covers tuition, refreshments and lunches. Note that accommodation is not included in the fees and securing accommodation is the responsibility of the student. 

A limited number of reduced-price places are available for postgraduate students at UK universities. If you wish to be considered for one of these places, please indicate this on your application form. 

A non-refundable deposit of £150 is required within two weeks of notification of admission.

The balance of the course fee is due by 25 May 2018. If you are unable to attend the course after paying the balance of the fee, this is refundable only in extraordinary circumstances. 


Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the course is full. Your application should include a cv and a one-page letter indicating how you plan to use the knowledge gained on the course.

If you are a postgraduate student at a UK institution and wish to be considered for one of the reduced-price places, please indicate this on your application form.

Those accepted will be notified as soon as the applications have been approved.

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