EIHS Lecture: "Printed Matter Before the Printing Press"
New York University
Abstract: Interpretations of the large quantity of printed material that circulated in medieval Europe have been teleologically informed by the printing revolution of the fifteenth century. With a focus on seals and on documentary sealing in Western Europe between the eight and the thirteenth century, this presentation will argue that it was the process of their manufacture, the act of their imprinting, that imbued seals with the particular potency they had during the Middle Ages. The argument will be substantiated by looking at three distinct moments of seal agency: as printing fostered a conception of the imprinted image as an achiropoietic object; as the inherent properties of printed material and the metaphors they generated organized personal identity as mimesis; and as the imprint, understood as a natural sign, engaged the contentious philosophical field of natural magic.
Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak is Professor of History at New York University (NYU) and affiliate Professor at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. She is currently at work on a monograph devoted to printed matter in the Middle Ages, and on a special issue of issue of the journal, The Medieval Globe, devoted to Seals: Imprinting Matter, Exchanging Impressions.
Free and open to the public.
This lecture is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.